Archive for Featured

Preview: Taan Noodles

Do you ramen? You should. Ramen shops are popping up everywhere so get on the noodle train, people. The latest addition to the DC ramen scene is Taan Noodles, officially opening this Friday in one of my favorite neighborhoods (AdMo).

Taan Noodles is the creation of Executive Chef Jonathan Bisagni, whose resume includes stints at Kushi, Morimoto Waikiki, Sticky Rice, and Toki Underground.

The menu is simple. A small selection of appetizers/small plates and four types of ramen. There’s a vegetarian ramen, a duck ramen, a pork belly ramen with three types of broth, and what I like to call the meat-lover’s option — chicken confit, duck confit, and pork belly.

In addition to the food, Taan has an interesting selection of specialty cocktails, saki, and beer. I tried the Dr. Sun cocktail made with Japanese whiskey, simple syrup and bitters. I was pleasantly surprised at how the right proportion of each of these ingredients transformed the whiskey into an almost different spirit altogether.

I thought the corn fritters (sweet corn “kakiage”), served over a spicy yuzu and shiso sauce, were solid as was the duck ramen. While I would have liked a little bit more “pow” from the duck ramen, I’m not holding it against anyone since they haven’t even officially opened yet. What I do know is that Taan is an exciting new addition to the neighborhood and I look forward to trying more dishes and seeing where this noodle takes me.

Taan Noodles
1817 Columbia Rd. NW
Tel: (202) 450-2416
Hours: Mon. Closed
       Tues/Wed. 5-10pm
       Thurs. 5-11pm
       Fri/Sat. 5-midnight
       Sun. 5-10pm

Taan Noodles on Urbanspoon

The Drafting Table: Hipster starter kits and an eclectic menu

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Plaid shirt. Skinny jeans. Horn-rimmed glasses. Am I seeing double or are both bartenders wearing the same outfit? Several minutes later it dawns on me. The matching outfits thing was no accident. They’re donning the hipster uniform!

That said, I can’t say I felt unwelcome at the Drafting Table given my clearly unhipster-like attire and my decision to order wine instead of beer that comes in an overly illustrated can and has an ironic name that I just don’t get. In fact, the vibe at the Drafting Table is casual and unassuming. The menu is eclectic — though eggs make an appearance several times — but not intimidating. Dishes include a falafel platter, egg sandwich, mussels, and fish and chips. I was pleasantly surprised by the Draftsman burger, which brings together ground beef and braised brisket topped with crispy blue cheese, apricot chutney, and bacon-onion jam. It’s really quite delicious. There’s also something called the snickers pie, which is made in house and is just as good as you’re imagining it could be. The falafel platter, however, left much to be desired. The falafel was dry and as bland as the “lemon hummus” which accompanied it.

I’m not quite sure what to think of the Drafting Table yet. I’d like to return and try the kaya toast which involves sweet coconut jam, sunny side-up eggs, and soy broth. I’m not sure what to expect but I’m intrigued.

Drafting Table
1529 14th Street NW 
Tel:202-621-7475
Hours: Mon-Wed: 4-11pm
       Thurs: 4pm-12am
       Fri: 4pm-2am
       Sat: 8 am -2am
       Sun: 8am-12am

 

Drafting Table on Urbanspoon

Review: Cleveland Park’s El Pulpo

Serrano mac and cheese

Recently I checked out El Pulpo in Cleveland Park. El Pulpo opened this past summer in the space formerly known as Tackle Box and the pop-up locale for Bandolero (before moving to Georgetown).

El Pulpo is not your traditional Spanish tapas restaurant.  It puts its own spin on traditional Spanish tapas by infusing them with influences from modern American cuisine.  For example, mac and cheese is on the menu.  El Pulpo’s version is made with manchego cheese and topped with crispy fried Serrano ham.  It is one of the best mac and cheese dishes I’ve had.  Other standouts are the roasted bone marrow mixed in with caramelized Vidalia onions and the short rib sofrito.

I have mixed feelings about the brussels sprouts.  They come with those crispy brown edges I love, but the bacon vinaigrette, which is quite tasty, is relegated to the bottom of the bowl and doesn’t get a chance to sufficiently permeate the leafy sprouts.  I also have mixed feelings about the chorizo paella.  El Pulpo’s paella is very good but lacks the crunchy rice — scraped from the bottom of the paella pan — that is the hallmark of traditional paella.

Short rib sofrito (covered by onion rings!)

The whole prawns, cocoa crusted strip loin, and foie gras and roasted vegetables dishes are solid but overall non-events.  The roasted beet salad has a harshness to it from the raw beets that I don’t particularly like.

The baby octopus with pork belly confit falls short in my opinion.  It is fried, a fact that is not alone offensive but should be noted on the menu.  The pork belly confit is almost indiscernible in a sea of polenta.  I’m not sure how that even happens.  To top it all off, the dish was bland.

On the upside, El Pulpo’s staff is very friendly and the restaurant has a relaxed vibe that I really enjoy.  Even better, our waiter told us the restaurant has begun serving brunch.  All you can eat and bottomless adult beverages for something like $25.  Hello! I think I know where I’ll be November 11 (day before Veterans’ Day holiday).

El Pulpo
3407 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202.450.6875
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 5pm-10:30pm
       Friday and Saturday: 5pm-11:30pm
       Sunday: 11am-2:30pm (brunch), 5pm-10:30pm

 

Pulpo on Urbanspoon

Taco Tickler

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Happy Frankenstorm and greetings to you from my couch.  I’m thankful for Sandy because she’s giving me an opportunity to return to food writing after a long sabbatical.  What have I been up to you ask?  Settling into a new job and eating a lot of tacos.

Tacos.  They’re everywhere.  Restaurants, food trucks, food trucks-gone-brick-and-mortar-legit, and pop-ups.

Bandolero used to have some of my favorite “upscale” tacos (suckling pig and Mahi Mahi) but my most recent visit left me disappointed and unlikely to return.  So, I’ve been searching for some new favorites.

Most recently, I checked out the debut of Taco Bamba, Victor Albisu’s pop-up at Blackjack (check out the website here). Taco Bamba will be taking over Blackjack (1612 14th St. NW) every Monday night until mid-December and will be serving a-la-carte tacos to walk-in diners from 6 to 11pm.  It’s cancelled tonight so don’t get too excited (thank you, Sandy).

As usual, Chef Albisu did not disappoint.  The launch party showcased canape-sized versions of Albisu’s tacos, including the duck tacos and the pork tongue tacos, which were my favorites.  I also liked the “taco bamba” (skirt steak, chorizo, and topped with a mini chicharron) and grilled corn with chiles and lime.  I’ll admit I didn’t get to try all the items on the preview menu as the event was clearly oversold. This meant I had to hunt for tacos amongst the hungry throngs of people packed into Blackjack’s rather small space.  My friend Triple X and I managed to snag a front row spot at the bar.  At least we could numb our hunger pangs with samples of Taco Bamba’s cocktails, including the Pineapple Agua Fresca (pineapple, lime juice, simple syrup and tequila, yum!), until we could plan out our taco-snagging system.  Taco Bamba’s permanent location will be in Falls Church.  For those like me who get the shakes when they leave District lines, I suggest you take advantage of Taco Bamba’s DC location as often as you can before the end of the year!

El Chucho in Columbia Heights has a few tasty selections, but I think its real draw is the funky-chill vibe.  The guacamole ($8) was solid but miniscule.  The queso frito was outstanding but I’ve yet to meet a fried cheese I didn’t like.  As for tacos, only the al pastor (pork) and calabacita (veggie) taco were standouts.  The Tripas taco promised more than it could deliver.  Its key ingredients – foie gras and crispy beef – did not mesh well and I found it a bit off-putting to eat in fact.  El Chucho Cocina Superior on Urbanspoon

Sometimes, I just want a simple, traditional taco.  Corn tortilla, lime, cilantro, spicy salsa or a few jalapeno slices, and pork.  That’s where places like Super Tacos & Bakery in Adams Morgan and Tacos el Chilango in the U Street corridor really hit the spot.  I first tried Tacos “El Chilango” when it was only a food truck operating in Arlington.  My friend, Fancypants, made me go after we lunched at the Green Pig Bistro in Arlington.  I’d already inhaled the Green Pig’s awesome crispy pig tacos — juicy braised pork topped with fried pig ears — and couldn’t even stomach the idea of putting another piece of food in my mouth.  Yet, I yielded to his pleas that I “needed” to try his favorite taco truck in Arlington.  So, I forced down one more taco — El Chilango’s al pastor.  While my gluttonous ways brought me to the verge of revisiting Green Pig’s tacos in a rather unsightly manner, I didn’t regret my decision to try El Chilango’s excellent taco. I haven’t been to their DC location at 11th and V St. NW, but I plan to. Tacos El Chilango on Urbanspoon

All this taco talk is making me hungry . . . wonder if Super Tacos is open.

Update to Burger Wars: PS7′s Chef’s Choice Burger

I knew I’d found the one when I couldn’t stop thinking about . . . it. Yes, “it”.  I’ve found my new favorite burger in the city, but it’s not served at any of the numerous burger joints around town, some of which I’ve already reviewed.  (Check out those reviews here.)   It’s called the Chef’s Choice burger at PS7′s and it’s glorious.  The burger is a  house-made brioche bun filled with well-seasoned and flavorful beef, melted gruyere cheese, a fried egg, house-cured bacon, roasted tomatoes, and house-made pickles.  Enough said.