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New Restaurant Report - HANOI HOUSE (14th & U NW, DC)

Continuing our quest to eat at, and write about, every new restaurant in DC, we recently visited Hanoi House, DC’s newest Vietnamese spot.

Upon entering Hanoi House, one is instantly ensconced in a thick, intriguing ambiance, somewhat of a luxury Vietnamese speakeasy. The long rectangular dining area is dark, steamy, and bathed in a red glow. Soft whispers of crispy fried dough, fresh cilantro, and inviting chili peppers caress us as we are led to our booth, which is raised slightly off the wooden floor.

Our waitress instantly pops over to the table. She is extremely friendly and offers up a few suggestions of a few of her favorite dishes as we peruse the menu. The menu, itself, offers plenty of options without appearing overwhelming: a few classic Vietnamese appetizers, such as spring rolls stuffed with shrimp or tofu and green papaya salad, banh mi sandwiches, fried rice, and of course, pho. The drink menu is more exotic, witch cocktails comprised of specialty liquors, tropical fruits, and a variety of spices and herbs.

Everything looks great and we decide to over-order. Goi Cuon Chay (vegetarian garden roll with crispy tofu and a plum dipping sauce) for starters, followed by banh mi two ways (Thit Ga with chicken and Thit Chay with fried tofu for the two of us veggies). For the main course we opt for chicken Com Chien (fried rice, green peas, garlic, onion, carrots, fish sauce, and cilantro) and the vegetarian Pho Chay (Vietnamese noodle soup). I can’t help but try the Gold Star cocktail, packed with mango, nutmeg, pineapple, lemon, and pisco.

Siting in the steamy room (yes, my glasses actually fogged up), we chat about how beautiful and relaxing the restaurant is. It is sexy while demure, pulling off the ever sought after allure many restaurants (and women) can only dream of. I happily sip my mango pisco, which has the perfect balance of sweet and savory (I’m not a huge fan of sweet cocktails and was a little nervous about this one before I tried it), and anticipate the food.

The meal arrives quickly, with all the plates coming out at once. We soon realize we have ordered a mountain of food for just three people. We dig in. The spring rolls are a nice start, filled with fresh aromatic veggies and herbs and wrapped in a light rice paper shell. We move on to the banh mi. The sandwich itself is rather large and the baguette crunchy, but it is lacking character. The fried tofu filling is alright, as is the chicken according our resident meat eater, but the filling is missing the spice, acidity, and crunch I tend to associate with a great banh mi. In other words, while the banh mi is definitely edible, it pales in comparison to some other local offerings (I suggest making the trip out to Eden Center in Falls Church and popping into Song Que Deli, where you can get a killer banh mi--meat or veg--for under $5). The fried rice is also large and tasty, but nothing special. The vegetarian pho is interesting, incorporating flavors I don’t typically associate with pho (it has mushrooms and bamboo and the broth is semi-sweet, reminiscent of a ramen or udon). It lacks cilantro and is not accompanied by a chili sauce nor a plum sauce, which is somewhat of a disappointment. That said, it has a nice subtle flavor.

We pack up some leftovers and fork over for the bill--the damage is a mere $55 the whole meal (four main dishes, an appetizer, and one cocktail). On our way out we discuss the pros and cons. We all agree that the best thing Hanoi House has going for it is atmosphere--it’s the kind of place you just want to lounge around and drink cocktails in for hours. The food is good, but it’s not great, and you can definitely find better Vietnamese in DC or in the suburbs. However, the portions are all ample, which translates into value. The conclusion? While Hanoi House is perhaps a better spot for pre or post dinner drinks than for actual dinner itself, especially considering nearby competition, it still manages to offer an enjoyable experience at a reasonable price.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

DETAILS:

Site: http://hanoihousedc.com
Menu: http://hanoihousedc.com/menu/
Address: 2005 14th St. NW
Metro: U Street (Green/Yellow), about 1 block away
Phone: 202-747-2377
Hours: Open daily at 5:30 PM

Dec 11, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Capitol Hill

Hank's Oyster Bar has a second location on Pennsylvania Ave (fairly close to the hotel) that is casual (though not cheap) and good, with excellent cocktails.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Dec 09, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Tonkatsu

I think the new Japanese place at 11th and V NW sometimes has tonkatsu on the menu. If so, I'd definitely try it - everything else there is quite good.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Dec 09, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Report - Chicken & Rice (H St. NE & 8th)

Glad you've had good luck here - I'll try it again and change my review if the food seems better. I visited soon after Chicken & Rice opened, and of course restaurants often improve with time. I'd love to have a solid Indian delivery option in the neighborhood.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Dec 09, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Poblado Medellin restuarant ideas

Thanks - this is really helpful!

Patrick

Nov 29, 2012
firstbitedc in Latin America & Caribbean

DGS Delicatessen in Dupont Circle - Report

Thanks for this report! DGS is one of the new places I've been hoping to try, and you just bumped it up the list.

Patrick
New Restaurant Reviews @ www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 27, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

New Restaurant Report - Drafting Table (Logan Circle)

Continuing my quest to eat at, and write about, every new restaurant in DC, I recently visited Drafting Table, named after the desks architects use to sketch designs on.

I liked Drafting Table, but as a true architecture nerd, I wanted to love it. The decorations were all right: wood tables you could sketch on, swivel chairs, industrial lighting, and photos of famous architects. But Drafting Table clearly struggled with translating the concept into a menu that makes sense. Some of the options follow the theme, including the delicious Kaya Toast, an appetizer of toast sticks shaped like Lincoln Logs, with an eccentric but tasty mix of coconut jam, fried eggs, and soy broth. The Falafel and (huge) Mixed Pickle Platter were both good, but didn't fit particularly well with the rest of the menu, which includes mussels, a burger, an egg sandwich, brisket, and fish 'n' chips. Actually, you could pick any of those and say the same thing: they're interesting but not consistent with each other or Drafting Table's theme.

Of course, consistency isn't everything. If the food was great, I could care less how the pieces fit together. But what I tried was only OK, which seems consistent with what Yelp and other reviewers have said. The Beer Braised Brisket was closer to beef stew than traditional brisket, and I think the dry version would have been better. The Draftsman Burger, with brisket, blue cheese, apricot chutney, and carmelized bacon & onion on top, sounded better than it was. It was a lot of stuff on an average burger. The fries were totally delicious but came with the scourge of every new restaurant, "house made ketchup," which tasted nothing like ketchup and was too sweet to cut the fries' salt. Heinz would have been cool with me.

Drafting Table has some promise, but it's not nearly good enough yet. I hope they clean up the menu a bit and focus on what they do best, whatever that may be. Until then, we'll move on the next new thing.

Patrick
More new restaurant reviews at: www.firstbitedc.com

Drafting Table Details

Tips: (1) the tables near the bar are communal and service is from the bar (and a bit sketchy); (2) Brunch on weekends; (3) not a cocktail place, but they have a decent beer list.

Site: http://draftingtabledc.com/
Address: 1529 14th St. NW
Metro: McPhereson (Blue/Orange) or Dupont (Red), either about 6 blocks away
Phone: 202-621-7475
Hours: Mon - Wed: 4 pm - 11 pm; Thurs: 4 PM - Midnight; Fri: 4 PM - 2 AM; Sat: 10 AM - 2 AM; Sun: 10 AM - Midnight

Nov 27, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Suggestions for restaurant near Landmark E Street Theater?

I love Cedar, and they do lunch/brunch on weekends. Very close to E Street Theater.

http://cedardc.com/about.php

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 27, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Bistro Bohem - GO!

Glad you had a good meal here. A friend and I went and were definitely underwhelmed by the food, cocktails, and (worst of all) service. In fact, I thought everything was below average (and I am not picky). But we may have just caught the kitchen, staff and bar on a bad night. I'll go back sometime and hope for the best.

Nov 25, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Poblado Medellin restuarant ideas

Barnaby, I'm headed to Medellin myself and am wondering what you found for food. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Nov 20, 2012
firstbitedc in Latin America & Caribbean

New DC Restaurants - the definitive (?) list

I've added a lot to this list in the last month - it's amazing how many restaurants have opened or are opening in DC in 2012. And there's more to come, I hear. My food-loving friends and I are still on a mission to eat at every one, but it's tough. (Not that I'm complaining!) Anyone want to join us? And what are we missing?

* = places we've been

A Bar - Cocktails + upscale small plates and flatbreads
2500 Pennsylvania Avenue (Foggy Bottom)
http://www.abardc.com/

*Bandolero - Mexican - new place from Mika Isabella of Graffioto
3241 M St. NW (G'town
)http://bandolerodc.com/

Farmers Fishers Bakers - American/seafood
3000 K St NW (G'Town
)http://www.farmersfishersbakers.com/

Mayfair & Pine (British
)2218 Wisconsin Ave. NW (Glover Park)
http://mayfairandpine.com/

Del Frisco's Grille (American
)1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (Downtown)
http://delfriscosgrille.com/washingto...

*Maddy's Tap Room ("Texican"
)1100 13th St NW (Downtown)
http://maddystaproom.com/menus

*District Taco (Mexican
)1309 F St NW (Downtown)
http://www.districttaco.com/

Suna ("inventive, seasonal cuisine"; 4 or 8 course tasting menus only
)214 7th St SE (Capitol Hill)
http://www.sunadc.com/suna/
[Chef Johnny Spero of Komi, Town House, and Copenhagen’s Noma

]

*Pacifico Cantina (Mexican)
518 8th St SE (Capitol Hill)
http://www.pacificodc.com/

Park Tavern (Beer/flatbreads/steaks/fish/wood-fired oven
)200 M St SE (Navy Yard/Waterfront)

Menomale (Neapolitan-style pizza)
2711 12th St. NE (H St. NE)
http://www.menomale.us/

*Chicken & Rice (Indian takeout/delivery
)813 H St NE (H St NE)
No Website

*Le Grenier (French bistro)
502 H Street, NE (H ST NE)
http://www.legrenierdc.com/

Cusbah (Indian/Pakistani
)1128 H St. NE (H ST NE)
http://cusbah.com/

H & Pizza (Pizza
)1118 H St NE (H St NE)
http://andpizza.com

*El Chucho Cocina Superior (Mexican
)3313 11th St NW (Petworth)

Maple ("Modern American menu with Italian influences")
3418 11th St. NW (Petworth)
http://dc-maple.com/

*Kangaroo Boxing Company (BBQ
)3410 11th St. NW (Petworth)
http://www.kangaroodc.com

*The Coupe (Diner/small plates/coffee/cocktails - by the Tryst/Diner group
)3415 11th St NW (Petworth)
https://www.facebook.com/thecoupedc

The Pinch (Sandwiches/burgers/brunch
)3548 14th St NW (Columbia Heights)
http://thepinchdc.com

Tanad Thai (Thai
)4912 Wisconsin Ave. NW
http://tanadthaicuisine.com/

*Izakaya Seki (Japanese
)1117 V ST NW (U St.)
http://www.sekidc.com/

Aroi (Thai/Japanese/sushi
)1832 1st St NW (Bloomingdale)

Little Ricky's (Cuban-American)
3522 12th St, NE (Brookland)
[Prix Fixe for November - see http://bit.ly/TnkJJp

]

*Hank's Oyster Bar/Edy Bar (Seafood/Cocktails)
633 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Capitol Hill)
http://www.hanksoysterbar.com/

Slate Wine Bar + Bistro (American
)2404 Wisconsin Ave NW (Glover Park)
http://www.slatewinebar.com/

*Tacos El Chilango (Tacos
)1119 V St. NW (U Street)
http://www.tacoselchilango.com/

Satellite Room (Diner food/bar/boozy milkshakes
)2047 9th St NW (U Street)

*Cause: The Philanthropub (American/bar food)
1926 9th st NW (U Street/Shaw)
http://www.causedc.org/

*Sakuramen (Ramen
)2441 18th Street Northwest (Adams Morgan)
http://www.sakuramen.net/

*Taand (Ramen
)1817 Columbia Rd. NW (Adams Morgan)
http://taandc.com/menu.html

Doner Bistro (Turkish/German - Falafel, Doner, Brats, Bier
)1654 Columbia Rd NW (Adams Morgan)
http://www.doener-usa.com/index.html

*Chercher (Ethiopian
)9th & O, NW (Shaw)

DGS Delicatessen (Deli + cocktails)
1317 Connecticut Ave. NW (Dupont)
http://www.dgsdelicatessen.com

Sweet Diablo (Cakes, Paninis, Salads
)1200 19th St NW (Dupont)

*Crios ("Modern Mexican")
2120 P St. NW (DuPont)
http://www.criosmodmex.com/

*Drafting Tabe (Gastropub
)1529 14th St NW (Logan Cirlce)
http://draftingtabledc.com/

Woodward Table (Regional
)1430 H St NW (Downtown)
http://woodwardtable.com/

***OPENING SOON***

Nooshi Sushi (Sushi
)524 8th Street, SE, 2nd Floor (Capitol Hill)

Tash (Kebabs?)
524 8th Street, SE, 1st Floor (Capitol Hill)

Ambar (Modern Serbian)
523 8th Street SE (Capitol Hill)

Bernaise (French? - Spike Mendelsohn's sit down place)
313 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Capitol Hill)

Hikari Sushi & Sake Bar
644 H St. NE (H St. NE)

Po Boy Jim (New Orleans sandwiches)
709 H St NE (H St NE)

Taylor Charles Steak & Ice (Philly cheesesteaks and ices, by the Taylor Gourmet crew)
1320 H St. NE (H St. NE)

Costa Brava (Tapas/lounge)
1837 1st St. NW (Bloomingdale)
http://costabravadc.com/

TableDC (European - "fresh seasonal fare"
)903 N NW (Shaw)
http://tabledc.com/

Mandalay (Burmese - offshoot of Silver Spring place
)9th and P NW (Shaw)
Mystery (no name yet)
On 9th, at M

The Greenhouse Bistro (Italian Bistro)
2030 M St NW (West End - taking over Hudson space)

Birch & Barley offshoot (No name, Chicken & Donut shop)
South of Dupont Circle, in the old Yola space

Bari Bari (European-style restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; sidewalk seating)
1401 R St. NW (Logan Circle)

Le Diplomate (French Bistro)
14th and Q St NW (Logan Circle)

Black Whiskey (Japanese whiskey, "contemporary bar food" - by Kushi owner)
1410 14th St. NW (Logan Circle)

Hanoi House Vietnamese Restaurant and Pho House (Opening Nov. 25th)
2005 14th St. NW (U St. NW - Formerly Blackbyrd)
Menu (from POP)

Look (Icelandic)
1909 K St. NW (Downtown - formerly Teatro Goldoni)

Edgar Bar & Grill (American)
Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave, NW (Downtown)

Sprig & Sprout (Vietnamese/Pho)
2317 Wisconsin Ave, NW (Glover Park)
[Opening December 2012. More details]

Daikaya (Noodles and Japanese pub food)
705 6th Street NW (Chinatown)

Range (Meats, coffee bar, wine bar - Brian Voltaggio of Volt)
5335 Wisconsin Avenue (Chevy Chase)

Thaaja Indian Food Bar
1335 2nd Street NE (NoMa)
http://www.thaaja.com/

Nov 15, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Report - Tacos El Chilango (9th & V St. NW)

Good tip on the single tacos - I had no idea. Will add that to our review.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 15, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Report - Tacos El Chilango (9th & V St. NW)

Continuing our quest to try every new restaurant in DC (and write about it), we recently visited Tacos El Chilango, just off U Street at 9th NW.

TEC is brand new, but still a true, "hole-in-the-wall" joint, and it's easy to miss if you don't know what you're looking for (seriously, I did my first time here). TEC promises "the most authentic Mexican tacos this side of Mexico City." Pretty bold statement for a newly minted spot, yet not surprising as the owner (who is usually sitting at the register or cooking in the kitchen) hails from el DF (hence the name: "chilango" is slang for someone from Mexico City), started out with a food truck, and comes from a family of taqueria owners. I've got high standards when it comes to tacos and tend to take restaurant claims such as the aforementioned to be a serious food challenge. It's as if the owner were to march up to me in duel-esque fashion, slap me in the face with an oven mit, and say, "I dare you to eat my tacos and tell me they aren't the best *** tacos this side of Mexico City!" I am never one to turn down a challenge, hence the massive excitement over the opening of TEC and the late-night run across town.

We walk in. TEC is small, bright, and cozy. There are few tables in the front, a salsa and peppers bar to the right, and a perfect patio with more tables in the back. A glowing beverage fridge sits along the wall, stocked full of Jarritos in jazzy flavors like Tamarindo and Pina (if you aren't familiar with Jarritos it's definitely time to get acquainted with this great Mexican soda) alongside coca cola in glass bottles made with real sugar (not that high fructose junk). We walk up to the register and place our order:

-Tacos three ways--Queso con Rajas (cheese & green pepper), Queso con Aguacate (cheese & avocado), and Queso con Hongos (cheese & mushroom)

-Guacamole and Chips

-Agua Fresca de Jamaica

We grab a seat along with some salsas and peppers from the bar. We wait. The house made Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus iced tea) is good, but, to me, is a rather one-note version of the usually sweet and tart fuchsia drink. Not to nitpick, but I'll also point out that they add real milk to their house horchata--a rice milk drink that, depending on which old abuela you talk to and her country of origin, should not be made with real milk (my Salvadoran boss and her mother were always proud of our horchata because we didn't add milk, something they considered cheating).

Sipping on sweet Jamaica and watching the other diners chow down, we are anxious to get eatin'! The enchanting smells wafting our way from the tiny kitchen and its modest staff of three don't make the wait any easier. We talk about Latin food, Mexican tacos, and American attempts at Mexican cuisine. Now don't get me wrong, I've hit up my fare share Taco Bell drive-thrus, but the best tacos I've had to date happened to have come from a tasty street vendor in Mexico City. American tacos are too often characterized by being greasy, bland, and indistinguishable from other quasi-Mexican dishes (quesadillas, burritos, chimichangas). I don't see why I should have to cross the Border to find some decent tacos, but thanks to TEC this is no longer the case!

A very friendly staff member calls out our names and we pick up our tacos--the guac still isn't ready, but I don't mind once I realize they are making it to order. We dig in. The tacos are pure joy. Each topped with fresh cilantro, onions, radishes, and wedges of bright green lime. Just looking at the food is enjoyable--the colors pop off the plate--but eating it is even better. I go for the queso con rajas. First bite I take is sans salsa (when it comes to tasting I'm a purist of sorts and like to know what the cook intended). The corn tortilla is soft, the chopped onions and radish add the perfect crunch, there's just the right amount of cheese, and the peppers round out all the flavors in a pleasantly subtle manner. Time to throw on the salsas (red and green), which are equally enticing in color and taste, and the hot peppers, which add a great kick (too spicy for my companion but just right for me).

Onto the mushroom taco--another hit. We both agree that the Queso con Aquacate is the best of the three tacos (you just can't argue with the marriage of salty cheese and creamy avocado), but choosing a favorite is difficult--together the tacos create a heavenly vegetarian trifecta. The only downside? They're kinda small (which is standard for Mexican tacos), but at $7.50 for three the value ain't too shabby.

Midway through are taco munching the chips and guacamole are dropped off. I would argue that this is the freshest guac I've had...at any restaurant...ever. Now I know what you're thinking, "what about Rosa Mexicano?" Yes, I've had their guacamole. Yes, it is tasty. But let's be honest, it's all show--they aren't doing anything special. TEC’s guacamole might as well be served in the avocado peel it's so fresh, and it exhibits a praise-worthy balance of smooth avocado, chopped onions and tomatoes, and crisp cilantro. The chips, however, lack salt. We throw a little lime juice on top of everything and devour the chips and guac (a good-sized portion) almost instantly.

We left TEC totally satisfied. Is it a little pricey? Perhaps if judged just by quantity (tacos for two, guacamole, and one drink cost about 26 bucks). And yes, you may find it annoying that the tacos are sold in threes and can no longer be bought a la carte (this was not always the case). But all my complaints are quieted by the amazing food. This place isn't about quantity--it's about taste, and TEC knows how to do it right. This is authentic Mexican street food done in a simple, classic, unpretentious way--a welcome change for DC, where overpriced Mexi-fusion seems to be the latest craze (alongside "haute" donuts that is). The question then, is not, "to go, or not to go," but instead "can you get here before the secret's out and the taco line trails all the way around the block?"

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Inside tips: (1) No booze or beer, but they have homemade aguas frescas; (2) there's a great patio out back.
Address: 1119 V St NW (U Street Metro, two blocks
)Phone: (202) 986-3030
Web: http://www.tacoselchilango.com/
Menu: http://www.tacoselchilango.com/foods-...
Hours: Mon-Fri: 5pm - 10:00pm / Sat: 12pm - 10pm.

Nov 15, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Bistro Boheme?

I thought it was fine but not great, and a little pricey for the quality. We had two terrible cocktails (and I love cocktails) but that could have just been an off night. The food was OK, salty and heavy and not really accurately described on the menu. The service was very slow and spotty. But I liked the space and the meat dishes got high marks from friends. I wouldn't rush to go back.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 15, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

DIning near Churchill Hotel?

I second Bistro Du Coin, especially on a colder night. It feels like a real French bistro.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 07, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Would love some recommendations for downtown/Penn Quarter

I always point people to Cedar, and they generally come back happy. It's got very good food and expertly made, interesting cocktails. And I've never had a problem getting a table. The menu is contemporary American, and the space is interesting (it is underground, so no windows, but the walls are covered with wallpaper of cedar forests, which sounds cheesy but it actually pretty cool).

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 07, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

REPORT - Crios Modern Mexican Restaurant (Dupont Circle)

Continuing my quest to try every new restaurant in DC and blog about it (with a lot of help from my friends), I recently ate at Crios on P Street, near Dupont Circle.

Crios bills its menu as a “Modern Mexican Restaurant,” which fills a much-needed niche in the District; all the other Mexican joints here focus on the prehistoric era. (Distrito Federal makes a Brontosauras taco to kill for). I’m kidding of course. What makes Crios “modern” is their use of cutting-edge ingredients like . . . Dr. Pepper. And that’s no joke–Crios actually serves a Dr. Pepper Carnitas taco, with soda-braised pork shoulder, arugula, chipotle adobo, and queso fresco, and it’s sweet and savory and actually quite good. Other menu hits included the guacamole (which is spicier than you might expect) and the Rockfish Ceviche. The Beet Salad and Vegetarian Tacos were less successful (the tacos were bland) and the cocktail menu was interesting but not on par with the better restaurant bars at other Mexican place, including El Chucho (A#1 best) and even Rosa Mexicano. Given our relatively small sampling of the menu, I’ll probably come back some time to try more entrees, but I can’t say I’m in a rush.

I won’t hurry back for two reasons. First, the service was pretty terrible. The staff was likely new, and maybe a bit lost, but everything took forever, orders had to be explained and repeated, and we didn’t get everything we asked for. The service was warm, but not competent. That’s not a killer in my book, but it’s not a plus. The second issue is the restaurant’s space, which feels like a made-over hotel lobby. Honestly, I think the owners did what they could, but the space is simply too big and too cavernous to be intimate. And the combination of weird day-of-the-dead kick knacks at the bar and hotel-lobby (again with the lobby) furniture doesn’t help. Crios does offer outdoor seating, and that could be fun for a group. Even that option is a bit odd though; everyone sits at long wood picnic tables on P Street’s wide cement sidewalk. If you bring a party of eight, you’ll enjoy it. We had two, and the table sort of swallowed us. But that’s not Crios’ fault, we asked to sit outside. The restaurant could make the outdoor seating communal, and put small parties together with whoever’s already seated. You don’t see that much in DC, and I wish you did. (I don’t really like people, but I enjoy meeting them, much like Dante in Clerks, who hated people but loved parties).

Crios seems like a fine idea for a warm summer night. Until then, we’ll move on to the next new thing.

*Address: 2120 P St. NW (Dupont Circle Metro, North Exit)
*Phone: (202) 822-8800
*Web: http://www.criosmodmex.com/
*Menu (PDF): http://www.criosmodmex.com/#!menu
*Hours: Sun-Thur 5PM- 10PM; Fri-Sat 5PM-11PM; brunch Sundays; Lunch Wed-Fri.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 07, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

REPORT - Cause: The Philanthropub

Continuing my quest to eat at every new restaurant in DC and write about it (with a lot of help from my friends), I visited Cause last Friday.

Zagat's blog recently posted ten ways to know if you're a food nerd. (Their term, not mine.) They all sounded a bit familiar, but this one especially:

"Hitting every new restaurant that's worth going to is pretty much impossible, but that doesn't mean you can't try. Food nerds are passionate about going out, and they are always looking for new place to hit. Once a new hole-in-the-wall Thai joint or crazy-expensive fine-dining establishment is found, it goes on the list. The selection of potential restaurants is always getting updated, and by its ever-expanding nature it's impossible to hit every one. When looking for a place to go on a random night, they will consult the list (and new friends with similar tastes will compare lists to make plans). Those that take food geekery to the extreme will peruse their list, not find anything appealing and continue to look for new options elsewhere."

And that's how I ended up at Cause: The Philanthropub. Cause, according to its owners, is unique: the only not-for-profit bar and restaurant in the U.S. (if not the world) dedicated to donating all of its earnings to charitable causes. The two guys who dreamed up the concept have no restaurant experience, and aren't naive about any new restaurant's chances. But they hope Cause will succeed and maybe even spread to other cities. I hope they succeed.

We went to Cause to eat, but the second floor has a massive bar and we couldn't resist a drink or three. Unfortunately, most of the cocktails were too sweet and syrupy. It's fine to offer one or two sugary drinks, but a good cocktail bar will offer a variety of flavors and tastes, and Cause isn't quite there yet. I will say that their bourbon and apple cider cocktail, The Truth, is sweet but outstanding, and totally dangerous. (It tastes like campfires and hayrides, not Kentucky's finest.)

The menu makes up for any lack of range in the cocktails, and then some. It includes peanut stew, Asian-style buffalo wings, a variety of sandwiches, and gin-soaked olives, among other things. Oddly, the menu is also heavy on unusual animal parts (what the food snobs call "offal"), with sandwiches stacked with beef heart and tongue and a fried pigs feet appetizer. I'm not sure these options will appeal to the Peace Corps/non-profit crowd likely to visit Cause, but they're consistent with the restaurant's theme of using every part of everything (barrel lids for seats, a sculpture made from soda bottles, etc.)

We skipped the heart, tongue, bone, and feet, and went with more traditional selections: peanut stew, Asian wings, a chicken confit sandwich, and the olive appetizer. The stew was terrific, the wings were good but a bit sweet, the chicken confit sandwich featured perfect chicken but way too much dry bread, and the olives were, um, gross. I could have gladly doubled down on the stew, had a wing or two, and a few doses of The Truth and called it a night.

There are a few other things you might want to know about Cause. First, the servers are extremely friendly. They will all tell you their name and then ask for yours. And they remembered ours. Tia, our Ethiopian-German waitress, was easily the nicest person I've ever met; it's rare for a server to literally radiate friendliness. Also, the upstairs bar seems to have a bit of an identity crises; all the TVs were showing college football the night we visited, which seemed odd given their philosophy and personality. I'm not sure what a non-profit bar should show--Ghandi? Treme?--but BCS games probably isn't it. Still, it's a cool space, and I'm sure they'll figure out how to make the most of it.

We visited Cause the first week it opened, and I expect they'll iron out some of the bugs and menu quirks. I hope they do, because I love the concept and would like to see it take off in other cities. When you eat and drink out a lot, it's easy to feel like you're just throwing money down a hole. Or worse, paying Spike Mendelsohn's rent. At Cause, your bar tab really does contribute to the common good. For me at least, that's an uncommonly good feeling.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Nov 03, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

REPORT - Sakuramen

We recently visited Sakuramen in Adams Morgan as part of our quest to try--and write about--every new restaurant in the District. Our report follows, but I've read good things about the restaurant both here and on Yelp, so I'm wondering if we caught them on a bad night or maybe just set our expectations too high; this isn't Toki, but nothing is. Anyway, if you've been to Sakuramen, what do you think?

I’m a little late on the ramen bandwagon, but now that I’m here, I’m not going anywhere. DC’s most famous ramen shop, Toki Underground, turned me into an instant fan, so when I heard about DC’s semi-new ramen venture, Sakuramen, I eagerly planned a stop there to sample their goods. As luck would have it, that evening was chilly and rainy-- perfect for a bowl of piping hot noodle soup.

Sakuramen is small, brightly lit, and anchored by a long communal dining table, with a few neighboring four-tops surrounding it. We snagged the last open table while we ordered a round of beers. And by that, I mean, we tried to order a round of beers, except non-alcoholic Kirin is the only beer available here. While this ramen shop is still somewhat new, it’s been open for nearly five months—certainly long enough to get that pesky liquor license they claimed was on the way when they first opened! When I noticed the unmistakable pop of a champagne cork, my server confirmed that the place is BYOB.

We ordered the mushroom steamed buns (one of us was vegetarian) as an appetizer. They arrived at the table quickly, but on her second bite, one of my dining companions noticed the unpleasant sensation of paper in her mouth. She quickly removed it (a rather large sheet) and set her plate aside. The rest of us, in turn, slowed our chewing, and noticed the similar sensation of chalky paper stuck to the buns. It was totally unsavory, to say the least. I’m inclined to believe that the kitchen at Sakuramen uses pre-made bun dough (how else to explain the paper?), but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, even without the papery buns, the mushroom filling was just okay. I expected that I’d taste the ginger, hoisin, and sesame oil, but the saltiness of the mushrooms dominated the other flavors. When he cleared our plates, our server didn’t ask why none of us finished our buns, and I hoped the ramen would make up for the papery bun debacle.

Despite reading good things about the Chosun online, I couldn’t resist the recently-added tonkotsu special. Unfortunately, it, too, was underwhelming. The broth was so flavorless it bordered on watery, and the pork loin was a tad overcooked. The poached egg, an addition whose richness I’ve come to expect in a bowl of ramen, was also absent, and the strangely chewy texture of my noodles was one I didn’t enjoy. Adding a fireball (marketed by my friendly server as ‘quite hot’) lent it just enough flavor to make it (more) enjoyable. I sampled my sister’s Chosun broth, which was substantially more flavorful, though her noodles (wavy, rather than straight) weren’t anything to write home about, either.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with my visit to Sakuramen. My food was unremarkable, they were understaffed, and they don’t sell beer or wine. Additionally, the space isn’t very large, which meant that as people trickled in, they congregated right next to our table while they waited. Given all of that, I can’t think of a reason to return, especially when my favorite ramen house is around the corner from my place. Toki, I’ll see you again soon.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Oct 24, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Estadio cheat sheet - what items have you tried?

I've heard others say that the menu has not changed at all since it opened. So the previous reviews of menu items are probably still close to the mark. (If anyone has seen changes to the menu, please correct me -- and let us know what's new AND good).

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Oct 23, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

REPORT - Chercher (new Ethiopian place in Shaw)

Thanks Steve. There used to be a place on either 7th or 9th St NW that I went to, south of U. But it may have closed. Good tip on Keren. I hope to try out Chercher's version (which is on injera, I think) soon.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Oct 21, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

great Indian food in D.C.

Well mdpilam, if you saw your competitors selling the heck out of a very simple dish, you'd probably make it too.

What other places are serving the palaak chat now? Rasika's is good, but way overpriced. (They basically jacked up the price when it became popular.) It's a great $6 dish. $10? Maybe not.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Oct 21, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

REPORT - Chercher (new Ethiopian place in Shaw)

Continuing my quest to visit and write about every new restaurant in DC (with a lot of help from my friends!), I went to Chercher in Shaw last week.

Chercher is a semi-new Ethiopian spot at 9th and O, Northwest, on the edge of Shaw. I say semi-new because the restaurant opened in May, but seems to have slipped by the foodie set (or at least the Yelp Set). They also still have their "Grand Opening" banner up, six months later.

Inside, Chercher is tiny but brightly colored and warm. The space is in an English basement, so sunlight is at a premium, and the furnishings are more cafe than fine dining. But this isn't a place to see or be seen; it will thrive or not on the quality of the food.

On that score, my experience was mixed. The veggie combo, for example, had its highs and lows. The red lentils were amazingly delicious - the best I've had. That was the highlight; the yellow lentils and cabbage were tasty but not worth a trip, and the brown lentils were bland and unremarkable. I don't typically eat meat at Ethiopian places, but I felt obliged to, both because Chercher's menu is very meat-heavy and I couldn't write a proper review with only veggies. Unfortunately, the Awaze Tibs (special beef tibs in a spicy red paste) were pretty bad. The flavors were promising, but the meat was much too chewy, almost inedible. (I say almost because I did choke some down, but it took effort and concentration). Maybe I got an off batch--I was the last customer of the night--but I'm not sure it's worth another 11 bucks to find out.

In terms of the menu, vegetarians are basically stuck withe the veggie combo. Meat lovers can choose from a variety of kiftos (minced raw beef, marinated in spices and butter) and tibs. I'm not sure if you could convince them to make a veggie combo with only red and yellow lentils, but that might be your best bet.

I should also note that Chercher serves two of Ethiopia's best gifts to the world: coffee and Foul. Foul (or Ful) is Ethiopia's national breakfast, and is made of mashed fava beans, a spice mix with chili powder, and some combination of olive oil, green onions, feta cheese, diced tomato, jalapeno, and hard boiled egg slices. Done well, it's an amazing dish. Sadly, I haven't tried Chercher's version of Foul, but I'll get there one morning soon and update this review. For coffee, Chercher offers the "Harar" variety, which is apparently a Big Deal. Or you could stop in at Azi's, a lovely coffee shop next door owned and operated by a lovely Ethiopian woman named, you guessed it, Azi. You won't find a friendlier host or a more comfortable cafe in all DC.

I wish I had loved Chercher, but they still have some work to do. Go for the red and yellow lentils, or try the Foul and coffee for breakfast and let me know how you like them.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Oct 21, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Where to buy dried chile peppers in dc?

Funny how people here ask for something "in DC" and always get a list of stores in other states. I do get that MD and VA have better options though. It's unfortunate.

If you want to stick to DC, I recently stumbled across a place near the new Union Market - it is a Latin foods store, with tons of peppers, along with super cheap produce. It is at 4th St NE and Morse St. Don't recall the name, but it is in a one block strip of stores on 4th. You can't miss it.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Oct 13, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

New DC Restaurants - the definitive (?) list

Thanks! Drafting Table is on my spreadsheet, but did not get transferred over to my CH post.

Satellite Room I just heard about, and am excited for.

What and where is Sweet Diablo?

Oct 10, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

New DC Restaurants - the definitive (?) list

Forgot them, thanks. Have you been? It is in the former Shwarma King space, right?

Oct 09, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Recommendations of Northern Va wineries for a day visit from DC?

I recently had the same question come up, and wondered if anyone had an updated list of recommended wineries in the Northern VA area (within an hour of DC). Has anything changed? Any new places I should look at, or older favorites that have declined or closed?

Thanks!

Oct 08, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

New DC Restaurants - the definitive (?) list

With a group of fellow food lovers, I've been trying to sample every new restaurant in DC (places opening now or opened in the last few months). It is a daunting task; literally every day, some new project or opening is announced. Although many of these places won't survive, I truly think this is a golden age of dining in DC.

I hope this list will be of use to anyone looking for something new and different. And if you see anything I've missed, want to add some details, or are excited about anything in particular, please jump in!

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

NAME (cuisine
)ADDRESS (neighborhood)
WEB

**Newly Opened**

Cusbah (Indian/Pakistani)
1128 H St. NE (H ST NE)
http://cusbah.com/

Crios ("Modern Mexican")
2120 P St. NW (DuPont)
http://www.criosmodmex.com/

Mayfair & Pine (British)
2218 Wisconsin Ave. NW (Glover Park)
http://mayfairandpine.com/

Del Frisco's Grille (American)
1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (Downtown)
http://delfriscosgrille.com/washingto...

A Bar (Cocktails + upscale small plates and flatbreads)
2500 Pennsylvania Avenue (Foggy Bottom)
http://www.abardc.com/

Pacifico Cantina (Mexican
)518 8th St SE (Capitol Hill)
http://www.pacificodc.com/

Le Grenier (French bistro)
502 H Street, NE (H ST NE)
http://www.legrenierdc.com/

H & Pizza (Pizza)
1118 H St NE (H St NE
)http://andpizza.com

Bandolero (Mexican - new place from Mika Isabella (Graffioto))
3241 M St. NW (G'town)
http://bandolerodc.com/

El Chucho Cocina Superior (Mexican)
3313 11th St NW (Petworth)

Tanad Thai (Thai)
4912 Wisconsin Ave. NW
http://tanadthaicuisine.com/

District Taco (Mexican)
1309 F St NW (Downtown
)
Izakaya Seki (Japanese)
1117 V ST NW (U St.)
http://www.sekidc.com/

Hank's Oyster Bar/Edy Bar (Seafood/Cocktails
)633 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Capitol Hill)
http://www.hanksoysterbar.com/

Slate Wine Bar + Bistro (American)
2404 Wisconsin Ave NW (Glover Park)
http://www.slatewinebar.com/

The Pinch (Sandwiches/burgers/brunch
)3548 14th St NW (Columbia Heights)
http://thepinchdc.com

The Coupe (Diner/small plates/coffee/cocktails - by the Tryst crew)
3415 11th St NW (Petworth)
https://www.facebook.com/thecoupedc

Tacos El Chilango (Tacos
)1119 V St. NW (U Street)
http://www.tacoselchilango.com/

Sakuramen (Ramen)
2441 18th Street Northwest (Adams Morgan
)http://www.sakuramen.net/

Chicken & Rice (Indian takeout/delivery)
813 H St NE (H St NE
)No Website

Maddy's Tap Room ("Texican")
1100 13th St NW (Downtown)
http://maddystaproom.com/menus

Drafting Tabe (Gastropub
)1529 14th St NW (Logan Cirlce)
http://draftingtabledc.com/

****OPENING SOON****

Mystery (no name yet)
On 9th, at M

Farmers Fishers Bakers (American/seafood
)3000 K St NW (G'Town)
http://www.farmersfishersbakers.com/

Cause: The Philanthropub (Bar food?)
1926 9th st nw (U Street)
http://www.causedc.org/

Nooshi Sushi
524 8th Street, SE, 2nd Floor (Capitol Hill
)
Tash (Kebabs?)
524 8th Street, SE, 1st Floor (Capitol Hill)

Ambar (Serbian)
523 8th Street SE (Capitol Hill)

Bernaise (French? - Spike Mendelson's sit down place)
313 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Capitol Hill)

Hikari Sushi & Sake Bar
644 H St. NE (H St. NE)

Po Boy Jim (New Orleans sandwiches)
709 H St NE (H St NE)

Costa Brava (Tapas/lounge)
1837 1st St. NW (Bloomingdale)
http://costabravadc.com/

TableDC (American bistro?
)9th & N NW (Shaw)
http://tabledc.com/

Aroi (Thai/sushi?
)Bloomingdale

The Greenhouse Bistro (Italian Bistro)
2030 M St NW (West End - taking over Hudson space)

Birch & Barley offshoot (No name, Chicken & Donut shop)
South of Dupont Circle, in the old Yola space

Parc Deux (French Bistro)
14th and Q St NW (Logan Circle)

Black Whiskey (Japanese whiskey, "contemporary bar food" - by Kushi owner)
1410 14th St. NW (Logan Circle)

Mandalay (Burmese - offshoot of Silver Spring place)
9th and P NW (Shaw)

Woodward Table (Regional)
1430 H St NW (Downtown)

Daikaya (Noodles and Japanese pub food)
705 6th Street NW (Chinatown)

Range (Meats, coffee bar, wine bar - Brian Voltaggio of Volt)
5335 Wisconsin Avenue (Chevy Chase)

Thaaja Indian Food Bar
1335 2nd Street NE (NoMa)

Oct 08, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Looking for Restaurants

Agree on Masala Art, although it is worth noting that they serve a buffet on weekends (for lunch at least), and the selection is limited. I suspect you can still order off the full menu though. (I really liked the buffet, but it's not everyone's cup of tea.)

I also like Indique up in Cleveland Park

Oct 08, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore

Report - District Taco

shake N baik - good tip on the nachos. That's the sort of thing I would assume was an afterthought on the menu, nice to know it isn't. I'll check it out when I go back for breakfast tacos.

Patrick
www.firstbitedc.com

Oct 08, 2012
firstbitedc in Washington DC & Baltimore