Tag Archive for Cleveland Park

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

Bandolero at Tackle Box

Hanger steak and suckling pig tacos

It’s been a long time since I’ve had pork rinds, and longer, since I’ve had good ones.  So you can imagine how surprised I was to see these “black sheep” of the fried snack world served up anywhere else but a dive bar or the Mexican grocery store I frequented when I lived in Houston (Fiesta). I was even more surprised that Bandolero’s pork rinds were quite good! As some may know, Mike Isabella has been operating Bandolero as a pop-up located in Tackle Box’s Cleveland Park location for the past several weeks.  The pop-up will continue until May 5.  After that, Bandolero will be permanently located in Georgetown, once construction on its site is completed.

Back to the pork rinds.  The pork rinds were served up with tortilla chips along with fresh salsa, top-notch guacamole, and pumpkin seed puree, which had a nice nutty and earthy flavor.

My friends and I sampled additional items of the menu plus a few desserts. We also tried the original margarita and the “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” margarita (a/k/a Smoke-Fire margarita).  The latter uses Habanero infused tequila and strawberry puree.  It was far superior to Bandolero’s original margarita, which is a bit too tart for my taste.

Mahi Mahi tacos

The Mahi Mahi tacos, suckling pig tacos, nachos with goat meat, enchilada roja, and lamb sopas were excellent.  These dishes will bring me back to Bandolero should Isabella choose to keep them on the menu.

Lamb sopas

The Mahi Mahi tacos looked like they were made with good old-fashioned fish sticks, but, rest assured, they were no ordinary fish sticks.  Meaty, crunchy, and well-seasoned, these tacos were quite satisfying despite their small size.  The nachos with goat meat were some of the best “fancy” nachos I’ve had.  For me, good nachos have lots of gooey cheese, an equal distribution of toppings, and the toppings stay put instead of toppling off the chip as it travels from the plate to my mouth.  I find it absolutely irritating when I have to fish around a plate of nachos so that I can heap a little of each topping on my chip.  Isabella’s nachos hit all the right marks.

The suckling pig tacos had me at suckling.  I have to admit that Isabella can work some magic with the pig.  They were topped with a tangy, crunchy green apple slaw that balanced the richness of the pork.  The lamb sopas were little bites of heaven. Last, but not least, the enchilada roja elevated chicken to a higher than expected level.

The enchilada verde, hanger steak, and blue crab tacos were non-events.  Don’t waste your time or stomach real estate on them.  The blue crab tacos were bland and the hangar steak – while perfectly cooked and seasoned – came with a lackluster chimichurri that seemed to be on short supply given the minuscule amount drizzled on each slice of steak. The albondigas – or lamb meatballs – were not just non-events but were surprisingly bad.  They were cold in the center and had an odd texture and flavor.  For once, I wished the sauce accompanying the meatballs could have overpowered and masked their flavor.  Too bad the sauce wasn’t memorable either.

  Coming soon to 3241 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20007
  Operating from now until May 5 out of Tackle Box (Cleveland Park)
  Reservations for the pop-up may be made through City Eats here.

Restaurant review: Ripple


A few days ago, three friends and I dined at Ripple in Cleveland Park.  It was our first experience there.  I think I speak for all of us when I say we were all pleased with both the food and service.