Archive for October 13, 2011

Fun and informative, tequila tasting at El Centro may become a regular event!

Stay thirsty, my friends.  Ok, I’m not the Dos Equis guy (love him!) and I’m not writing about beer.  This post is about tequila – the sippin’ kind.  When my friend suggested going to a (free!) tequila tasting at El Centro tonight, I jumped at the opportunity.  Naturally.  The scoop is that El Centro is going to make Monday night tequila tastings a regular occurrence, except that they’ll be charging for it in the future.

As they say, the first taste is free . . . At least that’s what I hear.

Tonight’s selections came from Oro Azul (Spanish translation: blue gold).  The flight of three (100% blue agave) tequilas was served with chips, salsa, and kick-ass guacamole.  I’m not a tequila connoisseur.  In fact, I find good tequila intimidating and I associate bad tequila with shots, stories that I do not care to share at this point in our (blogger-reader) relationship, and horribly painful hangovers.  So, I found this tasting informative and definitely something I’d do again if the price were right.  Maybe $10.  I’d pay more only if the tequilas were paired with food other than just chips, salsa, and guacamole.

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Review: ShopHouse, guilt-free and tasty fast food


To say that Chipotle changed the concept of fast food and how most people view Mexican food is no understatement.  Now, the founders of Chipotle are trying to do to Asian fare what they did with Mexican fare eighteen years ago. (I still can’t believe Chipotle has been around that long!)  The result is Shop House Southeast Asian Market, which I think will have no problem being just as successful as its sister restaurant.  I found the food tasty (although it could have used more salt), filling, affordable (under $7 for a bowl!), and I didn’t have any post-fast food guilt. Win-win-win.

Diners can choose from a bowl or a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich).  For the bowl, diners choose noodles or rice (brown or white), one of four veggies, a protein (pork and chicken meatballs, chicken, steak, or tofu), one of three sauces (mild or spicy curry or a tamarind vinaigrette), a garnish (pickled veggies, cooling papaya slaw, or herb salad) and finally some crunch (fried garlic, crushed peanuts, or toasted rice).  The banh mi comes with a protein, papaya slaw, herb salad and peanuts.

On my first and only trip thus far, I tried a brown rice bowl with pork and chicken meatballs, roasted eggplant, papaya slaw, spicy curry sauce and fried garlic.  (Thank goodness I wasn’t kissing anyone anytime soon).  Everything tasted fresh (and apparently the meat used contains no hormones or antibiotics).

The meatballs were probably my favorite part because they contained one of my favorite meats (pork), were perfectly seasoned, had a crunchy exterior, and a flavorful, juicy interior.  I loved that I could select brown rice.  I liked the simplicity of the menu and how each component was chosen with purpose — protein, carb, veggie, some heat, cool garnish, and finally some crunch.  The spicy curry sauce really packs a punch.  So much so that I didn’t even think of reaching for the bottle of Sriracha that decorates each table.  (And I do love my Sriracha!).  The simplicity of the menu is played out in the decor which is minimalist but inviting.

My one complaint is that everything (save for the meatballs) could have used a smidge more salt.  For those that have been reading my reviews, you might have noticed that I’ve complained about under-seasoned food . . . a lot.  For the record, I’m not someone who has a high tolerance for salt.  I like to think my palate is pretty well-balanced.  Of course, feel free to take my advice about seasoning with or without a grain of salt (ha!).  What I mean is that, for those that like little to no salt in their food, you may find the level of salt in the rice bowl ideal.  You get what I’m trying to say, right?

Next time I think I’ll fork the banh mi with those awesome meatballs….

ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Review: Smoked Meats & The Bacon Dream Cream at Smoke & Barrel


What do smoked meats and bacon creme brulee have in common? Me! I ate both the other day at Smoke & Barrel (“S&B”), the newest venture from the folks that have brought us Asylum and Meridian Pint.  I’m always happy to see another BBQ joint open in DC and, even happier, when it opens in Adams Morgan where often times I feel that quantity reigns over quality.  S&B’s BBQ, beer, and bourbon selection impressed me.  It also doesn’t hurt that this place is minutes away from my home.

Tender, tasty, and flavorful describe the (pork) ribs, pulled pork, and chicken slathered with BBQ sauce.  Ribs are served wet (all sauce), dry (all rub), or muddy (sauced up, then tossed in dry rub or S&B’s own spicy chipotle honey butter).

The twice baked sweet potatoes came drizzled with the aforementioned chipotle honey butter and topped with pecans.  They were good, but could have used more seasoning.  The fried okra was also good; however, it too could have used a little more salt.

For vegans or vegetarians, S&B offers tofu options that can be paired with vegan/vegetarian (“V/V”) sides.  I’m curious to know what V/Vs think of these options in terms of flavor.  I want to hear from you!

If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself what you will use to wash down all this good food with?  Beer and bourbon, of course.  S&B has a solid selection of each and also offers boilermakers (a shot of bourbon dunked in a pint of beer). Nice touch.

And now, drumroll please . . .DESSERT.  The bacon creme brulee (a/k/a “my bacon dream cream”) was pretty damn good.  Be prepared for bits of bacon in your custard that give it significant texture.  If you can get over this, you’ll be just fine.

My friend got the roasted banana pudding.  I thought it was okay, but my friend really liked it.  The third option was the chocolate bread pudding, but we couldn’t handle any more food at that point.  I’ll try it next time.  Rest assured, there will be a next time(s).

Smoke and Barrel on Urbanspoon

Review: Oh Fish! was Oh My!


Usually the words “fast food sushi” evoke feelings of fear and my bowels cringe a little.  I’ve always steered clear of food court sushi or similar establishments because I’m an elitist and very picky about my sushi.  Yet, when Chef Kaz Okochi’s name is attached, I have no qualms about checking it out.  As some of you may know, I first wrote about Chef Kaz’s newest venture, Oh Fish! (19th between L and M Sts. NW) in August.  I didn’t get a chance to try it out until today.   I passed this place TWICE before I noticed the unassuming store front.  After I worked up an appetite wandering around like a fool, I walked in to what is now my favorite “fast food” sushi place in DC.  I suggest you check this place out as often as you can!  It’s a bowl-cringe-free zone.

(Check out my prior review for details about the menu and set-up.)

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