Thursday, October 29, 2009

georgetown cupcake

georgetown cupcake
1209 potomac street NW (between M street & prospect street), washington, DC 20007
tel: 202) 333-8448
hours: tuesday-friday 11am-7pm, saturday 11am-9pm, sunday 12pm-5pm
neighborhood: georgetown
what was consumed: obviously, cupcakes!
i'm not a big fan of sweets. i once told christine that her friend (who bought her chocolates) didn't know her (ergo me) well because we would both appreciate a bag of good beef jerky any day over a box of fancy chocolates (haha). point is, i like to taste, but i hardly crave and only occasionally eat regular amounts. in fact, there are times when i'll think i'll want something sweet (e.g. fruity cocktail) only to not finish because it has, within the time frame of one drink, to become too sweet. but i digress (per usual).
despite my sort of adversion to sweet things, i have found myself trying a lot of cupcake places in and around the dc/metro area. and let me tell you, there are quite a few. i've written already about hello cupcake (my personal fav, thus far), but georgetown cupcake was probably the one that put these cupcake houses on the map (or maybe it was cake love. point is, georgetown cupcake was/is super popular).
so, last birthday, i came home to c&j wishing me a happy birthday with a box of georgetown cupcakes (thanks, kids! haha). we are korean (christine and me, anyway. jess is an honorary korean - haha) and in addition to seaweed soup (the traditional korean birthday food), cake has become almost a required component to celebrating birthdays in korea (shoot, cake is almost a required component to anything in korea these days). i have purchased cupcakes for christine's past 3 birthdays, so it was nice to be the recipient this time around.
now, while hello cupcake is my favorite, i will say that georgetown cupcake isn't all too far behind. their cakes are soft and moist, and their frosting is sweet, though not too sugary. they have a nice combination of flavors that make the small cake quite a lovely and delicate end to a meal or a snack in and of themselves. much like may other cupcake places, georgetown cupcakes offers a variety of different options. their red velvet cake is delicious - the cream cheese frosting has just a tad bit of sweetness and the cream cheesiness shines through. delicious! their lemon tart cupcake (or whatever it's called) is also yummy, though i prefer my lemon tart cupcake with a bit more lemony-ness and maybe a bit more tart (odd, i know, because i'm also less of a fan of sour things). it was actually this lemon tart cupcake that makes me like hello cupcake more (well, the lemon tart and the carrot cake and peanut butter/chocolate cupcakes, come to think of it - i guess that's quite a few). that and because hello cupcake is currently in a more convenient location (but now that i have a 4-wheeled vehicle, that may change - yeehaw!).
all you cupcake lovers out there! it would be a shame, no, a tragedy, for you not to make it out to georgetown cupcake. go, take a look, taste, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

kotobuki

kotobuki
4822 macarthur boulevard NW, 2nd Floor, washington, DC 20007
neighborhood: palisades
tel: 202) 625-9080
hours: monday-thursday 12pm- 2:30pm, 5pm-9:30pm; friday - saturday 12pm-2:30pm, 5pm-10:30pm, sunday 5pm-9:30pm

what was consumed: seaweed salad, sushi, sushi, sushi!
as i've mentioned before, i'm from southern california (so.cal). that makes me (a self-proclaimed) snob when it comes to some things: korean food (not only because i'm from so.cal, but also because i'm korean - haha), tex-mex, fast food burgers (woohoo in 'n out!) ... and sushi. sort of (sushi, i mean). point is, there's a large asian/asian american population, ergo there are many asian restaurants ... japanese (i.e., sushi) included. so what does that mean? i eat a lot of sushi. i crave sushi. i've made sushi. i love it.
here in DC, however, i've had a hard time finding good (and affordable) sushi places. why is that?! with the number of japanese nationals who find themselves coming in and out of the DC area, i would imagine more good and authentic japanese restaurants. but i can't seem to find them. no, i take that back. there are a lot of places in DC that offer sushi (in fact, a lot of korean restaurants offer sushi on their menus), but are they really good? are they really fresh? ... who am i kidding - i'm not the best at deciding what's just good and what's great (shoot, i'll eat all kinds). but here's the thing - lots of sushi places in the DC/metro area charge what ends up being an arm and a leg for their sushi. some of it is good, some of its is great, but do i want to pay a gillion dollars for it? maybe once or even twice. but on a regular basis? that's hard to do ... sigh ...
and then there's kotobuki. good (maybe even great!) sushi. what's more? it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. so excited!!!
we started our meal with seaweed salad. i love seaweed. i love seaweed salad. the slight tang from the vinegar combined with the sesame oil/seeds and other seasonings just come together to create a light and fresh start to a meal that is bound to be delicious. that seaweed is so good for your body is a fringe benefit - that's how great seaweed salad is (this one included!). while we started our meal with this (seemingly) small bowl of seaweed salad, its contents did last throughout the meal. maybe we/i were/was consuming sparingly. point is, the seaweed salad was delicious.
we then proceeded to consume 8 rolls between the 2 of us. i still don't think that's an exorbitant amount of food, but others beg to differ (granted, after the rolls and the seaweed salad, i was pretty full). the rice was just a bit warm when our plate was served and the sushi rice wasn't too hard, wasn't too soft, wasn't too sticky, and wasn't too much per roll. there aren't really any "fusion sushi" options - just the standard delicious options that i've come to love (the soft-shell crab roll is delicious as are any of the spicy ones - and they don't put mayonnaise in the spicy tuna that so many others do! excellent~). if only my stomach was larger - i could've eaten more! note to self: ask them not to put green onions in the rolls. while they don't put extra wasabi (which i'm not a fan of - don't judge), i'm also super adverse to green onions. if it's already in the mix (e.g. spicy tuna), then i'll take it; however, other rolls seem to be garnished with the green onions.
a couple of other things:
makoto (another well respected japanese restaurant) is downstairs from kotobuki. makoto is supposed to be super swanky with set menus and the like (sort of what sushi taro now, unfortunately, is trying to do ... ?) - i've never been. but i have been told that japanese japanese people prefer kotobuki to makoto. i don't know if it's because of price or because the food is better. no matter - it's something to take into consideration.
palisades has some really great restaurants, e.g. kotobuki, but it feels so so so far away. friend mike lives over there so i've been a few times, and now that i have a four-wheeled method of transportion it's much easier to get there. it's still important to note that getting to kotobuki is not really the most convenient (but it's totally worth it!). and finally, regarding transportation (of sorts), there's also only street parking and while it's not a bustling area, finding parking is always ... a challenge.
kotobuki is a super small place (which is part of the reason i like it). there are maybe 25-30 seats total (about 5 of them being at the sushi bar). i hear that's how sushi places in japan are. they don't take reservations and they close pretty early (9:30, i believe), but there are always a lot of people there and people are willing to wait in long lines to eat. i totally would. yum!

so, hey peeps! show me other sushi places that are delicious and i will look forward to trying them out. in the meantime, i have my new fav sushi joint - kotobuki ^_^ delicious!
online: http://www.kotobukiusa.com/

potenza

potenza
1430 H street NW (between 14th street & 15th street), washington, DC 20005
tel: 202) 638-4444
hours: monday-thursday 11:30am-10pm, friday-saturday 11:30am-11pm, sunday brunch 10am-3pm, sunday dinner 3pm-10pm
what was consumed: arancini alla salsiccia di cinghiale (fried risotto balls stuffed with wild boar sausage and provolone), gnocchi al pesto (pesto sauce, toasted walnuts), funghi pizza (portabello, oyster and domestic mushrooms, tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan)
ah, potenza.
i kept seeing potenza on a number of different lists and places. what was it being written up for? i don't remember. no matter - when friend wanted to go to dinner and suggested potenza, i was all about it.
we met at the restaurant on a pretty quiet weekday evening. on the map, potenza didn't seem too far away from work, so i decided to take a nice leisurely walk to its location. of course, as i often do, i neglected a few things - the humid summers (even though it wasn't too humid, it was still warm and it was still summer ... and i'm super adverse to heat and humidity!), the DC blocks that looked so short and doable on the map but seemed so very long when i was walking, and my heavy, heavy, HEAVY bag. i was glad to make it to the restaurant - it couldn't have be soon enough! i will take the bus (or some sort of transportation) next time.
anyway, we made reservations, though it wasn't really necessary in that they had quite a large dining area and not too many patrons, which we wondered about (too bad!).
we started our meal with a nice appetizer of fried risotto balls. delicious! friend claims that the lavender overpowered the dish a bit. i thought it was delicious (so there!). we then proceeded to our entrees. friend ordered the mushroom pizza (using laymen's terms). delicious! the crust was thin, but not too thin, and its flavor was delicious. on top of that, the combination of cheeses with the different kinds of mushrooms made the pizza delectable. there are a number of other pizzas that, i think, are worthy of future exploration. i, on the other hand, could not resist my pasta loves and ordered the gnocci. and i'm glad i did! the soft gnocci came in a delicious pesto, topped with cheese. really? really? so so so delicious. everyone has an indicator of what makes a good restaurant (e.g. some people will try the pad thai at a new thai restaurant to see how that thai restaurant rates) - mine is gnocci at italian restaurants. now, i can't say that i'm an expert when it comes to food (outside of me totally loving food) nor can i say that i'm an expert when it comes to gnocci. however, i do know what i like, and potenza (as far as i'm concerned) did a great job! good food coupled with good wine (i had a nice rose - it was still summer); i couldn't get enough.
note: potenza makes all of their pastas and breads in-house. turns out, they have their own bakery (of sorts). in fact, you can go to their bakery and purchase goods (predominantly bread and pasta, i imagine) for your consumption outside of the restaurant.
a great wine list and a great menu! i'm glad to have visited potenza and look forward to seeing what else is on the menu. friends, let's do this again!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

mama ayesha's

mama ayesha's
1967 calvert street NW (between biltmore street & cliffbourne place), washington, DC 20009
tel: 202) 232-5431
what was consumed: hummus; falafel; warak inib mahshi (tangy grape leaves stuffed with tender ground lamb, white rice, and mama’s secret spices, served with homemade yogurt); malfoof mahshi (tangy cabbage stuffed with tender ground lamb, white rice, and mama’s secret spices); jaj bil toma (half chicken baked in a garlic based stew with fresh lemon juice and mama’s special spices, served with rice); mushakal mashawi (mixed grill - shish kabab, kifta kabab, and shish taouk with grilled vegetables, served over rice), baklava
when i first moved out to DC, i got lost (or rather, "explore") in the adams morgan/woodley park area (exploration rules!), which is not surprising. i also made great efforts to find the nearest metro stop to the area (only to realize that really, it's seemingly equidistance between dupont circle and woodley park. i.e., no metro is close - drat). point is, during all of these adventures, i had seen mama ayesha's in passing. it's sort of non-descript building, windows that didn't really seem to light up at night. that may explain why (in addition to the difficulty of getting to the restaurant for me) mama ayesha's made it to my food list, but it took me over 2 years to finally get out there.
my first meal started with a few appetizers (which i love) ... including my favorite - falafel. and you know what? probably some of the best falafel (in my opinion, of course) the falafel was nice and crispy on the outside, hot and soft on the inside. it also came with this delicious yogurt sauce that you couldn't help but dip your falafel in. we also ordered hummus - a sort of standard fare. delicious, creamy, and wonderful with the pita bread that accompanied the appetizers.
then, our entrees! i enjoy stuffed grape leaves and can virtually eat them for a long time. so when a pile of them were presented to me as my entree, i was ecstatic ^_^ the grape leaves were stuffed with rice (a la mama ayesha's spices) and lamb. what a great combination! a yogurt sauce (similar (i think) to what came out with the falafel) accompanied the stuffed grape leaves. i had some of the sauce and while it was delicious, i loved the grape leaves on their own. YUM. friends had chicken and grilled stuff, both of which were tasty, juicy, and wonderful. and the rice - oh yum! i don't know what mama ayesha's recipes include when it comes to the rice, but it was cooked with such delicious spices! we just kept eating and eating, despite the exponentially growing size of our bellies. hahaha ...
our meal ended with some lovely baklava. i'm not a huge fan of sweets, but jess (in company) is/was. the three of us decided to order 1 dessert and share it. me, for taste, jess, for consumption of sweets. no matter - baklava was delicious. light and honey filled. just the way (i hear) it's supposed to be. we also happened to visit during ramadan. i made a comment about feeling bad since, during ramadan, muslims eat only after the sun has set (from what i understand). anyway, they also had some special dessert celebrating ramadan, but we didn't get it. i wonder what it tastes like, though. there's such an appeal to "traditional" foods, yeah?
a couple of other things ... we visited during peak dinner hours on a saturday, but the restaurant was still totally not full. that was good in that we got a lot of attention from our server, but it made me wonder how they stayed in business (there's a great story about mama ayesha on their menus - when you go, be sure to check it out). i went back for lunch and we were the only ones there. interesting.
the decor. there's something about one of the ceilings at mama ayesha's that i can't get over (i've posted its photo at the start of this post). it looks like a collection of tea lights, but upside down, shimmering on to diners. i thought it was great. as a result (or for the purpose of?), the dining area is pretty dark, during dinner (during lunch, the outside light lit up the dining area - and it was fine). i visited that first time with friends, but i imagine mama ayesha's may be a good location for a "nice, romantic dinner." hee hee ...
anyway ... while it took such a long time to get out to mama ayesha's, i'm glad that i did! i imagine i will be back, again ... YUM.

nando's peri peri

nando's peri peri
1210 18th street NW (between M street & connecticut avenue), washington, DC 20036
neighborhood: dupont circle
note: there is also a location in gallery place/chinatown on 7th street nw (between H and I, i think), but i've only been to the one on 18th street ...
tel: 202) 621-8603
what was consumed: whole chicken, sides (cole slaw, garlic bread, rice), chicken wings ...
a friend of mine once mentioned that there was some south african chicken place that was supposed to be good. turns out it was nando's peri peri. and when one opened up by work, i was excited to try 'em out! so excited that i got a group of work people together to check out the fine fares of south african (grilled) chicken and all of the fixin's that come along with it.
we walked in and immediately got in line. in the long, long line. maybe it's the hype? maybe it's the food? we would soon find out! anyway, you order food sort of like in a fast food restaurant - take a look at the menu, tell the person at the counter, pay your money. they then give you a number and you go and sit down (at least we did - we had planned on eating at nando's). they have "food runners" who come by with your plates of food. well, it was plates of food for us. we ordered grilled chickens, wings, sides, and even a wrap (that was marguerite). i often find value in ordering a variety of things - this experience was no different. yay for a number of people going so we could get lots of different things!
now, nando's is famous not only for their grilled chicken (which we ordered), but also for their peri peri sauce. i'm not a huge sauce fan, but nando's does have a wide selection and i wanted to try some of them. there are spicy sauces, garlicky sauces, regular peri peri sauces (i'm not really sure hot to describe the peri peri sauce. maybe a south african version (of sorts) of bbq sauce? but not as smoky/tangy?). nando's has a number of "bars" throughout the restaurant (usually located next to the beverage stations) with large bottles of the sauce. we grabbed a few to accompany our meal. grilled chicken, chicken wings (that included both the wing and the drumette - yeah!), and a bunch of sides.
my thoughts on the food? the grilled chicken was pretty good. in fact, i'll probably find myself at nando's again, enjoying their chicken. i like that the wings are both wings and drumettes, i like that you can adjust the sauce to your liking, i like that the chicken is grilled (don't get me wrong - i love me some fried chicken! does anyone have any recommendations?). the sides, however, were ... lacking. i love side dishes (come on, now, i'm korean!), so having good side dishes to accompany my meal are total bonuses. that isn't to say that the sides were inedible. they were all right; i was just expecting more. but maybe that's the thing - high expectations. sigh ... all in all, individuals in my group left nando's full and happy - always a good sign!
i don't know if nando's is still as popular as it was when i made my little visit. i imagine it is. i'll have to check 'em out out. this time, i will order the chicken livers! haha ...