Wednesday, April 29, 2009

sushi taro

sushi taro
1503 17th street NW (between church street & p street), washington, DC 20036
tel: 202) 462-8999
hours: lunch monday-friday 11:30pm-2pm, dinner monday-saturday 5:30pm-10pm, closed on sunday, closed for lunch on national holidays
what was consumed: ramen, rolls, blah blah blah
coming from california, having lived in korea, and having travelled to japan, it's hard to find good japanese food. i mean, GOOD japanese food. granted, i don't mind (and will eat in mass quantities) average japanese food. as long as it doesn't make me sick (and who knows about that until after the fact, eh?), i will eat sushi, sashimi, and all of that other japanese goodness. and while i don't enjoy eel and prefer my sushi sans wasabi (don't judge!), i feel as though my constant search for a good japanese food was neverending ... that is, until now. hooray for sushi taro!
so, my co-worker and i were thinking of where to go to lunch and we decided to go to his favorite japanese restaurant (his wife is japanese japanese and she recommends this place as well). this time around, we had a goal - ramen. real ramen. not the kind that dry kind that comes in packages at the market. rather, the kind in the thick broth with pieces of pork floating around in the midst of the ramen noodles, veggies, and the standard half hard-boiled egg. the kind that is so delicious that we wait out the summer months when they don't serve it for that first day of fall when it comes back on the menu and they give us quizzical looks as we eagerly (and hungrily) order our bowls. i wish they had ramen all day long (it's only on the lunch menu, from what i remember) and all year long (though i can only imagine the sweltering heat that would come out of their kitchen from cooking the ramen broth in the summer) ... alas.
they also have this great soft tofu, but lightly fried, in a tempura broth appetizer that is just delicious. i find myself going to sushi taro more often for lunch than for dinner and while the tofu dish isn't on the lunch menu, they will make it for you (how lovely!).
don't worry - sushi taro has a large array of other dishes, of course. their sushi is fresh, their rolls are tasty, and they have a good selection of other dishes (even for those who are squimish about raw fish). they have americanized sushi rolls as well as the more traditional japanese ones. there's a plum one that is a great "dessert" roll (and by dessert, i mean that there is a bit of a fruit flavor making it a nice end of meal sort of bite to eat). i forget what it's called, but my goodness, it's so great!
sushi taro has generally known to be popular (especially for dinner), so i do recommend making reservations. i don't make reservations when i go for lunch, but i often have lunch later than the lunch rush. and i'll sit anywhere - at the sushi bar, in western style seating, in japanese style seating, whatever.
sushi taro has recently gone through some interior renovations, and i hear it is gorgeous. i can't wait to see it and enjoy me some japanese food once more!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

founding farmers

founding farmers
1924 pennsylvania avenue NW, washington, DC 20006
tel: 202) 822-8783
hours: monday-wednesday 8am-10pm; thursday 8am-11pm; friday 8am-12am; saturday 12pm-12am; sunday 10am-9pm
what was consumed: skillet cornbread, bacon lollis, heirloom cheesepuffs, meatloaf, pan fried chicken, prime rib dip sandwich, macaroni with meat ragu, farmer's salad, fries~
sustainable development, sustainable food ... it's all in the news today. so, when i read about a restaurant that focuses on sustainable food, i had to check it out (on top of it being just blocks from work - total bonus).
as of right now, i've visited founding farmers two times. both times, i enjoyed a filling lunch (i.e., i have yet to try out their breakfast or their dinner, both of which i've heard good things about). the last time i went, i made reservations for lunch. it was a good thing!there were lots of people and we were ready to eat. we were quickly shown to our table and greeted by friendly staff sometime after that (christine, willie, and i were preoccupied with the menu, so it's hard to tell how long we waited). i recommended the foods that i had the first time i visited (cheese puffs, meat loaf, pan friend chicken, fries) and those served to be the basis of the decisions that day.
we ultimately decided on a smorgasboard of small plates and entrees. definitely more food than we could handle, but you know how much i (and christine) can eat. we are champions! the food tasted fresh, well seasoned, and full of flavor. if you love corn bread (and i do), you will love the cord bread at founding farmers - not too dry and chock full of actual corn pieces. and the bacon lolly? i mean, can you really go wrong with bacon? not really, but when the bacon pieces are nice and thick, with a great flavoring, it makes it all the better. and, of course, the heirloom cheese puffs. essentially, it's a cream puff but instead of the cream, there's a delicious, savory, and light cheese filling. i loved how the macaroni was cooked just a bit al dente with a ragu meat sauce that had a lot of real meat. and the au jous for the prime rib sandwich melded the flavors of the onion and cheese just right. the pan fried chicken went so well with the gravy. additionally, the chicken was not too dry and the crispy covering was just right - not too heavy, not too oily.
at the end of my last meal at founding farmers, willie and i had great fun talking about the cool dyson air curtain hand dryers. try it out!
a couple of random thoughts ...
i was speaking with a coworker of mine who mentioned interest in waiting tables there. ditto. i wonder if they're hiring? they often seem short staffed in that it takes some time for orders to be taken and drinks to get refilled (though the food seems to come out pretty quickly. or maybe that's because we were stuffing our faces with food, i don't know).
i recommend making reservations. even with our lunch past 1pm, the majority of the tables were filled. maybe we were there on a busy day? maybe not. better safe than sorry!
oh, and those pickling jars with veggies? just for decoration. oh well~
i'm sure i'll find myself back at founding farmers sooner than later, pickeled veggies or not. next time, i want to try (among other things) their rotisserie chicken - YUM!
i really want to like founding farmers, but after this last experience, i may have to reconsider.
don't get me wrong - the food is still good. in fact, the food is fresh and delicious ... that is, when the food actually comes out and when the food comes out as ordered. my parents were in town and i wanted to take them to some restaurants that i enjoy. founding farmers came up. so, our relatively larger group (we ended up with 6) made a reservation for dinner. we got there almost 30 minutes before our reservation time and were promptly seated once our reservation time came around - that's good. we ordered our drinks and ordered all of our food. after a weekend otherwise full of gluttonous meals (and imbibing, per usual), we didn't really feel up to having drinks - should that even matter? it seemed, though, that that fact affected the service we were to receive. in any case, our appetizers came out and we began to enjoy our meal. after we finished the first course, we waited no less than 30 minutes for our salads (which were drenched in salad dressing, despite my request for less dressing) to come out and even more time after that for our entrees. am i being unreasonable? scary images of chef gordon ramsey in 'kitchen nightmares' began to fill my head (i need to watch less tv!). hmmm ...
we were also charged twice for the sodas that we had, even after we asked if they had complimentary refills (we were drinking club soda), to which they replied in the affirmative, and after they went into a pretty lengthy explanation about their double filtering water machine that makes their own carbonated water. hmm ... despite all of these things, of course, we left a sizeable tip. after all, there were 6 of us that needed to be appeased ...
so, maybe it was just the service this time around, but the slow and less than satisfactory service from previous times as well makes me increasingly hesitant to recommend and consider FF as a top dining experience. my former serving experience makes me more compassionate towards the work that servers do, but it also makes me a more critical patron because i wonder how/think/know i can do a better job. maybe i just need a FF break ... o_o ... tbd~

Thursday, April 16, 2009

the boiling crab

the boiling crab
13892 brookhurst street, garden grove, CA 92843 (this is the location i visited; there are a number of different ones in ... and the new location in san jose is apparently now open. there are also locations in texas, but who knows if/when i'll ever be out there - ha!)
tel: 714) 636-4885
hours: monday-friday 3pm,-10pm, saturday-sunday 12pm-10pm
what was consumed: blue crab, shrimp, corn on the cob, red potatoes, all in the medium/hot "the whole shbang" (rajun cajun, garlic butter, and lemon pepper) ... oh, and sweet potato fries
who would've thought that there'd be a place in the middle of no-where-town, "asian-ville," orange county, california that offered cajun style seafood ... and have it be as popular as it is! nick first told me about this place when i was in SF and said that when i got back to, i should definitely look it up and check it out. i'm glad i did.
upon entering, the dining area is filled with long, wooden, picnic table-like seating in the center and wooden booths around the perimeter. i had heard that there is high possibility for a line to form, so i made sure that we avoided primo dining hours. since our party was small (3 of us) and it was a little late for lunch/early for dinner, they immediately sat us in a booth (our preference). the table was covered with white paper and no utensils. we would soon figure out why.
the server came around to take our drink orders, and when she returned soon with our drinks, she took our food order. they were out of the king crab legs (the seafood is available according to the season, so we expected there to be some absent items, to our disappointment of course), so we ordered shrimp, blue crab, red potatoes, corn on the cob, and sweet potato fries. the server then proceeded to ask what sauce we wanted. i had read about their special "the whole shbang" sauce and proceeded to order the whole shbang (once in medium and once in hot).
the fries came out first and while we were munching on the fries, the rest of our meal came out ... in large plastic bags. the idea is that while the seafood is all steamed (to order) in the kitchen, the sauces are then infused into the contents. after the server brings out the deliciousness, you then proceed to either take pieces out of the bag and eat with your hands or spill the entire bag's contents out onto your table and then proceede to eat with your hands. i recommend keeping the contents in the bag because it makes less of a mess and it allows the remaining contents to continue seeping with the delicious spices and butter. YUM.
after my frist visit there, i told christine to go when she goes back to and even despite the google-y shrimp eyes, she tells me she totally enjoyed the experience!
and so, when you are ready to get your hands covered in sauce and eat steamed seafood with delicious cajun spices, let's go to the boiling crab!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ben's chili bowl

ben's chili bowl
1213 u street NW (between 12th street & 13th street), washington, DC 20009
tel: 202) 667-0909
hours: monday-thursday 6am-2am, friday-saturday 6am-4am, sunday 11am-8pm
what was consumed: original chili half-smoke with cheese, chili cheese fries
ben's is a DC institution. i've heard stories about how, in the midst of the riots here in DC in the past, ben's was the only thing still standing time and time again. you walk in and you see all of the paraphanelia that has accumulated and has been collected over time. you see so much history there! just sitting there and seeing all of those things makes visiting ben's totally worth it.
but of course, there's also the food.
if it's the first time you go to ben's, be sure to get the original chili half-smoke. the original chili half-smoke with cheese comes with onions and mustard. again, if it's the first time you go, i suggest you get it the way that they make it, with all of the fixin's. after that, feel free to fight with the people behind the counter not to have onions on your half-smoke (oh, wait, that's just me). this is apparently the way you're supposed to eat it, the way that bill cosby eats it, the way that president obama eats it! nice~
ben's, being located in one of the, now, hip parts of town, is a great place to visit for a quick bite, a regular meal, or a late-night snack. they are open really late (except sundays) on a general basis and even later on friday/saturday night (though, mind you, those late nights are often when they are the most busy ... oh, and you often have to fight off drunk people). seriously, i never thought a "hot dog" could taste so delicious.
a couple of downsides ... ben's is also cash only. they have an atm at the location for convenience. and then, there are the lines. the line is way way way long all the time. the people behind the counter (as i've mentioned before) are not necessarily the most reliable in terms of taking your order. sometimes, you'll get your food and you'll have to wait to pay for it. there is usually seating in the back, but if you don't look for it (and you don't stake your spot), you make lose it to other, more aggressive, people.
but no matter - all of these things, however, have never prevented me from going to ben's for delicious half-smokes. YUM.

chinatown express

chinatown express
746 6th street NW (between g & h street), washington, DC 20001
tel: 202) 638-0424
hours: monday-sunday 11am-11pm
what was consumed: lunch special (singapore noodles, broccoli beef, and seafood something), noodles (in soup and pan fried), dumplings (pork and chives)
chinatown, chinatown, chinatown! my quest for finding good chinese food in chinatown continues!
so, friend janet was in town from SF and in the midst of her and mark's crazy crazy schedule, we got together to have a little bit of lunch (thanks guys!). mark, having grown up in the dc/metro area, remembered a chinese place that he had enjoyed, so we decided to meet there.
being who i am, once we decided where we were going, i did a quick search on the internet to see what others' experiences were like, what others ordered, what others recommended. i took that knowledge in with me once i met up with janet and mark. others recommended dumplings and noodles. others also did mention the lunch box specials (that come with a canned soda if you take it to go), but only for lunch. i agree with others in that this is probably a place to go to for something quick as opposed to a place to sit, talk, and relish.
chinatown express is off the main chinatown strip (which is why you may not see it upon initial glance). the cramped entry way that was filled with aquariums of fish, hanging ducks, and the like. while some people find this gross, others find it authentic. no matter what, if you're up for a quick bite to eat, consider chinatown express~
so, i met up with janet and mark in chinatown. interestingly, they walked into chinatown express right as i got there as well - it was as though we were meant to eat there! haha. well, we walked in and was prominently seated, despite what seemed like a deluge of individuals going in and out of the eatery. and while the server sat us at a semi-clean table, we were all so famished that it didn't really matter. we took a look at the menu and proceeded to be slightly confused (even janet!). turns out, it's because the menu IS confusing, but our server was heppy to answer our question. janet busted out her awesome mandarin (despite most of the places in DC being cantonese) and she ordered all of the fares that we had decided upon. i, with my food envy and all, opted to order the lunch box special (which doesn't come with a soda if you eat in - too bad!). i'm also a sucker for singapore noodles (or any rice noodles altogether). and anyway, mark and janet were going to get the noodles. apparently the noodles are hand made at this place and that's what makes them better.
my thoughts on the food? the noodles are the way to go. both the one in and not in soup, that the noodles are made "in house" really does affect the deliciousness of the food - yum! the noodles seemed to be the most popular dish as well. the lunch box platter thing-a-ma-bobber is a lot of food and will most definitely fill you up for a few bucks (in fact, i imagine two people with medium appetites will be able to fill up on just one of these). it sort of reminded me of fancier take-out, but that's exactly what i wanted (and, honestly, what i expected) both in taste and quality. with that said, it came out just the way i wanted. the dumplings ... the dumplings, however ... hmmm ... i thought the dumpling wrappers were too thick and sort of gooey. maybe that's because we got the steamed ones and they had been sitting there for some time ... ? or maybe it's just that i like the thinner noodle wrappers.
point is, if (when?) i visit chinatown express again, i will err toward and enjoy the noodles (or maybe the lunch box thing-a-ma-bobber, depending on how hungry i am).

Monday, April 13, 2009

pasara thai

pasara thai
1219 connecticut avenue NW, washington, DC 20036
tel: 202) 223-3777
what was consumed: spring rolls, papaya salad, appetizer sampler, spicy pork dish, pasara fried rice, other curries (i forget which) ...
it looks like there are a number of pasara thai locations, but it wasn't until a location opened in dupont circle (south) that i found out about this delicious thai restaurant.
there are a number of thai restaurants near where i work. when pasara thai opened, we had to check it out. it's near the old dragonfly (which i'd been to only once, almost in passing) next to lucky bar and julia's empanadas so i had passed it by a number of times after its opening.
pasara thai is hip in decor (as is the style of dupont circle, i suppose). they have quite a large dining area on two levels along with bar seating (and the bar has these really cool bar stool chairs - sort of like sitting on a bunch of thick elastic bands). i also enjoy sitting next to the windows that face connecticut avenue (i love sitting next to windows). someone once commented to me that pasara thai would probably be a good location (decor wise) for some happenin' night life. beats me about that, though ... haha ...
pasara thai has a large thai menu, as is the case with most thai restaurants. when my friend chris and i visited, we started with the appetizer sampler - what a great way to try a number of different things! and all of them fried. yum! there's nothing like fried wonton wrappers on all sorts of different fried fares~ they also have a number of salads, of which i've tried the papaya salad. i always thought of papaya as being something sweet (with it being a fruit and all), but this salad was far from it. it was fresh, flavorful, and delicious.
now, while i look at a good pad thai as the indication of whether or not a thai restaurant is to my liking, i have not had the pad thai at pasara thai (or any other noodle dish, for that matter). upon asking the server, however, he mentioned that the pad thai was something he enjoyed, as well as many of the restaurant's patrons. the first time, i opted for a spicy pork dish, which our server recommended as well. it was a nice combination of pork with a variety of vegetables, all in a spicy broth-like sauce. definitely spicy, definitely delicious! i've also had their fried rice a number of times. pasara thai has a number of fried rices. and while a touch of hot sauce would probably make the dish better, but that's my take on most foods (i love hot sauce).
i recently visited pasara thai again with some co-workers who had been fans of other thai places. after our meal at pasara thai, they've collectively decided to visit pasara thai more often. i will as well. yummy thai food~~~

heritage india

heritage india
2400 wisconsin avenue NW, washington, DC 20007
tel: 202) 333-3120
what was consumed: vegetable fritters, samosas, paneer makhni (omg, my favorite!), some other curries, nawabi khazana (a mixed platter combination of curries), lamb briyani, butter and garlic naan, zaffrani pillau (basmati rice)
i did not grow up eating indian food. i did not go to university in an area that is known for its indian food (though i had some tastes of indian cuisine via my freshman year roommate). in fact, the first time i had indian indian food was in seoul (but let me tell ya, it was totally delicious!), but that first time was all that it took - i love indian food.
when i lived in SF, where there is a large indian/pakistani population, i enjoyed some great indian food. so, when i came to dc, and noticed that there were quite a few indian options (i'm sure there were lots of options in other areas; i had just not been aware), i wanted to try them out and see what i enjoyed the most. so far, my favorite is heritage in glover park (though, interestingly, they consider themselves a part of georgetown. i think it's more glvoer park, but what do i know about that ...)
heritage india is located on the upper level of a city-version of a strip mall. once you walk upstairs, you're greeted by 2 dining areas (next to a galley-kitchen-esque bar). i enjoy sitting next to the windows that face wisconsin avenue. and while the decor doesn't necessarily cry out "authentic!" i'm not really sure what would seeing that i'm not well versed with indian decor. but what is there is enough to get the sense that you're in an indian restaurant. the servind dishes are greater indication of the authenticity of the fare~
heritage india has a wide array of appetizers, entrees, tandoori, etc. all of the standard fare is located here and you'll probably find your favorite dishes on heritage's menu. you have to order the rice separately, but it is so good that it's worth the few dollars extra - the zaffrani pillau (basmati rice) is cooked with a couple of different spices and the like, thus making the already delicious basmati rice even more delicious. and be sure to try the variety of naans as well. there's something about having garlic on your naan as you enjoy the curries.
this is the only place that i've been able to find (so far) that serves paneer makhni (see photo). and while it is essentially the cheese version of butter chicken, the cheese (paneer) makes the sauce that much creamier and delicious. i've looked into trying to make it on my own because i love it so much, but it looks much more complicated than it seems. i also suck at following recipe directions, so there goes that.
there's also a heritage india location in dupont circle. i've been there during happy hour and have enjoyed their tapas-style small plate "indian street food" that they offer pre-dinner. they offer a variety of different tasty treats, bhel puri (i think that's what it's called - it comes in a bowl-like cripsy thing-y) being my favorite (just a warning, though, there is quite a bit of spice. delicious delicious spice). i haven't really had dinner here, though, so ... note: the kama sutra decorations in the bathrooms makes this location less family friendly (though i wonder if kids even look at that stuff. then again, you know children - they see everything you don't want them to see - ha!), but it's a great place for a few drinks and some tasty bites to eat.
i only wish heritage india in glover park was closer or had increased public transportation access. i will have to ride my scooter there and enjoy the delicious indian cuisine - YUM!

dc noodles

dc noodles
1410 u street NW, washington, DC 20009
tel: 202) 232-8424
what was consumed: noodles in spicy soup (with chicken), udon noodles (with chicken)
in my attempt to try new restaurants (and to take ines to a variety of places around town), we head out for a noodle lunch on u street. i had heard about dc noodles from someone (i forget whom) and see it pretty regularly in passing (seeing that dc noodles is right on the corner of 14th and u). it also turns out that there is some affiliation with other restaurants in town (like 'rice' - which i also want to go to) ... according to their website anyway.
so, ines and i walked down from columbia heights to the u street corridor. while we were contemplating ethiopian food or noodles (or rather, i was contemplating), we decided on noodles because it sounded good, it was closer, and it was cold outside.
dc noodles has a number of different asian style noodles to choose from. some are in soup, others are not. a combination of thai, vietnamese, japanese ... and whatever your liking is, chances are, you'll find something here! you choose whether you want a dry or soupy noodle, what sort of fixin's go in it (chicken, pork, seafood, tofu - that sort of thing), and the sort of noodles that are available. i love rice noodles and they give you an option here at dc noodles. i had the noodles in spicy sauce and while it wasn't really spicy, the combination of peanut sauce made the broth quite flavorful. pieces of chicken along with a variety of different veggies swam in the broth that went quite well with the soup as well as the noodles. i felt like the rice noodles were a bit overcooked, but i sort of forced the noodles apart and then it became ok. ines seemed to enjoy her udon as she proceeded to enjoy her bowl of noodles.
i have to admit, though, the $12 price tag for a bowl of noodles is pretty high compared to other places i've been. but maybe i need to step away from my memories of getting bowls of pho while in college or in little saigon for a nominal fee. and considering the dearth of pho restaurants in the city, i guess we'll just have to take whatever we can get at whatever price ... hmmm ...
on another note ... there's also a really great mural on the wall (with the artist's bio). i forget the artist's name, but the mural is fantastic. the graffiti art (is that what it's called?) depicts a chef serving noodles and a kid enjoying them (see photo). i don't know what it is about the mural, but it is fantastic! it totally livens up the dining area and i have a feeling it looks pretty awesome when they dim the lights for dinner service (though i can imagine some sort of black light/neon-club-esque sort of ambiance as well). i'm not sure what is next door, though. i should've looked when i went up to see the artist's bio, but i didn't. curious ...
the ambiance of the restaurant isn't anything special (besides the mural, that is), though it looks and feels clean (which is always a plus). maybe it's because they have white chairs, i dunno. there seems to be quite a bit of seating for a place that seems otherwise quite cozy. our server was quite nice and attentive - that's always a good sign.
so, when in the mood for a bowl of noodle soup, consider the options available at dc noodles - i'm sure it'll hit the spot~

Friday, April 3, 2009

bistrot du coin

bistrot du coin
1738 connecticut avenue NW (between R street & S street), washington, DC 20009
tel: 202) 234-6969
hours: monday-wednesday 11:30am-11:30pm, thursday-saturday 11:30am-1am, sunday 11:30am-11:30pm
what was consumed: mussels, mussels, mussels! and fries, pate, salad, and cassoulet (YUM) ...
among the great things about work, one of them is the close proximity of great places to eat - woohoo!
so, one day, my coworkers and i were looking for a nice place to eat - a nice ambiance, great food, and a place to dish about office gossip (haha - just kidding). we happily agreed on bistrot du coin and i, of course, began to do research on what to order, what to eat, what to look forward to. after my first visit, i had to share the deliciousness with others:
at first, you walk into a large, high-ceilinged (yes, i'm obsessed with high ceilings) eating hall, of sorts. the walls are decorated with all sorts of memorabelia, both local and international. there's a sort of flair about the place that is so appealing. is it the "french bistro" feel table clothes? is it the servers who speak french? what is it? this was a goooood sign ...
the meal started with delicious bread and butter. be sure not to fill up on it, though, because entree portions are good sized and you're gonna want to enjoy the other things that you've ordered. the last time i went, it was a total mussels fest (this is also the place where we got marguerite to order (and enjoy) mussels! that was a feat in and of itself). i have had the mussels a couple of a times and have tasted all different kinds (i think my favorite, to date, is the moules pistou - steamed mussels with pesto, prosciutto and french ham), but i could always go for more. bistrot du coin has small and large. small really is enough (especially if you're going to soak up all of the delicious broth with the delicious bread), but the large come with fries ... i often order the small and then fries on the side which saves me a few dollars (and keeps me from eating too many fries - i love fries). then again, the large also leaves you with more mussels and more broth. hmmm. in the end, it's a 'win-win' either way.
this last time, though, while everyone else ordered mussels, i took the advice of my friend and ordered the cassoulet. i had never had cassoulet; i had only read about this delicious french stew (i even considered making it, but ... well, you know me and not being able to follow recipes). but you really can't go wrong with a white bean stew with sausage, pork, lamb and duck confit. come on!! i had it on a dreary day; a hearty stew really hit the spot. it hit the spot the next day as well when i had the cassoulet leftovers for lunch (yes, even with everyone digging in, i had leftovers. delicious, delicious leftovers).
the only beef i have with bistrot du coin is that once i went for a friend's birthday. he had made reservations (there were about 14 of us) and we ordered food and wine (i.e., a pretty large tab). not only was the service average to below-average, after about 2ish hours, they told us that we had to leave because our reservation time had come to a close. WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? that has never happened to me ... sheesh. for sure, i had a much much better time in a small group ...
but, in the end, the food makes it all worth it. i'm sure i'll be back at bistrot du coin again ^_^