Category Archives: Eating Out

Restaurant Review: Central Michel Richard

For my birthday dinner, Adam took me to Central.    The restaurant won the 2008 James Beard award for Best New Restaurant, and Chef Richard was one of the first chefs in the country to offer a bistro edition to his classically French “haute cuisine” Citronelle.  I personally enjoy this phenomenon because, as evidenced by this blog, we eat out quite a bit.  My bank account can’t afford $150+ pre fixed menus all the time.  Sometimes you want to enjoy the creations of a chef, without taking out a loan.

After looking at the menu, we decided to begin with soup, and then move onto our entrees.  But wait, what’s this?  Cheese puffs! A dinner that starts with gougères can’t be bad.  Little tiny packages of “crispy on the outside” but “fluffy on the inside” dough and cheese that melt in your mouth.  My only complaint; they came out too close to our soup course.  The soup needed to be enjoyed hot, which caused us to loose some of the enjoyment of eating all the puffs still warm from the oven.

Central Michel Richard

Fried chicken with mashed potato

For the main course, Adam ordered the fried chicken, and I chose the steak tartare.  The chicken was cooked well, with the right balance between moist meat and extra crispy skin and breading.  As with most French chefs, the sauce (chicken gravy in this case) was what made the dish.

I was venturing into new territory with my tartare.  The only tartare I have had before has been seafood.  What I love about those dishes is the fresh taste you get from good ingredients.  My steak tartare was exactly that.  The flavors of a well cooked filet were there, but intensified by the herbs, seasoning, and completely fresh meat.

Central Michel Richard

Tartare of filet mignon and french fries

Our service during the meal was good – we were seated next to a family that knew our server, and it felt like we were having a meal at someone’s home.  Everyone was friendly and engaging, and while we enjoyed the atmosphere, nothing jumped out as exceptional.

The most interesting part of the meal was that Chef Richard spent the evening dining and conducting business in the restaurant a couple tables over.  I didn’t catch what he ordered for dinner, but he and Adam share the same taste in beer.

Central Michel Richard

Blusser Pilsner (U.S. exclusive)

Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Five Guys

Five Guys

Five Guy's burger and fries.

I know, I know – Five Guys isn’t a secret. But I eat a lot of burgers and Five Guys burgers are really good. So this post is my way of paying homage to one of the best burgers around.

I had my first five guys burger a few months after moving to Washington DC in 2005. I had just finished a 10,000 mile road trip with my friend Jim, during which among other things I had my first In and Out Burger – the Five Guys of the west coast.  The two share many similarities – fresh beef, fresh cut fries, a cult following. So in the span of a few months I had two of the propritedly best chain burgers out there. The verdict?  Well, I love the many great burgers out there at one-of-a-kind restaurants like Spike’s Good Stuff Eatery, Red Rabbit, etc.  And although In and Out Burger has animal sauce and milkshakes, Fives Guys wins for me.

Burgers can be ordered as a little or regular, with or without bacon and cheese.  Toppings are free and unlimited, including lettuce, tomato, onion, grilled onions, mushrooms, ketchup, mayonase, mustard, steak sauce, BBQ sauce, and I’m sure a few more.  Burgers are grilled when ordered, and wrapped in tin foil. Fries come sm and lg, with sm being large and the lg being huge – enough for at least two to three people. I suggest getting the Cajun fries.  Because everything is cooked when ordered, you have to wait a few minutes. But good news, there are peanuts for your eating pleasure.  Seating and soda is self serve.  The there’s lots of ketchup and malt vinegar to go around.

In fact, Val and I like Five Guys so much, we went there for Valentine’s Day!  We normally go to the one located in Silver Spring near Cherry Hill Road, but there’s lots to choose from.

Five Guys

Drinks and peanuts.

-Adam

Five Guys Famous Burgers & Fries\ on Urbanspoon

Five Guys on Urbanspoon

Five Guys - Columbia Mall on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: RIS

Apparently this restaurant has been in the works for a while.  There has been buzz around town that Chef Ris Lacoste would be opening her own place since 2005.  I would imagine it takes a while to find the right space, the right people, the right devoted following (kidding…just barely) and the right time to open a restaurant that hits perfection.  Chef Lacoste certainly aimed high and delivered with RIS.

RIS

The Washington Post did a critic’s review of the new neighborhood bistro last Sunday (3/21), but we had heard good things since the opening in December.  I received an email early last week letting me know that Adam had booked a reservation for Friday night, just before the peak dining hour of 7:00pm for Washingtonians.

We arrived and were promptly greeted by an extremely friendly host staff and seated in the “living room” portion of the restaurant.  The happy hour crowd was still at the bar, and it provided for a nice vibrant setting.   I hate places that are too quiet or that don’t have enough people in them.

Our waitress was excellent, even offering to let Adam try a beer he hadn’t had before.  While he was deciding, she moved to take care of the other tables assigned to her.  Out of nowhere, a second server swoops in, lets us know that our server was busy at the moment, and offered to take our drink order.  I asked what would go well with the steak, which I had chosen for my entree, and he recommended their porter instead of a glass of wine, because they cook the steak with the beer.  We’ll take two, please  :)

In addition to our beers, Adam and I both got the New England Clam Chowder for a starter.  Spring had become a little cooler that evening, and a nice bowl of soup was a great way to warm up.  It was exactly what a clam chowder should be – nice, rich (see the pad of butter in the picture below) and tasting of clams.

RIS

New England Clam Chowder

Our entrees consisted of mainstays for me and Adam – double cut pork chop for Adam and a grilled skirt steak for me.  The portions were excellent, and everything was cooked textbook perfect.  The only thing missing was a little salt on my dish.  Other than that, the flavors of all the components melded together nicely.

RIS

Cider Glazed Grilled Pork Chop

RIS

Grilled Portuguese Skirt Steak

One of the other dishes that I wanted to try was the chicken pot pie.  I’d heard great things, but I was in a steak mood that evening.  When I saw the dessert menu and found a pot pie on there, I figured that it had to be just as good.  The Apple and Pear pot pie with rum raisin ice cream was outstanding.  I recommend splitting it between two people.  It was just enough to share.  A perfect ending to a perfect dining experience.

RIS

Apple and Pear Pot Pie

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Restaurant Review: Mike’s American

Ribs

Guess which Washington DC metro area restaurant is #2 in the hearts of DCites?  Well since you’re reading this post, you might have guessed.  According to Urbanspoon users, it’s Mike’s American Grill in Springfield, VA.  Part of the Great American Restaurant group, Mike’s is part of a series of DC-based restaurants offering a great atmosphere, well prepared food, and reasonable prices – striking a great balance at these.  So on a Friday night with nothing to do, Val and I called up our friend Matt – who lives in Springfield – and head to Mike’s.

Mike’s has a call ahead seating, which means they’ll add your name to their wait list when you call and tell you an approximate wait time.  As an aside, I find this a nice feature as opposed to most DC restaurants that take reservations a month or more in advance.  While there are some occasions where I know where I want to eat that far in advance, it sorta takes the fun and spontaneity out of it.  Anyway, the estimated wait was 75 minutes, and after driving from Silver Spring to Springfield and Matt explaining how he busted his oven door – an unrelated but hilarious story – we headed over to Mike’s.

After waiting for 5 minutes or so in the huge waiting area / bar, we were seated at a booth in one of the many downstairs dining rooms.  The atmosphere was lively, with lots of fun casual talk filling the air.  The decor of the Mike’s is American nostalgia, with a few burning gas lamps here and there for flair.  I ordered a beer, while Val tried a spiked lemonaid (from the menu of custom Mike’s drinks), and Matt has his usual – gin up with a twist.  Our waiter was friendly and took good care of us throughout the evening.  After listening to the specials, we ordered.  I started with a chop salad followed by pork chops.  I haven’t historically ordered a lot of chops. but was looking for something different.  I also thought it was a good opportunity to see if Mike’s knew how to properly cook meat, as overcooked pork is not good at all.  I was somewhat reassured by the blurb on the menu explaining doneness, which suggested if you wanted your steak well done, you should order chicken.  Sounded like Mike’s and me were on the same page.  Val ordered a spicy shrimp starter followed by a full rack of ribs and fries.  Lastly, Matt ordered a ceasar salad followed by prime rib.

After enjoying the warm dinner rolls delivered shortly after our drinks, the starters arrive.  Portion sizes were very large.  Everything was very good.  My salad was nice and cool, which I like in a chop salad.  I tried one of Val’s shrimp – very tasty, with a bit of a kick and some nice sauce to go along.  Our meals were equally as good – and large.  I received two pork chops, cooked well – medium I mean.  You see, when the waiter asked how I wanted my chops cooked, I told him well done, meaning correctly, ala whatever the chef recommends.  After some confused conversation back and forth, we agreed on medium.  Anyway, very tasty.  Val and Matt also enjoyed their meal.  Stuffed and satisfied, we chatted for a bit longer, before heading back to Matt’s for some soaking in the hot tub.  An excellent was to end the evening…

Mike’s may not be the groundbreaking restaurant I’ve been to in DC, maybe not even my #2 (at least not for the food alone), the combination of great atmosphere and reasonable prices making it a wining combination, and somewhere I could afford to go over and over.

Spiked Lemonaid

Spiked Lemonade

Chop Salad

Chop Salad

Cooke’s Steak, Still Bleeding…

Beef

Perfectly Cooked Pork Chops, Still Pink That Is…

Porkchops


The Donesness Scale

_

-Adam

Mike's American Grill on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Woodberry Kitchen

Woodberry Kitchen

Just go.

-Adam

Woodberry Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Beer Review: Justin Way American Pale Ale

The Beer

Val and I are beer lovers, but I realized we haven’t really focused too much on our love of the brew.  Maybe it’s because Val and I met at Penn State University that we love good beer, or maybe its because all our friends love good beer, or maybe its just because good beer is awesome.  Whatever the reason, we drink a lot of beer, whether at home or at our favorite DC joints.  And one of our favorite sources of beer is our friend Matt, who home brews GMan Beer.

Matt’s beer brewing career started a few years ago while making a batch of Dunkelweizen – a dark wheat beer – at Shenandoah Brewing Company in Alexandria, VA, for my then upcoming wedding.  Next thing I knew, Val and I were at Matt’s one snowy Sunday afternoon helping to brew a batch in Matt’s kitchen using his newly acquired home brewing supplies.  Since then, Matt has gone on to brew dozens of batches, join a local home brew club, and built a homemade kegerator.  Oh, and he always has a few beers on tap.  Anyway, last summer, as I was planting our garden, I jokingly asked Matt if he wanted to grow some hops.  Next thing I knew, we had a hop rhymezone in our garden.  After a few months, and a few 10′ poles, we had fast growing hop vines everywhere, producing lots of hop cones.  Matt came over a few times a week to harvest ripe hop cones, drying them at home, and saving them for a batch of beer.  And thus, Justin Way (our street) American Pale Ale was born, with hops grown right here in Silver Spring, MD.

Justin Way American Pale Ale is has a light brown color and a slight foam head.  It goes down easy, paring well with somewhat hearty food.  And the hops – oooh, the hops.  I’m not crazy for really hoped up beers, but Justin Way has a really nice balance.  Just enough of a hop taste that mellows out after a few seconds.  Unfornuatly for you, almost all the Justin Way APA is gone, but maybe you can snag a bottle next year.  Just Way or whatever street we’re on…  And be sure to check out Matt’s guest posts about home brewing beer.

A Bottle of Justin Way American Pale Ale

Justin Way A.P.A.

Justin Way American Pale Ale w/ Home Grown Hops

The Label

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Restaurant Review: Black Hog BBQ

Black Hog BBQ

Black Hog BBQ

Is it just me or are all BBQ restaurants closed on Sundays?  Val and I travel a lot on weekends, and so Sundays we often find ourselves looking for a new restaurant to try on our way home – to make the trip an adventure unto itself.  And our last two attemtps to visit BBQ restauarants – Andy Nelson’s BBQ and Black Hog BBQ – have left us staring at Closed on Sundays signs.  Luckily the weather forecast made Saturday the best day for skiing over the weekend, perfect for stopping by Black Hog BBQ on our way to Whitetail Ski Resort (which was awesome skiing btw).

Black Hog BBQ is located in Frederick, MD about 45 minutes north of Washington, DC, in the heart of historic downtown Frederick.  On an old city street lined with row homes and small business, Black Hog BBQ was pretty full at 3:30pm when we arrived.  Val and I grabbed a table for two in the front, with about a dozen tables seating 2 to 8 around us.  Behind the seating area, there’s a walk up counter for take out service and a small corner bar with a tv that seats about a dozen people.  After ordering a round of sweet teas – like there was any choice – we started ogling the menu.  Black Hog BBQ has a solid selection of BBQ fare, including brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken in addition to some lesser often found items like smoked sausage and Arkansas beef (which I’m unfamiliar with, but going to try next time – oh yes, we’ll be back).  Since it was my first visit, I wanted to try some variety and had a BBQ Platter with smoked sausage and Texas beef brisket, coleslaw, collared greens.  Val had a BBQ Plate (only 1 side) with pulled pork and coleslaw, and a extra side of fries.  Both meals came with corn bread and pickles.  Our meals arrived quickly and lightly dressed with BBQ sauce.  In addition to the pre-saucing, we had table-side options of Black Hog BBQ, Carolina, Kansas City, and Mustard sauces.  I enjoyed the Black Hog BBQ sauce on my brisket, having a blanced sweet and vinegar flavor.  I also enjoyed the Mustard sauce on my smoked sausage.  In both cases, I felt the sauces really balanced well with the meats, not overpowering, but complementing.  The sides were really good and Val enjoyed her meal as well.  After finishing off another round of sweet teas and laughing at the “hand soap in a BBQ sauce bottles” in the bathrooms, we headed out – fueled up for an awesome evening of skiing.


Pulled Pork with Fries, Coleslaw, Pickles, and Cornbread

Pulled Pork

The Menu

The Menu

Sweet Tea

Sweet Tea

The Sauces

Sauces

-Adam

Black Hog BBQ Bar on Urbanspoon

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