Restaurant Review: Tonic

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tonic is a little gem in the middle of George Washington University in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. I’m sad to only have tried it on my last night in D.C.! I met up with a couple of friends for dinner here at around 8PM on a Friday. It is a bar/restaurant with patio seating, and though it is a really narrow building there are three floors for indoor seating.

First thing – the service throughout the night was great! We were seated in about five minutes at a high table on the first floor next to the bar. Our server was fantastic. She was fast and efficient without rushing us, knowledgeable about the menu, and friendly without being too intrusive. I debated between the house-made veggie burger and the portabello sandwich – felt like going the vegetarian route for once, and she immediately recommended the veggie burger.

I really enjoyed the burger. It is made in-house, and is a great combination of oats, beans, and various vegetables. This is definitely not the type of veggie burger that tries to resemble meat, but I enjoyed the heartiness wholesomeness of the patty. It was really moist, almost to the point of falling apart (utensils were necessary!) and there were chunks of beans and other veggies. Also, it was a really filling size, and it came with a thin layer of guacamole. I wish there had been more guacamole! My friends got the salmon burger and a pineapple pizza, and both options looked really good as well.

With a side salad, the order was $12 – not bad at all for a healthy and filling meal in a laid-back environment, with prompt and friendly service.

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Restaurant Review: Pinkberry

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

There are so many frozen yogurt places nowadays that I think Pinkberry wanted to differentiate itself by offering some new options. They took up a breakfast theme, serving up (non frozen) greek yogurt options and espresso drinks. On Wednesday a friend and I headed to the location in Georgetown to check out a deal I found on Facebook (free espresso drink with any greek yogurt purchase).

The store was pretty empty at 7pm on a Wednesday night. I looked at all the delicious greek yogurt options. They come in snack-size or meal-size, and in sweet or savory varieties. I chose to go to savory route and get the Caprese greek yogurt, which was the plain greek yogurt topped with sweet balsamic, cherry tomatoes, basil, and olive oil. It comes in a convenient little plastic package – good for people on the go, bad for the environment.

One thing – the service was incredibly slow. I don’t know why – we were the only people in the store. First, the girl at the counter was very meticulous with the toppings, placing them one by one in the little greek yogurt container, arranging them into symmetry. This is fine – I understand if you want to make the presentation nice – but in total we probably waited 15-20 minutes between ordering and finally receiving our food and paying. It was a bit ridiculous. I felt like the employees were probably inexperienced with this new product roll-out and did not know which toppings were supposed to go with the order off the top of their heads.

That being said, we did both get free iced lattes, which was a very nice treat. The greek yogurt was pretty pricey though – almost $5 for a tiny little carton. This was my first time trying savory greek yogurt; I usually eat it plain or fruit-flavored. I enjoyed it – the sweet balsamic reduction was great with the creamy yogurt, and the cherry tomatoes were really flavorful. The little drizzle of oil made the healthy yogurt taste very rich and decadent. The fresh basil leaves were a nice touch as well. The portion size is so small though, and the container was very shallow so there was barely any yogurt.

The photo I took is pretty horrendous so please forgive me – I blame the lighting, as well as my dying point-and-shoot. But I think you can get a good idea of how small the portion is by looking at the relatively huge grape tomatoes. And you can see the meticulous arrangement of the four basil leaves in the corners of the container.

This is a great concept and really capitalizes on the greek yogurt craze, though in the end it would be much more cost effective to buy my own greek yogurt (expensive as that is already). I guess that including the latte, the trip was worth it. I haven’t tried their normal frozen yogurt, though one downside is that it is not self-serve like many other chains. I wonder if this launch into the breakfast market will be a good business decision for Pinkberry. We shall see!

Restaurant Review: The Daily Grill

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Daily Grill in Dupont has a very unassuming exterior, but the inside has a classy vibe, with dark wooden walls, cozy booths, stately decor, and a comfortably dim lighting. It definitely has an old-fashioned, professional, “D.C” feel to it.

I ate dinner here with a friend on Monday night at 7PM. The service was really fantastic and fast, and we were almost immediately seated, asked for drink orders, and given a loaf of crusty sourdough bread with butter to munch on.

The classic American menu had all sorts of delicious choices, including seafood, steak, and pasta. I really appreciate that they have plenty of vegetable options and healthy entrees. Though I was really indecisive (Ahi tuna salad? Salmon burger?), at the last moment I decided upon the Moroccan-spiced chicken, which came with grilled vegetables, arugula, and herb brown rice.

The portion sizes were really large and the food was plated nicely on big platters – the chicken kabobs and vegetables freshly off the skewer. The vegetables consisted of large chunks of zucchini, mushroom, onions, and cherry tomatoes. I think they would have been more flavorful had the pieces been a bit smaller.

The chicken was great and well-seasoned- it was had a little bit of kick to it from the spices, and was tender, and not overcooked and charred black like it is at some places. The arugula came with a light dressing of balsamic vinegar – it was fresh but I’m not really a big fan of the sharp taste of arugula. The herb brown rice had a slightly nutty taste and texture but otherwise pretty non descriptive, besides the fact that it came in a huge mound.

I really enjoyed my dinner here and the overall experience was pleasant – I would definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for a nice dinner in the Dupont area.

Restaurant Review: Das Ethiopian

August 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve never had Ethiopian food before, so I was really excited for our dinner last night in Georgetown at a place called Das Ethiopian.

The restaurant has a very classy feel, with white linen tablecloth and a bottle of sparkling water on every table. It was pretty quiet for 7PM on a Saturday, though when we walked by later that night around 9PM it seemed very crowded.

I think the servers are used to people who are not familiar with Ethiopian cuisine so they were very helpful with explaining the dishes and accommodating our needs. All of the dishes were served on large pieces of spongy flat bread called injera. You are supposed to pick up your food with the bread, hence the lack of silverware. We also received a side of rolled up pieces of injera.

The server told us that normally people order a few dishes and it all comes to the table on a large platter for sharing, family style, though we decided to separate our orders since we wanted different things. I ordered the harvest vegetable stew, which consisted of cauliflower, string beans, and carrots with tomatoes. My platter also included some cabbage, a little pile of lentils, and some more bread with a vinegary dressing. The stew was my favorite – it was hearty and well-cooked, and the tomato-based sauce was great with the various vegetables. It was a bit hard to pick up large pieces of string bean with the bread, so after about five minutes I did ask for a fork.

The injera was interesting. It had a sourdough-like taste and a spongy texture, good for soaking up the sauces. By itself I wouldn’t consider it tasty (especially since I am not a big fan of the sour taste), but it was a nice accompaniment to the other dishes.

This entree was about $14. The food itself was not worth the price, though the upscale environment made the experience worth the cost.

Restaurant Review: Ben’s Chili Bowl

July 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C. icon. It’s a greasy, no-frills diner that specializes in hot dogs and chili, but some of its most famous patrons include Bill Cosby and Barack Obama. Indeed, these two distinguished figures are the only guests allowed to eat for free, proclaims a sign next to the menu board.

My friend and I ventured up to U Street on a muggy summer evening to experience the legendary food in its original location. When we arrived at around 7PM, there was a long line at the counter. We studied our menu options and observed the sizzling hot dogs as we waited for our turn to order. Most reviews say that you have to try the original chili half-smoke, which is a half-beef and half-pork sausage on a hotdog bun, topped with mustard, onions, and the famous chili. They also serve burgers, fries, and some vegetarian options as well.

I decided to go for the half-smoke. We got our food at the counter and went into the back seating area to eat. The establishment is a bit crowdy and messy, but then again we didn’t come here for the fine dining experience. The food was deliciously messy and greasy. The sausage had a great bite to it. It was meaty and I could only detect a little bit of spice. The chili was a bit spicy and had a runny consistency. The chili used to top the dogs doesn’t contain beans as does the chili you get when you order a bowl.

The half-smoke cost $5.70, a bit pricey for a small hot dog, but I guess it’s worth it for the experience. Plus they give you a side of ruffled chips! The service was terrific, unexpected for a place with only counter service. The employees are very helpful and one asked me if I would like a refill of my soda as I was walking out the door.

Ben’s Chili Bowl is such a local legend that one simply has to visit in order to have a complete culinary tour of D.C. There is a lot of history behind the place and its role during the Civil Rights movement. I don’t think I’ll come back again, just because it’s a little out of the way from Foggy Bottom, but I’m definitely glad to have checked an item off my bucket list! And I can’t deny that sometimes a hearty, greasy, fulfilling meal is just what is needed.

Restaurant Review: Founding Farmers

July 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Founding Farmers, offering farm-to-table American food, is the trendy spot to be right now. This restaurant in Foggy Bottom, right in the IMF building, is packed all night, every night, with a large crowd waiting for a table. It’s essential to get a reservation – last week a friend and I tried to get in for dinner on a Saturday and were told that it would be a 1.5 hour wait. We decided to make a reservation for this week, Saturday at 7, which was a great decision. We were seated after about 5 minutes at a nice table upstairs.

The menu has a little bit of everything – burgers, sandwiches, pasta, flatbread, seafood, steak. I heard that they are famous for their chicken and waffles. I decided to go with an entree under the vegetarian category, the rolled egg white omelet with sides of succotash, Farmer’s Salad, and mashed potatoes.

The omelet was a generous size, and it was stuffed with the vegetable succotash (a combination of zucchini, carrots, peas, green beans, and cauliflower sautéed with butter). I really enjoyed the vegetables, though I thought the omelette itself was a bit greasy and lacking flavor.

The Farmer’s Salad was terrific – I should have gotten an entree portion of it! It included chunks of avocado, large slivers of parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and almonds, dressed in a champagne vinaigrette. All the ingredients were very fresh and crisp, and even in the small portion I received I could tell the combination of flavors was spot-on.

The service was very prompt – I had my water filled at least five times, from a glass jar placed on our table, and the waiter literally had our credit cards back to us in about thirty seconds after picking up the bill. The place is a bit pricey but it really depends on what you order – my omelet was $12 for a large plate of food, and my friend ordered a cheeseburger for $10. Obviously, the seafood and meat-based entrees cost more, but eating here does not have to break the bank.

I would love to come back and try some more dishes – maybe I should make another reservation!

Restaurant Review: Cafe Citron

July 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve had Mexican food. On Friday, a few friends and I checked out a bar/restaurant in Dupont called Cafe Citron for their happy hour specials. First we ordered a platter of empanadas to share. They had a savory cornmeal coating over a filling of either cheese, beef, or pork. I tried the cheese one, which was quite delicious in a way that only fried stuff and gooey cheese can be.

A friend and I decided to split the chicken burritos entree since it came with two burritos, which cost around $10 during happy hour. It arrived about twenty minutes later on a large platter with rice, beans, salsa, and guacamole.

I would classify these more as chicken soft tacos than burritos, personally, but that might just be due to my limited knowledge of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. Each burrito was wrapped in a small flour tortilla and filled with strips of chicken, peppers, onions, and a bit of melted cheese. It was tasty but the texture of the tortillas quickly became soggy, while the edges remained crispy. That was a little disappointing! There also was not as much filling as I imagined a burrito should have, but then again, I may just be biased due to what I’ve seen at Chipotle – now those burritos are massive.

The atmosphere of the establishment was fun – the lighting was dim but the inside was colorful with decorations, and the place quickly became crowded once the after-work crowd moved in. It was a fun little place to hit up in Dupont.

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