Thursday, May 5, 2011


527 8th street SE, washington, DC 20003
tel: 202) 543-9090
hours: monday 5pm-10pm; tuesday-thursday 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm; friday 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-11pm; saturday 11:30am-11pm; sunday 12pm-10pm

what was consumed: some variation of the following - taramosalata (whipped salmon roe, citrus), green beans (sautéed, roasted garlic, dill) lollipop chicken (fried, honey, walnuts, greek yogurt), shrimp orzo (san marzano tomatoes, wilted bitter greens), grilled baby octopus (baby octopus, grilled to perfection), kokkinisto (braised beef short ribs, tomato, cinnamon, burgundy, evoo crisped fries), roasted beet tartare (dodonis feta, sea salt, evoo, onions), donuts, and monday half-price wines (yay!)

yay small plates, yay sharing, yay cava!

right as you sit down, a friendly server (all male, btw. i thought that interesting) comes to take your drink orders and drops off some tasty bites of pita bread with oil, olives, and tapenade-like spread. now, this spread. it is so delicious. a bit spicy, the spread ended up finding itself on all sorts of things as the meal progressed. apparently, you can purchase it retail (maybe at whole foods?). as for drinks, cava has a variety of specialty cocktails as well as the standard beer and wine. they also have a half-off bottled wine day which is always wonderful, especially because i think their wines are good and reasonably priced (even more so when they're half off!). cava also has their own lemonade (with and without alcohol). it was a bit sweet/sour for my palate, but when i mixed it with a glass of club soda, it was perfect (i know - weird), though that was on a non-drinking day. some cava lemonade, a splash of club soda, and a clear adult beverage sounds wonderful.

on my first visit to cava, it was a seafood day - taramosalata (whipped salmon roe) and grilled baby octopus. i love seafood (not see food), i love roe, i love octopus. so, while i'm biased in that i probably have a higher tolerance for bad seafood, i most confidently say that these two dishes were wonderful. the taramosalata was lightly whipped, great as is or spread on some pita. i probably could have eaten twice the amount that was served, on my own, in one seating (though sitting with k prevented me from such gluttonous activities. i share, people!). and it was just the right amount of roe-y-ness. if you don't like roe, don't try it! but if you do, or are curious, it's a must. the baby octopus was also delightful. grilled just enough so that there's a bit of char and crunch, fresh octopus that is soft and chewy at the same time ... and with some lemon sprinkled? wonderful.

at subsequent visits, i've had the pleasure of trying out more plates (not-pictured as where we were sitting was light enough as a diner, but too dark to take some good photos). as a whole, i can confidently say that i thoroughly enjoyed all of the plates that i have the pleasure of tasting. i would recommend getting a number of plates and sharing them among you (i guess that's sort of the point of tapas and small plates, no?). the ingredients are fresh, the dishes are well seasoned. and at the end of the night, all gone.

i would also like to note that cava has some great outdoor seating. of course, this also meant that people stopped by to say "hello" to k so often (k is really popular), but it was such a nice day it was worth it! i am more of a washingtonian than i'd like to admit (haha). all the better that the waitstaff is good about making sure we were well taken care of. that's important!

cava, i can't wait to visit you again!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

toki underground

toki underground
1234 H street NW, second floor, washington, DC 20002
tel: 202) 388-3086
hours: monday-wednesday, sunday 5pm-10pm; thursday-saturday 5pm-12am

what was consumed: toki hakata classic, kimchee ramen, curry chicken hakata, masumi vegetarian, pan-fried pork dumplings, fried beef dumplings, taiwanese style cold tofu, pickled cucumbers, dessert bento box, warm cookies
toki underground is FINALLY open!!! woohoo!!! toki's chef, eric, let m know that they were doing a sort of unofficial opening. bunches of us, then, put ourselves on the reservation list and counted the days. yeehaw!

i remember when, while still under construction, i had the pleasure of visiting the (then future) site of toki underground. i got the low down on what the space was going to look like, some of the knick knacks that they planned on putting up, and the flare that sort of represented their version of youth. the space was once described to me as "a boy-hood playground for me," and i think it pretty accurate (haha). the decor of toki underground is chock full of skateboards, bar-like seating, plinko, and japanese culture-infused figurines (ok, so i probably butchered what all of the things are called. sorry!). point is, the decor is a lot of fun, well thought out (minus the hooks for ladies' bags - i hear they're coming), and a great effort regarding the efficient use of space.

we started our meal with some appetizers. one of the things that they want to make sure they get good at is dumplings - a great pairing with ramen. i personally like the pan fried option the best. when we went, admittedly the dumplings needed some work - the deep fried ones were too fried and the pan-fried ones were fried strangely. BUT, m went back and said that they adjusted their dumpling times and now, they're just right. and delicious. that's great to hear! so yes, pan-fried pork dumplings is what i would recommend.

in addition to the dumplings, we also enjoyed some of their other appetizers. for some reason, i looked at the cold tofu and thought it said cold noodles (i know - brain fart). but that's ok becuase they were delicious. the soft tofu was in a more salty than sweet sauce, topped with all sort of goodies (fish flakes? what are those things called?). i could eat this all day long - i love tofu. m got the pickles (yay pickes!), cucumbers that were slightly pickled in the asian way (i.e., more salty, a bit sweet. not dill or sweet like american pickles). yum.

and then, the ramen. i love ramen (makes sense, seeing that i love noodles. i've mentioned that here, i think). all kinds. even the cheap-o top ramen (seriously, you can make it pretty darn tasty), though that's not necessarily my "go to" (obviously). i've had real japanese ramen (i.e., ramen IN japan) and have had delicious japanese american variations. i got the kimchee version of the toki hakata classic (a way for me to get a taste of eric's kimchee along with the ramen. the kimchee was good, but i prefer my mom's kimchee. isn't that how it always is?). the pork broth was delicious, full of flavor, and salty as ramen should be (i know that it's just the right amount of saltiness when i, in the middle of eating, have the need to dilute the broth with some water. i know. gross. but i like it that way (and i do it, hopefully, discreetly). leave me alone!). i wish there were more noodles; i will order the extra noodles the next time i go. the noodles, in and of themselves, were also delicious - just the right amount of chewiness, not soft and mushy at all.

m had the vegetarian option and it was GOOD. i mean, really good! the broth had a lot of flavor, resulting from seaweed/dashi, soy sauce, radish, etc., i imagine. i tried making a vegetable broth (also for m) when making seaweed soup once and it was hard (though i'll have to say that mine didn't come out half bad. i will try again). oh, and i like the pork broth. what's wrong with that? nothing! haha ... for me, i think if i was wanting a lighter ramen option, this vegetarian bowl would be great. lots of other little toppings came along with this bowl. i wish all of the other bowls of ramen came with it as well. a girl can dream~

w had the curry chicken ramen. i was curious as to how this would be, as japanese style curry has its own flavor and flare. i would say that the chicken was cooked well and the broth, while chock full of curry, was more along the lines of se asian-style noodles in broth. the curry wasn't overpowering, which is good, and a nice option for those who may want an alternative to the more pork-y ramen (i don't know who says no to pork, though). now, w doesn't eat a whole lot. but while i was barely halfway through my ramen, he had demolished the whole bowl and was on the verge of licking (literally) up the droplets left. now that's a good sign!

to round out the meal, we had dessert. i'm not really one for dessert, but the containers that the dessert came is was just so darn cute. the dessert bento box was filled with chocolate truffles, all a different flavor (coconut and lemongrass, some sort of liquor, miso, and sea salt). we all literally took tiny bites of them, just to taste. delectable. i didn't think i would like some of the flavors because they sounded so ... odd. i mean, miso powder on chocolate? weird. but delicious. i like miso, i like chocolate (for the most part), why not put them together! i didn't get to taste the milk and cookies (and yes, it comes with actual ice-cold milk), but the presentation (imo) was just lovely.

i think there are a few kinks that the staff at toki are trying to iron out. it's also super hipster (for those of you who are not into that), but it's also on H street NE, so i guess you can't really avoid that (no offense). nonetheless, it sounds like it's already a great hit (yay!) and have full confidence that it will soon join the others on the list of DC's "must-dos." yay yay yay! now, if only i could get a seat ... hee hee~