- Drinks (84)
- Easy Indulgences (43)
- Gifts (35)
- Media (207)
- Product Reviews (8)
- Recipes (185)
- Restaurant Reviews (114)
I’ve gotten into a restaurant rut, and I don’t ever want to get out of it. Maybe it’s more like a gambler’s lucky streak–only it’s a sushi and Serow streak. I simply alternate between high-end sushi at Sushi Taro and the most exciting food in town at Johnny Monis’ Northern Thai Little Serow. And after a year, it’s only gotten better. A couple of nights ago, about three courses in, I had a terrible thought: One day I will not have access to this food. It nearly ruined my mood, so I quickly had another slurp of the tom kha pla duk, the sweet, spicy, tart broth before me. It starts with catfish cooked in coconut fat, but that’s all I could get out of our server. Oh, and the stock cooks for three days. I know there are chilies; I know there is lemongrass; And I know that if I enter my kitchen with only these instructions, I will fail. And yet, yet, I must be able to capture this experience however diminished and slight my own version might be.
Readers of this blog know that I have mixed feelings about chef Jose Andres. I’ve found most of the restaurants in his D.C. empire to be unremarkable and have had actual bad meals at Jaleo and America Eats. But I get that he’s playful and creative, and my first meal at minibar was truly exciting. But the second one slid back to the ho-hum that I’ve come to associate with his projects.
This week’s New York Times dining section is a special restaurant issue, so we don’t get so much of the saliva-inducing writing. Susanne Craig’s piece on the files restaurants keep to track their patrons’ preferences is interesting. I appreciate the effort, but hesitate to endorse restaurant managers researching people who might one day drop by. The Times also buzzes about the changes brewing at Eleven Madison Park, but the whole story can be found in this week’s New Yorker by John Colapinto. Delving into the business of restauranteuring rather than food, the funniest insights were about cost-cutting measures that various places employ: from masking tablecloth stains with chalk or eschewing them entirely to limiting menu changes (paper costs) and serving just one type of fish (avoid waste). It’s an entertaining read, but the focus on dollars over flavors makes it clear how much of a restaurant experience is showmanship (less kindly, they sound like a bunch of culinary carnies looking to part you with your cash).
I had a shock this morning as I read Bon Appetit’s new restaurant issue. (I know I’m partial to the topic, but I found myself reading every stitch of type. An excellent issue.) Not a surprise, Little Serow gets a top spot for its exciting spicy/sour Northern Thai food in D.C. It’s fun to see Johnny Monis with his wife and partner Anne Marler and to read the interview–it’s like seeing friends make it big. Little Serow is hands down the District’s most adventurous and fun restaurant, and I love being a regular there. (A shout out in Food & Wine’s latest as well probably explains why the line is getting even longer in the normally dead month of August.) That said, as I read the September issue of BA, as the editors remembered their favorite dishes from the past year, my mind went to a meal that I didn’t even write about at the time. And I had it here in D.C. at Acqua Al 2 in Capitol Hill.
There’s only one piece in the food sections this week that got my attention. Read the Clay Risen article in the New York Times to discover how many of the new small-batch whiskey distillers are, let’s say, cutting corners innovating to get to market quickly–who wants to wait four years?! But Risen is unimpressed with these green liquors. The mad science of ultrasound machines, pressure chambers, and tiny barrels yields whiskeys that have a “sterile note,” that “lack depth.” “Impurities may have been removed; nothing seems to have replaced them.”
Don’t get me wrong. I like The Pig, the new restaurant from the Logan Tavern/Commissary crew, on 14th Street NW. Nice space, nice staff, and you can eat well. Our waiter made many recommendations from the mostly small-plate menu, good for sharing, and we went with it, trying about a quarter of the menu in one go. The Big Pig, a large board with housemade charcuterie, is terrific, and when I go again, that is what I will get. Coppa, Serrano, ham, spicy salami, pate, fig, quince, fresh plums, pickles, olives, grilled bread–there are no toss offs in sight.
I’m sad to report that a recent visit to Jose Andres’ minibar left me a little underwhelmed. It began at the bar before dinner. Left to the whims of the America Eats bar, we were unable to get a martini with an olive, an ingredient deemed not Classic American enough to have on hand. So a twist it was, and I was left craving salty all evening. A year ago, when minibar was still housed in Cafe Atlantico, the martinis had an “olive” that was the juice of nine olives suspended in auger or some such. I had really been looking forward to that.
It turns out that Cairo Wine & Liquor on 17th Street in Dupont Circle has the Imbue vermouth I wrote about last time. (It also turns out that if you ask for something they don’t have, it will be ordered.) They mentioned that Hank’s Oyster Bar also carries this particular bottle. And it’s newer than I thought. The bottle I bought is only from the second batch. Funny though, this trend does not make Imbibe’s 50 Drinks of the Moment list, an expansive group that includes winners like honey-infused spirits and fruit beer. Shudder.
Two years ago Jason Wilson wrote in the Washington Post about a fortified wine called Cocchi Aperitivo Americano. Basically fortified wines are what the name implies: wine plus a spirit, usually brandy, and also sometimes botanicals. The Cocchi is a …
In terms of density alone, there are several stretches in the District that cater to the eating out crowd. 14th and U Streets, Connecticut near Dupont Circle, Columbia Road and 18th Street in Adams Morgan, 7th Street in Chinatown all come to mind. But I’m here to make the case for the little stretch of 17th Street between P and Corcoran Streets. On the high end there’s the obvious: Komi, so-said top spot in D.C., Little Serow, a James Beard nominated best new restaurant, and Sushi Taro, specializing in Kaiseki menus. And nice range by the way: Greek, Thai, and Japanese.