Restaurant Review: Froggy Bottom Pub

June 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Froggy Bottom Pub, located on the George Washington University campus, is probably the last place I would expect to find pho, but this traditional Vietnamese noodle soup is one of their specialties! It has its own insert in the menu, between the requisite line-up of burgers and pizzas.

I ordered the beef pho (with rare flank steak) and extra mixed vegetables on top. The service was really friendly and fast. We got our water almost immediately and the huge steaming bowls of pho arrived 5-10 minutes after our order. I’ve never seen pho with these types of vegetables (broccoli and carrots), but as you probably know by now I love all types of greens and they didn’t take anything away from the dish.

The flank steak was hidden underneath the pile of vegetables. There were large, thin slices of the steak. I waited a bit too long to eat the meat so it was well-done instead of rare by the time I got to it, but it was still very tender.

The broth was tasty but nothing to call home about, so to speak. It had a good savory flavor but lacked the richness and depth of the kind of broth you know has been stewing for hours and hours. The noodles were almost an after thought – a bit overcooked for my preferences. The portions were generous though, and I barely could make a dent in the noodles after all the delicious toppings.

D.C. is rather lacking in good pho places, and I think Froggy Bottom Pub is one of the only establishments that serves pho in the Foggy Bottom area, so it probably is popular among the area’s college students. The price was reasonable – my bowl with the additional vegetables was $8.50. The atmosphere of the place was really nice and relaxed, and the service was really friendly. I may go back to try some of their other dishes.

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Eggplant and Mushroom Pasta with Chicken

June 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Wow, I actually cooked something for once! Well, I guess half-cooked would be a better term, seeing as it was a very simple recipe (basically throwing things together). My friend and I decided to cook dinner together in her kitchen instead of eating out, and pasta seemed like an easy and delicious choice – a few steps above microwaved ramen in the college cooking context.

First we chopped up about half a container of mushrooms and half of a large eggplant. We threw the eggplant pieces into the pan first with some oil, and let that cook down for about five minutes before tossing in the chopped mushrooms. For fresh vegetables, sometimes all you need is a little salt and oil for the best flavor. After another five or so minutes, we poured in half a jar of jarred marinara sauce, and stirred everything together.

Meanwhile, the bow tie pasta was boiling in another pot. When that was ready, we drained the pasta in a colander. We took a shortcut on the grilled chicken and bought some pre-grilled refrigerated chicken strips from Whole Foods – classy, I know. It was really convenient though. Then we just served ourselves some pasta topped with the vegetable sauce, with chicken on the side.

Definitely nothing stunning (or even that blogworthy), but it covered all the nutritional bases (with an ample amount of vegetables!), was filling, simple and fast. The perfect type of meal for the standard busy intern or college student.

Restaurant Review: Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot

June 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

My parents visited me this past weekend and we decided to venture into the suburbs of Northern Virginia for a trip to Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot, a Chinese restaurant located on a shopping strip in Falls Church. On the outside the place looks like a hole-in-the-wall but it is surprisingly large once you enter. Though the restaurant has a lunch buffet as well as a ordering menu, we obviously had to try out the hot pot. We were seated at a large round table with a heating element in the middle for the pot. There are several options for your choice of broth. We chose to order half clear broth and half spicy broth, and these came together in a large pot divided down the middle. The mild broth contained green onion stalks, tomatoes, and goji berries, while the spicy broth had chili oil and dried peppers.

The menu offers an assortment of ingredients to cook in the hotpot, most about $5 for one portion. We ordered some meats (sliced beef, fish balls), vegetables (mushrooms, greens, lotus root), glass noodles, tofu, and fish.

The slices of beef were fatty and chewy, yet tender – the most delicious, especially cooked in the spicy broth. I also enjoyed the fish, which was sliced up and marinated in some sort of cornstarch mixture. The fish balls were standard. The clear broth at first was rather bland, but over the hour it slowly absorbed the flavors of all the ingredients and gained more depth and a more savory taste. The spicy broth was pretty hot, even for Chinese standards, so beware! Overall the ingredients were fresh though the portions were pretty measly, especially for the leafy greens. Those cook down so quickly so even a large bunch of raw leaves turn into a small pile of cooked vegetables.

Our meal came out to about $80, including a big communal bowl of white rice. I would expect a greater quantity of food for this price, though in the end we just about finished everything. The service was very fast, and the restaurant was actually pretty empty for lunch on a Sunday – though admittedly we did have a rather late lunch, around 1:30.

They say you find the best ethnic foods not in the city but in the suburbs, since that is where all the immigrant families settle down, and because the rent is much lower out here. It’s true that this place would probably be better and cheaper than anything I would find in D.C. So if you are passing through the area, this is not a bad place to check out. My family also enjoys the dishes on their normal menu, which I have not tried yet.

Restaurant Review: Il Canale

June 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Georgetown area has more than just cupcake shops, which you might have thought had you just been reading my previous posts. There are really nice restaurants lining the blocks and around every corner. Most of the places are fairly pricey so last night when we ventured into the neighborhood we tried to chose one that would satisfy all our palates without breaking the bank.

On 31st Street, off of the quaint canal that runs through the area, we found a cluster of Italian restaurants. We chose Il Canale, the one with the smart business practice of offering free samples of their thin crust pizza to passerbys on the street. The large brick oven and kitchen are located front and center to the restaurant, and there are seating areas on the first floor, second floor, and a balcony area.

The menu is very traditional. There were several pizza options, antipasto, salads, and entrees in the $15-30 range. Two people in our group ordered pizzas and they were quite large for personal sized pizzas (around 10 to 12 inches across). I tried a slice of my friend’s parmagiano pizza, and it was terrific. The crust was very thin but chewy, so much so that it was difficult to cut with a knife, and the fresh cheese was plentiful. My friends both raved about their pizzas.

I ordered the Meditarranea salad, which was arugula with imported bufala mozzarella, grape tomatoes, carrots, olives, grilled zucchini, and smoked mozzarella. I added grilled chicken on top. The salad arrived plated beautifully. There was a large amount of chicken breast which was carved into strips. It was decent, though cooked a bit too long so that it was blackened in some pieces. I was a bit disappointed in the amount of some of the other toppings. There was a total of two olives, a few tomatoes, and one piece of grilled zucchini, on top of a mound of arugula leaves. To be fair, the server did say that this was an appetizer sized portion (I ordered the small salad at $9 + $6 for the chicken).

The cheeses were great – there was one ball of the bufala mozzarella and a thick slice of the smoked mozzarella. They both were fairly mild in taste but very fresh.

The service was efficient and polite. The restaurant seems to have a fast turnover and we were asked for our orders about five minutes after being seated, and got our dishes within ten to fifteen minutes of ordering. We had a great view of the canal from our window-side table on the second floor. I would recommend this place for anyone looking for mid-price great pizza or a nice Italian restaurant in the Georgetown area.

Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Paradiso

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last night we went to Pizzeria Paradiso to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It is located on P Street near Dupont Circle and is a fine restaurant for a breezy summer night, as part of the building can be opened to the outdoors. It is a very popular, bustling place, and when our group of 7 arrived at around 8 on a Sunday night we sat at the bar for about half an hour before getting a table.

The menu offers an assortment of specialty pizzas with the option of adding on more toppings for an extra cost. All of the choices sounded delicious and I ended up splitting a small “Siciliana” with a friend. This is a tomato-based pizza topped with zuchinni, onions, sweet peppers, mozzerella, pecorino, and supposedly eggplant (though I don’t think the pizza we got had eggplant! I was sad). A small 8-inch was $14.

The pizza actually was much larger than I imagined. It was cut into four generous slices and my friend and I split it half and half – the perfect amount for a filling dinner. The pizza had a thin, light and chewy crust, large pieces of stringy and melted cheese, and an abundance of vegetables. I usually prefer a thicker crust, but the ratio of crust to toppings was great, and the crust wasn’t cracker-like or fragile as some are.

There is a great selection of additional toppings that are $1.50-2.50 each, including mushrooms, eggplant, lamb sausage, mussels and various other gourmet meats and cheeses. They definitely do not skimp on the amount of topping either! For what you get, the price is worth it. The plain tomato and mozzerella pie starts at $11, though if you want a lot of extra toppings it may be a better idea to chose one of the specialty pizzas. The 8-inch pies range from $11 to $14, and the 12-inch from $16-19.

It was an especially nice occasion because they brought out a little tiramisu lit with a candle for my friend’s birthday. The waitstaff were pretty efficient and friendly – I noticed one of them grinning as we all gushed about how delicious the pizza was. I would recommend this place to anyone – in my opinion it tops the famous Pepe’s in New Haven!

Restaurant Review: Baked and Wired

June 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

It was only a matter of time before I returned to Georgetown for a second shot at cupcakes. This afternoon we visited a much-raved about establishment called Baked and Wired. Several individuals had informed me that the goods at Baked and Wired far exceeds the more well-known Georgetown Cupcakes. It was crowded on a Saturday afternoon, though lacking the huge lines of Georgetown Cupcakes. We only waited for about five minutes while pondering the extensive menu of flavors.

My friend and I decided to split the “flapjack,” a maple brown butter cupcake with caramel buttercream and candied bacon sprinkled on top. Basically a decadent breakfast wrapped up in cute form. The cupcake was pretty sizable – an easily shareable portion.

The cake portion was crumbly and lightly sweet, with a hint of cinnamon. There was a thick layer of sugary sweet frosting spread on top. The candied bacon was the best part! The little bits were smoky, savory, crunchy and caramelized, and I found myself going back and eating all the crumbs of bacon that had fallen off the cupcake into the surrounding wrapper. Each cupcake was $3.50, a reasonable price for such a large and decadent dessert.

Baked and Wired also serves other treats such as cookies, cakes, and various types of refreshments. It lacks the immense lines of Georgetown Cupcakes (though this might soon change, seeing how everyone is starting to rave about the place). So my advice is to beat the bandwagon and get there quickly!

 

Restaurant Review: Mai Thai

June 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tonight I went with a friend to a Thai restaurant on M Street in the Dupont area called Mai Thai. I haven’t seen too many Thai restaurants in the D.C. area and this one received pretty reasonable reviews on Yelp. We arrived at a little before 7 on a Friday night and were seated immediately outside in the patio area.

The menu is very extensive – there is the requisite pad thai, drunken noodle, and curries, but there is also roasted duck, various seafood dishes, and tofu of all varieties. After a lot of thought and a little help from the waiter, I decided upon the ginger tofu, which was fried tofu sautéed with bokchoy, shiitake mushroom, ginger, and onions in a light bean sauce.

The presentation was very pleasing! I enjoyed the fresh baby bokchoy hearts (the best part), which were cooked just to the right point of firmness. The tofu soaked up the sauce and was a little spongy but I didn’t mind the texture. The sauce was a bit too sweet for me, but it wasn’t as heavy and greasy as I had feared. I’m not sure why it’s called a “bean” sauce though. The garnish of spiraled carrots and radish added a pleasing burst of color. I only wish there were more pieces of shiitake mushroom, but overall the dish was great and the portion size was generous.

Next time I would add a bit of heat to the dish. My friend ordered a similar tofu dish that was labeled with three chilies (the highest level of spice) and he said it was not too bad. This came out to be $13 including a little dish of white rice and was quite filling. I think this price is reasonable for dinner, especially in that neighborhood, which tends to have a lot of the pricer restaurants. I was debating between this dish, the flamed watercress, and the roasted duck salad, so I just might have to return one night to try those out.

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