Archive for March 7, 2012

“Plates” Lunch at Capital Grille

top-logo

I was invited to check out Chevy Chase Capital Grille’s special “Plates” lunch, also available at the Tyson’s Corner location. For $18, diners choose one plate from each of three categories. My friend and I chose the asparagus soup and mixed greens salad from the first category. (The third option in this category was clam chowder.) From the second category, we skipped the lobster roll and opted for the mini sirloin sandwiches and the shrimp and piquillo peppers. In the third category, we went for truffle fries (of course!) and roasted root vegetables.  All in all, I think it’s a good deal, good food, and the service at Capital Grille was impeccable, as usual. If you’re in a hurry, I’m told that the staff can get you out in 45 minutes. Win win, right?

While all the dishes we tried were solid, the shrimp and piquillo peppers dish was the clear standout. It came in a small cast iron skillet with a generous portion of perfectly-cooked shrimp. The shrimp and delicate strands of piquillo peppers sat on top of crispy, cheesy, and scrumptious rice. The dish was sinfully delectable. I could have eaten a second skillet of it. Easy. A close second were the mini sirloin sandwiches (two per serving). The sirloin was tender, the buns were buttery, toasted, and came with what appeared to be a herbed aioli. The components worked really well together.

And, if you (slackers) still haven’t made plans for Easter brunch, the Chevy Chase and Tyson’s Corner locations are offering a brunch buffet for only $48 ($18 for children).  The menu looks great and last I checked they still had availability.  The buffet includes a raw bar with shrimp cocktail, fresh oysters, and Jonah crab claws; salads and soups; a breakfast station with the usual suspects (eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast, etc.); beef tenderloin with the Grille’s special Kona rub; lamb loin; and finally a desert table with all sorts of tasty treats.  Oh, did I mention that you can also order made-to-order lobster benedict?  The children’s menu includes mac and cheese, chicken fingers, mini burgers, and fruit.

Capital Grille, Chevy Chase
  5310 Western Ave.
  (Steps from Friendship Heights metro)
  Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Tel: (301) 718-7812
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am - 3pm
          Sat noon-4pm
Easter Brunch:  11am-3pm

 

Capital Grille, Tyson's Corner
  1861 International Drive
  (corner of International & Route 7)
McLean, VA 22102
Tel: (703) 448-3900
Lunch: Mon- Fri 11:30am-3pm
Easter Brunch: 11am-3pm

Boundary Road: Cocktails & Appetizers

IMG_0254

Friends and I convened at Boundary Road last weekend for some drinks and appetizers.  My initial reaction: the drinks and few plates we sampled were fine, but what I liked best about the restaurant was its casual vibe.  Specifically, I appreciated the exposed brick, long wooden tables, open kitchen, and the extremely friendly and polite staff.  But don’t try asking the staff what the Obamas dined on during their visit to Boundary Road.  The staff’s lips are sealed.  I don’t really see the point, but that’s not the restaurant’s rule. The order came directly from the White House aides who organized the dinner at one of the newest places to join the ever-increasing ranks of Atlas District eateries. Come on, White House: foodies want to know!

I have to start my review with the much-discussed Foie Gras Torchon PBJ. Grilled country bread is topped with homemade peanut butter, peach vanilla jelly, and finished with a torchon of foie gras. Mixed greens accompany the dish. The flavor combination definitely works. The richness of the peanut butter pairs well with the rich, fatty foie gras.  However, I didn’t really taste the peach vanilla jelly and I’m not sure mixed greens is the best pairing for something that’s clearly meant to be a decadent, comfort food.  It’s also a rather small portion, which explains why it appears on the menu as an appetizer, but it doesn’t explain the steep price ($16).  All in all, I’m glad I tried it, but I’m not sure I’d order it for myself.  I think the best use for this dish is as a shared item. It’s so rich that I was fine with one or two bites.

Foie Gras Torchon PBJ

The pierogi were good, despite the fact that they were less pierogi and more ravioli.  For example, I recently tried Bistro Bohem’s pierogi (read review here), which were more in line with traditional pierogi — hearty, heavy, but also tender, and topped with grilled onions and a creamy sauce.  Boundary Road’s pierogi were very delicate, soft, and pillowy.  Both versions are good in their own ways, although one of my dining companions didn’t much care for Boundary Road’s version.  While I didn’t sample the razor clams rockefeller, two of my dining companions enjoyed theirs.

Razor clams rockefeller

I tried two of the cocktails – the Praha City and the Seelbach. Praha City was described to me as Boundary Road’s version of the Moscow Mule. It’s made with Becherovka (Czech herbal bitters), vodka, muddled rosemary, lime, and ginger beer. It was good, but too herbal for me. I liked the Seelbach less.  Made with bourbon, two types of bitters, Cointreau, and sparkling wine, the Seelbach is overwhelmed by the bitters. To try to solve for this problem, one of my dining companions (known to many as Triple X) ordered his without bitters.  It didn’t help. My other dining companion liked her drink – the obviously Italian-inspired “I’m Thinking About Getting A Vespa.” It’s made with Aperol, sparking wine, blood orange, and Cocchi Americano (an Italian aperitif). It sounds like something I’ll really enjoy during the summer.

I think I will return to sample a few more dishes and conduct a more thorough review.  Boundary Road’s proximity to my day job may “force” me to become a regular. Who knows. Maybe I can work with the bartenders to create a bourbon-based cocktail I will actually like.

Boundary Road
  414 H St. NE
  Washington, DC 20002
Tel: (202) 450-3265
Hours: Open daily  5pm - 2am
       Tues-Fri:   11am-3pm (lunch)
       Sun-Thurs:  5:30-10:30pm (dinner)
       Fri-Sat:    5:30-11pm (dinner)

Boundary Road Restaurant on Urbanspoon

First Look at Bistro Bohem

bistro-bohem-logo

Bistro Bohem is a promising new addition to the Shaw area. The servers are friendly and upbeat and the vibe on a Saturday night was simultaneously energetic and low-key/casual. The restaurant makes the most of its tiny space by doing away with seating at the island/bar that sits in the middle of the restaurant. Similarly, some space at the main bar is standing only.

Bistro Bohem specializes in Czech cuisine. (The menu can be found here.) My friend and I selected a few of the more traditional Czech dishes for our first visit. We sampled the house-made pâté, potato pancakes, pierogi, and beef goulash. The pierogi and potato pancakes were fantastic. The potato-filled pierogi, topped with sautéed onions and a light cream sauce, were well-seasoned and hearty. The potato pancakes were served over field greens and topped with chunks of chicken breast mixed with a garlic aioli sauce. They were devilishly delicious. In comparison, the house-made pâté and goulash were quite flat. They were both in desperate need of seasoning. The one intriguing component of the goulash were the bread dumplings. They resembled something between bread and potato with a chewy consistency.  To my surprise, I liked them. They would have been the perfect foil to the goulash, had the goulash been seasoned properly. Maybe the inconsistency in flavor and seasoning are the result of new kitchen woes. The restaurant has only been fully operational for about a week.  I guess only time will tell.

Beef goulash

We also sampled one of the speciality cocktails — the Fernet martini. It’s made with ginger-infused vodka, Fernet Branca, and lime juice. I’d never had or heard of Fernet Branca before, but I liked the other ingredients and thought I’d give it a shot. For those that have never had it, Fernet Branca is an Italian liqueur/bitter. Its taste is sharp, bitter, and somewhat earthy. Some say it aids in digestion.  All I know for sure is that it is not for me. The overwhelming flavor of the Fernet and the ginger made it hard to drink the martini. Of course, I drank the whole thing. I am a big proponent of “the no drink left behind” way of life.  Next time, beer may be the better route.  The menu had an interesting selection of beers — many of which I don’t often see at other local bars.

As I said, Bistro Bohem shows promise. Their patio area will soon be open and I’d like to go back during the summer and after the restaurant has had a few months to settle in.  It would also be nice if they add some lighter fare for those sweltering DC summer days. Just the idea of eating pierogi and potato pancakes in 90-degree weather makes me sweat.

Bistro Bohem
   600 Florida Ave NW
   Washington, DC 20001
Tel: (202) 735-5895
Hours: Tue-Sun 5pm-12am
Closest metro: Shaw/Howard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elisir’s Tasting Menu

Roasted lamb

Three hours and seven courses later, I can only say that Elisir’s seven course tasting menu ($75) was average when compared to other tasting menus I’ve experienced.  In my book, it’s a bad sign when I’ve finished an extravagant meal and long for a nice, juicy burger to quell the lingering hunger.  My dining companions and I all felt the same way as we tried to make each course last longer by eating it in four bites instead of what could easily be done in one or two. While Chef Enzo Fargione and his team produce well-executed, balanced, and flavorful dishes that are also interesting to look at, I found that no one dish was memorable.

Ironically, the whimsical and colorful nature of Fargione’s dishes was in sharp contrast to the army of well-trained, suited and serious staff that catered to our every need — so much so that they ended up hovering over us.  It was a little disconcerting and contributed to the overly stuffy ambience.  This was no less evident when our service captain needed to correct the positioning of plates that had been set down incorrectly throughout our meal.  I applaud him for his conscientiousness, but my friends and I couldn’t help but be amused by the whole process.  At one point, we just broke down and tried to engage our service captain in some well-intentioned teasing.  His stoney demeanor quickly softened and he turned out to be quite pleasant.  That change quickly transformed the entire tone of the meal into something more enjoyable.

Halibut

I have to take a brief moment here to vent.  I’ve been disappointed with the continued popularity of foam and “dirt” (i.e. food made to look like dirt) on fine dining menus.  At best, these items add marginal value to dishes.  Why would I or anyone else want to eat anything that resembles dirt? Is it just me? Does anyone else feel the same way? Chef Fargione used these items more than once during our seven courses.  One type of “dirt” appeared in the deconstructed beet salad.  It was a mixture of dried mushrooms, coffee, and almonds.  I understand the need to provide different textures, but I would have preferred a different approach.   Next, the halibut came with a sauce made with oil mixed with the burnt parts of roasted vegetables.  I applaud Fargione for creativity, but I didn’t particularly like the taste of it. I was barely able to tolerate the foam in the tuna tartar.

Deconstructed beet salad

There were several relative high notes to the meal, however.  I really liked the olive oil/chocolate popsicle.  It was an unexpected flavor combination that worked quite well.  The goat cheese gelato in the beet salad was a nice, creative twist. It tasted great on its own as well as when paired with fresh beets.  The ravioli were delicate and pillow-like.

Olive oil and chocolate popsicle

Ravioli

I found the televisions in the front dining room, broadcasting images from the kitchen’s plating station to be a little odd. However, I was thankful for them when my friends and I waited patiently and hungrily for our next course to be served.

All in all, I doubt I will find myself going back to Elisir.  It was an average experience and not really worth the price in terms of food or ambience.

Elisir 
  427 11th St. NW
  Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202) 546-0088
Hours:
Bistro Lunch       Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner             Mon-Thurs: 5:30-10pm
                   Fri-Sat: 5:30-11pm
Bar Happy Hour     Mon-Fri: 4:30-6:30pm

Elisir on Urbanspoon

Fujimar or Lima redux?

fujilogo

My good friend and I tried out the newly opened Fujimar.  It used to be Lima, but Lima still exists.  Let me try it this way: Fujimar occupies the second floor of Lima, but the ground floor and underground level are still the old Lima.  Are you with me? To make matters more confusing, there’s no sign to alert visitors that there is in fact a restaurant within Lima or where that restaurant may be.

Fujimar looks different from the old (second-floor) Lima. It reminds me of South Beach.  The first section, decorated in black and deep red, contains a small bar and lounge-type table seating.  As you move towards the back, the color scheme changes into an icy blue-white.  The LCD screens lining the walls display a computer-generated fire.  Then, you’ll pass a few cocoon-like chairs that line the small hallway leading to the far end of the restaurant.  Apparently, these chairs have dual functions: aesthetics and sound insulation.  The latter will probably prove quite useful during more lively times of the week when you need a little peace and quiet to make a phone call . . . or just hide.  The far end of the restaurant contains a sushi bar and a separate regular bar as well as several tables.

As you may have surmised, the place is visually stimulating, but what about the food you ask? Fujimar offers Japanese-Latin inspired cuisine including sushi and ceviche. Hawaiian fish dominates the menu. Our waiter explained that the fish is flown in from Hawaii several times a week.  I have to say I find that a little hard to believe.  Isn’t it cost-prohibitive? How long can a restaurant really afford to do that?

My friend and I ordered a few snacks: Red Pepper Barramundi ceviche, Hapu’upu’u nigiri, the Ebi sushi roll, and platanitos. The ceviche was nice, but overdressed with a rather thick red pepper puree.  If you don’t like the taste of raw fish, then it’s perfect.  I personally prefer a lighter dressing on ceviche. The Hapu’upu’u was light and fresh. The Ebi roll and platanitos were the best of the items we tried.

Overall, I didn’t see anything that made me eager to come back.  I think Fujimar will be of limited use to most patrons.  For example, for those that are still participating in events known as “big nights out,” then Fujimar might be a nice place to pre-game — that is, grab a few drinks and a snack while looking fabulous.  And, hey, nothing beats the short commute to the dance club two floors below.  I’m not sure how much fun Fujimar will be during the week. My friend and I pretty much had the place to ourselves on a Thursday night.  Maybe that’s because people couldn’t find it.

Fujimar 
(a/k/a Lima's second floor)
1401 K Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20005
PH: 202.789.2800
EMAIL: info@FujiMarRestaurant.com
DINNER:
Mon-Thurs: 6-11pm
Fri-Sat: 6pm – midnight
Sun: Closed
SUSHI BAR:
Mon-Thurs: 6pm–1am
Fri-Sat: 6pm–2am
Sun: Closed