Thursday, March 17, 2011

pasta mia

pasta mia
1790 columbia road NW, washington, DC 20009
tel: 202) 328-9114
hours: tuesday-sunday 6:30pm-10pm

what was consumed: bread, caesar salad, gnocci in pesto, pappardelle pasta in meat sauce, and wine! yum.

one of my biggest gripes about food in DC is that there seems to be a dearth of affordable italian restaurants in the city (or maybe it's my arrogance that says that i could "make it better" at home. is that true?). every time i mention it, though, there's always someone who says that i really shouldn't say anything until i try pasta mia ... to which i'd always respond with "i don't want to wait in that line" or "it's just pasta" and so on and so forth. i finally caved. and it was delicious.

c & i planned it all out. the first seating at pasta mia is right when they open, so we got in line about 30-40 minutes before (c got there first and was still behind, like, 8 people - what?). soon after my arrival, the line started to go eastward on columbia road. some people, in fact, got in line, considered their chances of getting in on that first seating, and decided to go elsewhere. when pasta mia opened their doors and we were ushered in, i could hear a little cheer coming out of my mouth (ok, so it was actually a verbalized cheer. don't judge).

c and i were seated right next to the window - wonderful seats. since we'd thought about this dinner all day long, we were already ready to order by the time our server arrived (which was soon after we sat down). a basket of bread was soon served and while it was so delicious (was it the bread or our hunger? no matter), dipped in olive oil, we had to remind ourselves that we had huge meals coming our way. our large caesar salad came next (good thing we ordered one to share). the lettuce was crisp, and was light on the dressing (just as we asked), with a hint of fish which is what (imo) makes caesar salads so delicious. so simple, and so delicious!

i'd heard that i should be patient and wait as all of the food is cooked to order. but soon after we were finished with our salad, our pastas came. hurrah! and boy, were people right about portion sizes! the mountain of gnocci and what would otherwise be a box of pappardelle pasta were placed in front of us, covered in sauce, and piping hot. yes! more please! the meat sauce over the papperdelle was generous with the meat and seasoned well in the tomato sauce. all of which was covered with cheese. and the pasta was cooked just right - not too soft, but cooked. the gnocci was super soft, maybe some of the softest i've had, but not mushy and formless - just the opposite in fact. and the pesto it sat in was light and flavorful (some people ordered the gnocci with the meat sauce - so heavy!). i've never eaten so much gnocci in one sitting. and i love gnocci! nom nom nom ...

c & i left with small containers to go (instead of the large ones that everyone else seemed to have). admittedly, this was a point of pride for the two of us. tee hee hee. and note. my (long) run the next day was awesome. yay carb-o loading!

some will say that pasta mia is their favorite pasta place in town. i can see why they say that. despite all of the negatives (i.e., waiting in that line), i can see it rising to the top of my list as well. quickly. yay carbs! haha~

online: no website! argh ... though so many people have review pasta mia (a la yelp and other sites). better that than nothing?

pho viet

pho viet
3513 14th street NW, washington, DC 20010
tel: 202) 629-2839
hours: monday, wednesday, thursday 11am-9:30pm; friday-saturday 11am-10:30pm, sunday 11am-8:30pm

what was consumed: summer rolls (an order of 2 for me, an order of 2 for c~), papaya salad, bahn mi (accompanied by fried sweet potato slides and a soda), pho (with beef eye round & flank)

though i didn't have pho until i was well into my college years, i haven't been able to get enough of it since. and that i grew up next to the 'little saigon', i will admit that i have been spoiled, thus affecting my preferences when it comes to vietnamese food (as much as that is possible, anyway). so when i found out that there was a large vietnamese population in washington, dc, i anticipated the hope that there would be many vietnamese eatery options ... but was quickly disappointed to find out that there were very few (and that the good ones were out in the 'burbs ... as is the case with lots of asian food options). lucky for me, a few have popped up as of late ... and close to where i live! wonderful! and so, when c and i were thinking about a place to go for a nice warm meal on a chilly day, pho viet was at the top of the list.

our meal began summer roll appetizers (an order for me, an order for c - i love summer rolls!), papaya salad, and a bahn mi platter (to share). yes, we ordered a lot of food (we may have scared our server. what kind of girls order enough food for an army? no comment). we gobbled up our fares quickly, but couldn't help comparing them to similar options at other places. "i like it better when summer rolls have ...", "i like it better when the papaya salad is ...", "i like it better when the bahn mi has ...", you know. that sort of thing. don't get me wrong - we still enjoyed, of course.

when our pho arrived, i was pleasantly surprised! so surprised (or maybe more excited?) that i forgot to take a photo (how is that possible?!?!?!?!?!). our bowls of pho arrived as they should - with the slices of (raw) meat on top of the properly cooked noodles in a hot broth ... hot enough for the meat to cook in the broth as the bowls are brought to the table. the broth looked a little light, but i enjoyed the unexpected flavor with my first spoonful. as is my way, i scooped out all of the green onions and cilantro (they add to the flavor, but i don't like to chew those buggers), added my bean sprouts underneath my noodles (as to slightly cook the veggies), added a bit of sriracha sauce for spice, then mixed it all up ... and thoroughly enjoyed. and all this despite having already consumed a meal of "appetizers."

while i may not go back to pho viet for some of their other fare, i will definitely think of them first and foremost when i'm hankering for a nice bowl of pho. more pho please!

online:
http://www.phovietdc.com/

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

the argonaut

the argonaut1433 maryland avenue NE, washington, DC 20002
tel: 202) 250-3660
hours: monday-thursday 5pm-2am, friday 4pm-2am, saturday-sunday 10am-2am

what was consumed: hush puppies, sweet potato fries, benedicts (smoked salmon on two poached eggs on english muffins with classic hollandaise; bacon; rosemary potatoes), cheese grits, huevos rancheros, arboretum salad (mixed greens with red onion, dried cranberries, walnuts, and blue cheese; lemon vinaigrette), bottomless mimosas

the first time i went to the argonaut, it was for a bridal shower, when the h street corridor/atlas district (maybe) just barely qualified for the "up and coming" status. we were intrigued that the argonaut was there altogether and pleasantly surprised by the english-style tavern fare.

and then there was a fire.

we'd heard that the argonaut came back from the fire, in full force! so, as a few of us contemplated where to head out for brunch after church, we decided on the argonaut. and we went, curious as to how it had changed ... and were pleasantly surprised! while many things were renovated and things were moved around, the same comfortable feel seemed to emanate ... and i was glad!

we took our seats, and in between all of our girly chitter chatter, we managed to order our brunch items. which began with hush puppies. and sweet potato fries. the hush puppies weren't on the menu, but there was another table that ordered them. which we then proceeded to do as well. the hush puppies were nice and crispy on the outside, but nice on the inside. and while the hush puppies came with some spreads, they were delicious on their own. as were the sweet potato fries! they were fried just right and sprinkled with a bit of salt that contrasted the sweetness of the potato. delicious.

our brunch items were quick to arrive (yay!). i, of course, could not pass up eggs benedict (or 'the argonaut's version of eggs benedict), with the eggs poached just right on top of smoked salmon - yum! and hollandaise on the side, just like i like it. AND it came with delicious bacon. AND it came with home fries. ahhhh~ and to top it all off, i got a bowl of the cheese grits (no brunch is complete without grits!). okokok, so it was a lot of food, more than the norm. but there was something about the creamy, cheesy-ness of the grits that did not prevent me from pretty much consuming the entire bowl ... after the entire plate of food, of course.

m and s also had much success with their entrees (of which i tried, as usual. don't worry - i shared mine as well!). a fresh salad for s (with delicious bacon - yay!) and huevos rancheros with vegetarian bacon! what a plus - vegetarian meat options for the vegetarians in your life. how progressive? no matter - totally awesome.

and don't forget the bottomless mimosas! for the price of a regular mimosa elsewhere, you can enjoy mimosas all morning long~ more or less, anyway. the argonaut also has a bloody mary bar for those who prefer a more tomato-y drink. and i will have to say, both the mimosas and the bloody mary were definitely not easy on the booze. just the way they're supposed to be!

welcome back, argonaut! i'm sure i will see you again soon.

online: http://www.argonautdc.com/

Thursday, March 10, 2011

acacia mid-town

acadia - midtown
2601 west cary street, richmond, VA 23220
tel: 804) 562-0138
hours: monday-thursday 5:30pm-9pm, friday-saturday 5:30pm-10pm

what was consumed: price fixe dinner! butternut squash soup with bacon, mixed greens salad, pan roasted duck breast (with fois gras lentils and greens), pan roasted beef rib-eye (with roasted fingerling potatoes), 3-cheese plate, moulton chocolate cake

m and i planned a day trip to the capital of virginina - richmond. i'd never been there and he'd attended school there, so it was high time a trip was planned (woohoo!). so, after a bit of touring (i love hearing people's stories about where they grew up, where they went to school, etc.) and walking up and down the cary street area (so cute!), we were off to dinner. finally!

i got the name of acacia off the list of "critics' favorites" list in the local richmond magazine. the critics can't be too wrong, but they can select restaurants out of my price range. additionally, the james beard award nominations? awards? anyway, the james beard award list had just come and and what was on the list? acacia - midtown. we had to try it. provided the prices were reasonable and the food looked good, that is ... and they were! on both fronts. BUT, when we checked, they were not yet open (what?) because we were too early. we figured we'd check out some other places and if they were better, we'd go to those other places. but in the end, we both were in agreement to stick it out until 5:30 to try to fare at acacia.

right as we walk in, we're greeted by the hostess who asks us if we had a reservation (we didn't), but sat us right away (the restaurant was empty) after asking for our names. weird, but we didn't question it. despite what we were each thinking of ordering (which wasn't available anyway. apparently, acacia changes their menu every day), we both resolved to get the price fixe menu (that was only available that first hour). yay for early dining!

we were first greeted by some rolls that were de-licious. and super buttery (maybe that's what made them so delicious!). they served us 2 and i wondered if we would get more if we asked (though not necessary). our server mentioned that there was something special about the butter, but i have since forgotten. honey butter? something like that.

appetizers: m opted for the mixed green salad. the addition of other veggies (i forget which. i think endives, among others) as well as dried fruit gave this otherwise common salad what felt like a acacia twist. fresh and dressed just right, it was a fresh way to begin a meal. because he got the salad, i opted for the soup - a creamy and thick butternut squash soup. unlike many butternut squash soups i've had, this one wasn't overly sweet. instead, it was squash-y (is that even an adjective?) and creamy. and about every other spoonful had a bit of bacon. bacon! you can't go wrong with bacon.

entrees: i was having a hard time deciding between the pan-fried duck and the fish. our server mentioned that the chef was sort of known for fish, but that the duck came with lentils in fois gras. duck it was! and it was delicious. the pan-fried duck was nice and juicy, offering more juice to mix with the lentils for increased flavor. it wasn't too tough or stinky (as something poultry can be) and it was a pretty hefty serving (in fact, both of our meals were. i mean, they seemed comparable in size to the things that others were ordering ... we think. in the end, it didn't matter as it was still a lot of food. that we ate all of). m ordered the steak which came with this amazing green sauce. his steak was cooked more than he wanted, but that didn't prevent him from eating the entire plate (though i did suggest that he say something about it - he didn't). i think it was my duck that came out rare (look how red it is!), but i like it that way, so ...

dessert! we were afraid that dessert would be totally overwhelming. after all, we were already filled with all sorts of goodies. i had selected the cheese plate. when it came out, i was pleasantly surprised. bits of cheese just enough to let me taste, and then some. they told me which each one was, but what do i know of the names of cheese? all i know is that each had a slightly different cheesy flavor, and one was really creamy and had the consistency of a spreadable cheese. yum. m got the molten chocolate cake with ice cream. with just the right amount of chocolate and just the right size (small), the cake oozed richness and deliciousness. a great way to end the meal!

a quick comment about one of their drinks. i forget what it's called, but it comes with ginger beer. apparently, acacia makes their own ginger beer. and even m, who says he doesn't particularly enjoy ginger, enjoyed the ginger drink. it was ginger-spicy-y, but delicious.

the next time you're in richmond and thinking of going somewhere with delicious food and a sort of modern/chic ambiance, be sure to put acacia on your list!

online: http://www.acaciarestaurant.com