Restaurant Review: Honey Pig Gooldagee Korean Grill

So I finally had Korean food.  Out of all of the world cuisines, Asian doesn’t usually top my list of favorites (though I’ve been known to enjoy some Pad Thai or airport Panda Express).  But with family members who really enjoy it, it’s hard not to partake every now and then.

Yesterday was one of those “now” occasions. 

Honey Pig was quite an experience, though, I’m told, not atypical as far as Korean Barbecues go.  We were seated at a table with a grill in the middle.  I will say that we, a table of five, were slightly crowded.  Immediately upon being seated, our waiter/chef brought salads to start.  Composed of merely lettuce and some sliced white onion, the simple dish was saved by the sweet ginger dressing.  Immediately thereafter, we were given plate upon plate of banchan which, I was told, are traditional Korean appetizers or sides.  We had kimchi (which I had always been wary of but which, in fact, was not horrible), pickled, spicy cucumber, bean paste, some kind of potato concoction (think Korean mashed potatoes), and eggplant…and maybe some more. 

Soon, it was time to pick our meat.  To start, we chose kalbi.  For you non-Korean food eaters, this is, simply, shortribs (in Korean, kalbi actually is the word for rib).   I can’t tell you, for sure, what the meat had been marinated in prior to being brought to our table, but I could guess that it was a combination of soy sauce, garlic, and something with a kick of sweetness.  The meat was tender and thinly cut and grilled beautifully.   We asked for it spicy, which ended up meaning that our cook added a red paste of some kind to the meat when it neared readiness. 

Next up:  thin sliced pork belly.  Korean bacon at its finest.  I don’t know what to say about this other than it was delicious.  Less salty than the bacon we are used to (or that to which it is often compared), the pork belly grilled up tender and juicy.  Paired with one of the sweet dipping sauces, this was definitely the best meat choice of the evening.  Serve it up in a lettuce leaf with some rice and bean paste and you’ve got yourself a nice little Asian taco. 

thanks to yelp for the photo

Because two rounds of meat were not enough, we asked for an order of the bulgogi, a traditional Korean dish or barbecued and marinated beef.  Bulgogi literally means “fire meat” in Korean–this is quite appropros, as the meat was cooked over the open flame emenating from the middle of our table.  Of our three meat choices, this one was the toughest.  It was not as tender as the kalbi but had a similar flavor profile (salty with a tinge of sweet and a slight kick of spice). 

Overall, this was a fulfilling dining experience.  It was nice to sit back and have someone cook the food and serve it to us, though it would have been nice to pace the meal ourselves.  The staff was very nice and attentive, bringing us plate after plate of banchan and accomodating all of our requests (more napkins, more beer, silverware instead of chopsticks).   In terms of atmosphere, it is somewhat industrial–concrete floors, dark eating area, exposed pipes.  The seating area is crowded and the pop music that plays in the background is quite loud; that being said, the noise level makes it a good place to bring a small child, as cries and screams are drowned out by the hustle and bustle and the music.  In terms of price, Honey Pig is close to half the price of other local establishments of the same cuisine.  

Some lessons learned: don’t wear a white shirt–the chance of you being splashed by meat juice deliciousness is quite high.  And don’t be surprised, when you get home, if you’ve managed to bring some of that meaty scent back home with you…on your clothes, in your hair.  Smelling it again may make you hungry for it.  Or may make you jump into the shower.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under food, restaurant reviews

Restaurant Review: Poste Roast

A long overdue review. 

Several weeks ago, my friends and I got together for a farewell dinner for two friends of ours who would soon be picking up and moving themselves all the way out to Seattle.  What better way to celebrate them, our friendship, and the beginning of summer than an authentic pig roast?  And what better place to do that than Poste?

Every summer, Poste does nightly (except for Thursdays) family style dinners.  Poste Roasts are intimate, family style dinners for 6-12 people.  Held in the restaurant’s Chef’s Garden amid pots of herbs, these dinners are definitely an experience to be had.   Make your reservations at least seven days in advance  and you and your friends can sit at the big marble table and sample the deliciosity that Chef Robert Weland has to offer. 

And there is a lot that he offers.  When you make your reservation, you are asked to give your meat selection (as roasting an animal on a spit obviously takes a long time and needs to be done prior to your arrival).   The options (main dish and sides) are all locally sustainable foods.  For your meat selection, you can choose from standards such as suckling pig, beef brisket, or lamb.  There is also salmon, squab, poussin, or goat.   Each meat selection comes paired with specially chosen sides that are served family style. 

My friends and I decided to go with the pig.  Aside from it being a delicious choice, its paired sides of macaroni and cheese, grilled seasonal fruits, and sauerkraut were options we could not turn down.  

(As an aside:  we could also not turn down the truffle fries (or truffle frites, if you want to be French).  We ordered several baskets (why get plain fries when you can get truffled ones?)  for the group and devoured them within minutes.   They seemed to be double fried in what I guess was duck fat.  The truffle flavoring was there but subtle enough that it was not overpowering.  Served with a homemade ketchup that many of us had to keep from licking off our plates, these were a perfect beginning to what would turn out to be a spectacular meal.)

So, we’re all sitting around the table, engaging in our usual banter, when out comes our pig.  Our very own pig!  Our host presented it to us and allowed us a chance to look at it (and take pictures with and of it) before they took it to the kitchen and (SORRY) beheaded it.  The staff was kind enough to split the head (sorry, again) and separate the pieces (ears, brains) so that we could sample them as we pleased.  I actually expanded my culinary palate and pulled up my big girl pants and spread a little bit of the pig brain on toast.  The verdict?  Not so bad.  It had the texture of liver, I thought (kind of velvety) with the same kind of iron undertones.  I can’t say that I’d ever order it on its own (or by choice) but I’m glad that I tried it.

The pig itself was amazing.  We all had a little bit of the crispy skin…think Thanksgiving turkey yumminess times about one hundred.  The meat itself was succulent and juicy and its only downfall was that we had to carve the pig ourselves.  Thankfully, there were several brawny men in the group who not only embraced the task but, also, enjoyed doing so.  The pork belly was as good as you could expect, if only in small portions.  We all had our fill of the pork and then some, and still went home with six doggie bags (for which several actual doggies were very thankful).

The sides were also a hit.  Expecting to have grilled peaches (because that would seem obvious, considering the season), I was surprised when our cassoulets revealed grilled apples, instead.  Needless to say, this fruity accoutrement was my least favorite part of the meal, though the sweetness did work well with the savory aspects of the pork and the macaroni and cheese and with the acidity of the sauekraut.  Now, let’s talk about the macaroni and cheese.  In a word, it was scrumptious.  Absolute carbohyrdate cheesey perfection.  There were at least three different cheeses integrated into the sauce, though if quizzed, we couldn’t tell you which.  But they were fancy cheeses, no doubt.  The top was perfectly crisped, allowing for a slight crunch to go with the soft gooeyness. 

We all ate our faces off.  And enjoyed every second of it.  Of course, though, we had to have dessert.  Well, I did.  For the record, everyone else said that they did not want anything.  Fine, I could take one for the team.  Little did I know that, once the tasting of salted caramel (um, yum, no??) arrived, every single person within a five foot radius of me would dig in a spoon “for a taste.”  Good thing I don’t mind sharing.  We took down the dessert and enjoyed every last drop.  The selection included a coulant (which was really just a fancy caramel cake…it was actually pretty bland but had a hidden hint of caramel), caramel ice cream (not overly sweet, not overly salty), caramel creme brulee (with a perfectly hardened layer of scorched sugar, though it was still my least favorite component) and some caramel popcorn (super sweet but with a final kick of heat).

For $38/person (excluding drinks (take note of their cocktail menu, it’s pretty unique), appetizers, and additions), this is a great dining experience for a group of friends to share on a warm summer night.  The ambience is awesome, the food is fantastic, and the pace of the meal is perfect for a night out in the garden.

1 Comment

Filed under food, restaurant reviews, things i like

Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Orso

I’d like to take a moment to, once again, note how stupid Yelp and its reviews (but, mostly, its reviewers) are.  I know I will be met with some disagreement, but in this case, I know that I am right.  And those reviewers?  They were so wrong.

My dad loves pizza.  So, what better way to celebrate his day and his wonderful children (without whom there could be no Father’s Day) than to go to dinner and allow him (and ourselves) to indulge in the fabulosity that is Pizzeria Orso.   Chef Edan McQuaid, who has been called “the best pizza guy on the East Coast”  is just 30 years old but, seemingly, has been making pizza forever (“he probably came out of his mother’s womb making pizza”) .  Before taking the helm at Pizzeria Orso, McQuaid worked at such local establishments as 2 Amys and Pizzeria Paradiso. 

Located on the ground floor of an office building in Falls Church (for you natives, it’s where the old duck pin bowling alley used to be) and right near Elevation Burger, the space is large and bright, with a waitstaff that is friendly, informed, and ready to serve.  Our table of six barraged our poor server, Ben, with a bevy of questions (Is your cheese shredded or sliced?  What is the difference between tomatoes and fresh tomatoes? ).  Service was not slow, as per the myriad Yelp reviews I read. 

The menu is quite similar to that of 2 Amys…lots of delicious appetizers and a variety of pizza combinations.  The selling point is that every pizza takes just 90 seconds to cook in the wood fired oven, and each pizza comes out slightly charred on the top and bottom.  This?  Is a good thing.

We started off with a couple of appetizers.  The potato crocche, fried potato and cheese fritters, were delectable.  Crunchy and golden brown on the outside, once you bit into them you were awarded with a bite of mashed potatoey goodness.  In fact, that is the best way to describe them:  golden nuggets of deep fried mashed potatoes.  A little sprinkle of salt and these were perfect.  And five of them for $5 seemed to be quite reasonable (despite the “overpriced” tone of many of the Yelp reviews). 

We rounded out our appetizer choices with two orders of fresh burrata, which came drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and served with several pieces of perfectly toasted bruschetta.  If you’re not familiar, burrata is is a fresh  Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream.  The outer shell is solid mozzarella and the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it soft, easily spreadable, and buttery texture (thus, it is not surprising that “burrata,” in Italian, means “buttered.” ) This appetizer was tasty beyond words.  The softness of the cheese and its subtle salty and creamy flavor worked well with the “plain” aspects of the toasted bread. I could’ve eaten an order all by myself.   My grandmother looked very seriously at my brother and asked him if he was sure he wanted to eat that, considering his cholesterol.  I’d like to think that was a rhetorical question. 

And now we move on to the pizza (or pizze, if we want to be authentic).  We ordered five different ones, each of which proved to be its own star.  Among the pizzas were the Diavolo, a traditional pepperoni (with the cute little pepperoni slices that curl up into little bowls of grease…don’t cringe, you know you are drooling), tomato sauce, and mozzarella (sliced, not shredded) pie.   We also sampled the Ortaggio, which was topped with tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, eggplant, olives, onions and sweet peppers.  We then ordered three variations of the margherita:  one with proscuitto and mushrooms, one with just prosciutto, and one with prosciutto and lardo which, according to our friends at wikipedia, is ” a type of salume made by curing strips of pig fat with rosemary and other herbs and spices. It is taken from the layer of hard fat along the pig’s back…[and was] at one time Italy’s basic cooking fat, especially in regions where olive trees are sparse or absent, but health concerns have reduced its popularity [note that cholesterol problem previously discussed].” 

 Of course, I had to have a taste of the lardo pizza.  It was rich and full of flavor and worth the full fat that it added (and, really, how often do you see something like that on a menu?).  The one “bad” thing I have to say about the pizzas is that, much like its fancy pizza counterparts, Pizzeria Orso does not cut your pizza for you unless you specifically ask them to (and, even then, they may forget but they will happily bring a pizza cutter to the table).

All in all, this was a very good, easy, and delicious experience.  There were no “kinks” that needed to be worked out.  Perhaps, in the two weeks since they’ve opened, the place has found its groove.  It clearly provides a fabulous pizza experience that rivals 2 Amys and, with its convenient to suburbs location (and a garage, to boot!) Pizzeria Orso is definitely going to find its way onto the pizza rotation list (if not completely remove all competitors from the list).

6 Comments

Filed under food, restaurant reviews, things i like

Restaurant Review: Ketchup OR An Open Letter to Ashton Kutcher

Dear Ashton,

I’d like to tell you to stick to acting and not restaurants, but I’m having a hard time choosing the lesser of the evils here.

Ketchup?  What were you thinking?  Obviously, not much other than “I want a hip looking place that has a great sounding menu with all kinds of hipster servers.”

Thanks to my fabulous friends, I was able to experience Ketchup at the National Harbor for dinner last weekend.  We were all very excited to try it out and had been looking forward to it for weeks.  Being the foodies we all are, we had perused the menu before arriving and knew we’d need at least two of the “Threesome” appetizers.  Ashton, this is a fried potato lovers dream.  The trio consisted of seasoned curly fries, waffle fries tossed in roasted garlic, and sweet potato fries.  The carb load came with six (six!) different ketchups:  housemade “regular,” smoky chipotle, spicy chili, golden barbecue, creamy herb, and tamarind.  Tamarind!  That’s what that weird tasting one was.  Lee, our mohawked and over enthusiastic (but under motivated) server left that descriptor out! 

Laden down with a table of potatoes and our ketchups and beverages, we tackled the menu.  $12 for one slider (yes, it was a slider, not several, as one would expect) seemed a bit excessive.  We pondered and pondered while we waited and waited for Lee to return to clear our table, refill our drinks or, I don’t know, take our order.  Once he finally came back, Ashton, he told us that two of the menu items were unavailable.  Cool.

NO, Ashton, NOT COOL.  He didn’t tell us ANY of this until AFTER WE HAD ORDERED SAID ITEMS (specifically, the ribs and fried chicken and waffles).  So, off he scampered while we looked over the menu AGAIN.  (And for another 15 minutes, at least.  Dude, our choices were obviously now severely limited, so we had LESS to choose from so, really, we probably didn’t need EXTRA TIME.)

Among the seven of us, we ordered a variety of dinner entrees.  I had the Shake and Bake chicken.  It was two chicken breasts, pounded thin and allegedly crusted with a bourbon-cider glaze.  I got the shake and bake.  I got some rosemary (much to my dismay and I wish that you had included that small bit of info in the menu).  My chicken was a bit dry but, luckily, the delicous barbecue baked scarlet runner beans and geen beans laden with butter made up for it.   The dish was missing the spicy pecans that the menu promised.  At $18, this was a good meal, considering I finished only half of it before I surrendered.

Among the other dishes we ordered were the Fish and Grits (grits were a bit bland but okay with the fish, which was a relatively small portion considering the enormity of the bowl in which it came), the Crabake Entree (the two snowball looking crabcakes that had a little more filler than promised were lukewarm but the red pepper coulis they were served sitting on top of was tasty.  The avocado remoulade was negligible), and the $18 Black Angus Burger (I mean, good going on that one…you can’t really go wrong with a burger).

One of my friends ordered the salmon special, which came Hawaiian style all adorned with giner and pineapple.  No complaints on that one.  Wings, veggie chili, and a spinach apple salad rounded out our orders…neither of which were horrible but, again, nothing to write home about.

By the time we finished eating, we had been at the table for a good two hours (Mohawk Lee would scurry by in a tizzy and say how hard he was working quite often…though, to us, it seemed as though he only had two tables).  Luckily for you, we enjoy the pleasure of each others’ company.  What we did not enjoy was having to ask several times to have our table bussed and to have our drinks refilled. 

Speaking of drinks, your wine list was commendable, having a favorite of one of my friends that isn’t always on a wine menu.

Now, I usually have much more to say when I write my restaurant reviews.  Maybe it’s because a week has passed.  Or maybe because there really wasn’t much to say.  Mediocre, at best, I think.  Nothing was great.  Nothing was horrible.  In an area as “happening” and up and coming as the National Harbor, you and your staff and your consultants and your chefs and your entourage are going to have to work a little harder to draw people in.  What you have going for you is that this is a location that does cater to the tourist, which means that return customers may not be high on your list of priorities.  But for those of us who live in the area, it would be nice to have Ketchup as an option. 

Thanks for tryin’,

La

PS you should have gotten higher billing for your role in Valentine’s Day.  It was, pretty much, your movie.  Though, I hate to admit it, not such a good one but for McSteamy and Mr. Cooper, from whom you stole a lot of screen time. 

PPS the best part of the meal was dessert…thanks, girls, for the awesome variety pack from Alexandria Cupcake.

3 Comments

Filed under Annoying People, food, open letter, restaurant reviews, Uncategorized

Restaurant Review: Indigo Landing (nee Potowmack Landing)

The place where only the first syllable of your order matters. 

Shrimp Scampi?  No, SHORT RIBS. 

Hot Toddy?  No, hot peppermint patty. 

Girls’ Night Dinner.  Indigo Landing, a beautiful–though receptiony (maybe because I did actually go to a wedding reception there six years ago?) dining area.  Great view of the Capital building and the monuments and planes landing.  

We’ll start with the fact that the hostess totally checked in a couple and ruined the surprise dinner that was going on IN THEIR HONOR.  They said their name and she said, “someone called about that last night…and said it was a surprise.”  Clearly, the couple to be surprised was the couple standing in front of me.  FAIL. 

The menu has a lot of choices on it, which was nice after coming off of Restaurant Week (more about that in another post).  

We studied the menu and made our decisions.  We ordered a bit hesitantly, as the waitress seemed to be confused by everything we said.  Short ribs turned into shrimp scampi.  In fact, lots of things turned into shrimp scampi.  For a restaurant that had maybe four other full tables, there was no reason to mis-hear anything.  We were all a bit concerned when she left the table, and worried we’d all end up with the damn scampi as our main course.  The waitress came back almost ten minutes later to verify the orders again–without her pad.  Clearly, she had yet to do anything with the order we had already given her. 

We started with an appetizer and some salads.  The calamari was dusted in cornmeal, which was a nice departure from the typical (but delicious) greasy version you get at so many other places.  The fried squid came with a delicious lemon aioli and a hot and sweet pepper dipping sauce, both of which were perfectly seasoned and excellent complements to the otherwise bland (but not in a bad way) calamari.  

My tablemates and I also sampled the wedge salad and the beet carpaccio salad.  The wedge was a bit of a disappointment–the only component that was okay was the fact that the iceberg lettuce was, in fact, in a wedge shape.  It was also, however, a pale shade of green (hovering on being yellow).  The shaved sweet onion that the menu touted were, in fact, soggy rings of regular old white onion (whereas, ideally, they would’ve been nice, crisp, pungent red onion).  The Maytag blue cheese dressing had none of the delicious crumbles of blue cheese that I craved but, rather, was just a watery and milky cover to the poor lettuce.  The four cherry tomato halves did not disappoint except for their scant number.  The beet salad received no complaints.  The thinly sliced beets, wild arugula, citrus, and toasted almonds delivered a fresh, distinct flavor any beet lover would embrace.  There was a plethora of the chevre, which was nice.  The orange sherry vinaigrette provided the perfectly acidic and sweet dressing for the vegetables. 

After we had gotten halfway through these starters, our bread basket finally arrived.  We had only asked for and been promised fresh bread three times at that point.  At least the rolls were hot from the oven.  And served with a very tasty honey butter that was just the right combination of sweet and savory.  Note:  we still had not gotten our glasses of water and the fact we all had other beverages anyway is irrelevant (but what is relevant is that we also asked for, and were promised and denied, iced tea refills).  Note two:  a server other than our own came and cleared our table of the appetizer dishes…before we were done with the calamari and never asking if it was okay to do so. 

On to the main courses!  Luckily for us, substitutions were acceptable (though, as previously stated, we worried that they would not be honored, based on the flightiness of  our server), so we were all able to make tweaks to our selections.  

Those who ordered the scallops were surprised at their size.  Large and well-cooked, these treasures of the sea were about an inch and a half in diameter and about the height of a good old fashioned marshmallow.  Their accompaniments were nothing to write home about.  As one of my fellow diners said, the creamy celery root puree was more like “cold celery mush.”  And the dish, as a whole, came out lukewarm.  Chew on that. 

Speaking of chew…the NY strip was a bit chewy, especially for a cut that is generally tender.  Now, I know that I am used to (and definitely prefer) a filet, so that may be clouding my judgment.  But, that withstanding, the meat was definitely chewier and fattier than I would have liked and than I expected.  And, really, was it necessary to put rosemary on top of the meat?  Rosemary has a way of inserting its flavor into whatever it touches and, unfortunately, it is not a flavor of which I am overly fond.  So that was a bit of a bummer.   My sides of whipped potatoes and madeira sauce were heavenly.  The potatoes were just the right texture, so smooth that I questioned whether they really were potatoes.  

Per instructions, the Thai snapper came out grilled and not fried.  It also came out less than lukewarm.  It did not get sent back, though such a move was contemplated. 

The short ribs left nothing to be desired.  They were perfectly tender and just the right kind of flaky.  The sweet potato puree, while seemingly a tad bit out of season, was an excellent complement to the strong flavors of the accompanying sauce.  The brussels sprouts were good, not great.  A little more crunch than they were tender, they were the red headed stepchild of the entree. 

Once the table was clear of our dinner plates, our server wiped the table down.  With a wet towel.  This kind of grossed me out, but I kept the thought to myself.  

She then offered us an after dinner drink menu.  The Hot Peppermint Patty (a concoction of vodka, hot chocolate, and whipped cream) jumped out at us.  One of my friends ordered it.  She was met with confusion, but pointed her selection out, specifically, on the menu.  What appeared in front of her was a very big departure from what she expected.  What she wanted was warm, cozy, deliciousness.  What she received was a glass of what looked like very weak hot tea.  With a mound of something chunky on the bottom.  Cloves?  Brown sugar?  Who the eff knows.   We ascertained that it must be a hot toddy.  Okay, fine.  Except, no, no it wasn’t fine.  Whiskey and Lipton tea?  Not acceptable.  And, clearly, not hot chocolate.  Yet, this was a notion our server failed to understand and had no desire to comprehend.  Finally, after showing her the selection, again, on the actual menu, we were “rewarded” with what we ordered.  Except, it wasn’t really a reward at all.   This second drink attempt was hot chocolate with whipped cream and whiskey, again!  They really do love their whiskey at this place and/or have a surplus they’re trying to rid themselves of. 

Much like what we suspected of the shrimp scampi. 

After the debacle that was our after dinner drinks, we ventured to try some desserts.  We should have either gotten creme brulees all around or just forgone the calories.  Mrs. Smith has made me a better lemon meringue pie than the one I had last night–the lemon part was gummy and congealed.  While the meringue looked the part, it was ultimately flavorless (though, in its defense, the perfect texture).  And the crust?  Oh, the crust.  Cold and soggy and dis-gusting.   The chocolate mousse was mediocre and looked and tasted more like tiramisu than what it was touted to be.  

All in all, there were good parts and bad parts to the meal.  Sadly, most of the good parts had to do with the company and our ability to entertain ourselves with conversation and the shenanigans of the restaurant staff.  I can’t say I’d go back to this restaurant, unless, maybe it was to sit on the patio on a summer afternoon.  

Indigo Landing, you plopped. 

  

3 Comments

Filed under food, restaurant reviews

Restaurant Review: Bourbon Steak (lunch at the bar)

I mean, who doesn’t want a 10 oz burger for lunch on a workday? 

The joy of these few days between Christmas and New Years is that you can take a longer lunch without batting an eye. 

I first heard about the Bourbon Steak lunch special a few months ago.   It took this long for me to go, but I’m glad that I did.

One of my favorite dining partners in town and I headed over to the Four Seasons in Georgetown around noon.  Straight through the lobby and to the bar, which was somewhat crowded with a crowd much older and fancier than we are…but we played the part.

We sat down and ordered our complimentary non-alcoholic beverage.  We knew from perusing the menu beforehand that truffle popcorn would be our appetizer.  It was amazing.  The popcorn was a little greasy due to the truffle oil but it was such a good flavor that we overlooked it.  Come on, we were about to chow down on burgers as big as our heads…what’s another couple hundred calories?

We munched on corn nuts and cashews while we looked at the menu, though we knew for sure what we would order.  The bartender knew just by looking at us.  So, two oak-fired prime steak burgers (retailing at $16) it was.   All part of the deal, and among our other choices, were a grass fed beef burger, a salmon burger, a vegetarian falafel burger, or a turkey burger.

The burgers were cooked to a medium perfection and accompanied with house made pickles, Cabot clothbound cheddar, and “secret sauce.”  The cheddar was sharp and somewhat pungent and worked well with the lean and juicy beef.  The 10 oz was a bit much for an average eater to consume in its entirety at lunch on a Monday, but my friend and I each made a valiant effort. 

The burgers came with your choice of greens (really?!), onion rings, or a trio of fries.  We ordered the rings and the fries and were not disappointed.  The onion rings were lightly battered, made with red onion and not the traditional yellow.  The rings were thin, the batter thick and not overly greasy (or, for that matter, greasy at all).  They came with a house made ketchup.  There were three different kinds of fries, each with its own condiment:  white cheddar with barbeque sauce, salt and pepper fries with ketchup, and sour cream and onion fries with a creme fraiche dipping sauce.  There was more than enough to share and, sadly, many fries left over.

We topped off our meal with the Bourbon brownie, a decadent end to an already decadent lunch.  The dessert came with several “bites” of gooey, fudgey brownie.  The bites were topped with a seemingly unsweetened whipped cream, which complemented the hurt your teeth sweetness of the brownies.  Along with the vanilla ice cream and the cocoa powder and chocolate sauce that adorned the dish, this was a dessert of epic proportions.  The best part was that it all came arranged in the shape of an exclamation point…kind of like a “YAY!  You’ve made it to the end of the meal and still have room for more!” 

Thanks to Metrocurean for the photo.

The burger, side, dessert, and drink rang in at $21.  Considering you probably pay that much if you buy all of those entities a la carte at an average restaurant, it was quite a deal for a Washingtonian Top 100 (#35).

 

2 Comments

Filed under food, restaurant reviews, things i like

Restaurant Review: VOLT

A place where gray meets brown in a fashionable manner.  Where everyone wears brown Chucks.  Where food is served synchronized and perfectly timed.  Where it’s okay to giggle and act like a 12 year old.  Where the bread basket is never ending (hello, bacon popover). 

Phenomenal.

Now, my friends often laugh at my superlative of “Top 5 Meal.”  I give it often enough that the Top 5 has grown to maybe 50.  But this meal?  Really was. 

This past weekend, five friends and I had the awesome privilege of dining at Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s VOLT in Frederick, Md.  You may know Bryan from such shows as, well, Top Chef.   When coming to our table the first time, the sommelier asked us how we heard about VOLT.  The six of us giggled.  And when the Chef himself actually came to the table, well, there was some more giggling.

When making our reservation months ago, we expressed interest in the tasting menu.  This meant that we got to eat in the kitchen.  The same kitchen where Chef and his talented staff cooked the food we devoured.  The same kitchen! 

The six course tasting menu ($95) had two options–the Kitchen Menu and a vegetarian option. 

We all started off with beverages.  I chose the Spicy Spark, a sparkling wine mixed with a jalapeno simple syrup.  The rim of the glass was dusted with almond and cinnamon.  The sweetness of the simple syrup helped downplay the spice of the jalapeno.  Mixed with the dry sparkling wine, it was an interesting and tasty combination.  Best left as a pre or post dinner cocktail and not a meal accompaniment, though. 

volt 007As we sat and watched Chef and his crew in the kitchen, we gawked at the menu in front of us.  Six delectable courses.  We couldn’t wait.  And, we didn’t have to.  Before we knew it, three servers swooped down on our table, placing in front of us a bonus course.  More like an amuse bouche, the tri colored macaroons were a sight to be seen.  One was filled with foie gras, one was a take on Caesar salad, and while I can’t recall what the third was, I can assure you it was delicious.  The exterior of the macaroons was similar to those meringue cookies that were ubiquitous at piano recitals.  You know the ones.  Biting into each of these, though, we were welcomed by a smooth, creamy treat. 

Our next course was another bonus:  lobster flan with caviar.  Fancy pants we definitely were.  It was an interesting dish that I can best describe as a creamy custard (think a little firmer than creme brulee, but savory not sweet) with lots and lots of chunks of lobster mixed in.  The lobster was tender and not rubbery.  And the caviar was the perfect touch of saltiness the dish needed.  (Note:  as a salt fiend, I am happy to give compliments to the Chef–I did not wince, once, because there was no salt on the table…not that I would’ve asked for it (I know better), but the fact I didn’t have to is pretty cool). 

And if that weren’t enough, we were brought  a morsel of falafel.  As a self-proclaimed expert in this genre of cuisine, I’d say that Chef Bryan has it down.  It had the right combination of spices and was a perfect texture–if done poorly, falafel can be dry and crumbly.  This was quite the opposite.

And now on to the menu items.  First on the list was the Yukon Gold potato soup.  The bowl came empty but for the bonus volt 013accoutrements, the brunt of which I don’t recall but there was definitely some crunchy pancetta in the mix.  What more could you ask for, really?  The servers meticulously poured the creamy soup into our bowls and we dove in.  The potatoes were pureed to a golden, creamy, liquid consistency.  The soup was so smooth and served at just the right temperature.  Had we not all quickly scarfed down our bread minutes before, I can assure you there would have been some serious dipping and plate mopping  going on.

Next up:  the Cherry Glen Farm goat cheese ravioli with butternut squash puree, sage brown butter, and sage foam.   If forced to choose my favorite course, I’d have to say this was mine (though my impeccably cleaned plate for each course would cause one to believe I liked them all equally).  I generally am not a fan of foam–I always order my lattes without it.  But on this?  It worked.  Much like Graham Elliot used a horseradish foam to highlight the taste of the beef in my deconstructed beef stroganoff several weeks ago, Chef Bryan Voltaggio used the sage foam–a slightly more pungent flavor–to highlight the delicate flavor of the butternut squash brown butter and the slightly stronger flavor of the goat cheese.  The ravioli itself was perfectly cooked–it was tender all around, not hard on the sides as ravioli can sometimes tend to be.  I could have eaten a full sized entree of this and called it a night.  Thank goodness I didn’t have to.

volt 015

Next up were the pint sized Nantucket Bay scallops.  I don’t like scallops, but I probably could’ve fooled anyone who saw me take that plate down.  These succulent scallops were served with black forbidden rice, cardamom spiced carrots, shiitake mushrooms, lemongrass, and coconut.  The pairing of the flavors had an obviously Asian twist that worked well.  The lemongrass and coconut helped to tame the stronger cardamom. 

volt 017Pork belly.  Pork belly.  Pork belly.  Need I really say more?  Cholesterol be damned, this made my heart happy.  Served atop cannelini beans (whose blandness helped cut down the salty from the pork belly) and with a side of crispy petite red ribbon sorrel (think thin circle of bacon) and moutarda, this was a true treat.  The sauce was a sweet complement to the salty fatness of the overall dish.  Definitely not for those who are watching their fat or caloric intake.  Which is why it was so damn good.

Our final savory course was the piece de resistance for many of my dining companions:  the Wagyu beef culotte.  Wagyu beef is volt 018suddenly the be all end all of beef, taking over the throne from Kobe (Kobe is Wagyu, but Wagyu is not always Kobe–you know the whole square and rectangle conundrum).  This beef proved why.  It was cooked to a perfect medium rare (again, not for the faint of heart) and accompanied by ratte potatoes, golden raisins, dragon carrots, and glazed Tokyo turnips.  The turnips were the only thing I was served that I did not eat.   I wish I knew what he put in those potatoes but maybe that’s a secret he should keep, as I would make them ALL THE TIME and then get sick of them.  An interesting garnish on the plate was a garlic transparency…it was just a clear square that, when you bit into it, made you glad you weren’t a vampire. 

And now, on to dessert.  It was called Textures of Chocolate and included a white chocolate ganache, milk chocolate ice cream, chocolate caramel.  There was some kind of chocolate wafer served along with it, as well–it tasted a bit burnt but that flavor went so well with the caramel (if you were innovative enough to dip it, as I obviously was).  The whole thing was dusted with a light cocoa. 

And if that weren’t enough, we ordered a cheese plate.  Make that two.  There were four types of cheese on each plate.  Served with whole wheat walnut toast, the cheese selection had something for everyone–there was bland, there was hard, there was creamy, and there was stinky. 

Just as we thought we were winding down, one last course appeared before us.  Compliments of the maitre d’ and as a thanks for joining them for dinner, we had an assortment of house made, mini ice cream sandwiches (think Chipwich–but better).  As a thanks for allowing us to join them for dinner, we ate the three different varieties–oatmeal raisin with coconut ice cream, chocolate chip with chocolate ice cream, and white chocolate chip with vanilla ice cream. 

chipwich

So, let’s recap:  six courses ($95) with an optional wine pairing (for an extra $45).  A regular or vegetarian course option (there was some molecular gastronomy going on with the vegetarian options).  Extreme willingness to sub in or out from the menus, based on preference and/or dietary restrictions.  Three bonus “tastes” from the kitchen.  Perfectly synchronized serving of all dishes, with a knowledgeable server letting us know what was in front of us.  Friendly staff who took the time to chat and socialize–not a cranky pants in the group.  Amazing view of the kitchen and all the action.  Mellow yet sophisticated atmosphere.  

Top.  Five.  Meal. 

PS we were sent home with a cranberry orange muffin so that we could prolong our fabulous dining experience.

3 Comments

Filed under food, Reality TV, restaurant reviews, things i like