Washington DC Restaurant Reviews and Happy Hours | D*MNGOODTIMES http://www.dmngoodtimes.com Thu, 12 Jan 2012 18:26:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 Basil Thyme Times http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/basil-thyme-review-washington-dc/ http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/basil-thyme-review-washington-dc/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2011 15:03:35 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=6237

A few months ago, I wrote a commentary on the state of the food truck nation (“OMG, It’s Food from a Truck!”) here in Washington, DC. It caused quite a stir, and it was met with a fair share of criticism. Most notably, from a certain “Black Donald Trump.”

The criticism was fair, I guess. I was just trying to get across the point that I don’t understand why people go nuts over food from a truck. Never have. Never will.

I’ll try to put this in perspective. When I was 8 years old, I used to play wiffle ball in my front yard with my friends. When we heard the marvelous sound of the ice cream man in the distance and saw that wonderful truck coming toward us, we all went ape sh*t. Kids came out of the woodwork, running down the street, lining up with their spare change, and pushing each other out of the way to get in line first.

But we are not 8 years old anymore. And we are also not lining up to buy Good Humor ice cream in the middle of the summer. We are now lining up to buy steaming-hot pad thai that is somehow magically prepared in the back of a truck.

All of that aside, the Donald pointed out that I unfairly put a certain truck (Basil Thyme) in a bad light. That was not my intention. I’m pretty opinionated, but I won’t criticize anything that I haven’t tried. And I’ll try anything (that means anything, ladies). But I do admit that I may have unfairly used food-truck-lasagna for comedic device. It was very hard not to. Thus, I may have unintentionally thrown some people under the bus (or truck).

And since D*MNGOODTIMES is the fastest-growing digital magazine in the Washington area (there is no truth to this statement), and because our loyal readers deserve much more, I went to interview the owner of Basil Thyme, Brian Farrell, to get the real scoop on Basil Thyme.

It makes for an interesting story. Brian worked in IT sales until the economy started to take a dive, and he hit the wall. I don’t blame him. Why work for the man when you can go start a business of your own doing something you love? So off he went to start what has become the premier Italian food truck in Washington, DC.

The preparation involved in making lasagna is much more time-intensive than that of a truck that serves pizza or sandwiches. He makes the noodles and the sauce from scratch everyday, which results in 12-plus hours a day of work. And that investment has paid off. Basil Thyme has operated since early June. It took about 6 months for Brian to get the operation up and rolling. But in the short time that Brian has been serving pasta, he has gathered quite a following. He currently serves more than 100 people a day during lunch.

But Brian doesn’t want to take all of the credit. It was his idea, but the success of the food is largely due to his chef, Malik Umar. Malik graduated at the top of his class from the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington. Previously, he worked as executive sous chef at the Mad Rose Tavern and Abuelos’s in Tulsa, Okla.

So what was the verdict on the food?

I must tip my hat to Brian and Malik. It’s hard to provide a litmus test, because there aren’t many other options for fast-food lasagna in Washington, DC. The closest comparison I can make is to The Italian Store. For the 6 or so years that I lived in Arlington, I bought the pre-made lasagna on my way home from work at least twice a week. Basil Thyme’s was better. A lot better. And for anyone that knows me, that’s a pretty good compliment, because I sweat The Italian Store harder than the U.S. government sweats paying its bills.

I tried a few lasagnas (who can eat just one?), and they were all really good. It’s at a great price, too. I’d rather pay $10 for a healthy serving of lasagna, salad and cannoli than a processed turkey sandwich from Potbelly. If I had to find one fault (and I always have to find at least one), I would say that the white lasagna should be served sans chicken. Chicken and pasta don’t mix. Maybe it does at Macaroni Grill, but not in the real world. White lasagna with spinach tastes just fine. Either way, it was really fresh and packed with a lot of flavor.

I don’t see myself frequenting Basil Thyme, but only because I don’t crave lasagna when it’s 100 degrees outside. However, I would love nothing more than for it to be parked at 5th and K at least one night a week, so I can grab a piece for dinner on my way home from work. It would provide a great alternative to Taylor Gourmet (which has been going down as of late).

Who says food trucks can’t serve dinner, too?

To find out where you can get fresh pasta, follow Basil Thyme on Twitter.

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DC Noodles – Thai Food with a Side of Latin Spice http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/dc-noodles-thai-food-with-a-side-of-latin-spice/ Thu, 18 Aug 2011 19:55:52 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=6074 Neighborhood: U Street Address: 1410 U St., NW Washington, DC 20009 Phone: 202-232-8424 Web site: www.dcnoodles.com Parking: Street Metro: U Street/Cardozo Serves: Lunch (Daily); Dinner (Daily) Specials: No happy hour yet. Keep checking back Go for: Price: **** Rating: ***** ]]> DC Noodles

Trying a new restaurant in DC is like rolling a pair of dice. You never know how it’s going to turn out. On this particular Wednesday night, I had plans with my buddy Ryan for dinner. Later on in the night, we had plans to go to one of those “I’m over DC and moving elsewhere, goodbye” happy hours on U Street. Ryan asked me to pick a place for dinner.

I hate picking restaurants I’ve never been to, and I never go to U Street. We agreed on Thai, so I Googled “Thai, DC” and up popped DC Noodles, on 14th and U, across the street from the happy hour. With a “Good Luck” text message from D*MNGOOD®’s very own Mark Minicucci (sigh), I ventured off into uncharted territory.

We walked into DC Noodles around 8:30 PM. It was busy, especially for a Wednesday night. You could hear a constant buzz of conversation from the tables. The restaurant is trendy: modern tables, graffiti artwork on the walls, and bold colors. The dimly lit dining area is illuminated by individual candles on each table. DC Noodles would make a great place for a date.

We’re seated by the hostess and begin examining the menu. Other than the appetizers, everything on the menu is noodles or noodle soups similar to Pho, but Thai-inspired. This makes sense, seeing as how the place is called DC Noodles. On the back of the one-page menu is the drink menu – specialty cocktails, a large array of martini flavors, beers and wines.

Lately, I’ve been on this spicy cocktail kick, and I see the “Tom Yum Martini (spicy)” under specialty drinks. I’m torn between that and a “Green Tea Martini.” Engrossed in the drink menu and trying to make a decision, I’m caught off guard when our waiter is standing above our table. I look up from the menu, and I’m really caught off guard. Our waiter is gorgeous. He’s about 6’ 2″, Latin, dimpled and perfectly chiseled like a Michelangelo sculpture. This man could give Enrique a run for his money. He’s as helpful as he is attractive.

He describes the Tom Yum as a spicy chili flavor with hints of lemongrass. He sells it so well that Ryan orders one as well. It comes in a stemless 8-oz martini glass, garnished with a lime and a chili pepper. The 9 bucks per drink is pretty standard for a specialty cocktail. The martini is amazing. One of the better drinks I’ve ever had. It’s warm, sweet and spicy – without being overpowering. A solid 9 out of 10. D*MNEXCELLENT.

For appetizers, we order pumpkin empanadas, decently priced at $5. They come out quickly. There’s two on a plate, a perfect appetizer size. The dough is flaky and golden. The filling is spiced with curry, giving the pumpkin a savory flavor rather than the usual sweetness of cinnamon and nutmeg. It comes with a liquid dipping sauce that we couldn’t quite decipher, other than it had a bit of honey for sweetness. All in all, creative and very tasty.

For our entrées, I order the Noodles Salad, and Ryan orders the Pad See Eew with chicken. Both dishes come out right as we finish the appetizers. They are served in large white bowls with the same beet-and-carrot-strings garnish as the appetizer. At $12 an entrée, dinner is reasonably priced. The Noodles Salad comes with your choice of noodles. I ordered the wide-rice noodles upon the suggestion of our Latin god waiter.

The noodles come out warm and are closer to pad thai than a salad. The dressing/sauce is very fresh; soy and lime with lots of peanuts. The dish is full cilantro, carrots, and spring onions. If you like the taste of cilantro, you will like this dish. Ryan’s Pad See Eew is the standard Thai dish. It could have used some more Chinese broccoli, but both dishes are satisfying.

Ryan orders another Tom Yum, and I decide to try the Green Tea Martini. I really wish that I hadn’t. It comes out bright green, like the color of those Odwalla Superfood drinks. The worst part: it tastes like a strong vodka lemon drop with a slight hint of green tea ice cream that lingers on your palet. Not at all for which I was hoping.

As a matter of fact, it was impossible to drink. I declined our sexy waiter’s offer to replace the drink with something else when he came by to check if I liked it. Despite the awful cocktail at the end of the meal, it was a rather pleasant dining experience. I think both Ryan and I will come back … Especially if Enrique is waiting on my table again.

Overall Ratings
Food : 7.5
Drinks: 8.5
Ambiance: 8
Service: A perfect 10 😉

Neighborhood: U Street
Address: 1410 U St., NW Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-232-8424
Web site: www.dcnoodles.com
Parking: Street
Metro: U Street/Cardozo
Serves: Lunch (Daily); Dinner (Daily)
Specials: No happy hour yet. Keep checking back
Go for:
Price: ****
Rating: *****

DC Noodles on Urbanspoon

Virginia is for Lovers as Well as Chefs http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/virginia-is-for-lovers-as-well-as-chefs/ Wed, 17 Aug 2011 15:24:58 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=6197 Chef Robert Wiedmaier
If you can’t bring the farm to the chefs, bring the chefs to the farm. Or better, let them gather like the fleet of Hell’s Kitchen Angels and ride themselves to the farm. This was the idea for Chefs Go Fresh, hosted by the Georgetown Media Group on July 26. It was a day of motorcycles, local and organic produce discovery, and a lush lunch at a notable Virginia winery.

The day began at Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s Brasserie Beck, where a gaggle of DC’s top chefs, budding interns and local food lovers collected for breakfast, coffee and a roadmap. The line-up included Chef Clifford Wharton of Matchbox, Chef RJ Cooper of Rogue 24, Chef KN Vinod of Indique Restaurant, Chef Paul Stearman of Marcel’s, Chef Ris Lacoste of Ris, Chef Roberto Donna of Galileo III and more. After introductions and the beginnings of controlled debauchery, the rumbling two-wheeled parade of leathered chefs cruised down the George Washington Memorial Parkway toward Virginia’s farmland.

First Stop – Flirting with Lettuce

Endless Summer Harvest is a high-tech hydroponic lettuce farm in Purcelville. Imagine Epcot’s Living with the Land meets Loudoun County friendliness. As the chefs shut off their rumbling engines and removed their helmets, they were greeted with a refreshing cup of sparkling water garnished with a butter-lettuce-wrapped lime wedge. The dolled up S.Pellegrino was the first sign that this family operated farm knew exactly how to please their audience.

Endless Summer’s Mary Ellen Taylor loves her lettuce. During our greenhouse walk-through, the chefs watched in awe as she ripped the lettuce heads from their watery womb and waved them in the air like chickens at a Delhi market. Taylor insisted the chefs tasted, admired, and felt the “flirtiness” of the leaves between their fingers. They willingly obeyed. The iron-rich and peppery flavors of the arugula, watercress and frisée sold the show. Talk about being green – 90% of the water used to keep these lettuces moistened is recycled. In addition, the lack of soil erases all risks for the dreaded and all-too-common e-coli bacteria.

The leafy goods are available all-year-round for purchase thanks to their computer-controlled system that releases well water and nutrients, and controls the temperature. Even Emeril Lagasse recently approved of Endless Summer’s lettuce at the Whole Foods Market in Fairfax during one of his presentations, and José Andrés is a paying customer! Never to fear lettuce lovers – chefs are not the only ones who can serve up these dreamy leaves. Look for Endless Summer’s lettuce at the Penn Quarter farmers’ market on Thursdays and Dupont Circle on Sundays.

Second Stop – Keeping Up the Spirits

Catoctin Creek Distillery of Purcelville is one of the few of its kind. Think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets the fermentation process.

Becky and Scott Harris found love in Virginia in the form of whiskey, gin and brandy. When this pair is not grueling over Commonwealth bureaucracy, they are bringing you the finest organic and locally produced spirits. It’s even kosher. Talk about a “mom-and-pop shop” – this distillery’s sole employees are, in fact, only Mom and Pop and rest assured they have touched every bottle. Sticking true to form, their recipe is similar to the one ol’ George Washington drank.

As the chefs settled snuggly into the tiny warehouse space, Scott Harris spoke of the scientific steps needed to create the genuine sort of spirit. Somewhere in between boiling and condensing, the chefs were itching for their own taste.

Want to pass the afternoon in the distillery? Catoctin offers a bottling workshop for people who are willing to volunteer their labor in exchange for sips and pizza. It is the alcoholic equivalent of bringing the kids to a farm to learn from where meat comes. Is this the next remedy to combat drunk driving? Keep your eyes peeled for the next opportunity here.

Third Stop – Tomatoes and Pies, Oh My!

Stoneybrook Farm in Hillsboro settles upon the lushest of Virginian lands. The story of this little seven-acre farm gone big warmed the hearts of the chefs as well as the welcoming treats of local cheese and cherry tomatoes.

Outbidded by Stoneybrook in 2006, developers had this plot of land en route to hosting a cement palace. Now the 35-acre slice of heaven holds everything your organic brain can wrap itself around. In July 2010, Stoneybrook opened up the quintessential farm store and welcoming center on the property, replacing its original 2007 farm stand. Besides doubling their profit every year since their start, Stoneybrook makes their own pies and fabulous sandwiches for visitors and sends off 40 cases a week to Whole Foods Markets in Fairfax, Tysons Corner and Alexandria. They now have in the making plans to construct an amphitheater that will sit 800 people for summer concerts and plays.

Involved in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) much? Learn how you can join Stoneybrook’s next growing season here. Rather shop around? Look for their produce at the Palisades Farmers Market. Stoneybrook also hosts an international volunteer program through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). The farm can support 12 “wwoofers” at a time.

Role Call – Cattlemen and Wine

The final stop, family owned Notaviva Vineyards in Purcellville, meant lunch, drinks and the last informative session of the day by the Blue Ridge Cattlemen’s Association. While windblown, chefs ate lunch and cooled off as they listened to the endless fences local cattlemen must jump to get their slabs to our plates.

Despite the difficulties of local processing, inspection and transportation, the cattleman rep spoke about how eager the association is to set up direct distributions with local restaurants.

The chefs cured their dissatisfaction with the red tape surrounding the meat industry by sipping on Notaviva’s delicious Virginia wine. Stephen Mackey, the owner of Notaviva, inspired the group with stories of comradery between wineries in the area and about his work developing a regional identity.

Brasserie Beck’s Wiedmaier spoke for all of the chefs in attendance that day when he said “that the places visited were perfect. To be able to find local mom- and-pop operations only an hour outside of DC who do their work with passion was excellent.” Wiedmaier continued by saying “he will definitely follow up” with some of the local contacts made.

Chefs Go Fresh was hosted by the Georgetown Media Group, which publishes The Georgetowner and The Downtowner, in collaboration with the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development.

Eat Me DC – with Graffiato’s Chef, Mike Isabella http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/eat-me-dc-with-graffiato%e2%80%99s-chef-mike-isabella/ Mon, 08 Aug 2011 15:01:51 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=6068 Chef Mike Isabella. A glass of prosecco served from the tap.

“A series of unconventional questions developed from local buzz and dug up research.”

Chef Mike Isabella gave me 15 minutes of his time to (1) prove that he’s not the chauvinist “tool” blogs say he is and (2) convince me that prosecco from a tap is not trashy.

By 6:30 PM on a Wednesday, Graffiato was already booming with customers all looking for a “Jersey inspired meal” and to sneak a peek at one of Bravo’s Top Chefs.

What I found, while sipping sparkly from the second floor of Graffiato’s industrially designed space, is that Isabella is charming and indeed possesses the right amount of over-confidence needed to make it big. His blood, sweat and tears are dedicated to creating a dining experience his customers can call “home.”

Ariell Kirylo: I hear there are Jersey jokes flying around the kitchen a lot. What’s your favorite?

Mike Isabella: (Giggle) Actually, I don’t have a favorite one, but I do make a pizza called the Jersey Shore. I suppose that can be considered a joke in itself. It sells a lot ,and it shows what a good time we have here at Graffiato.

AK: James Horn, your GM and beverage director, is also a fellow New Jersian. Tell me something about Jersey most people don’t know.

MI: What the variety of reality shows don’t show you, is that Jersey has some of the greatest Italian food.

AK: Authentic Italian food?

MI: (Smiling) Well, authentic Italian-American food. I tell everyone my restaurant is Italian inspired. I’ve never been to Italy before, and people laugh at me, but since I grew up with this food, it’s authentic to me. When people ask if my food is northern or southern, I just respond it is New Jersey.

AK: You have lived in Jersey, NYC, Philly and Atlanta. What’s so great about DC?

MI: It’s the capital! I figure one day I can run for President.

AK: You seem to have dominated the East Coast with your cooking. What’s wrong with the West Coast?

MI: Nothing! I love San Fran, though I’m not a fan of LA. It’s just, I’m a north Jersey guy and being up here is just more my style. People here understand me more.

AK: What is it that Nor-Eastern people understand more?

MI: Up here, we just have a tougher attitude. I felt on the West Coast and down south people looked at me funny for how I talk. Also, it’s a faster pace and a little more go get ya’. (Grabbing hand motion.)

AK: Describe the feeling when you realized the cost to get this location up and running was $300,000 more than your estimated budget?

MI: How do you know these things?! (Nervous chuckle) I was scared of course, but we were fortunate enough to open up Graffiato with a line out the door every day. I know a lot of great people in DC who stood by my side. They knew they would eventually get paid.

AK: Graffiato in Italian means “scratched.” What does this word mean to you?

MI: Well, Americans call it graffiti. Whether it’s on a tree or a wall or Egyptian hieroglyphics, for me “scratch” is the original form of expression. The concept of Graffiato is a recreation of my many childhood flavors. Whether it’s the cherry tomato spaghetti sauce or the chicken with peperoni sauce, each dish contains a special memory for me. Graffiato is really just me on a plate.

AK: What are some of your childhood dining memories that you have incorporated into the Graffiato concept?

MI: Graffiato is all about food and service. It’s like the restaurants in the Bronx or North Jersey. You know, those little holes in the wall with checkered table clothes? When you walk in, they already know what you want and they know your family. It’s all about food and service and feeling special. It’s not about the décor, or the lighting. I built Graffiato so YOU can come in here, have a meal and leave with a full stomach and fun time.

AK: If the concept/decor of Graffiato acted as a deeper message for society, what would it be?

MI: Take risks. I’ve taken risks my whole life. To have come from nothing and to now be something, it’s unbelievable. I took a risk to go on TV, I took a financial risk to quit my job, I took a risk to compete with the best chefs in the country for everyone to see. And here I am.

AK: And why Chinatown?

MI: From working with a lot of chefs who know what they’re doing, the one thing they’ll tell you is location, location, location. I really wanted to come into an old building and start from scratch. I looked here and around Dupont, but this location made more sense. I’m also right across the street from the Verizon Center.

AK: Cha-Ching.

AK: Coming from a long-time practitioner of the liquid gold, prosecco on tap sounds degrading. Where did you get this idea from and how can I be convinced this is the new way to drink it?

MI: First off, Graffiato needs to represent me. I like to have fun, I like to party, I like to drink, I like to have good times and I don’t like to be too serious all the time. I can work and play at the same time. So that became part of our beverage concept. Chef Michael White in New York is doing something similar with wine on tap, so I thought, how can I take the next step? Besides, all my wife drinks is sparkling. I told James, I said “Bro, you gotta find it”; he said “done.”

MI: We have 25 feet of tubing in order to keep the pressure to an exact effervescence. People need to understand that prosecco doesn’t have as many bubbles as champagne. At $7 a glass it’s a great choice! On a Friday night the tables are filled with flutes because people want to try it. It’s 70% of my wine sales and we go through 2-3 kegs a day.

AK: Late-night food option at Graffiato – why do you think DC has so little to offer in this “food bracket?”

MI: DC is a growing culinary scene. I think due to the transitional nature of this city, DC was mostly a steak and potato place. I’ve been here five years and the change I’ve seen is remarkable. The growth is shown with the sprouting up of small businesses and restaurants. In Jersey there are 24 hour diners – I want that same availability (to an extent) at Graffiato.

AK: What kind of characters show up late night?

MI: At midnight, you’ll see a crowd of people from the industry for drinks and pizza. The only VIP in my restaurant are those that are industry related. We slave 14-17 hours a day and I know what it is like. I want to give back to the people who inspired me.

AK: DC is also missing a good deli. Can we count on you to open one?

MI: (Smile) There have been talks. I’m not ready yet, but maybe in the future. I definitely have ideas for other restaurant concepts. Also, I heard Eataly is coming to DC in a couple of years. That would be beautiful.

AK: How long do you think you can maintain the hands-on celeb chef role, working 14-17 hours a day?

MI: I’ve been working my a-s off my whole life. A long time to come.

AK: Being a celebrity chef comes with its own hardships and criticism. You have been called a “sexist” and another word for “jerk.” How do you deal with it?

MI: I don’t really let those words bother me. When I first went on Top Chef Vegas and people were calling me a sexist, it really hurt me. I realized that you have to be careful about what you say and though I was good friends with Jen (cast member and supposed victim of Isabella’s sexism), I was just joking around. If you saw me on the All-Stars season, you saw that I was a different person. I showed the real me – the guy who grew up cooking with his Grandmother.

AK: I saw your wedding photos on washingtonpost.com. Why did you choose to have these photos published?

MI: My life is 95% to the public. I’m fine with it and I think it’s a good thing. I’ve been slowly opening up all the doors for everyone to see my life.

AK: Both you and your wife have tattoos. What’s your next tatt?

MI: I’m getting my entire calf done in an all-underwater theme. Right now I have a sketch of an octopus. Later I’ll get some snakes and crustaceans.

Mike’s DC Bites – specific and short answers

Name a DC neighborhood you would …

Raise a family in: I want to raise my kids in the city. I think Dupont would be the place for me.

Sing loudly: Nats Park!

People watch: Probably Georgetown.

Walk around shirtless: I’ll walk around every neighborhood shirtless, I don’t care!

Chef to Chef SHOUT OUT:

Chef Erik Yang has done a great job over at Toki Underground. I’ve been to Toki a couple times and I love the Ramen soup.”

Look out for Mike’s first cookbook, titled “Flavors From a Jersey Italian.” 

Read D*MNGOODTIME’s review on Graffiato.

Summer is Heating Up in DC http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/new-restaurants-washington-dc/ http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/new-restaurants-washington-dc/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2011 14:58:44 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=5986 For those of you who’ve been hiding at the beaches all summer, the restaurant scene is heating up big time in our nation’s capital. The city has seen an influx of new openings and announcements for future deals that are in the works. The highlights include:

America Eats Tavern
Chef/Owner: José Andrés (Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya)
Penn Quarter
Now Open!

Bobby’s Burger Palace
Chef/Owner: Bobby Flay (Bar American, Bobby Flay Steak, Mesa Grill)
West End
Now Open!

Chef: Marc Vidal
Golden Triangle
Projected Opening: late Fall

Cava Mezze
Now Open!

Chef: Katsuya Fukushima (A José Andrés protégé)
Penn Quarter
Projected Opening: Fall

District Commons/Burger, Tap & Shake
Owner: Passion Food (AcadianaCeibaDC Coast, PassionFish)
Foggy Bottom
Projected Opening: September

Chef/Owner: Enzo Fargione (Formerly of Teatro Goldini)
Penn Quarter
Projected Opening: late September

Founding Farmers
Projected Opening: late October

Good Stuff Eatery
Chef/Owner: Spike Mendelsohn (We, The Pizza)
Crystal City
Projected Opening: January 2012

Chef/Owner: Mike Isabella (Formerly of Zaytinya)
Penn Quarter
Now Open!

The Hamilton
Owner: Clyde’s Restaurant Group
Projected Opening: Fall

Lost Society
U Street
Now Open!

Mintwood Place
Chef: Cedric Maupillier (Formerly of Central Michel Richard)
Adams Morgan
Projected Opening: Fall

Oh Fish
Chef/Owner: Kaz Okochi (Kaz Sushi Bistro, Masa 14)
Golden Triangle
Now Open!

Pearl Dive Oyster Bar
Chef/Owner: Jeff Black (Addie’s, Black Market, BlackSaltBlack’s)
14th Street
Projected Opening: October

Ping Pong Dim Sum
Dupont Circle
Now Open!

Chef: Vikram Sunderam
West End
Projected Opening: February 2012

Rogue 24
Chef/Owner: RJ Cooper (Formerly of Vidalia)
Convention Center
Now Open!

Shaw’s Tavern
Now Open!

H Street
Now Open!

Virtue Feed & Grain
Chef/Owner: Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve)
Now Open!

Penn Quarter
Projected Opening: early 2012

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The Dutch http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/the-dutch-review-nyc/ Mon, 01 Aug 2011 13:09:11 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=5967

D*MNGOODTIMES likes to eat and drink. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing, because we have the opportunity to do this where and when we want (and we’re really good at it), and it’s a curse, because we take a few years off of our lives and add a few inches to our waistline every time we go out. It’s all we do when we aren’t working. I mean, honestly, what else do we have to do?

A few weeks ago, we made our way to NYC, because that’s where you go if you want to eat and drink. And eating and drinking is exactly what we did for 72 hours straight, give or take the 4-5 hours each night for sleeping (i.e. crashing on a bed with our clothes on and waking up with no idea where we are).

It was a pretty amazing trip. It was also a bit depressing, because it made me realize that Washington, DC, is still a very long way from having the type of food and ambiance that the NYC restaurant scene has. Trust me, I’m not a hater of DC, but everywhere we went on this last trip was close to a perfect 10. That hasn’t happened to me lately in DC. My fingers are crossed that someday it will. Until then – to NYC we go.

We hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 places on this trip over the course of 3 days but writing all of those reviews would be close to impossible. So we’re just going to give you the ones that really impressed us. As always, our criteria is pretty simple: good food, a comfortable bar with a good vibe and, most importantly, cool bartenders who can hang with us shot for shot.

First Up: The Dutch
Simply put, this place rocks. And I’m not just saying this because my mom tells me I’m a little too negative in some of my reviews and should lighten up a bit. This place flat out blew me away. We went here twice in the span of 8 hours. The first time we didn’t eat. We just rang up a 3-digit bar tab in the course of an hour-and-a-half. The second time for brunch, however, we put on a clinic.

The Dutch is a new concept from chef Andrew Carmellini. Carmellini is well-known for Locanda Verde (another D*MNGOOD® favorite). The bar, while a tad bit small, is airy and open with large windows, so you can see the passers-by on Prince Street while you’re tackling the menu. The décor isn’t “cheesy-modern” with couches and garbage like that. It’s definitely current, but in a classic way. The service was great and friendly. The resident bartender, Wade, took care of us on Saturday and Sunday. We still want to give him a shout out even though he may or may not have cut one of us off on Friday night. I won’t name any names.

I’m a simple man. I like simple foods done really well, and that’s what the Dutch does. It’s not that I don’t respect and appreciate fine-dining. It’s just that I’d rather eat a really good burger as opposed to sea urchin. That’s just me. Don’t hate on it.

I’ll leave Neil to discuss the healthier options (his turkey sandwich looked pretty darn tasty). Dan and I ordered the heirloom tomato and American Burrata salad, the dressed crab, a cheeseburger, and the fried chicken to go with the house-made Bloody Marys. Yes, we eat burgers and fried chicken for brunch.

We are disgusting, I know. I never said we weren’t.

The Bloody Mary (chipotle, smoked paprika salt, pickles) is a great idea. I’m a purist when it comes to Bloody Marys. I don’t usually like anything other than the basics and a stick of celery. But how can you say no to a Bloody Mary with a pickle? It was intense to say the least. It knocked the hangover right outta me.

The heirloom tomato salad might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I love fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes. I eat a heirloom tomato salad everywhere I go, and I’ve never met one like this one before. This one was different than all of the others. I think this piece of mozzarella and I were meant to be together forever. And maybe someday we will.

The hot fried chicken is served with vinegar-based coleslaw and honey biscuits from heaven. It doesn’t actually say that the fried chicken is from heaven on the menu, but it’s pretty obvious. It came out of the kitchen piping hot. The chicken was moist and perfectly cooked, and the skin was crunchy and seasoned perfectly. I would say more, but I don’t remember much. I blacked out it was so good.

The cheeseburger? It received a perfect score in every category:

  1. This burger did not need ketchup: 10 out of 10.
  2. We asked for medium-rare and it came out medium-rare: 10 out of 10.
  3. The bread was mind-blowing: 10 out of 10.

In fact, the bread was so moist that all of the juices from the burger soaked in while we were crushing the fried chicken. By the time we got to the chicken, the flavors were so potent you couldn’t put it down. I finished it in 3 or 4 bites flat. I can’t say much more about The Dutch. It was a great experience.

It was so good that I might actually have to start going to church.

Check out the brunch, lunch and dinner menus for The Dutch.

Neighborhood: SoHo
Address: 131 Sullivan St. (Prince St.) Manhattan, NY 10012
Phone: 212-677-6200
Web site: www.thedutchnyc.com
Parking: Street
Subway: Spring Street
Serves: Brunch (Saturday and Sunday); Lunch (Monday-Friday); Dinner (Daily)
Specials: N/A
Go for: Oyster sandwiches; burger; fried chicken; heirloom and tomato salad
Price: *****
Rating: *****

The Dutch on Urbanspoon

Bread and Brew http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/bread-and-brew/ Fri, 29 Jul 2011 19:57:52 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=5856

Walking around the Dupont Circle area, I have frequently passed Bread and Brew. It’s in a prime location between West End and Dupont, and the name and marketing are eye catching. I love bread … I love brew … hard to go wrong with those things. The signage is hip, and the patio is full of “scenesters” sipping on beers and hanging out with their urban dogs with those retractable leashes. I’ve noticed this place more than once. So on this particular Thursday night I find myself in the area post-happy hour with a few friends. It’s 9 PM. Not much is open, and I’m four beers deep and starving.

We venture in, and the first thing I notice is their selection of organic and vegan options, so I start searching the café menu for animal products. My buddy Josh and I decide to split a pizza, one with real cheese and not artificially processed soybeans. How wrong can you go with pizza, right? The place smells like fresh baking-bread products, and the menu seems to have enough foodie appeal. We order a spinach and ricotta pizza and a couple of beers, and go sit outside waiting for our order.

Ten minutes later, I am so hungry I’m ready to devour just about anything. Out comes our pizza, and it looks downright yummy. The golden brown crust looks fluffy, and the cheese is melty and white and mixed with spinach. Our waiter sets it down on the table. No plates. One set of silverware with napkins. I don’t even care. I hand the silverware to Josh and grab a slice.

It’s awful. Like really terrible. I take a closer look. Frozen spinach boiled in water? No taste. Slimy. Gross.

The ricotta cheese is warm, and straight out of a tub. No spices. No garlic. No flavor. The crust is okay, but it’s like eating a piece of bread with cardboard on top. Apparently Bread and Brew doesn’t believe in seasoning. I don’t understand this trend among healthy cuisine. Why do I have to take a razor blade to my taste buds in order to eat healthy? Healthy food should be about fresh ingredients. There was nothing fresh about this pizza.

By this time, it was almost 10 PM. I hadn’t eaten since lunch. I did what any girl would do … I doused the pizza in Cholula hot sauce and inhaled. The hot sauce … was good, but I won’t be back.

DC Bread and Brew on Urbanspoon

Una Marea of Compliments http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/una-marea-of-compliments/ http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/una-marea-of-compliments/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2011 17:17:57 +0000 http://www.dmngoodtimes.com/?p=5818 Astice burrata. Octopus and bone marrow fusilli. Grilled cuttlefish.

Sitting outside at a Café Metro on the corner of 51st and Lex, wiping the blasts of city dust from my eye and inhaling the occasion smell of public restrooms, I think back on my late Saturday night meal. A pleasant stroll from the Plaza, Marea at Central Park South is deservedly honoured my first NYC restaurant review. Washington, DC, is a city some people refer to as New York City “light,” but for me, and the purpose of this critique, it would be considered New York City “late,” as Marea opened in 2009. The restaurant is the lovechild of recently divorced chef Michael White and restaurateur Chris Cannon, born to descend upon the East side clientele with a “big box of Italian cuisine.”

While most Latinate studiers will tell you marea means the sea (and they are right,), more importantly, to me, “una marea” has always meant: a lot, a sh*t load, a smorgasbord in Italian. Marea’s menu features 74 separately sold treasures, leaving behind the forced pre-fixe menu. Though you may opt for the four-course “prix fixe” for $91, which includes a choice of a crudo, oyster sampling or an antipasto, pasta, pesce o carne and, of course, a sweet.

Don’t bring sand to the beach if you fancy a splash session of prosecco for happy hour. From what I saw there were a few pretty things to catch seated on the low-back caged stools at the razor clam bar. I, on the other hand, was seated across only the finest of dinner dates inside the gastropodic-littered dining room. The tables were adorned with orchids, and the plates were shell-shaped and engraved with “Marea:” In case you had forgotten where you were, I suppose.

At Marea, the service is impeccable. It’s interesting how accustomed we’ve become to terrible service that, when things run so smoothly, it is actually distracting. Upper management was effortlessly circling the 33 tables, like sharks in pink ties patrolling an old, sunken cruise ship. Should a table suddenly become open, a frenzy of bus boys in pin-striped aprons attack the reminisce of the departed. When service works this well and in unison, you thank New Yorkers for their high expectations.

First to arrive and compliments of the chef was a three-tiered cold soup in a shot glass. It consisted of a surprisingly refreshing endive soup, lightly salted and drizzled in olive oil. The green purée floated above a rhubarb pulp and was sandwiched by a layer of granny-smith apple. I would have much preferred a shot of tequila with a tomato-juice chaser, but this was just as well accepted.

Raised on the beaches of Sardegna, we avoided i ricci (sea urchins) like the plague. I recall the frustration they caused by their mere presence on the rocks and how the mediterraneo current seemed to always push you in their direction. Tonight was my ultimate revenge. At the top of the menu, and the top of my list to sample, was the Ricci Crostino, two on a plate for 15$: an Echino-voluptuous bag o’ sea urchin delicately placed on toasted bread and hatted by a thin layer of melting lardo. My immediate reaction of hand to mouth was unmistakably the incorrect manner in which to consume this luxury crostino. The silkiness of the fat complimented the lukewarm explosion of what one could only describe as sea snot with a crunch. Believe me, this was surely unforgettable.

I am always attracted by a dish involving a poached egg to break on top and even more excited by the idea of having something poured onto my plate at the table. So, I decided to try the Uovo antipasto. In addition to finely chopped baby eel, spring garlic, slices of bone marrow, and a small handful of passatelli (small noodles made from seasoned breadcrumbs), the waiter poured a steaming barley broth reminiscent of morning coffee over the entire pastiche and into the loveliest bowl I had ever seen. At $19, this is the choicest of hangover cures. Too bad Marea doesn’t offer breakfast.

What could be more delicious than perfectly tender lobster bits buoyant over a creamy burrata? Well, nothing. A must try or die at Marea is the Astice antipasto. For $24 I assure you, you’ll never enjoy a mozzarella combo the same in your life. Claws down.

Still ordering: We eagerly pointed to the dish on the menu we came 228 miles to savor, shaking our heads like school children as the waiter smiled with a look of “yah, I figured you’d order that” slapped on his face. Marea is especially known for this culinary creation of hand-rolled fusilli pasta tossed on high heat with tomato passata, red wine braised octopus and nuggets of melting bone marrow. At $31, it is a small price to pay for the holy grail of pasta dishes. Not only was my heart stolen by each intricately rolled and flawlessly boiled aldente fusillo, but it was ripped to shreds by the generous hunks of soft-purple octopus limbs flipped within. After a few mouthfuls of this cephalopodic murder before me, I was completely disinterested in my impulsive choice of secondo. Also, because what I had ordered literally, well, sucked.

I chose a grilled Mediterranean seppie (cuttlefish), which was served above an over-salted tumbleweed of wild oregano, taggia olives and what seemed like an entire jar of capers. Apparently the tomato was sautéed with braised escarole, yet neither my date nor I could find a piece of it anywhere. From the cuttlefish to its disastrous Livornese companion, I would say you could find the sister of this dish on the menu at Mario’s on the Jersey shore under “Fish” and for certainly less than $38 a plate.

The sommelier, Francesco Grosso, lays out a nice blanket of Italian vini, pushing the clientele to try more reds with fish. News update: It is still not kosher to drink red wine with fish unless your red is low in tannin and with a higher acidity. Killing the taste of a delicate fish with a bad choice of red is just as distasteful as ordering a filet well done. Grosso suggests a Frappato from Sicily to pair with crudo, a Rossese from Liguria with seafood pasta, and an uncommonly known Verduno Pelaverga from the most northern tip of the Barolo region to wash down a meatier fish such as swordfish or cuttlefish. Now, don’t you feel schooled?

If you didn’t eat the bread, you may have room for a Marea-made mint gelato. It will lock in the taste of one of the best meals you’ve had in a long time. Or, if you prefer to do the same thing with something steamy, go for the perfectly cremoso espresso. The pastry chef offers an assortment of mini chocolates so you won’t really miss the dessert, anyway.

Now only if when you exited Marea, you found yourself facing the moon over the sea, rather than neon lights attached to a horse pulling a carriage.

Neighborhood: Midtown West
Address: 240 Central Park South (Broadway) New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-582-5100
Web site: www.marea-nyc.com
Parking: Public Lot
Metro: Columbus Circle
Serves: Brunch (Saturday and Sunday); Lunch (Monday-Friday); Dinner (Daily)
Specials: N/A
Go for: Ricci crostino; uovo antipasto; octopus and bone marrow fusilli
Price: *****
Rating: *****
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