Restaurant Reviews


Brunch at Glover Park’s gluttonous southern restaurant Kitchen may just save your life. Or at least your Sunday.

The following advice is highly scientific.

Step 1:  Spicy bloody mary

Though it may pain you to even fathom the idea, the potent combo of salty tomato juice, spice, and just the right amount of vodka will ease you back into your former self. Kitchen’s version arrives in a mason jar, which just serves to remind you that you are in the trenches and making yourself feel better is your job.

Steps 2 and 3 after the jump.

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When David Guas struck out on his own from the Passion Hospitality Group, he called his venture DamGoodSweet.  After a visit to the Courthouse Farmers’ Market in Arlington this past weekend, we stopped into Bayou Bakery and found out exactly what the phrase means firsthand.  Guas’ new take on the community coffeehouse is an impressive rendition of the flavors and spirit of New Orleans cuisine.  Damn good sweet, indeed.

Bayou Bakery opened in late November last year after a ton of anticipation.  The location is ideal: at the corner of 15th Street and North Courthouse Road, Bayou can cater to the courthouse crowd on weekdays and the market crowd on Saturdays, with a healthy neighborhood following in the evening.  Demand has been high enough to warrant Sunday hours, as well – they just started this past weekend.  When we arrived seating was at a premium, though a brisk carry-out business made it possible for us to order and grab a table right away.

But what to get that would give us a good feel for the place in short order?  We settled on a few NOLA favorites and a couple of unexpected treats.  Check them out with us after the jump.

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Work travel is overrated. It sounded glam when I was in college and a recent grad. Traipsing around new cities on the company dime? Sign me up! Now I know it’s more of a tease than anything else. Multiple day trips to Manhattan for my last job got me little more than nose prints on the high rise window as I thought of all the fun things I wasn’t doing.

But some work trips? So worth it. Like skipping down the Las Vegas strip while attending CES (that’s the Consumer Electronics Show).  I was lucky to get to travel with my work friend KentuckyFrench who has an adventurous palate and masochistic liver.

China Poblano
The Cosmopolitan boasts one of the newest restaurants, from hometown chef Jose Andres: China Poblano. I had high hopes when we sat down at China Poblano, an intriguing mix of Mexican and Chinese food. The interior was energetic and the idea of fusing two distinct cuisines with, presumably, so little in common may have been a misfire in the hands of any chef but Andres.

My expectation of fusion put the carro ahead of the burro. I hoped for a mad scientist approach to plates with both unfamiliar and favorite flavors intermingling. Instead, at first glance, the menu offered one half Chinese food and one half Mexican food with each side keeping its foot firmly in traditional territory. I was worried this was less of a fusion experiment and more of an upscale KenTacoHut compromise: separate menus, one roof.

Digging a little deeper into the menu, KentuckyFrench and I unearthed promising crossover items. Like Jaleo, China Poblano focuses on shareable small plates. Once we singled out our targets, KentuckyFrench and I ordered with courage, ready for something unexpected. And if that failed, we always had the salt air margaritas to lick our wounds.

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If you’re looking to quickly stand out on the Washington dining scene, Italian cuisine may not be the best way to go.  Even before the restaurant boom of the past fifteen years, DC has had its share of quality Italian chefs and restaurants: Roberto Donna and his various incarnations of Galileo, the “pasta mamas” of Filomena and Fabio Trabocchi’s Maestro are just a few that readily spring to mind.  The field is even more crowded today, with newcomers like Casa Nonna, Carmine’s and Roberto Donna’s newest Galileo competing with long-time favorites.

Ari Gejdenson and Ralph Lee knew all that – they both grew up in the area before making their separate ways to Florence.  They have since returned, bringing with them Acqua al 2 (the 2 is pronounced in Italian as “du-ay”).    This is the second American outpost of the Florentine original – the first was in San Diego, naturally – and it’s a welcome addition to the restaurant options around Eastern Market.  I recently had a chance to check them out with a coworker and a friend who is already well on her way to becoming a regular despite the fact that the restaurant has barely been open six months.

Mural painted on the wall outside the window

We knew we wanted to experience a broad range of dishes – apparently Acqua al 2 knew it, as well.  The first few items on their menu are assaggi, sampler platters featuring varieties of pasta, steaks, and even desserts.  The Assaggio di Primi gave us a chance to try five of their vegetarian pasta options in portions scalable to fit the number of diners in our party.  All we had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.

Details on the dishes we tasted after the jump. (more…)

When a restaurant routinely appears among the top 20 of Washingtonian’s best restaurant lists,  it can hardly be called “under the radar.”  Even so, it seems like 2941 frequently fades into the background when DC diners are thinking about places to celebrate a special occasion with a high-end meal.  We’ve had a few in-the-know friends recommend it, but it just doesn’t come up among suggestions as often as you might expect.

from 2941 website

Maybe it’s the location – 2941 is just inside the Beltway in the Falls Church/Tysons Corner/Mclean area.  It’s not Metro accessible, and it’s even off the beaten path relative to most of what you think of when you think of Tysons.  But it’s precisely that remove that made 2941 a great choice for a recent birthday dinner.

The setting feels like a rural retreat once you get past the fact that it’s located inside an office building.  Couple that with attentive, helpful service and a tasting menu that is changing almost constantly to reflect the season’s bounty and you’ve got the makings of a fuss-free gourmet getaway.

More on the food and everything else that makes 2941 such a good time after the jump. (more…)

It’s easy to imagine a certain arrogance on the part of New York- and Los Angeles-based chains when they open an outpost here in Washington.  “We’ll show them how to REALLY do <insert trendy food here>,” we can hear the smug CEO chuckle as he maps out his next conquest.  Maybe it’s an inferiority complex on our part, or a recognition of the fact that we’ve still got a way to go to be recognized as a real food city.

Whatever the reason, the reality rarely fits our expectations.  DC establishments usually take on their own character, diverging in ways both simple and significant from their origins.  And they can actually bring new takes to even the most saturated concepts.

Like cupcakes.

When Crumbs Bake Shop opened across from H&M on 11th Street, it caught its share of flack for coming into a market that we all know is more than covered when it comes to cupcakes.  We’ve even got a reality TV show based on a DC cupcake shop, for crying out loud!  What could these New Yorkers bring to the field that we hadn’t already seen?

As it turns out, they fill an interesting and unexpected niche.  Check it out after the jump.

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Picture it: A cold, dark weeknight. Mike brought home takeout from a local Chinese restaurant. We’d ordered from there a few times before. It’s… your basic Chinese place. Serviceable. It makes our speed dial by virtue of being in their delivery zone. We were just settling in with the delivery, food unpacked and steaming. The baby is asleep and both of us are hungry after a long day at work. And then Mike spots it. Good old Periplaneta americana, floating in the broth.

When dining out, we all labor under some ignorance-is-bliss policies. I mean, of course that pretty waitress thinks you are hilarious. Why no, the chef doesn’t mind making those 3 substitutions on your dish in the middle of the Saturday night crush. In fact, he doesn’t think a quattro formaggio should have 4 cheeses either! It’s just overkill! The myth of the pristine kitchen is a major diner delusion. I expect a reasonable restaurant to keep it’s kitchen clean, sure. Food at the right temperature, check. When in doubt, throw it out. A mop-down, wipe-up, once over every night. But eat-off-the-floor pristine? You are high. And one of the scariest offenses – the dreaded insect – is likely more common in every restaurant kitchen than we may like to think. Plus, Americans eat more bugs than they realize.

Still. There is a difference between accepting this on a hypothetical level and being faced with gross insect evidence swimming in your soup. Mike called the restaurant to argue for a refund.

Would we like another bowl of soup? No… it’s going to be from the same pot as this one, isn’t it?

Is there something wrong with the rest of the food? Not that we can see. But we aren’t eating it.

Fine. Then we’re taking all the food back if you want a refund. Fine. You do that.

And they did. This is where a story would normally end with a grossed-out customer erasing a mediocre Chinese place from her cell phone. But this is actually where it got interesting.

About an hour later, we received a phone call.  It was the owner. She wasn’t working that evening but she heard about what happened and wanted to speak with us. She is horrified. She is so sorry. This has never happened before. She runs a clean kitchen, we are welcome to stop by the restaurant any time and she will walk us back there herself. The entire pot of soup has been thrown out and everything is scrubbed down. Can she please send us a fresh batch of dinner? No charge, of course.

We said no thank you.  We’d made other dinner arrangements by then. It was nice of her to take the step to call. It was really more than we expected.

The next day, there was a knock at our door. It was the owner. She came by to apologize in person. They had been in the neighborhood for years and, she swore, this has never happened before. Her customers are like family. We can walk through the kitchen any time, it is very clean. She understands if we never give her business again but please, here is a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant. She hopes we will come back. She is so terribly sorry.

I. was. floored.

So question to you, food blog reader: Would you go back?

 

 

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