Posts tagged ‘DC’

Tabard Inn–Washington, DC

The Tabard Inn has long appeared on “Best Brunch” lists in the DC area. In fact, it’s one of those places where you need to call a month in advance to insure a reservation.

I made that call and was rewarded for my efforts with an 11:30 am Sunday reservation (Saturday brunch is also served).

The historic inn in which the restaurant is housed is lovely. We had to meander through the small, quaint rooms to find our way to the back where the restaurant sits.

We announced ourselves to the hostess about 30 minutes early and assumed we’d have to wait for an open table. We heard her tell a person at the other end of the phone that they could come in without a reservation, but that it would probably be 2-3 hours before she could be seated.

Surprisingly, they asked if wanted to sit down, and we walked into a relatively empty dining room. But in the next half hour it filled and stayed that way during our visit.

I had read that the Tabard Inn kitchen makes its own doughnuts and that they could be order singly or by the half-dozen. Since the server had just set  down a basket of  homemade muffins and breads, we decided to just order one to split.

Smart move. These were full-sized, not little donut holes; rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with vanilla whipped cream. I’m not generally a big doughnut fan, but these were light and served warm, what’s not to like?

My son ordered steak and poached eggs with chimichurri sauce, and while I was tempted by the seafood gumbo, when the server told  me its heft might require me to take a nap afterward, I opted for the huevos rancheros. Though the green and red salsas lacked a kick, they nicely complemented the black bean puree, avocado and perfectly cooked fried eggs that smothered the tortillas.

The menu features an large number of both breakfast and lunch items, and I would have been happy with any number of them. And the tavern-like ambiance is just as much of a draw.

As we left, the living rooms were filled with people waiting, some chatting while sipping drinks, and others reading the newspaper to pass the time. I was tempted to assure them that it would be worth their while to stick around.

Tabard Inn on Urbanspoon


March 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm Leave a comment

Acqua Al 2 in Washington, DC

Acqua Al 2 has come to Washington, DC. Its owners know a thing or two about what constitutes authentic Italian cuisine. Started in Florence, Italy, the restaurant’s only other  North American outpost can be found in San Diego.

Acqua Al 2 took over a charming little space in the up and coming Eastern Market section of DC in early summer. Since that time, it’s been wowing diners who revel in the homemade pastas and  steaks that taste like they came straight from Tuscany.

On our visit, we couldn’t resist the pastas, sampled several and even ordered a second round. Maccheroni all Vodka looked bland but hit all the right notes with its spicy vodka tomato/cream sauce, Fussili  Lunghi  alla  Fiaccheraia, pasta with a spicy tomato sauce  proved that simple is often best, and the Cannelloni  Mascarpone  e  Funghi, certainly didn’t resemble St. Louis’s standard, but was every bit as decadent. And the gnocchi, essentially a potato dumpling, was light and airy (and then smothered in a rich cream sauce.) The homemade bread and focaccia was the ideal vehicle for mopping up all those sauces.

The two specialties of the house are the filet mignon with blueberry sauce, a combination which I just couldn’t bring myself to order, and Tuscan style rib eye (read blood rare) served on a bed of arugula, which I did order but they forgot to serve. I think it was a miscommunication rather than neglect–the server thought I was just asking how it was prepared and didn’t realize I had actually ordered it. No worries, I’ll be back and I had more than my fill that day anyway.

The restaurant is long and narrow, rustic and comforting, and on the night we were there was filled with families, groups and cozy couples. With its extensive menu, this is the kind of place where family style dining is preferred–more to try, more to love.

Acqua Al 2 on Urbanspoon

February 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm 1 comment

Central Michel Richard Washington DC

At the end of a long weekend of eating substantial meals in DC, my son and I were not up for another one. Yet we certainly wanted to enjoy another evening together and we had to eat, right? We had previously made a reservation for Central Michel Richard, and though it has its fair share of rich bistro fare, there are other paths a diner can follow, so we stuck with the plan.

The menu has a generous mix of appetizers and salads, as well as a very appealing list of sandwiches. We chose to split two burgers–one lobster, one tuna. And French fries, of course. Boy, did we do it right! The burgers were outstanding and just so fun to eat. Both were formed to exactly fit the homemade bun, and they were each topped with a fabulous potato tuile for additional texture.

The French fries were crisp and, naturally, the perfect accompaniment.

We also enjoyed, at our server’s suggestion an interesting and reasonably priced Napa cuvee from Tudal Family Vineyard. It was a blend of Merlot, Zinfandel and Sangiovese, not the usual suspects, and very tasty with our burgers.

This unexpected meal was the perfect ending to a lovely weekend.

Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

September 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

Ris–Washington D.C.

I go to DC periodically and enjoy hitting the trendy spots about town. On my last visit, I had delightful meals  at two bistros, Ris and Central Michel Richard.

Ris is in Foggy Bottom, right near Trader Joe’s and George Washington University. Chef Ris Lacoste is in the kitchen, for the first time in her own restaurant. The dining room is large and, depending on where you are seated, can be loud.  There’s nothing cozy about the place, but we had a nice table in the back where we received attentive and professional service.

The menu is modern American, and while you’ll see many dishes you recognize, Chef Lacoste has put her own spin on them.  We started with posole, which was chock full of tender chunks of pork and hominy, and topped with radish slices and sprouts. My favorite dish of the night, and in fact the entire trip, was her take on soft shelled crab. We were in DC during the height of that crustacean’s seasonal appearance, so I had it more than once and this rendition was sensational.  The crabs were small, so the plate featured two of them, on fava bean puree accompanied by a flavorful onion jam. It was so much more lively than the ubiquitous lemon butter theme, and the crab really popped in this setting.

Dinner spotlights other cuisines of the globe–a glistening lamb shank sat atop a creamy yogurt based sauce and was sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, while the thai salmon and soba noodles floated in a broth redolent of red curry.

The wine list was pricey, but hey, this is Washington, DC.

As is often the case, I found the choice of appetizers to be more inspired than the entrees. Next time around, I’ll try to grab a seat at the bar and try a few more.

Look for another post to follow shortly about Central.

Ris on Urbanspoon

July 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm Leave a comment

The Source–A Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Wolfgang Puck has restaurants all over the country, but The Source may be the most formal and unique. Situated next to the Newseum, The Source’s upstairs dining room is modern and sleek, with floor to ceiling windows and a two-story temperature controlled wine wall. The downstairs lounge for small bites is more of a scene, but the decibel level may be off -putting to some. On both floors, the emphasis is on Asian fusion cuisine.

Though the setting is striking, the food is equally captivating. The large amuse-bouche of sesame asparagus with candied walnuts whet our appetite for the many dishes to come, including tuna tartare in sesame-miso cones, shrimp and scallop mini-dumplings in a pool of curry emulsion, stir-fried lamb in lettuce cups, and lacquered duckling with bok choy and lo mein noodles. Each was intensely flavored and beautifully presented.

The entire evening was well-orchestrated by the capable staff. Our waiter helped us make a selection from the extensive wine list, not an easy task given the  array of tastes and  ingredients that we experienced throughout the meal.

The Source is one of those restaurants that leaves a lasting impression. From the stunning ambiance to the exquisite food and service, it was a memorable evening.

The Source on Urbanspoon

April 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Masa 14–Washington, DC

Off to DC to see the cherry blossoms? Looking for a fun place to go with a group? Check out Masa 14, a new spot opened by Zengo owner Richard Sandval, and Kazuhiro Okochi of Kaz Sushi Bistro. It specializes in Asian/Latin American small plates, an unbeatable combination in my book. It also has a serious list of innovative cocktails.

Four of us split more than a dozen dishes, which made for a fun and interesting evening. We liked everything, some more than others, but overall it’s easy to see why this trendy restaurant is always packed. The only real disappointment was the pork belly steamed buns, but that was probably my fault–I had visions of David Chang’s version from Momufuku in New York and these weren’t in the same league.

We shared pulled beef tostadas, carnitas with adobo BBQ sauce, mushroom flatbread, shrimp and pork fried rice with kimchee, barbecued salmon with achiote ponzu and spinach, and calamari salad with curry and a spicy chile sauce. Yet we hardly scratched the surface of the vast menu.

The bar is hopping, especially at happy hour when the specials are very appealing and easy on the wallet.

This is a very fun addition to the U Street area.

Masa 14 on Urbanspoon

April 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Ray’s Hell Burger

Kansas Citians don’t have to travel to Washington, DC to find a good burger, but  if you find yourself  in our nation’s capital, hop on the metro and take it to the Courthouse stop and walk the few blocks to Ray’s Hell Burger.

Ray’s Hell Burger is an offshoot of the wildly successful Ray’s the Steak. Both concepts feature top quality meat served in a no frills setting. Neither restaurant accepts reservations, but most people don’t mind the long waits because of the payoff once they sit down.

At Ray’s Hell Burger, customers form a line the length of the narrow restaurant. Diners are asked not to take a table until they pay for their order and get a number. There’s ample opportunity to study the menu, which consists of nothing but burgers and fries. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. The humongous 10 oz beef patties (no veggie or turkey burgers here) can be served with a myriad of toppings at no extra charge, including pickles, jalapenos, grilled onions, roasted garlic and a couple of specialty sauces. For a small upcharge, you can add cheese, including brie, Stilton and smoked gouda, as well as guacamole, bacon and even foie gras and bone marrow. To make the process easier, the menu also features a number of signature combinations.

I tried the B.I.G. Poppa,  an Au Poivre Burger, described as a ” Black Peppercorn Crust, Aged Danish Bleu Cheese, Cognac & Sherry Sauteed Mushrooms, Grilled Red Onions”. It’s not for the dainty eater, or someone without an appetite. I managed to plow through almost the entire sandwich–I loved every bite. I’m very picky about my burgers–I don’t eat meat very often and when I do it had better be special, and this was.

The French fries were just okay. The sweet potato fries were better, but they both struck me as an afterthought. I get  that the emphasis is on the burgers, but considering that fries go with hamburgers the way jelly goes with peanut butter, I think Ray’s would be well-served by paying a bit more attention to their preparation, preferably with skins and double-fried.

Adding to Ray’s appeal is that the basic burger costs $6.95. Given that two hands and one very wide mouth are needed to manage it,  that’s a real bargain, especially in one of the country’s most expensive cities.

Rumor has it that a second location will be opening in the coming months in the very trendy Adams-Morgan area.

Ray's Hell-Burger on Urbanspoon

January 29, 2010 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment