Tag Archives: review

Brunch at Petits Plats

Since Saturday turned out to be extremely pleasant, after hitting the 14th & U Farmers Market, we decided to venture over to Woodley Park and find a bit of brunch. I hadn’t been to any of the restaurants along the row for brunch–or any meal in quite some time–but we decided to give French a try.

Petits Plats bills itself as, “The best French Restaurant in the heart of Woodley Park with very distinguished cuisine and variety selection of wine.”

As we’ve only been there the once, I can attest to the French part, as they seem to be the only restaurant for that on that strip and our brunch was definitely a pleasant experience. They have patio seating but they also have a porch which allowed us to sit well away from the sidewalk/street while still being able to watch people and enjoy the fresh air.

Croque Monsieur at Petits Plats

Their brunch menu was pretty extensive, but we focused on the egg options–wisely deciding to skip the snail dishes. Pictured above is their Croque Monsieur which I’ve never had before, but reading the words: ham, cheese, butter & brioche pretty much sold me on it and I wasn’t disappointed.

This is less of a review and more the writeup of an experience. We try to switch it up for brunch, but the next time there’s an early Saturday with temps in the low 70s… in July, we might just head back to Petits Plats for champagne cocktails and a little bon vivant vibe to get the weekend off to a good start.

Buddha-Bar DC new Lunch menu

Last week I was invited to try out Buddha-Bar DC‘s new “wallet-friendly” lunch options along with some other bloggers and journalists. I hadn’t been to Buddha Bar before, but one of the consistent opinions among friends were that the entree prices were a little on the high side, so this is a much-welcomed addition. Buddha-Bar is nestled into the still-growing corridor on Massachusetts Ave NW near Chinatown and the Convention Center but mostly what’s gone in there are apartment buildings and condos save for the CityVista with a supermarket and Busboys and Poets. It’s still developing as a “going out” area, but since a lot of people work in the area, changing up their lunch menu to appeal to a wider audience is a good thing.

Before I knew there were a collection of restaurants, my only exposure to Buddha Bar was the music compilation. The venue definitely suits the music, there’s even a DJ and I’m sure I heard a few chill lounge tracks from the albums. With a giant statue of Buddha overlooking the dining area and Asian touches throughout, they definitely create a mood that seems more suited to lifestyle dining than just heading to a restaurant.

From their recent press release:

Chef Gregg Fortunato’s new appetizers at lunch service include Big Eye Tuna Flatbread for $8 and Miso Black Cod Lettuce Cups priced at $10. New standout entrée salads, priced at $14 each, include an Asian Style Wedge with a Choice of Chicken or Shrimp; Thai Beef Salad or the delectable Green Papaya Salad with a Choice of Duck or Shrimp. Entree choices to beckon lunch-goers are the Kurobuta BLT, a Korean BBQ Sandwich, Kobe Beef Sliders, Japanese Sea Bass Tacos or the Buddha Bar Fish & Chips which range in price from $13 to $16. The new additions will be available for lunch service only Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For the most part the food and service were excellent, though at times it felt like I was in one or two servers’ way, or that I couldn’t finish my water fast enough for them to offer to refill it. The tables and chairs don’t seem terribly well suited for the long-legged or tall diner, so that may have added to my discomfort. For starters they brought out their Buddha Bar (salmon, yellowtail, spicy tuna, snow crab wrapped in a cucumber “paper”) and Mass sushi rolls, then an eel-based roll after a member of our party disclosed a shellfish allergy and some Thai Beef Tataki skewers that were amazing–I found myself slowly sliding the plate away from others’ notice–and the Big Eye Tuna Flatbread which is also offered to lounge patrons as a complimentary treat while they enjoy cocktails.

We got a pretty good range of entrees: the Korean BBQ Sandwich, Kobe Beef Sliders, Japanese Sea Bass Tacos and the Buddha Bar Fish & Chips and there was some sharing, but definitely some standout dishes. Thankfully my friend was willing to trade her BBQ sandwich for one of my sliders and I feel that she made the better choice. Sliders are not always the easiest thing to pull off and for advertising that they were Kobe beef, these turned out surprisingly dry as if the size factor was working against them. My other friend was over the moon about her fish tacos, so I think I’ll be better informed for a future visit.

It’s hard to judge the time factor as there were about 8 of us and at the best of times, a group lunch like that takes well over an hour, but food came relatively quickly with enough time for us to chat and not feel rushed. Depending on starters or cocktails, the meals might have come to at least $20 or so per person, so it won’t be for everyone, but to change it up during the week or for a group outing, Buddha-Bar is a very impressive venue. We were there before the bulk of their lunch crowd, but when it fills up, you might find the noise level a touch above that for intimate conversation. The high ceilings, decor and spacious room would lend the venue to having a dance floor–especially since they have a DJ–however it’s said that patrons are free to dance at their tables–yeah, right. It was a fun time for lunch and I look forward to visiting again for happy hour!

Links
Buddha Bar DC: Facebook
OpenTable
Yelp
Urbanspoon
Buddha Bar on Urbanspoon

AGAINN Spring Menu

Spring Luncheon Menu from AGAINN

Earlier this month, I was invited along with other local food bloggers and writers to AGAINN–pronounced ‘aguinn’ [a-g-uin]–to sample their Spring Menu. As I am a blogger and this is more or less going to be a review, let me make some things clear up front:

  1. I have been to AGAINN before, for happy hour with friends and a food blogger happy hour, so I am familiar with their food and drink. The promise of new menu items was the main draw.
  2. So that there are no misunderstandings, this lunch was free. There has been a lot of buzz about full disclosure on the part of bloggers to allay any suspicions of bias. As I said, I have been to AGAINN before and paid for food and drink, just not this time.

Head Bartender Rachel Sergi

That said, it was a wonderful time. They took us on a menu tour, for lack of a better term. Beverage Director Caterina Abbruzzetti allowed us to sample amazing cocktails and some unique and hard-to-find libations–wine, beer and scotch–unless you visit AGAINN, of course.

Lady MacBeth cocktail Head Bartender Rachel Sergi served up one of my favorite cocktails from their bar, the Lady MacBeth. Made with vodka or gin, it has lemon, elderflower liqueur, rosewater and egg white. The latter ingredient giving it an amazing cloud-like quality on the tongue while the former conspire to give it an intense floral bouquet, pun intended. It’s a foamy, flowery delight that is as much a joy to watch being made as it is to drink. If you’re a one-drink limit sort of person, consider this one for happy hour or as an apéritif.

My only amendment to that recommendation is if it’s near a holiday or other special event as their bartenders love to experiment. We also got a taste of a cocktail called The Saint created after the Superbowl in honor of the New Orleans Saints. Containing dark lager, gin and sweet vermouth, it was layered perfectly to appear black and gold, naturally. During my previous visits, I’ve been offered a taste of something that the bartenders were working on. Not everything was to my liking, but that’s the fun of playing around with cocktails and they’re willing to work at it to zero in on worthy drink menu additions.

Vichyssoise with Goat Cheese on Toast

Following the warm-up cocktail, our lunch started with a chilled Vichyssoise accompanied by goat cheese on toast. Aside from the occasional Gazpacho, I don’t normally enjoy cold soups, but this one was very yummy. It had a drizzle of just barely fragrant olive oil on top and with the toast made for a great starter. Though I’ll say that they could just offer the goat cheese on toast as an option on its own and I’d love it.

Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon

Next up was Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon atop a mix of peas, bacon and lemon. Executive Chef Wes Morton was on-hand to walk us through the dishes and answer our questions including being able to tell us about the salmon farm where AGAINN buys their fish.

A little taste of scotch The salmon entrée was delicious, but there isn’t anything mysterious about the method of preparation. Simple is always good, but as someone that cooks, you don’t always want to go out to eat for something you could easily prepare at home. The peas tasted very fresh, like shelling them yourself after harvest fresh and mixed well with the house made bacon but they were firm. Some of my dining companions thought they could have used a little more cooking to achieve a more tender texture.

Palette cleanser, Radishes and Butter After the salmon, they brought out trays with radishes and what looked like cheese sprinkled with chives. This was a palette cleanser and the “cheese” was actually butter, unsalted and very thick. I was dubious, but not only did the two go very well together, it really did completely wipe out the taste of the salmon and we were quite ready to enjoy dessert.

Pastry Chef Genevieve So walked us through the dessert, a Rhubarb Syllabub specifically designed to counteract the usual concept of overly-sweet British desserts. The bitterness of the rhubarb seemed enhanced by Campari and made an interesting contrast to the creamy-pillowy base.

Rhubarb Syllabub with Black Pepper Shortbread Cookies

Did I mention the Black Pepper Shortbread Cookies? Amazing, and while the Syllabub wasn’t really to my taste, I would swiped the cookies from the plates of those seated next to me had they not already vanished. If you’re a rhubarb purist, however, you’ll love this dessert as it doesn’t try to overpower the plant’s less-sweet taste as most recipes do.

It was a great lunch and their other lunch and dinner offerings should not disappoint. I enjoyed how knowledgeable the chefs and bartenders were about their wares and if you’re a diner that needs to know exactly where your food came from, this is the place to go. Based on their menu, our 3-course lunch would have cost around $30 or so not including drinks. Depending on your job, a leisurely lunch isn’t always an option, so most are more likely to spend less for lunch on food, at least.

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves from Againn As things were coming to a close, Pastry Chef So sent us off with some homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Preserve including the recipe!

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserve

  • 2 lbs. (fresh local) strawberries, quartered
  • 2 lbs. rhubarb
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 packet natural pectin
  1. Cut rhubarb into half-inch pieces and combine with 3 cups sugar. Let marinate for 1-2 hours.
  2. Mix remaining sugar with pectin and vanilla bean, and reserve.
  3. Cook marinated rhubarb over stove until pieces are soft and broken, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add strawberries and sugar/pectin/vanilla mix into pot and continue to cook down and reduce, constantly stirring for about 15 minutes.
  5. Deposit hot jam into sterilized hot jars, seal and turn upside down to cool.

I’m not much of a jam maker, but even I could be convinced with a tasty result like this one! AGAINN does right by the term Gastropub with a warm atmosphere, accessible menu and great food!

Links
AGAINN (DC): Twitter & Facebook
OpenTable
Yelp
Urbanspoon
Againn Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Bourbon Steak DC at the Four Seasons

Everyone treats themselves, especially around this time of year. You’re in a shop or online, looking for gifts and you see the perfect thing… for yourself. You throw caution to the wind and say "Why not? I deserve this!" Well, as you might have guessed from where it resides, Bourbon Steak DC is like that, a dining treat for the well-deserving individual be it yourself and/or others. An advance look at the menu also confirmed that. It’s not super expensive, but definitely a "steakhouse" and the prices are higher than your neighborhood "steak place" but the dishes are a serious cut above and everything else about the place, service, atmosphere, etc. lends itself to the experience.

Complimentary Champagne & my cocktail, The Corpse Reviver (No. 2)

Bourbon Steak is a place that could be pretentious, it could be home to horror stories of snooty hosts and maître d’s but clearly chooses not to be so. Still, when the lovely woman behind Adventures in Shaw (Shaw Girl or SG for short) suggested it to our little family of friends, bloggers and foodies, I had a bit of trepidation. I’m a classy enough guy, but it’s so rare that I go someplace really classy. The prices didn’t scare me off so much as the idea of "Will I feel out of place?" The answer was a resounding "No!" but let me back up a bit to explain why.

As anyone should know, the DC foodie crowd is on twitter and we are quite active. As I mentioned the other day, we really appreciate local eateries that have a strong and active social media presence. Not to swipe her story, but SG happened to mention on twitter that she was looking for a local source for duck fat. She soon got a response from Bourbon Steak DC’s twitter account that they would check for her and they came back with an answer. The mere fact that she was just throwing out a question into the wilds and they took it upon themselves to answer encouraged her to check them out and make us a reservation. And when you get the twitter foodies excited about an upcoming meal, we aren’t quiet about it at all. So we were commenting to and about @BourbonSteakDC and they were responding right back. Most notably, I noticed the dress code on the website–I’m not a fan of having to dress up for dinner that isn’t business or a date. I mentioned this on twitter and within 30 seconds Colleen, the person behind their twitter account, sent me a note clarifying things. It’s that attention to hospitality, especially for customers that haven’t even eaten there before, that sets a higher bar for dining out.

I should stop here and say that this entry could never be long enough and certainly won’t be brief. Our experience was that good and I’m hoping that my dining companions write about it as well so that you can read about it from different perspectives.

Truffle butter rolls.

After a few of us arrived by various means–one slight drawback about the Four Seasons for DC residents is that it isn’t easily reachable via metro–we checked in, checked coats, weren’t admonished for being early and were invited to have a drink in the bar area while we waited for the rest of our party. Oh my word, the bar! It was gorgeous, of course, more of a lounge in and of itself and their cocktail menu is extensive: hand-squeezed juices, small batch cordials, house-made bitters and syrups and house-grown herbs. Enjoyed by our party were a Sazerac, a Corpse Reviver (No. 2), their Hot Cocoa and Spiced Cider. The latter was with Maker’s Mark and the former… I can’t recall. Hopefully either SG or MM will write about it. We were still soaking in the luxury when they informed us that our table was ready and offered to either let us finish our drinks and close out the bill in the lounge or transfer the drinks to our table, both on the bill and literally. They would have gladly taken the drinks over for us and since I was having a stemmed cocktail, I took them up on it. What’s the point of classy if you can’t take advantage of it?

As MM does in his Yelp review, it may be best if I try to break it down into courses and I apologize in advance, because I know I won’t be able to remember what everyone around the table ordered.

Appetizers/Starters

Duck fat French Fries. 3 styles, 3 sauces

I was coaxed into ordering the Fresh Louisiana Gulf Shrimp (Cocktail) by our server who was insidious when it came to our indecision. He never directly suggested we order something, but was instead a gentle and calming voice just over your shoulder pushing you over the edge from an “No, perhaps not” to a “Yes, definitely.” Also around the table were the Iceberg Wedge salad, Ahi Tuna Tartare (prepared tableside) and Roasted Chestnut Soup (with Foie Gras). For those of us not partaking in a starter, they provided lovely house treats: Duck Fat French Fries in 3 seasoning styles with 3 sauces and Truffle Butter Rolls. Truffles are slowly, but surely, making their way back into consumer market, but subtly. Often in–now–not too expensive oils, or butter. I didn’t always have much of a taste for them, but now I can’t get enough when in the right dishes.

There was more than enough of everything to go around and to share. I nabbed a bite of the tuna tartare and a slurp of the soup which definitely wins for at least presentation. The server sat the bowl down and it was empty, save for a few roasted chestnuts and slices of foie gras. Just as I thought to ask “And… where’s the soup?” the server poured it in from a small carafe and the sensory experience tripled. And I was only sitting next to the person that had ordered it.

Entrees/Sides

I believe everyone ordered a steak. It was our first time there, save one, so it made sense to order what they’re named for. We got 16 Oz Boneless Rib Eyes and 14 Oz Dry-Aged New York Strips at varying temperatures. Their steaks are butter poached and then finished on a wood-fired grill. I’ve never had them in that style before and unfortunately it isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to repeat at home without tons of clarified butter on hand. Our steaks arrived exactly as ordered and when we did order them, our server didn’t talk down to us or turn up his nose when we specified a temperature. He simply confirmed it, told us “that’s pink throughout” or “that’s pink with a warm red center” and that was that. Now, I would like to know what they’ve been advised to say should a customer order a steak in a manner that would–in most opinions–ruin it, but I imagine that they would still be polite about it.

16oz. Boneless Rib-Eye w/various sides.

Even though everyone was excited about the Black Truffle Mac & Cheese, their side orders are sort of family style in that one side is definitely bigger than a one-person serving, but you’d still want to order at least one side for every two people. In addition to the mac & cheese we ordered the Red Pontiac Potatoes w/Hand-Churned Butter, Roasted Spaghetti Squash w/La Quercia Prosciutto, Wood-Roasted “Magical” Mushrooms and Sautéed Brussels Sprouts w/Apples & Bacon.

To make a long story short, everything was delicious. I’m not even a fan of spaghetti squash or Brussels sprouts but I had no trouble finishing the modest portions that I scooped onto my plate. My steak was perfectly cooked to medium-rare. Even though it was a Rib-Eye cut and there was some fat, it didn’t have that “strip o’ fat” that sometimes surrounds a steak even in the nicest of restaurants. Tender throughout, nicely seasoned–I usually ask for salt with my steak, didn’t have to this time–and such a thick cut of meat that not only did we make naughty jokes about our steaks, we all had trouble finishing them off.

Dessert/Aperitifs

By now, I have to say that I was full. Honest to goodness, “can’t eat another bite” full. So I passed on dessert, but thankfully the rest of the table wasn’t similarly afflicted and they brought spoons for all of us, anyway. I got to sample a bit of:

  • Tiramisu (mascarpone mousse, espresso sponge, cocoa sorbet)
  • Bitter Chocolate Cake (hazelnut ice cream, milk & honey ganache)
  • Coconut Candy Bar (milk chocolate, praline caramel, Marcona almonds)
  • Michael’s Root Beer Float (sassafras ice cream, root beer sorbet, chocolate chip walnut cookies)

Well, not the last one as its owner was pretty selfish–though he did share the cookies, and not the candy bar since I’m not really a fan of coconut. The tiramisu literally made me yell “Shut. UP!” it was so good. Yeah, I know, you can’t take me anyplace nice. An ordered Maker’s Mark on the rocks was low on rocks, heavy on Maker’s Mark–I heard no complaints. Coffee arrived in a cafetière–french press for you yokels–and fresh herbal tea in a small steeping pot. The meal began and ended with elegance, so nice!

Hospitality

I can’t really say enough about how welcome they made us feel. Just because we mention a restaurant over and over on twitter or in our blogs, you don’t really expect them to be responsive or even care. It’s not about getting their attention, it’s about discussing what we love. Even so, Bourbon Steak was very appreciative of us “waving the flag” as the manager said.

A lovely welcome, twitter style

In addition to their already great hospitality, they were expecting “the twitter foodie party.” Both the manager and their social media person came out to say hello, welcome us and thank us for choosing the place and talking it up online. I will disclose that they gifted our table a bottle of complimentary champagne, but this was not a payment for the free PR, just in appreciation of it. We’d have eaten there even if their twitter account wasn’t as active as it is. And while foodies appreciate freebies, we never demand them. In fact, as I’ve said before, I think it’s very brave for any restaurant to host foodies, especially those with blogs because we do talk about what and where we eat.

If you’re on twitter, you can ask any of us about our experience: @Shaw_Girl, @floridagirlindc, @mazzie, @theblackdog2071, @stopthepota & @urbanbohemian (me). Some of our accounts are locked to friends-only, but we can still see @-replies. And you can contact @BourbonSteakDC directly with any questions about the restaurant.

And while I’m now biased towards our server, from looking around the dining room, it seemed that each table was getting the same attention to detail, expertise and advice with the menu and their choices and I didn’t see anyone that looked impatient or as if they weren’t having a good time. We were not rushed, our server didn’t linger or completely vanish and the only time he did sort of hover was after we’d requested the bill.

Price

To be frank, it wasn’t cheap. For our party it came to about $100 per person before gratuity. Comparing this to other places you could get steak, or even picking up a nice cut from the butcher, it is high, but every piece of the experience made it worth it. Not that I don’t want to try butter poaching a steak at home, but as I said, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Comparing it to the all-you-can-eat Churrascaria downtown which comes to about $50 per person before drinks, this was a bit more upscale and a very different experience. Also, as is apparent from the menu, it is perfectly possible to have dinner there and not spend that much but still have an excellent meal.

This would be an grand (and impressive) choice to have lunch with a client–especially if it’s expensed, or celebrate a special occasion with a group or someone special. If you’re planning a stay (or stay-cation) at the Four Seasons, even though all of Georgetown is available a few blocks away, I’d still suggest you reserve a table at Bourbon Steak.

A good meal, great friends and a restaurant that goes above and beyond to make their guests feel special. It might not be tomorrow, but I’ll definitely make plans to back to Bourbon Steak DC soon!

Links
Bourbon Steak DC: Twitter
OpenTable
Yelp
Urbanspoon
Bourbon Steak on Urbanspoon