Archive for October, 2008

Zola

Unfortunately this post comes without pictures. Such are the perils of going out to eat with a group of people, rather than just me and Jay. I’ll just try to be extra descriptive.

I decided to go to Zola for a celebration dinner after passing the bar exam. I actually made reservations before I found out about the results, which granted was a little presumptuous, but luckily for me (and Jay for not having to deal with me after bad results) the results were good and I was admitted to the Virginia State Bar. My friend Jonathan was in town, and my Georgetown friends Suzie and Katie also joined us.

Zola is a swanky and sexy bar and restaurant, with low lighting and red, black, and wood accents. Located in Penn Quarter next to the Spy Museum, it’s also in a good location if you’re looking to go to other places after dinner. The restaurant has a theater menu, in case you’re in a rush to catch a show, but given the fact that Jay and I never do anything entertaining except have really good meals, I didn’t scrutinize the theater options.

Jonathan, Jay and I got to Zola early, so we hung out in the bar for a little while. I decided to have champagne (the real stuff), given the fact that I was celebrating, and I was pleasantly surprised when I received a very tall and very big flute, full of deep and fruity bubbles. I also got a complement on my new dress the second I took my coat off, which for any girl is a present all in itself.

We were seated in what I will deem the group seating area, close to the “door” leading to the bathroom. The door itself is what Jonathan described as “a broken tooth waiting to happen”: wide with a bar in the middle which the whole door swung around, it kind of just spun around on itself; by pushing on the right side, the left side swung out. Not a very good description, and maybe it had to do with the proximity to the spy museum. When you’re not sober, it’s a little confusing.

Anyway, we were sequestered in the group dining area, next to a large party that took up a long table. Our waiter was quick to take our drink orders once we sat down, and was helpful in choosing items off the menu, but other than that he was pretty inattentive. I had to flag him down to order another glass of wine at one point, which he should have noticed given the fact that he was hovering so close to the other table. Oh wells.

The menu was pretty bold and adventurous, and after the champagne I was having a hard time actually reading all of the small-printed details listed under the names of each of the dishes. After deciding on a few options, our waiter recommended my ultimate choices. He was very emphatic about them, so I took him on his word.

To start out, I had the lobster cake, which was more like a lobster souffle. I forget what kind of jam accompanied it, but it was exquisite and a little spicy, which cut the buttery-ness of the lobster. For my main course I chose the veal cheeks, which were topped with some kind of ravioli–I’m thinking it was tomato. The cheeks were incredibly tender and needed no knife to cut them with. The ravioli filling was rich and creamy, but also sweet, and added a kind of sharp lightness to the greasy cheeks. For dessert, I had a new item on the menu, the caramel tart with banana ice cream, topped with a thin and buttery cookie that dissentigrated when I took a bite. Rich and velvety, the tart itself paired well with the ice cream. Although I liked the cookie that came on top of the dessert, I think it was just a touch too fragile.

All in all, it was a fun celebration meal, with good food, good wine, and good friends. Good service? Not so much, although I definitely want to return again with just me and Jay for a nice date night. The menu offers so many different and individual meals that it’s the kind of place that you want to go back to, if only to try everything they offer. The food was actually better than expected: I thought we would get more show and less flavor, and that the restuarant itself would be infected with a kind of touristy quality that always leads to lower quality (despite high prices, see West End Bistro), but the food was absolutely exceptional. Hopefully next time we will get a better waiter.

Brunch at Perry’s

Perrys Adams Morgan
1811 Columbia Road
Washington, DC, 20009
(202) 234 6218

You wouldn’t guess that drag queens and brunch would be so popular (or maybe you would), but drive by Perry’s in Adams Morgan close to 10:30 AM on a Sunday morning and you will see a line that stretches down the sidewalk and into the street. A group of girlfriends and I (including Meredith’s mom!) ate at Perry’s this past Sunday, and I almost didn’t make an appearance, given all the work I had to do. I’m glad I sucked it up and went, because this is one of the funnest brunches I’ve ever been to.

Like I said, the line is long and materializes early. Next I go, I’ll probably plan on getting there earlier than a few minutes before the place opens. Luckily all 6 of us got to sit at a table together, even though originally they were going to split us up into groups of 4 and 2.

Immediately when we got to our table, we noticed that the line for the brunch buffet stretched all the way around the dining room. Rather than standing in line, we decided to wait at the table for the numbers to go down. If this had been a party brunch, I probably would have gone for the pitcher of mimosa that was offered, but given that I had lots of work to do and was only going to have one glass, I decided to forgo the pitcher.

When you finally do get up to the buffet, you will be tempted to load up on things like mixed salad greens, artichoke heart salad, and eggplant salad, but the prudent brunch-goer will only get some of this. The good stuff is toward the end of the brunch table, things like breakfast sushi and breakfast lasagna. I was trying to be a little healthier, so I passed up the seafood chowder (which I’m told was AMAZING), the waffles and the bacon, and other fried things, but I couldn’t resist everything. There is definitely an Asian influence in some of the food (e.g. sushi, satays), but there’s also the kind of food that any red blooded American would go for during brunch, like eggs and sausage and bacon.

One thing that not every red blooded American might be enthused about is the drag show. Personally, I think drag shows are some of the funnest forms of entertainment around. When the first queen came out, I reached for my wallet to find my stash of singles, but I was soon cursing myself because I forgot to bring them. Rule #1 at a drag show is bring singles to tip the ladies. Because I didn’t have any tip money, I felt bad taking pictures of everyone. Luckily, Meredith’s mom brought some cash, so I got to get in a great photo with one of the drag queens, and both Meredith and Meredith’s mom also got some photo souvenirs.

I wouldn’t say that the food is spectacular, but there definitely are some good things offered in the buffet. Although you can get most of the brunch food anywhere else in the city, you certainly can’t have quite as much fun. If you have never been to a drag show, this is a good way to get indoctrinated. It’s a little less intimidating when both young and old are sipping on coffee and champagne and eating on miniature desserts. Get there early if you don’t want to wait for the second half of the show and to be sure that you actually get a table.

Mie N Yu: Restaurant Review

Mie N Yu
3125 M Street NW
Washington, DC, 20007
http://www.mienyu.com/

My friend Meredith told me about Mie N Yu after she went on a date here last Friday. After having a fabulous dinner at Famoso the night before, Jay and I originally thought that we would walk down to Bourbon for a burger, or maybe head over to Bistrot du Coin for some steak. It was one of those nights, however, where I just couldn’t decide on anything; every time I suggested a restaurant, I was immediately uninterested in it. After batting around a couple of ideas, Jay and I decided to just head down to Georgetown and walk around for a bit.

When we reached Mie N Yu, the exterior of the restaurant was so appealing that we just went right in. I don’t even think I was all that hungry yet, but something about the place just pulled us inside. The atmosphere is very romantic and sensual, with dark lighting and lavish, Indian accents. The wait for the dining room was 1.5 hours, so we got a small (and I mean small!) table in the Venetian room upstairs. Next time we eat at Mie N Yu, I’ll be sure to make a reservation for the dining room, which houses spacious tables and booths hidden away by tapestries. It was all very exotic and almost felt like some forbidden pleasure awaited us there.

The service upstairs was a little slow and it took a long time for us to get our first dishes, but I got to sip on an excellent white meritage while I waited, so it wasn’t too terrible. Unfortunately, our small, high table was right next to the stairs, so we got to watch and be watched by everyone parading by. For some reason, multiple parties of 2 were seated close to us but then decided to leave. Maybe because of the cramped quarters?

Jay and I started off our meal with a few appetizers: (1) fried eggplant and (2) duck tacos.

The eggplant was good and had a nice texture, firm without being tough or chewy, but other than that it was unremarkable. (What the eggplant DID do was remind me of the best eggplant paremesian sub I’ve ever had, courtesy of the College Inn in Charlottesville, VA). The duck tacos, on the other hand, were exquisite. The ducks were juicy and greasy and had a wonderful depth of flavor that paired perfectly with the serious crunch of the taco. This is the kind of dish that makes you roll your eyes with pleasure and forces you to slow down to relish every different flavor and texture. It was unfortunate that the dish itself only came with two tiny tacos, as I could have eaten a whole platter of these things easily.

Since Jay and I were both in the mood for steak, we decided to split the Kobe steak for 2, which came with potato gratin and a kind of bean salad.

When our waiter asked us how we would like our steak prepared, I blurted out “Rare!” before Jay got a chance to order a different temperature. I reassured Jay that it owuld probably come out closer to medium rare than rare, but to my pleasant surprise (could have been Jay’s unpleasant surprise), the steak was definitely rare. My first bite, and end piece, left a little bit lacking, but every piece of steak after that was superb. Wonderfully tender and juicy on the inside with a nice seasoning and crispiness on the outside.

The potato gratin is possibly the best potato dish I’ve ever had. Served in a cast iron pot, the potatoes themselves were very thinly sliced, very crispy on top with a luscious creaminess from the cheese on the inside. I wish I knew how to make these potatoes and had a method of doing so. Each bite was better than the one before, and I found myself scraping the pot for every last spoonfull of cheesy goodness. If you get nothing else at Mie N Yu, I highly recommend these potatoes.

I forgot to mention one thing: given the fact that our appetizers took FOREVER to finally get to our table, I ordered some banana hummus after we ordered the steak, thinking that it would arrive before the steak. This was the unpleasant surprise of the evening, in that it arrived after we were done with our steak. It served as a sort of dessert and came presented with some very crunchy flat bread, almost paper thin, some fried plantains, and a foccacia like bread. It would have been better to have had the hummus before the steak, granted, but what if I had been too full for all that potato goodness?

Overall, this was a very nice meal, with only a few service hiccups in between. Next time I’m definitely making a reservation for the dining room, so I can actually spread out and have a little privacy during my meal. There are lots of specialty cocktails for those of you looking for something exciting and exotic, with all sorts of alluring names, and the wine list is pretty decent. We didn’t actually have a dessert per se, so I can’t report to you on that, but maybe next time I’ll try one. The bar is very dark and romantic and would also be a good spot for a date.

Famoso: Restaurant Review

Famoso Restaurant and Lounge
The Collection at Chevy Chase
5471 Wisconsin Ave.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Jay and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary on June 3, but certain circumstances like studying for the bar and living in separate cities prevented us from celebrating until recently. Luckily, we have some amazing parents who provided us with the funds for our anniversary dinner. Jim and Nancy, this post is for you!

I chose Famoso for our anniversary dinner for kind of a variety of reasons, but all of them amorphous and hard to define. A family friend showed me the restaurant after we ate at M Cafe just downstairs, and I wias initially struck by the interior design. Modern yet elegant, housing both updated wood paneling and accents as well as modern art, coupled with white and clean tabletops. The restaurant is also located on the “Rodeo Drive of DC” (technically Maryland), sharing the same building space with Max Mara and housed next to Gucci and Louis Vitton. I mean, how can you go wrong when you’re surrounded by so many fab designers?

Our reservation was for 9pm, our new favorite dining time, and the restaurant wasn’t exactly empty, but was less populated than I expected. When I initially sat down, I felt kind of like a little kid playing in the grown up section. This is in spite of the fact that I consider myself to have decent taste and an elevated pallete. Maybe it was the stand-offish nature of our European waiter? I don’t know what it was, but this was the most nervous I have ever been before eating at a restaurant.

The initial apprehension and concern at what I perceived as “stuffiness” didn’t last long, however. After a specialty cocktail that contained absolutely no hints of alcohol, and some absolutely fabulous and intensely buttery foccacia bread dipped in olive oil and crushed tomatoes, I started to warm up to the place. The impecible service definitely didn’t hurt. I think that by the end of the dinner we had at least 5 different people wait on our table at different times, and by the end of the meal I remember telling Jay “I LOVE the manager!” about every 2 minutes. This is the kind of service that is clearly well-trained and well-practiced, and is certainly some of the best in the city.

To start off our marathon meal (you’ll see what I mean), Jay and I split the calamari, which was cooked on parchment paper and paired with sundried tomatoes and green beans.

Frankly, this is the best calamari I’ve ever had. I’ll just list the differences: (1) as you can see from the picture, the calamari wasn’t cut into rings like you normally see, but instead was served as untouched tubes (that’s probably not the precise term, but you know what I mean), (2) the calamari was baked rather than fried, which frankly I am just tired of, which produced (3) a perfect texture, firm yet not chewy or tough; (4) the flavor was exceptionally light and delicious, with the perfection of the dish coming from its simpliciy; it simply sang with a light lemon and olive oil flavor.

After the calamari, Jay and I each had out own salad. Jay chose a version of the ceasar (“It’s pretty hard to mess up,” according to Jay), while I chose a mesculin mix topped with sliced mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, shaved pecorino, and accompanied by a drizzle of basalmic vinegar.

Salads are pretty hard to screw up, which means it’s also hard to make them remarkable. Nevertheless, it was a good, clean salad. The cheese was fantastic, and the balsamic was very high quality, having an almost syrup-like consistency.

Even though Jay and I had both decided on meat entres, we couldn’t come to a high-class Italian restaurant without getting some pasta, so we split a pasta of penne, pancetta, and onion in a basil sauce.

The pasta was hot and fresh from the oven, and the flavor was full yet fresh. The penne was perfectly cooked and the entire dish was very comforting. As a nice touch, the wait staff split the dish into two separate dishes for the two of us, without either of us having to ask for it.

The menu for Famoso is very extensive, so it was hard for me to actually settle on an entre choice, but I decided to go with a classic, the veal ossobuco. Jay chose the cornish game hens, pictured below.

I didn’t take a picture of my entre because it wasn’t very remarkable visually (see, however, the last picture of both Jay and me, and you can see it). At Famoso, you’re not necessarily going to get a modern or inventive presentation, but the thing is is that you don’t have to, the food speaks for itself. This truly is the kind of Italian food that you would get from an Italian grandmother, at least one with a big budget and lots of time on her hands. My veal was incredibly tender and didn’t even require a knife, and the risoto that accompanied the veal was creamy without being overly rich. The sauce covering the veal was deep and very flavorful, and the peas were even tasty (I HATE peas). My favorite part? The bone marrow, which was thick and pudding-like and absolutely delicious. If you have never had bone marrow, you’re really missing out. If you ever want to try it, get it here in the veal. I think I ate all of the veal, fat and all, because it was all so tender and juicy and delicious. Jay’s game hens were perfectly cooked, juicy and not at all dried out, and it had an interesting and subtle flavor without being too gamey.

Finally, dessert. Everything looked so good, so I solicited recommendations both from our waiter (apple struedal) and the manager (who I was in love with at this point, and he recommended the pears poached in saffron sauce as well as the molten chocolate cake). Because the manager had earned many points throughout the meal by being very attentive and approachable without being too talkative, and because Jay was already getting the molten chocolate cake, I went with the pears poached in safron cream, topped with dollops of ice cream.

Considering the amount of food I had eaten up to this point, my desset was perfectly sized. I’ve never tasted poached pears like these. They were both light and deep, sugary and sweet yet well balanced without going overboard. The presentation was clean and modern, much like the restaurant itself. Needless to say, I ate absolutely all of it, prompting our waiter to say when he took the plates away, “So you didn’t like it?” I think at this point he had warmed up to us. Jay’s dessert was rich and chocolatey without being overly dark, and the molten chocolate sauce spilling out of the cake was perfect for drudging fresh fruit through. I’ve had lots of versions of this cake, and frankly I’ve gotten pretty bored of them, but this one was excellent and maintained a certain lightness that kept it from becoming inedible.

I forgot to mention our wine. Although I never actually saw the winelist (Jay did all the ordering, my cocktail kicked my ass and I couldn’t really focus on wine), Jay said it was pretty extensive. We chose an $80 supertuscan, a type of wine that I had tried before but often thought was a little too full bodied for dinner. This one was a perfect balance of fullness and lightness, with very slight tanins, and it paired perfectly with our spicey dishes. After the entres and before dessert Jay and I each had a glass of the Savignon, which was light and crisp without being too expressive or powerful.

Famoso is truly one of the best restaurants I’ve ever visted and has definitely made it to the favorite restaurants in DC list. It’s got everything going for it: atmosphere (a live Jazz band played in the lounge area throughout our meal), service, and food. There’s no way you can say that this restaurant is cheap, but given everything that we ate and drank, it wasn’t overly expensive. Finally, a fine restaurant where you actually get what you pay for. I was pleasantly surprised that our waiter eventually warmed up to us, and that my initial apprehension disappeared. By the time we left, I felt like absolute royalty after the treatment we received from the staff. This is also a place that I have to go to again, if only to try all of the exceptional-looking dishes on the menu list. I highly recommend Famoso for a nice date night or celebration dinner. I wouldn’t expect a rowdy birthday song or anything like that. but the staff both gives you your own space and privacy while also being highly attentive. And even though our dinner was long and extended, I never found myself checking my watch or thinking that it was taking too long for a course to come out of the kitchen. Jay and I finally got a chance to laugh, talk, and have a good time with each other, without worrying about whether our food would be good or whether the waiter would remember something. Famoso comes as close to perfection as a restaurant can.


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