Wine


Not only was Et Voila a new restaurant for me, Palisades was a completely new neighborhood!  Yes, I’m afraid I’m a creature of habit and have a tendency to stick to “my” neighborhoods…meaning those that I can get to via Metro.  Anyway, P3 was so kind to take me after I cat sat for her.  Seriously, she’s entirely too generous! 

Et Voila Palisades

  • Food:I ordered the mussels in garlic and white wine and frites.  The mussels were beautiful — fat and juicy.  While the frites were good, they weren’t all that crispy (bummer).  The other problem was that I thought the broth was a little too salty.   But while the broth looked a little watery, it actually wasn’t.  P3 ordered their chicken simmered in its own broth with veloutée sauce with Julienne vegetables.  She said it wasn’t as good as the previous time she went, but I thought it was pretty good.  The chicken was moist and the broth was creamy and with the Julienne veggies, it reminded me of a cole slaw.   For dessert, I ordered the chocolate mousse which was rich with these little crunchy dark chocolate nibs.  It was knee-buckling good.  We also ordered their almond pastry on strawberry gelee with pistachio cream on top.  While it was delicious, their mousse is ridiculous.
  • Service: Our server was nice, albeit a little absent.
  • Atmosphere: It’s a somewhat long and definitely skinny restaurant.  They have pretty limited seating — probably only about 20-25 tables.
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: Unlike some restaurants, they don’t do a ridiculous mark-up on their wine.  We ordered their Domaine Guillon Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2004.  That was a fantastic bottle!  But I digress.  If I ever get to Palisades neighborhood again, I would definitely go back to Et Voila.  P3 and I chatted after our dinner and determined thatwhat we love about this place is that they rely on good ingredients and using a few spices to bring out those flavors. 

Details:

  • Reservations: They’re pretty much required if you want to get a seat, no matter if it’s a weekend or weekday.
  • Hours: Closed Mondays; Tues-Fri 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm; Sat & Sun 11 am-3 pm and 5-10 pm
  • Address: 5120 MacArthur Blvd NW; Washington, DC 20016
  • Ph: (202) 237-2300

I’ve been to Oceanaire a few times.  The first time it was for lunch and it was packed.  The most recent time, I went for dinner during the weekday at a peak dinner hour and there weren’t a lot of people there. 

  • Food: I went with a couple of folks who are all for eating and sharing. So we decided to order multiple plates to pass and share.  Their crab cakes are delicious because they use very little bread crumbs to keep it together.  So you’re getting a lot of crab meat (unlike some places!).  We also ordered the grilled calamari which was drenched in a very sweet pineapple sauce — not my favorite.  The oysters Rockefeller were OK, but not fantastic.  We also had escargot which were fine.  The best part of the meal?  The hash browns which were phenomenal because they were so crispy! 
  • Service: If I have a pet peeve about waitstaff, it’s to not be pushy.  When a friend was trying to determine what kind of wine, our server recommended the most expensive bottle of wine.  Now I know that servers depend on tips for their income, but seriously.  That’s when I said we’ll take a couple of minutes to take a look and we all commented on her recommendation.  Then I mentioned a story I read in the WSJ stating that at fine restaurants like this one, even the “cheapest” wine they serve is going to be good so there’s no shame in ordering it (not that you should be ashamed to order it anyway — it’s on their menu!). 
  • Atmosphere: It’s quite a large restaurant with several private dining rooms.  The interior has a nautical theme with medium-dark wood.  It’s also very brightly light.  On every table is a bucket for shells, Old Bay seasoning, and other seafood accoutrements.
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: While I’ve been here a few times, I don’t feel the need to go back.  I think I’ve ordered their specialities and have tried their “unique” offerings.  While I know the fish changes regularly, I don’t have a sense that anything else changes.  There’s too many other great seafood restaurants in DC that do great (and sometimes surprising) things with fish.  But this is a good place to go with clients, especially since they have the private rooms. 

Details:

  • Reservations recommended.
  • Hours: Mon-Fri lunch 11:30 AM-5 PM; Dinner Mon-Thurs 5 PM-10 PM; Fri & Sat 5 PM-11 PM; Sun 5 PM-9 PM
  • Address: 1201 F Street NW; Washington, DC 20004
  • Ph: 202-347-2277

It had been more than a year since I had last gone here, but I just went back again.  For a good year and change, no one could talk to me about Rasika without me talking about their popcorn.  Have you had it?  It’s an amazing combination of spices, sweet, salty, spicy — it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s truly like nothing you’ve ever had before. 

  • Food:I went with a friend and we were there in time for their pre-theater menu (I think it’s from 5:30-6:30 PM and $30).  We ordered the calamari chili garlic which was not fried, but sauteed and absolutely delicious.  Then we also ordered the seekh kebab which was spicy with fantastic flavor.  For the entree, w ordered the tandoori salmon which was sweet with a hint of cardamon. 

That’s right — I ordered cardamon.  Here’s what I’ve figured — I don’t know like it when it’s overpowering which is what happens in a lot of Indian restaurants.  Not at Rasika.  It’s perfect. 

I ordered the lamb pistta korma and the sauce was phenomenal while the lamb was moist, tender and awesome.  For dessert, it was the gulab jamun.  It’s 2 dumplings with honey drizzled and super sweet with cardamon ice cream.  The carrot pudding with cinnamon sabayon was shredded carrots, cashews, raisins missed together with the sabayon holding it together.  It reminded me a bit like a carrot cake without the cream cheese frosting.

  • Service: Our server was incredibly nice and was helpful with telling us what was in some of the entrees.  Great servers! 
  • Atmosphere: There is a small bar with only 10-12 stools, but there’s also 7-10 small tables and chairs in the bar.  Then there are two main dining room areas.  With dim lighting and comfortable Indian-inspired interior, it’s an impressive restaurant to take anyone.  But it does get loud and cozy, so don’t go if you need to talk about anything you want to keep quiet!
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: I love Rasika and I think I could eat here every week.  The food is always good and the popcorn is insanely unique.  I have to get that recipe! 

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm; Dinner: Mon-Thu 5:30-10:30 pm, Fri 5:30-11 pm, Sat 5-11pm, Closed Sun
  • Address: 633 D St, NW, Washington, DC 20004
  • Ph: 202-637-1222

I’ve been to Vidalia several times over the years and have always had a great meal.  While I wasn’t planning on participating in the Summer 2008 Restaurant Week, I ended up going to Vidalia during this time period. 

  • Food: Before I tell you what was ordered, I need to tell you that I didn’t eat all this. I swear. But because I was going with a client who was starving and wanted to do the five course meal, I had to do the five course meal. Thankfully, my client’s super cool so I was able to try a bite and then pass it on to him. I ordered the thinly sliced raw hamachi with cucumber, Fuji apples, lime basil, and smoked scallop essence. It was very good and fresh. He ordered the house smoked Wild King Salmon with vidalia onions, salmon roe, yogurt-cucumber soup and croutons.  My client won for ordering the best first course. For the next course, we both ordered the Point Judith calamari that was stuffed with oyster sausage, avocado, tomato, and periwinkle vinaigrette – delicious. For the third course, I ordered the Maine diver scallops with surry sausage crust, chow chow, rice beans, and bouillabaisse emulsion. This was the least favorite part of the meal — the scallops were overcooked and the crust was burnt. He ordered the Tasmanian sea trout roulad with warm cauliflower panna cotta, curry-golden raisin puree, and smoked trout roe. It was awesome. 4th course, still with me? He ordered the slow roasted Shenandoah baby goat with sweet garlic confit, cucumber-yogurt riata, zucchini, and flat bread. There were a lot of smaller dishes on the plate. It reminded me of one of the Top Chef episodes where one of the chefs compartmentalized their dish too much. The flat bread had no flavor and was stale. I ordered the corned Japanese Kuroge beef brisket with yellowfin potato pave, King Trumpet mushrooms and ginger beer reduction — it was seriously delicious. The brisket was so tender and the reduction was a fantastic pairing. The final course was dessert. We ordered the “Whopper” which was meringues with malted milk chocolate mousse with condensed milk emulsion, but the winner was the Georgia pecan tart. I’m not usually a pecan fan, but this was absolutely ridiculous. It’d make a pecan tart fan out of anyone!
  • Service: They hire good waitstaff who are knowledgeable and attentive (without being annoying). 
  • Atmosphere: After walking down the stairs, you’re actually in a basement restaurant.  While there are no windows, you easily forget that when you’re eating.  The bar has 12 stools and there are 3 sofa areas for mingling and waiting for your table.  The restaurant itself isn’t large, so if you want to go for lunch or dinner, make sure you make reservations! 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: I don’t know if I can do 5 courses again, but this is a great place to test all their courses.  It’s perfect for impressing anyone or for a quiet meal.  While the restaurant may be packed, they have good acoustics so it’s rarely too loud. 

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm; Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm; Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm; Sun 5pm-9:30pm
  • Address: 1990 M St NW; Washington, DC 20036
  • Ph: (202) 659-1990

The evening started out rough when we went to Hudson and no one waited on my friend and me.  We were both dressed business casual (coming straight from the office) yet NO ONE WAITED ON US.  We sat there for 15 minutes and nothing.  And in case you’re thinking, “Well, they were busy/short-staffed.”  No, there were about 5-9 employees who stood/sat there and only about 10 total people in the entire restaurant.  Wow. 

So then we decided to go to M Street Bar & Grill

The food was uninspired, yet we ordered a lot of it! We tried the prosciutto crisps, Angus sliders, bacon-wrapped shrimp and grits, mini pulled pork sandwiches, and handcut fries.  The winner out of the bunch was definitely the pulled pork because there was a little heat and balanced well with the sweetness from the BBQ sauce.  The burgers were dry and flavorless (and too much bun to meat ratio).  The fries were soggy.  There are too many problems to mention with the prosciutto crisps.

But the reason I’m writing about this place is because they have a pretty good happy hour.  It’s $19 for a pitcher of house mojitos or margaritas from 5-8 PM.  Now that’s a good deal! They also have beer and house wine on special.  On Wednesday nights, they have 1/2 priced wine with dinner.  Thursdays are live jazz nights from 6-9 PM. 

This is a good place to go for a few drinks with friends because you can talk (and hear) each other.  Although there were points throughout our evening where we realized the music was too loud, which we wouldn’t have noticed as much except they have a bad stereo system so it was rather annoying.

Details:

  • Hours: Breakfast – Monday – Friday: 6:30am – 10:30am, Saturday & Sunday: 7:30am – 10:30am; Brunch: Sunday: 11:00am – 3:00pm; Lunch: Daily: 11:30am – 2:30pm; Dinner: Sunday – Thursday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm, Friday & Saturday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm; 21 M lounge: Open For Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM Cocktails Mon-Sat 5 PM- Closing
  • Address: 2033 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036
  • Ph: (202) 530-3621

Brasserie Beck.  I was supposed to go a couple of different times but things kept happening that prevented my visit.  I finally made it with a couple of friends. 

On a total personal side note, both of my food-loving friends (who are always up to try new places and cuisine) are leaving DC!  Ugh, it’s so depressing when cool, fun people leave this city.  Damn.  Now who am I going to go out to dinner with? 

  • Food:The bread they sit in front of you when you first sit down was crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  The butter was so incredibly rich and smooth.  Wow.  Outstanding!  Huge statement is about to be made — I think their mussels and frites are the best in town.  The frites were incredibly crispy with three sauces — aioli, curry, and tomato.  The mussels were hot (temperature wise) and so good.  As my friend pointed out though, there were a few that were a bit gritty, but it is so hard to get all the grit out.  I’m kinda used to it by now.  I also loved taking chunks of the bread and dipping into the mussels sauce.  Yum.  My friends ordered the chicken waterzooi and beef carbonnade.  Both were good, but neither one were better than my mussels! 
  • Service: Our server was really rather irritating to be quite honest.  I’m going to be nice and say that she was perhaps having a bad day, but she was very much “off her game” the evening we went.  She was absent when we needed her and rarely checked in to see how things were going.  Although when she did check in, it was two seconds after our food was delivered so we had yet to try the food.  Yeah, definitely bad timing!
  • Atmosphere:They have huge outdoor patio and while there’s little atmosphere outside (lots of concrete), it’s another restaurant that offers outdoor seating (yay).  We sat inside and the tables are smooshed together so it is a bit crowded.  But it is a relaxed atmosphere so I like it.
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$/$$
  • Overall:While Belgian food isn’t my favorite, I loved Brasserie Beck’s mussels and frites.  I would absolutely go again.  And make sure to read the comments below — thanks to Ralph who reminded me about their vast beer offerings.  Here’s a link to their beer menu

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-5 PM; Dinner Mon-Thurs 5-11 PM and Fri & Sat 5 PM-11:30 PM; Brunch Sundays 11:30AM-8 PPM
  • Address: 1101 K St, NW, Washington, DC 20005
  • Ph: 202-408-1717

Yet again, another new dining experience!  This time, it was the Bombay Club, owned by the same folks who own a favorite restaurant of mine — Rasika

  • Food: With my love of spicy food, I asked the waiter what would be better — green chili chicken or the Tandoori chicken chops.  He said the Tandoori chicken chops was spicier than the green chili chicken.  So not feeling like having a running nose and tearing eyes, I ordered the green chili chicken.  I went with a couple other folks and one of them ordered the other “spicy” dish.  Folks, my dish was a thousand times spicier than the Tandoori chicken chops.  I had tears and my sinuses were definitely cleared.  But, I did like it — even though the spiciness overpowered the cilantro and mint.  We also ordered a basket of their assorted breads which were very good (and helped ease the heat).
  • Service: Our waiter was very nice, but he was dead wrong on the spicy food.  Thankfully, I have a pretty strong spicy food tolerance, but it was still hot. 
  • Atmosphere: The interior is classic, simple elegance. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: I’ll definitely go back to try some of their other dishes like their chicken tikka or some of their lamb dishes. 

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Lunch: Monday – Friday: 11:30am – 2:30pm; Dinner: Monday – Thursday: 6:00pm – 10:30pm, Friday – Saturday: 6:00pm – 11:00pm, Sunday: 5:30pm – 9:00pm; Sunday Brunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm
  • Address: 815 Connecticut Ave., NW; Washington, DC 20006
  • Ph: (202) 659-3727

One of my all-time favorite restaurants in DC is Hook.  Is it the fact that it’s an organic and sustainable restaurant in DC?  Is it the fact that the pastry chef is so widely respected?  Or is it because Barton Seaver is such a cutie?  Yeah…

Hook - Georgetown  Tackle Box and Hook - Georgetown

  • Food: To start off the meal, I ordered the calamari salad which had a great grilled, simple flavor.  So fresh and so good.  For my main course, I ordered the seared Steel Head Trout.  The flavor of the fish was simple and was a bit like salmon (but less oily!).   My dining companions ordered the Artic Char which had a great grilled taste and the Sablefish (my least favorite of the table).  For dessert, we ordered the Apple Tart (with almond frangipane, caramel sauce, and bourbon ice cream), donuts and coffee, and Bittersweet Chocolate Torte (with caramel ice cream, salted cashews).  My favorite dessert was the donuts and coffee — although they were much smaller than Buddakan, they were equally delicious. 

Hook Apple Tart  Hook Coffee and Donuts  Hook Bittersweet Chocolate Torte

  • Service: Their servers are put through an intense one week course on fish so they are able to talk to diners about what the fish tastes like (and what it’s similar to).  They’re also always polite and really good.  They know when to stop by to see how the food is and also when to leave the table alone.  I get a sense that most are professional servers. 
  • Atmosphere: At the end of the meal with the bill, they give everyone a fish handout to take with you on what fish is OK to eat and what isn’t (as far as being sustainable. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: This is one of my favorite restaurants in DC because the food is cooked simply but amazing.  The sides that accompany the main entree compliment perfectly.  The appetizers are amazing.  Desserts are ridiculously good.  The servers are fantastic.  There’s nothing else you can say — all good.  If you haven’t been, you must!

Details:

  • Reservations are strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Dinner: Sunday – Tuesday 5pm to 10pm, Wednesday – Saturday 5pm to 11pm; Lunch: Tuesday – Friday 11:30am to 2:30pm; Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 10:30am to 2:30 pm
  • Address: 3241 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007
  • Ph: (202) 625-4488

After hearing so many great things about Blue Duck Tavern, I finally went. Why did it take me so long to go?

  • Food:I went with a client and thankfully, a cool client that’s into sharing! So we ordered their braised barbecue beef “long rib”, crab cakes, triple fried fries, and glazed baby carrots.  The fries were more like logs (like when you cut tofu into eighths). But they were still insanely crispy!  And readers, you know I don’t like thick fries but damn, these were so yummy! The crab cakes were definitely some of the best in town – full of crab with a little breadcrumbs to hold it all together.  You know, the way crab cakes are supposed to be made.  Plus, there was a remoulade sauce on the side that didn’t overwhelm.  The beef was insanely tender and fell off the bone so easily.  The barbecue sauce tasted like good, homemade sauce.  Now on to my favorite course, dessert.  We ordered the chocolate cake with a side of vanilla ice cream (had to order this separately).  Our waiter made the vanilla ice cream sound like it was mind blowing good – but it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong – the ice cream was good – rich, creamy vanilla, but it wasn’t earth shaking.  The chocolate cake wasn’t overly sweet and had a fantastic dark chocolate with a light rum flavor.  Yum. 
  • Service: Our server was nice, but a little pushy.
  • Atmosphere: It has a wide open feel and hundreds of people could easily be in the restaurant and you’d never know.  While they have a very open kitchen, the chefs/cooks are very quiet!  The interior has dark wood tables and chairs (and accent pieces on the walls), but the floor is very light and balances out nicely.  It’s comfortable and beautiful — definitely an impressive place to dine! 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: Here’s another restaurant that would easily impress even the toughest critics.  The food was cooked simply but so wonderfully!  Oh and don’t be surprised when you pull up to the Park Hyatt — this amazing restaurant is on the first floor of the hotel. 

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Breakfast in the Lounge: 6:30am – 10:30am; Lunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm; Weekend Brunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm; Dinner: 5:30pm – 10:30pm
  • Address: 1201 24th Street NW, Washington DC 20037
  • Ph: (202) 419-6755

After dog sitting for P3, she was quite generous with her “thank you” gift and gave me a gift certificate for Cashion’s.  I was excited because I’d never been before — and so I finally had the opportunity the other week.

  • Food:To put it mildly, some of the best appetizers ever!  I ordered the grilled octupus which had a great, simple grilled flavor.  My friend ordered the fried oysters in grits.  I’m not a grits fan (I don’t get why people like it, I really don’t.  It’s just about putting a lot of butter on it and if I put that much butter on anything I ate, I’d love it too).  But these were really good (probably a lot of butter).  And the oysters were super crispy with a bit of corn meal.  For the main, I ordered the seared tuna with black beans, mango, and cilantro.  While the tuna was perfectly cooked, I thought it lacked uniqueness.  And I think they forgot the cilantro because I didn’t taste it in my dish.  My friend ordered the shad roe.  Now I don’t know why she did, but she did.  If you don’t know shad roe, here’s a photo and an explanation.  And because she didn’t like it, I only got half of my seared tuna.  Oh well.  I ended up eating a lot of the bread since I was still hungry. 
  • Service: Our server was a bit too eager throughout the meal.  She kept asking if we understood the menu, which is nice the first time and annoying the second and third.  Perhaps we looked confused?
  • Atmosphere:From the exterior, it seems like it’ll be a small restaurant.  But the looks are deceiving because it’s long.  Straight back on the left is a bit of an elevated bar.  Then there are tables throughout.  We were fortunate to get a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows so it didn’t feel claustophobic, but I could see how that could happen when those windows are closed!
  • Attire: Business casual/casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: I’ll definitely go back to try out other main courses and I hope they’ll offer those fried oysters again!  That’s the trouble with changing menus — you never know if your favorite is going to be available.  At the same time, you get to have new favorites!  So P3, thanks for the gift certificate!  Another good recommendation!

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Mondays closed; Tues 5:30-10 PM; Wed-Sat 5:30-11 PM; Sun 5:30-10 PM; Sunday Brunch 11:30 AM-2:30 PM; Late Night Menu 12 AM-2 AM on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Address: 1819 Columbia Road NW, Washington DC 20009
  • Ph: 202-797-1819

I know I said I’d only blog about the really good restaurants, but sometimes there are good concepts that don’t go quite as I think the chefs meant.  I think that’s what happened with Left Bank breakfasts. 

Before I get to the food, I wanted to bring up that the chairs (not the booths) are just slightly too high for the tables.  So it makes eating just slightly awkward.

Anyway, I went with a friend for breakfast one morning and ordered the Eggs Norwegian.  I chose the poached eggs (am into that style right now) and it was sitting on top of a toasted English muffin, smoked salmon, spinach, and chive hollandaise.  Sounds really yummy right?  All really tasty components and healthy (minus the hollandaise)!  Good concept!

Now I’m not much of a hollandaise fan but my friend that I went with, she knows hollandaise.  So I ordered it on the side so she could tell me how it rated.

Apparently, it was just so-so.  And that’s how I’d explain my breakfast.  There was perhaps 3 TBSP of potatoes on the side — it was a bit of a sad looking plate.  Plus, one of the eggs was not poached, but hard (the yolk never broke).  Everything was also cold. 

Interior is fun though and would be a great spot to grab drinks with friends, just not breakfast (especially since there are so many other great places in the area!).  It’s a wide open bar/restaurant and would be a spectacular spot on a beautiful weather day when their floor-to-ceiling windows are open. 

BTW, they also have some good happy hour offerings.  Daily happy hours until 7 PM with $4 beers and $5 rails.  Mondays are half-priced red and white wines; Tues & Wed are Smirnoff & Flavors night with mixed drinks going for $5 and martinis for $6; Thursdays are martini madness with half-priced Left Bank specialty drinks until 8 PM.  Sat and Sun starting at 10 are $9 Moet Chandon Mimosas.   

Details:

  • Hours: Brunch Sat 10 AM-4 PM & Sun 10 AM-4:30 PM; Dinner Sun-Thurs 5-11 PM & Fri-Sat 5-12 AM; Sushi Sun-Thurs 5-11:30 PM, Fri-Sat 5-1AM
  • Address: 2424 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
  • Ph: (202) 464-2100

If you have a guest, client, sibling, or someone who is tough to impress and loves vodka — this is the place.  The Russia House changes their selection of vodkas every so often, but everyone can find something to enjoy on their menu.  Their wine list, wine by the glass list, beer list, and martinis (seasonal infusions change) are plentiful and impressive. 

I’ve never eaten at Russia House (I have heard good things), but I LOVE going there for their mango martini.  But for $10 each, you know you’re not going to drink too many (or you’re going to have a HUGE bar bill). 

When you walk up their steps, you’re greeted by 3 doors.  Each door goes to a different location (so if you’re meeting people, make sure you know which door to take!). 

  • On the right, you go to a little bar with about 10 tables and a big sofa.  Downstairs you’ll find the bathroom and the dining area.   
  • The middle door takes you up the stairs to their main bar and two sizeable rooms — both with their own fireplace (and one has a piano).  There are about 40 tables total in these two rooms.
  • The left door seems to have a small bar as well, but I have to confess I’ve never been in.  My friends and I have always gone to the middle or right door.  If any of you have gone, let us know what’s in the left door! 

It’s a great place to go with a few friends to talk and enjoy some outstanding cocktails — all without having to shout over loud music.

Details:

  • Hours:  Monday-Thursday 5 PM-12 AM; Friday 5 PM-2 AM; Saturday 6 PM-2 AM
  • Address: 1800 Connecticut Ave; Washington, DC 20009 (next door to Veritas, across the street from Rite Aid, and on the corner of Connecticut and Florida Ave)
  • Ph: (202) 234-9433

Like many of you, I’ve made the wise cracks about box-o-wine.  But I’m sure you’ve noticed the trend where really good wineries have started packaging in boxes, instead of bottles.  The reason is because it’s cheaper to package — and I’ve heard the bonus for the purchaser is that the wine stays fresher.

So when I was watching After Hours with Daniel, he mentioned his box-o-wine called DTour wineWine Spectator seemed to like it.  Have you tried it?

I want to try it soon, but I have to admit — I have to stop thinking wine in a box is lesser wine

I don’t know why, but the Beacon is always viewed as a good place for HH (happy hour) and food.  Personally, I disagree.  Instead, I prefer to tell people about Nage.

  • Food:While their menu can seem somewhat limited (it’s seasonal), their chalkboard offers another 10 various options — and from that menu, you can have a pre-fixe meal (3 courses for $35).  I’ve been a few times and have had some good meals.  The mac and cheese is more creamy than cheesy, so it’s definitely not 15ria.  Their Chesapeake oysters with spinach, fennel, mushrooms, and Asiago cheese are good.  Most recently, I ordered the Prime Rib burger which was cooked perfectly, though I didn’t care for their fries (they were a mixture of potatoes — including a few sweet potatoes, but not worth the calories since they weren’t crispy…you know how I love my fries crispy!).  As far as dessert, their best offering is the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding.  I’m not a huge bread pudding fan, but this was insanely good! 
  • Service: They’ve always been courteous and efficient without being annoying.  In other words, good service.
  • Atmosphere: Strange as it might sound, this restaurant is in the Marriott Courtyard, down the block from Beacon.  But don’t let that scare you away!  They offer way better options for wine and beer and much better food.  Their restaurant is small and only has about 20 tables with a few bar tables and seats.  They also have a flat screen TV which always runs various sports games.
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$ if you order off their bistro menu; $$$ if you order an app and main entree
  • Overall:  Next time you want to go to Beacon, try out Nage instead.  As a friend said when she went, “It’s not the best meal ever, but it’s pretty good.  I mean, it’s better than Beacon.”  Although the $$$ may make you pause from making it your new weekly hangout.   But their apps are reasonably priced so you could definitely go after work without spending an arm and a leg.

Happy Hour: I’ll have to let you know — I forgot to take a look but I know they have 1/2 priced wine (I think it’s on Mondays).

Details:

  • Reservations are suggested, but to be honest, I’ve never needed them.
  • Hours: Breakfast Daily 7-10:30 am; Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30 pm; Daily Dinner 5 pm – 9:30 pm
  • Address:1600 Rhodes Island Avenue, NW; Washington, D.C. 20036
  • Ph:  (202) 448-8005

I’ve been to Olives a handful of times and have never gotten anything but a really good (albeit expensive) meal. 

  • Food:I ordered the Greek-style Baby Red Romaine Salad with tomatoes, cucumber, mixed olives, red onions, oregano, and crispy phyllo-wrapped feta.  But the star salad was the grilled squid and octopus with a vinaigrette of chickpeas, tomatoes, toasted garlic, and parsley.  I ordered their grilled salmon special with Israeli couscous which was spectacular.  Their fig and prosciutto pizza is amazing too.
  • Service:It’s not bad, but considering the price tag, you’d think they’d be a little more attentive.  I’ve also witnessed several times when they’d rush people eating.  If you’re eating a salad, they might bring your entree before you’re ready.
  • Atmosphere: When you walk in, on the right is their bar and on the left are tables (and their open kitchen).  If you walk straight ahead, you’ll see their stairs to their downstairs dining room.  The restaurant has an open, warm feeling and tons of windows on the first floor (meaning great sun…if it’s out).  I love their open kitchen with their wood-burning oven and their chef was cute. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: Like I said, I’ve never gotten anything but a solid, yummy meal here.  Thankfully, I’ve also never had to pay either.  Ha! 

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Lunch: Monday – Friday: 11:30am – 2:30pm Dinner: Monday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm Closed for lunch on Saturdays, all day Sundays
  • Address: 1600 K Street, NW; Washington, DC 20006
  • Ph: (202) 452-1866

I’m one of those.  I like to read reviews about places before I go so I know what to expect.  And the review I read about Vinoteca and their food was, to put it nicely, dismal.  So what do I do when my friend, who was going with me, asked about this place?  I say,  “Yeah, the wine list is supposed to be pretty good but the food supposedly sucks.”  Ha ha, nothing like setting everyone’s expectations!  

  • Food:After reading the horrible reviews about this place, my expectations were incredibly low.  While our server provided water right away, we didn’t get any bread until we ordered our food.  So we started off with a trio of charcuterie.  The bread was interesting that they provided — it was dark with black olives perhaps?  Not quite sure what kind of bread it was, but it was a bit dry.  I preferred the second type of bread that they gave us (after we asked for more) which was softer than a baguette, but had a good flavor.  Then we ordered their $12 mussels.  When you compare their mussels with the $8.25 from Les Halles, there’s no comparison.  Les Halles rules.  
  • Service: Our server didn’t seem happy about working when we were there.  She never smiled and seemed annoyed when we needed a couple of minutes to review the menu.
  • Atmosphere: They offer some great photos on their Web site here.  Inside it’s a comfortable (yet very loud) bar.  The dining area is small, but seems like a good spot for large groups. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: I’d go again for their happy hour to try their sliders, but to go pay full-priced considering the service and their mussels, I’d skip it. 

Happy Hour— Sunday-Thursday from 5-7 PM, they offer 10 wines by the glass; 3 sliders for $6; and 1/2 panini and fall squash soup for $5.55.

Details:

  • Hours: Sun 4:30 PM-2 AM; Mon closed; Tues-Thurs 4:30 PM-2 AM; Fri & Sat 4:30 PM-3 AM; Brunch Sat & Sun 10 AM-3 PM
  • Address: 1940 11th Street NW; Washington, DC 20001
  • Ph: 202-332-WINE

I went to Corduroy in their old location (Four Points Sheraton) with a client and a colleague. 

  • Food:We ordered the oysters on the half shell with champagne mignonette which was really good.   I could have eaten 30 of these (OK, maybe only 25).  We also started with Filipino styled eggrolls.  There were two rolls on the plate that were the same size as a long cigar — about 4 inches long.  They were fried to perfection and had a nice pork taste.  Then all three of us ordered the roasted lamb with garlic mashed potatoes.  My client wanted to order the veal, but was told they were out of it and would substitute chicken.  The lamb was really good and the potatoes were so tasty!  Although I ordered medium rare, while the others ordered medium.  Everyone’s came out medium rare.  In addition, there was a side that was quite unique and we didn’t know what it was (and were running late so we needed to rush through lunch).  But perhaps some of you who have been to Corduroy will know what it was?  It was a quarter of the size of a red potato, but was a bit crunchy.  It was white and didn’t have a strong flavor. 
  • Service: Our server was nice and my ice tea glass was never less than half-empty/full. 
  • Atmosphere: It doesn’t matter since they’re moving to their new location, right?  This location is closed January 31st.  They’re moving to 1122 9th Street NW (Chinatown/Penn Quarter) and will be open March 2008.
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: I’m looking forward to going to their new location in Chinatown/Penn Quarter.  I think it’s a good restaurant that offers solid food. 

Details:

  • Reservations recommended.
  • Hours: Monday – Friday: 6:30 am – 10:30 am, Monday – Saturday: 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm, 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm; Saturday – Sunday: 7:00 am – 11:00 pm (Not open for lunch or dinner on Sundays)
  • Address: 1201 K St. NW — Four Points Hotel, Washington, DC 20005 (until Jan 31st); Reopen March 2008 at 1122 9th Street NW (Chinatown/Penn Quarter).
  • Ph: 202-589-0699

Unless you know where you’re going, Iron Gate Restaurant could be easily missed.  It has (surprise) a huge iron gate that’s open when they’re open. 

Iron Gate  Iron Gate Entrance

  • Food: While I was there for lunch, we received a basket of bread with a spread that had capers, roasted red peppers, and a bunch of other things.  It had a consistency of a very thick hummus, but I have no idea what else was in it.  But it was pretty good. I ordered the lamb shank with orzo and goat cheese and spinach.  While the lamb was cooked properly, it had a bit too much garlic.   My sides were great though.  Here’s a photo of their dinner menu (and if you click, you can actually see what’s available)
Iron Gate Dinner Menu

  • Service: Our server was polite and our ice tea and water glasses were always refilled.  Although when I’ve been there for drinks after work, they have a tendency to forget about you if you’re sitting outside and they’re not busy.
  • Atmosphere: Considered a romantic spot with their outside water fountain in their main outside dining area, it is a cute spot.  I’ve been many times for drinks after work with friends and love coming here for their courtyard.  They also usually have a special on wine and their hummus is good.  Inside is dark with fireplaces — you can see where it was once a stable and carriage house. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: When it’s a beautiful day outside, this is a perfect spot to go when you want to discuss the finer things in life over a bottle of wine and a few small plates . 

Details:

  • Reservations accepted and recommended.
  • Address: 1734 N Street NW; Washington, DC 20036 
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30 AM-2:30 PM and 5:30-10 PM; Sat 5:30-10 PM; Sun closed
  • Ph: 202-737-1370

Yet again, I’ve ventured to Virginia!  This time, it was for Farrah Olivia during Restaurant Week with P3.

  • Food:Offering their entire menu during RW (with a few extra charges for some dishes), it was an overall outstanding experience.  P3 ordered the painted soup with fruitwood smoked apple, gingered squash, and beet cider.  P3 loved the smoky apples and the soup had a great creamy flavor.  I ordered the shocked escolar with soy pearls, pickled quince, and wasabi.  Now I didn’t know this, but escolar, if eaten in large quantities, *ahem* can cause some gastrointestinal problems.  This quantity, at least for me, did not.  Then P3 ordered the chicken breast with curry banana crust and quinoa salad.  The banana crust was phenomenal with an amazing sweet and crunchy texture.  The quinoa salad was also really good.  I ordered the pork loin which was really moist and delicious.  For dessert, P3 ordered the citrus fruits with lemon cheesecake, candied citrus segments, and thyme syrup.  I ordered the chocolate brownie, toasted marshmallow, and raspberry-beet sorbet.  While P3’s was good, I loved mine — and I don’t even like marshmallows that much.  For $15 each, we chose the wine pairings with each course.  Wow was that a good deal! 
  • Service: P3 thought our server was coming over a bit too much, but I thought she was being very attentive.  She also clearly knew a lot about the menu and was able to answer all our questions. 
  • Atmosphere:Next door to a Balducci’s, the exterior is deceiving because inside, there’s such an outstanding restaurant.  It’s a small dining room — only about 20-30 tables.  The interior is warm and inviting, filled with browns and greens. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall:I loved it.  The food, presentation, and service was phenomenal.  This was my favorite restaurant to try during Restaurant Week because I felt I was given a lot of great menu choices.  I definitely recommend trying this place out if you haven’t already!

Details:

  • Reservations required.
  • Hours: Tue-Sat 11:00 am-2:30 pm, 5:30-10 pm, Sun 11 am-2:30 pm, 5-9 pm
  • Address: 600 Franklin St.; Alexandria, VA 22314
  • Ph: 703-778-2233

I went to Taberna Alabardero during Winter 2008 Restaurant Week with three other friends.  After looking at their RW offering (only 2 options for each course), we decided to order off the regular menu. 

  • Food: We ordered Serrano ham and cheese plate.  We also ordered Pencas con Alcachofas Salteadas con Jamon Serrano, which is chard greens and artichokes sauteed with Jamon Serrano.  Both of the appetizers were truly outstanding.  Then one friend and I ordered the seafood paella while the other two ordered the chicken and Chorizo paella.  No one was exactly wow’ed by their paella and in fact, our mussels had a very pungent seafood taste (and smell).  Of course, I ate mine first and what did I do?  I told my friend, “No, you have to try it.  It’s fine…but see if you think it has that weird seafood taste.”  Ha ha.  She didn’t try it, but I didn’t end up getting sick.  I just thought the mussels had a bad flavor.  Oh, and the seafood that was on the plate, beyond the 2 mussels and 2 clams that were in their shell, reminded me of Trader Joe’s Seafood Medley.  I’m not saying it was though!
  • Service: The servers were incredibly polite and attentive without being overly annoying.   I really thought they were great!
  • Atmosphere: As soon as you walk through their doors (which are on 18th Street), you’ll run into their 10-14 stool wooden bar.  On one end of the bar, you’ll see a leg of Serrano ham, which was as good as it looks.   
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: I’d definitely go back for their appetizers and to try out their tapas, but I’d skip the paella and try some of their other main courses.  Their desserts looked really good too!  I’m looking forward to going back and trying new dishes.

Details:

  • Reservations required.
  • Hours: Mon-Fri lunch from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM; Mon-Sat 5:30-10:30; closed on Sun
  • Address: 1776 I Street NW; Washington, DC 20006
  • Ph: 202-429-2200

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