Restaurant review: Chinatown Express (Washington, DC)

We were looking for a quick bite to eat before the Adele concert at the Verizon Center.  Daikaya (known for its ramen) was a 40 minute wait.  But then we happened upon this hole-in-the-wall that advertised fresh hand-cut noodles (called 手拉麵 in Chinese).
The noodles can be either put in soup or stir-fried, and you can choose your toppings (vegetarian, chicken, roast pork or roast duck are some of the choices).  I opted for soup with roast pork on top.  Jim went with the little soup dumplings(小龍包) and normal dumplings.  They were good but not memorable.
On the other hand, the noodles were excellent—thick and substantial, the way hand-cut noodles should be.  The broth was simple but filling, and the roast pork was excellent—flavorful and meaty.

half-eaten bowl of noodles with roast pork soup

half-eaten bowl of noodles with roast pork soup

We believe the quality of the dishes here is completely dependent on what you order.  Based on our limited data points, I would lean towards ordering Cantonese specialties such as roast pork as well as the hand-cut noodles (which aren’t a Cantonese specialty but are lovely anyway).
We will definitely be back to try some additional dishes.  If you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive meal around the Verizon Center, Chinatown Express should be on your list!

Chinatown Express is located at 746 6th St, NW, Washington, DC 202-638-0424 (www.chinatownexpressdc.com).

Inn at Little Washington birthday dinner

It was our son’s 15th (!) birthday a couple of weeks ago and, in addition to feeling really old, we celebrated with a dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (at his request).

As usual, dinner was fabulous from the moment we stepped into the restaurant until we were wheeled out of the restaurant in a food coma.

Appetizers included the mélange of the Inn garden’s heirloom tomatoes with marinated fairy tale eggplant and local sheep milk’s feta

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to a tin of sin (American osetra caviar with peekytoe crab and cucumber rillettes)

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to a quartet of Rappahanock oyster slurpees (with sorbets of cucumber, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and wasabi)

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Additional courses consisted of a carpaccio of herb-crusted Elysian Fields baby lamb loin with Caesar salad ice cream

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to a crispy napoleon of chilled main lobster with osetra caviar

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to a pan-seared Maine diver scallop with Jerusalem artichoke purée, capers and tomato relish

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to grilled pepper-crusted black kingfish with shallot confiture and red wine reduction

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to crispy maple-glazed pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli

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to fontina-filled tortelloni on a sweet corn sauté with local shiitake mushrooms and patty pan squash purée

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to a chanterelle mushroom “meatloaf” with celery root purée and angry red sauce

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to a chop of organic milk fed pork with grilled peaches and potato purée

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Dessert included a miniature chocolate birthday cake

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to the Inn’s signature dessert of seven deadly sins (clearly gluttony is the one practiced most frequently here!)

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to a peach tart served with almond ice cream

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It was an incredible meal and a perfect birthday celebration!

with Chef Patrick O'Connell

with Chef Patrick O’Connell

Restaurant review: Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

Chef Mavro is one of our favorite restaurants in Honolulu. While some of our other favorites have gifted chefs who serve excellent food, Chef Mavro has both those requirements, and the dishes are always beautifully presented. We try and go twice on every trip and alternate between the 6 course menu and the 4 course menu.
This is the four course menu, where the serving portions are a bit larger than the 6 course menu, and it is every bit as delicious.

We started with the amuse-bouche: white bean mousse with duck confit rillettes. We could have cheerfully made a meal out of the rillettes.

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amuse-bouche

All of us opted out of the squid course and substituted it with black truffle risotto. Black truffles. Risotto. In the hand of a master. Need I say more?

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black truffle risotto

The next course was onaga in fisherman’s bouillabaisse marseilles-style, with rouille & croutons. The “crouton,” served with a spicy garlic aioli, was completely scrumptions.

onaga bouillabaisse style

onaga bouillabaisse style

The meat course was herb crusted niman rack of lamb, served with tomato, zucchini, eggplant & bell pepper à la monégasque.

lamb

lamb

It was accompanied by a side dish of extra virgin olive oil caper mashed potato. I don’t particularly like mashed potato (it’s a texture thing), but this was scrumptious.

mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

The palate cleanser was a watermelon-champagne gelée.

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And, finally, the dessert course. A peach flambé, with peach, lemon chiboust brulée & sablé, and a blueberry compote accompanied by crème fraiche with a pernod accent and fennel pollen. It was a perfect finish to a lovely dinner!

peach flambe

peach flambe

Restaurant review: The Source (Washington, DC)

The Source is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant next to the Newseum. Scott Drewno is the executive chef and in addition to being an extremely talented chef, he is also a really wonderful guy (possessing both characteristics is not as common as you might think).
The restaurant recently revamped its menu, so we went and checked it out a few weeks ago, and it is even better than we remembered.

Disclaimer: we cannot comment on the entrees or the desserts because Jim and I did what we often do, which is to order an assortment of appetizers instead. But we have high praise for what we did order.

We had the following assortment of appetizers and side dishes:

Spicy Tuna Tartare, Sesame-Miso Cones, Shaved Bonito, Pickled Ginger, Tobiko (this is the appetizer that appears at all Wolfgang Puck restaurants and is considered one of his signature dishes)

tuna tartare in sesame miso cones

tuna tartare in sesame miso cones

Scallion-Onion “Bread” (this is a riff on the traditional Chinese scallion pancakes—much as I have fond memories of the authentic dish from childhood, this version is even better)

scallion "bread"

scallion “bread”

Table Side Wonton Soup, Shrimp & Pork Dumplings, Tea Poached Egg, 20 Hour Broth (a must have if you love rich, flavorful broth!)  And you’ll have to take my word on the fact that it was a lovely dish as well.

deconstructed wonton soup  :)

deconstructed wonton soup 🙂

Crispy Suckling Pig, Rhubarb Puree, Pickled Cipollini, Sweet Bean Sauce (crispy pig—need I saw anything more?)

suckling pig

suckling pig

Lobster & Shrimp Dumplings, XO Sauce, Sichuan Bacon, Spring Peas, Asparagus (the weakest of the dishes we had, but it was quite lovely)

lobster & shrimp dumplings

lobster & shrimp dumplings

Selection of Dim Sum: Scallop Siu Mai, Pork Potsticker, Lobster Springroll, Chicken Dumpling (we love the restaurant’s dim sum and rarely pass by an opportunity to order this)

selection of dim sum

selection of dim sum

Chinese Roast Pork Fried Rice, Sichuan Sausage, Asparagus, Sunny Side Up Egg (by this time, we were so stuffed that we only had a few mouthfuls. That is not to say this wasn’t delicious, only that we were quite full).

pork fried rice

pork fried rice

If you haven’t had an opportunity to revisit The Source since its menu has been revamped, we highly recommend doing so! The Source is located at 575 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC, next to the Newseum. (www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3941)

Dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (April 2016)

When our family arrived at the Inn at Little Washington a couple of weeks ago, we were asked if we were celebrating a special occasion (which does happen). This time, however, our response was: “Dinner!”

And dinner that evening was definitely worth celebrating. We started off with the well-known (and delectable) popcorn with black truffles and a series of amuse-bouches. And then the restaurant got down to business. The amuse-bouches that arrived after the first course of amuse-bouches were:

Tempura Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce

tempura asparagus with hollandaise sauce

tempura asparagus with hollandaise sauce

and White Bean Soup with a Chive Gougère.

white bean soup with a gougere

white bean soup with a gougere

All of us had the Mousse of Foie Gras in a Golden Egg Shell with Sauternes Gelée and Blood Orange Rhubarb-Preserve (yum!);

foie gras mousse

foie gras mousse

one of us also had the Carpaccio of Herb-Crusted Elysian Fields Baby Lamb Loin with Caesar Salad Ice Cream (a perennial favorite);

lamb carpaccio

lamb carpaccio

We also all had the Toro with Radishes and Coconut Tapioca Beads and Wasabi Sorbet (the toro was melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness);

toro with wasabi sorbet

toro with wasabi sorbet

Some of us had the Pan Seared Sea Bass with Roasted Romaine and Sauce Choron (the fish was perfectly cooked);

sea bass

sea bass

Jim and I picked the Inn’s Morel “Meatloaf” with Potato Purée and Jalapeño Ketchup (the fact that I did not regret one moment picking this vegetarian dish over the lamb demonstrates just how good this dish was);

morel "meatloaf"

morel “meatloaf”

The son had the Veal Shenandoah: Prosciutto Wrapped Loin of Veal with Country Ham and Fontina Cheese Ravioli;

veal

veal

and the daughter had the Parsley-Crusted Loin of Jamison Farm’s Lamb with Green Lentils.

lamb

lamb

A quick break to ease the transition into dessert with an Orange-Vanilla Creamsicle with shortbread crumbs;

orange-vanilla creamsicle

orange-vanilla creamsicle

And we finished our lovely meal with the Inn’s Southern Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich with Bittersweet Chocolate and Hot Caramel Sauce

butter pecan ice cream sandwich

butter pecan ice cream sandwich

and A Painter’s Palette of Sorbets;

painter's palette of sorbets

painter’s palette of sorbets

and the Inn’s Spring Fling: Limoncello Pudding, Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt, Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet

spring fling

spring fling

It was indeed a meal that definitely celebrated dinner!

Restaurant review: The Pig and the Lady (Honolulu)

I’ve already called dibs on being the lady, but it is so very easy to be the pig at this delightful little restaurant, which is currently the hottest restaurant in Honolulu. The restaurant is located in the middle of Chinatown. Chinatown is perfectly safe and vibrant during the day. During the evening, it’s a little sketchier looking, but it is still perfectly safe. And The Pig and the Lady is well worth the effort.

It’s difficult to describe the cuisine accurately. To say that it’s Vietnamese fusion food only scratches the surface of what the kitchen is capable of. We went first for dinner and then tried it for lunch. You can’t go wrong with either meal, but the dinner menu is definitely the more innovative of the two.

We started dinner with a variety of small plates, called Piggy Smalls on the menu. There were savory beignets served with parmesan cream,

savory beignets

savory beignets

parmesan cream

parmesan cream

smoked eggplant served on puffed rice crackers, and

smoked eggplant

smoked eggplant

fried potatoes, along with a side of home-made pickles.

fried potatoes

fried potatoes

house made pickles

house made pickles

Out of the group, the savory beignets were our favorite, although everything was very good.

Entrees included their signature dish, which is pho French dip and Manila clams. This is a French dip banh mi served with a yuzu pho broth containing braised Manila clams and taro. You dip the banh mi in the broth to eat. The banh mi was delicious, although I’m not sure the clam broth wasn’t better. Either way, it was all fabulous!

pho & clam broth

pho & clam broth

We also split a braised lamb served bo kho style, which means a lamb shank cooked with southern Vietnamese spices and lemongrass, butter roasted carrots, pickled shallots, and herbs. I’m not sure which entrée was better—better not to have to choose!

braised lamb

braised lamb

Dessert consisted of kaya beignets, which are beignets dusted with coconut powdered sugar and a bit of espresso powder, and

dessert beignets

dessert beignets

P&L soft serve

P&L soft serve

P&L soft serve

Our waitress recommended that we try lunch, as the menu for lunch is slightly different. While lunch is a little more traditionally Vietnamese, it still offers the kitchen an opportunity to give its own individual twist to traditional dishes.

Jim had the pho French dip, which is a banh mi served with 12 hour roast brisket, thai basil chimmichurri, and a pho au jus. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

pho banh mi

pho banh mi

I had the pho-sta, consisting of hand cut pasta cooked with pho broth, parmesan, mung bean and other traditional pho flavors. Loved it!

pho-sta

pho-sta

The restaurant itself is an interesting mix of families, singles (mostly at the lively bar), and a smattering of food-obsessed tourists. Reservations are recommended if you don’t want to deal with a long wait. (It fills up quickly.) We highly highly recommend this restaurant!

The Pig and the Lady is found at 83 N. King Street in Honolulu (www.thepigandthelady.com).

 

Restaurant review: Chef Mavro, Take 2 (Honolulu)

For our second dinner at Chef Mavro, we went with the 4 course menu and added the parmesan black truffle risotto as a fifth course (yes, we do indeed live to eat).

The amouse bouche was once again the delicious watercress soup with “egg salad sandwich.”

watercress soup with "egg salad sandwich"

watercress soup with “egg salad sandwich”

We started off with the meli-melo, a salad containing hearts of palm, pickled hibiscus, avocado purée, and baby beets. I’m not a huge salad fan (I’m of the same philosophy as Ron Swanson, the character from “Parks and Rec” who says, “Salads are the food my food eats.”), but this was delicious.

meli melo

meli melo

We then had the snapper, served Asian style, with shitake mushrooms and ginger, topped with fried cilantro and green onion on basmati rice. While I liked the opah from the 6 course menu, this was fabulous (and better).

snapper

snapper

Our next course was the parmesan black truffle risotto, which was just as good as the first time we had it.

black truffle risotto

black truffle risotto

The entrée dish was duckling served with fennel and winter citrus and star anise duck jus. It was really wonderful.

duckling

duckling

confit

confit

(Jim substituted his duck for the lamb loin, served with cranberry preserve and sunchokes.) The bite I had was excellent.

lamb

lamb

And, after the palate cleansing melon in champagne gelée, we had the coconut déclinaison, which was a coconut pound cake served with coconut-shiso sorbet and a coconut sauce with basil seeds. This may not sound like it would work, but it most certainly did.

coconut déclinaison

coconut déclinaison

What we like about Chef Mavro is that not only is the food delicious, it is also beautifully presented. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the chef himself will make the rounds in the evening to chat. They were amazingly wonderful meals!

Chef Mavro is at 1969 S. King St, Honolulu (www.chefmavro.com).

Restaurant review: Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

We have been regular diners at Chef Mavro whenever we are in Honolulu (which is more often than I am willing to admit). Last week, when we were there, we took the opportunity to dine at Chef Mavro twice. (I know, I know.)

The first time, we picked the 6 course menu. In addition, it was BLACK TRUFFLE season (calloo, callay!). So, this is what we had:

The amouse bouche was watercress soup with an “egg salad sandwich” on the side. It’s difficult to get watercress flavoring in a soup strong enough to taste like watercress, but this was the exception. It was delicious!

watercress soup with an "egg salad sandwich"

watercress soup with an “egg salad sandwich”

We started off with the foie gras, which was served as a parfait, accompanied by pineapple relish, toasted pine nuts, and a huge side of toasted brioche. Yummy!

foie gras terrine

foie gras terrine

Next up was the opah (snapper), which was served with red beets, pickled Japanese cucumber and topped with a coffee flour rye bread crumble. Highly delectable.

snapper

snapper

The lobster was next. This was accompanied by a house-made kabocha confit and served with kabocha and a crustacean essence purée. It’s one of Jim’s favorite dishes here.

lobster

lobster

We substituted out the cheese course in favor of the parmesan black truffle risotto. It was everything a black truffle risotto dish should be (which is to say heavenly).

black truffle risotto

black truffle risotto

We also upgraded to the Australian Tajima wagyu medallions, served with an eggplant purée, charred leeks, and an island green pepper corn sauce. Yum, yum, yum.

wagyu

wagyu

The palate cleanser was melon served in a champagne gelée.

melon in champagne gelee

melon in champagne gelee

And the final course, dessert, was chocolate. This time, it was a chocolate bar, served with a burgundy poached pear and sorbet. Even for not being a huge chocolate fan, this was delicious.

chocolate dessert

chocolate dessert

Dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (again)

I know we were just there in December, but our son wanted to celebrate his excellent report card with a dinner at the Inn, and who are we to say no to that? So off we went in mid-January to enjoy another scrumptious meal (and many congratulations regarding his academic performance).

The kitchen was kind enough to provide an appetizer that wasn’t on the regular menu. It was a seared slice of toro (the fatty belly from the tuna) from Hawaii served with Asian greens and sprinkled with sesame seeds. “Seared” was perhaps a generous description (the kitchen might have waved it over the heat for a nanosecond or two), which is just how we like it. The toro melted in your mouth—it was an incredibly succulent mouthful.

seared toro

seared toro

Next up for our son was seared foie gras–again, generously provided by the kitchen despite the fact that it wasn’t on the menu. This dish was evidently good enough for him not to share.

seared foie gras

seared foie gras

The remaining three members of the family had the golden egg filled with a mousse of foie gras and sauternes gelee. (The mousse is room temperature, which is why the son wasn’t a fan—he likes hot dishes for his meals.) However, none of the rest of us was complaining. This is a relatively new dish on the Inn’s menu, and it is heavenly.

golden egg with foie gras mousse

golden egg with foie gras mousse

Next up for the son was one of his favorite Inn dishes—macaroni and cheese done Inn-style. He was thrilled to see it back on the menu.

mac-and-cheese

mac-and-cheese

The daughter and I had the pork cheek agnolotti bathed in uni butter. I hesitated about ordering this dish, as I do not like sea urchin AT ALL, but Jim encouraged me to get it, and I’m glad he did. The uni provided a subtle flavor to the veal cheek, and the sauce was, of course, delectable.

pork cheek agnolotti

pork cheek agnolotti

Jim, on the other hand, ordered one of his favorite dishes—the tin of sin. Osetra caviar on top of a crab rillettes and served with a side of brioche. For caviar lovers, this is a must try.

tin of sin

tin of sin

For entrees, three of us had the short rib of bison with local mustard greens and gremolata.

short rib of bison

short rib of bison

The daughter chose the cauliflower “steak” with yellow Indian curry.

cauliflower "steak"

cauliflower “steak”

As we paused for breath (and stomach room), we were served with a palate cleanser of the Inn’s version of the orange creamsicle in a dish of shortbread crumbs.

creamsicle

creamsicle

And then came the desserts. The congratulatory dessert was mint chocolate chip ice cream accompanied by chocolate ribbons.

mint chocolate chip ice cream

mint chocolate chip ice cream

The daughter chose a lemon meringue tartlet.

lemon meringue tartlet

lemon meringue tartlet

Jim chose the classic Inn dessert of the Seven Deadly Sins.

seven deadly sins

seven deadly sins

And I had my standby of the Granny Smith Apple Tart.

granny smith apple tart

granny smith apple tart

We emerged from the dinner with all of our taste buds enjoying their food coma. Another fabulous dinner at the Inn!

 

The Inn is located at the intersection of Middle and Main Street, Washington, Virgnia. You can find out more about the Inn at www.theinnatlittlewashington.com.

Restaurant review: Kinship (Washington, DC)

Kinship is a newly opened restaurant in Washington, DC. The chef-owner is Eric Ziebold (formerly of French Laundry and CityZen) and his wife, Celia Laurent. We have been huge fans of Eric’s cooking since his CityZen days and have been looking forward to his opening up his own restaurant for months.

The menu is organized a little differently than most restaurant menus. There are four main categories: Craft, History, Ingredients, and Indulgence. Under these categories, the first two entries are generally appetizer-sized, the next two entries are entrée-sized, and the last entry is dessert. (I have heard complaints from some diners about this, but I’m not sure how you would read “Bahibe Chocolate Tart” and assume it’s anything but a dessert.) I also love menus that include desserts so that I can decide whether to save a lot of or a little room for the course. (Notice that I did not say save no room.) 🙂

There is a fifth category called “For the Table.” Hopefully, this category is self-explanatory, as it consists of dishes ample enough for the entire table to share.

Our group started off with the following appetizers (and there were thumbs up from all the diners):

Oeuf à la Brick au Thon (feuille de brick fried egg, tuna confit, and sweet pepper marmalade)

oeuf a la brick au thon

oeuf a la brick au thon

Aoyagi Clams (yuzu, shitake tempura, baby bok choy, and garlic fried rice)

aoyagi clams

aoyagi clams

Blue Fin Toro Sashimi (sweet, sour, salty,and spicy flavors); and

blue fin toro sashimi

blue fin toro sashimi

Path Valley Farms Sunchokes (clementine segments, toasted pepitas, and cilantro chimichurri)

path valley farms sunchokes

path valley farms sunchokes

Entrees included:

Seared Muscovy Duck (napa cabbage, peanuts, honeycrisp apples, and fermented black beans)

seared muscovy duck

seared muscovy duck

Salt Crusted Dorade (with roasted cauliflower, raisins, honey-saffron sauce, and orzo) from the “For the Table” menu; and

salt crusted dorade

salt crusted dorade

orzo

orzo

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb (sweet pepper stew and Anson Mills grits), also from the “For the Table” menu

elysian fields farm lamb

elysian fields farm lamb

grits

grits

Desserts (with no photos) were:

Sticky Toffee Pudding (with Meyer lemon marmalade, fig membrillo butterscotch, and Earl Grey ice cream); and

Valrhona Guanaja Custard Cake (with pecan nduja, espelette caramel, pralines ‘n’ cream ice cream).  (This was wonderfully decadent, and I’m not even that fond of chocolate!)

The food was fabulous (as expected with Eric at the helm). Service was very good, but the timing of the kitchen is still a bit off. We had a lengthy wait between the time we placed our order and the time the appetizers came out. In addition, if you want the Kinship Roast Chicken, it’s an hour wait, so if you know you want it, then place the order when you sit down. There is also a wait for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Souffle so order it with the main meal if it’s your dessert of choice. That being said, we expect these kinks to be ironed out with time.

The space is very interesting—it’s spare and minimalist. There are a couple of alcoves with tables, and these are definitely the best seats for both sound and comfort.

And, finally, a disclosure: we are very minor investors in Kinship.

Kinship is located at 1015 7th St, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (www.kinshipdc.com).