Category Archives: Food

Hip Hip Hikari!

pic courtesy Thrillist

pic courtesy Thrillist

New Japanese restaurant Hikari Sushi opened this week at 644 H St NE, adding another exciting cuisine option to the burgeoning corridor. According to Thrillist, it’s named after the fastest bullet train in Japan. The polished decor includes samurai swords and red lanterns, and there’s an impressive skylight lining the entire staircase. The first floor seems to cater more to the drinking crowd, while the 2nd floor has booths for peeps looking to dine-in or check out the exciting goings-on at the sushi bar. A wood-lined patio is slated to open in March on the second floor, which will be a great spot for outdoor seating in the warmer months.

Onto the offerings. Hikari offers an wide array of nearly 30 sakes, and the food menu offers an impressive list of Japanese “tapas”, including a lot of tasty-looking options for those who prefer small plates. The ever-growing ramen crowd has no need to fear – there are several options, but none that look as creative as the ones offered at Toki Underground.
There’s a range of Pan Asian dishes, including several styles of noodles, Korean bulgogi, as well as Hibachi grilled meats of your choice – chicken, steak, and lobster.  The fancy sushi rolls are on the expensive side (priced quite a bit higher than similar items found at Sticky Rice) but are quite delicious – from what we could tell, Hikari appears to get very good fish.

They offer happy hour specials on Tuesday, and hopefully this will be extended to the rest of the week as well. We’re glad to have Hikari as another great option on the western end of H Street.
Written by Joel Church.

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Quick Byte: Celebrity on H!

dr_horrible

Stop the presses, everyone. Dr. Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris, was spotted at hot ramen spot Toki Underground last night before going to help light the White House Xmas tree. Contrary to rumors from a tipster calling himself “Kumar”, NPH was not on ‘shrooms and ecstasy, but had ‘shrooms in his bowl of ramen and left feeling rather ecstatic. No word on whether local hero Captain Hammer was also in attendance.

As if this place could get any more exclusive — reservations are extremely hard to come by–walk-ins should expect a wait of at least an hour, even if you show up at 5pm on a weekday. All this commotion begs the question: is Toki Underground the Dorsia of H Street?

Written by Joel Church

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Taste of Myanmar

pic courtesy of Scene Squid

Come feast on 15 delicious dishes of Burmese food for just $10!  

On Thursday the 15th, EventStir and RuninOut will host a family style meal of typical Burmese fare at [aptly named] Burma in Chinatown.  Think Groupon-meets-Square: you join the event, pay $10, then get to eat your heart out with your new group of friends.

Starting at 6:30 at Burma (located a few doors down from Chinatown Express on 6th Street), you can explore the “only authentic Burmese food in DC” and lots of it.  15 dishes will be served family style, so get ready to experience the freshness of green mango salad and the bite of spicy fish curry.

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Not That You’d Forget, But H Street Festival Is Tomorrow

pic courtesy of Going Out Guide, Washington Post

The allure and fun of the H Street Corridor has runneth over these past few years, with developments and restaurants popping up all the way from 4th Street to 15th, NE.  Not only is this a standard night-time locale, but the daytime businesses (eateries, shops, yoga studios) have been thriving as well.

Explore all the news on H Street tomorrow during the always-wonderful H Street Festival.  And with nothing but sun in the forecast (unlike last year’s), the party is sure to rock and ramble from noon til dusk.  Restaurants run specials all day long, several music stages will have acts running all day long, and several more fashion and dance stages will wow visitors with bellydancing, child and adult fashion shows and, my personal favorite, the tattoo competition (that is, showing off tattoos you already have…not who can get a new tattoo the quickest, though could that be the next thing?).

New restaurants like Cusbah and mainstays like The Pug will be open, as will future H Street restaurants (through some break in the time-space continuum) like Ben’s Chili Bowl and Impala Cantina and Taqueria.

So, H Street Festival: Food, Drink, Music, Dance, Arts.  The Future.  What more could you ask for?  Oh, and it’s free.

Written by Haley Fults.

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In the World of FREE: Zaytinya

pic courtesy of Casa

From 4:00 to 6:30 today, Tuesday, Zaytinya (my favorite Greek Jose Andres restaurant in Chinatown) will be serving complimentary wine tastings as part of their Grape Festival.  You may not know a Chablis from a Chardonnay, but everyone appreciates a little free in their lives, nes pas?

Zaytinya puts a fun spin on traditional Greek fare, serving up small plates of stuffed grape leaves, meatballs, and some of the best scallops I’ve had.  If you’d like to treat yourself for less, stop by for a free wine tasting and also order an apricot yogurt parfait for dessert.  The crisp cold wine will perfectly complement the soft tartness of the dessert.  Or check out their other specials.

What’s your favorite dish at Zaytinya?  I’m still beholden to the crispy brussels afelia; they turned my hatred of Brussels Sprouts into a simmering hope for more.

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Labor Day Special: Modern Manners’ Recipe for the Perfect BBQ

pic courtesy of Twirling Clare

While the end of summer holiday, Labor Day, neither marks a change in the weather (curse you, climate change!) nor the autumnal equinox (curse you, solar calendar!), it does mean something everyone can support: barbeque.

The Labor Day Weekend BBQ is a great tradition of Americana, a last hurrah before school starts, or more appropriately for DC, Congress returns. Here are a few tips for throwing a Labor Day BBQ that will be the exclamation point to end your summer.

(I’ll leave it to far better informed sources to advise you on how to prepare Labor Day delicacies.)

Invitations—Digital Age Decisions

With so many different ways to issue an invitation now—Facebook, Evite, email, text, old fashioned paper—it can be hard to decide which method is best. My advice is to choose a way that all or nearly all your invitees use to communicate. If there are a few outliers that don’t use that method of communication, you can reach out to them separately. Don’t forget to provide a date by which you would like people to RSVP.

And a side note to everyone on the receiving end of the invitation: respond. Let the person know whether or not you can attend. It’s the bare minimum you can do to acknowledge that you have been invited into someone’s home.

For online invitations, I’m personally a fan of Paperless Post. They have the aesthetic appeal of paper invitations (Evite graphics are fug), are easy to use, and add a sense of gravitas to your event. You aren’t throwing some Natty Lite kegger in your backyard—you are having an event in your garden with microbrews.

Audience Participation—Clarity is Key

Some people assume that a barbeque means they should bring food or drink. Others don’t assume this at all. For the convenience of your guests, let them know clearly in the invitation whether or not they are invited to bring something of their own. (Of course, if you are hosting a potluck, say you are hosting a potluck. However, a potluck is different than a BBQ. Moving on.)

Use simple, straightforward language about bringing food, such as, “We will have plenty of food and drinks, but please feel free to bring something if you wish.” Or if you prefer your guests do not bring anything, say “All food and drink will be provided.” If you are… CRING… sending a text invite and that’s all too many words, “BYOB” or “NOT BYOB” should get the point across.

Preparations—The Boy Scout Way

There are some clutch items you’ll need to have a clean and comfortable BBQ:

  • Plenty of plates, utensils, napkins and cups. Disposable ones are admittedly easier, but consider the environment and get recyclable materials or even use your own regular kitchen items.
  • A few spare blankets or sheets for people to sit on the ground if you run out of chairs.
  • Bug spray. Everyone will love you for this.
  • Large coolers with plenty of ice.
  • Clearly labeled bins for trash and recycling. Don’t forget the extra bags.
  • Outside lighting if you are going into the late hours of the day—think tiki torches, Christmas lights or candles.
  • Band-Aids for the random boo-boos.
  • Sunscreen. You should have plenty left over from the pool.
  • Extra TP and paper towels are critical for hosting.

Food & Refreshments—Om Nom Nom

MM makes no claims whatsoever about being a good cook, but I do have a few quick pieces of advice to make sure all your guests go home satisfied.

  • Diversify. In the modern world of vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters, it’s good to have options. Provide at least one main dish that can be enjoyed by the most restricted eater you know is coming. If it’s any good, everyone will have some.
  • Have a plan B. Stash a couple frozen pizzas or keep a delivery number handy. In the unfortunate event that your planned cuisine goes caput or you run out of chow, you’ll have a low-stress solution ready to go.
  • Wetness is the essence of beauty. Have plenty of water and nonalcoholic drinks available.
  • Buy an extra case of inexpensive beer. If you get to the point where you need to delve into the cheapo case, no one will care by then what they are drinking.

Happy Labor Day, workers of Washington!

-MM

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Le Grenier: Délicieuse H Rue

pic courtesy of H Street Great Street

Huzzah! Another restaurant is about to open on the western side of H Street. Long awaited French bistro Le Grenier, located on the 500 block, is having their soft opening this Friday the 17th, followed by the official opening on Sunday. We took a sneak peak inside and it looks great – lots of patterned wallpaper and eccentric, ornate knick-knacks.

Hopefully it will be just as good as its sister restaurant, Le Chat Noir up in Tenleytown. Don’t miss the big Coca Cola sign painted on the brick wall upstairs. You can expect classic bistro fare (mmm…steak frites) and a nice wine list – sip from a glass of Bordeaux and imagine you’re on the Champs-Élysées.

Written by Joel Church.

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Death Match: Teaism vs. Ebeneezer’s

pic courtesy of Ten Best

In this corner, we have Teaism, purveyor of the famous salty oat cookie and owner of the needlessly long tea list. In the other corner, Ebeneezer’s is mellowly rearing to go. With soft pop rock on the radio and beyond friendly staff, they don’t need a cookie to put them in this fight.

Teaism coffee shop cred: yes, there is no coffee on the menu, but with a list of tea that would satisfy even the most particular of British grandmothers, Teaism bounds into the race with its secret weapon: the salty oat cookie. Somewhere in the nether region between salty and sweet, the hockey puck-sized cookie is substantial enough for a snack and decadent (and expensive) enough for a treat.

The rest of Teaism follows suit as a neither fish nor fowl oasis in Chinatown. With a soothing koi pond and a “kisako” policy (please leave when you’re finished if you notice other people waiting), Teaism builds a tranquil, polite atmosphere. On weekends, and especially during tourist season, the downstairs can become quite crowded, but the noise level never gets above an energetic murmur.

Teaism has locations all over the DC area, but still doesn’t seem ubiquitous. They pop up in Penn Quarter, Dupont, and Farragut. With satisfying bento boxes and a beer and wine list, it’s much more than just a tea spot.

Ebeneezer’s coffee shop cred: unbeatable location for Hill workers. Just a block from Union Station, it’s a convenient stop before going through those metal detectors or for a quick break during the day. The homegrown feel is refreshing in this Starbucks-civilization. A handwritten chalkboard of hot and iced coffee drinks as well as smoothies and some baked goods put patrons at ease. Ebeneezer’s doubles as a worship space on Sundays and a haven for wi-fi seekers during the week. They also host live music in the basement most nights of the week.

Final score:while Ebeneezer’s has the all important location, location, location and absurdly friendly staff, Teaism pulls out a win thanks to the spot they fill in DC: fresh food and drink in no way reminiscent of Starbucks or Cosi.

While comparing these two outstanding coffee/tea spots, we acknowledge an uneven playing field with much left unsaid. Explore both options for yourself, be you a coffee, tea, or even a smoothie type.

pic courtesy of Ebeneezer’s

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Potbelly Ice Cream Sandwich: Which Flavor Goes Well with Shame?

DC residents all know Potbelly—the local chain that specializes in delicious sandwiches, cookies and ice cream milkshakes that all make you feel bad about yourself. Seriously. Even their new Mediterranean vegetable sandwich is enough to make you understand that you’ve disappointed your family. The restaurant also offers salads, but no one knows what they are like because no one has ever ordered a salad at a Potbelly.

And while DC residents love to brag to their out-of-town friends about how glad we are to have places like Jack Rose, chefs like José Andres and chains like Chop’t, Teaism  and the great and powerful Sweet Green, we all have a dirty little secret: We all eat at Potbelly. And we all love it. Every time we have one of their oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, it’s the best thing we eat all day. Every time.

Well, the next time you have to decide between eating yourself to shame with a sandwich, a cookie or a milk shake, spare yourself the decision and just conflate all three: Potbelly makes ice cream sandwiches.

Yeah.

You know how Potbelly’s milkshakes taste like heaven probably smells? Well, they take the ice cream from those things and they stick it between any two cookies you choose. Personally, I’d go for two oatmeal chocolate chips, but the brownie chocolate chip cookie (seriously, I got diabetes just typing that) with vanilla ice cream would probably be a nice throwback to suburban American childhood.

I can’t for the life of me figure out what kind of ice cream would go well in a sugar cookie sandwich, but if you figure it out, be sure to mention it in your will.

Rick Barry  currently directs communication for a network of churches in Washington, DC, and in his spare time serves as managing editor of Vision of the City, a blog dedicated to the intersection of Christian faith and civic life.  He has cut a watermelon in half with his bare hand. The last is, by far, his proudest achievement.

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Restaurant Review: Viking Quest

pic courtesy of Prince of Petworth

Today’s post comes from contributor Ryan White.  Read more “low-brow redundancy” here and more over the top wit here.

Though Washington, DC is known more as a destination for politicians rather than foodies, the culinary scene in our nation’s capital has flourished over the past few years. Some of the world’s most renowned chefs have opened restaurants in the city, such as José Andrés’ “Minibar,” Michel Richard’s “Citronelle,” and Boyardee’s “Canned Food Drive-Through.” As part of an occasional, Wheelhouse-exclusive and now syndicated series, this author will review some of the hottest new restaurants and give you the inside scoop on the burgeoning restaurant scene here in the center of democracy. So loosen that belt and warm up those taste buds as we prepare for the first stop in our fantastic food voyage: Viking Quest Restaurant.

Background and Location
Viking Quest is the latest in a bevy of Viking-inspired cuisine that has swept the culinary world like a battle axe through butter. The restaurant is owned and operated by a large, hirsute man known only by the singular name “Olaf,” who immigrated to the United States just one year ago. It’s the classic American success story–Olaf opened his restaurant with money he received after conquering a small but resource-abundant portion of Iceland, which then he sold back to Reykjavík after a furious bidding war between the government and the estate of Björk. After all, why flip real estate when you can flip autonomous territory, right? Assuming my interpreter, Lief, translated Olaf’s guffaws and violent gestures correctly, becoming a world-class restaurateur has always been Olaf’s long-held dream, and he settled on DC as a destination after mistaking the Washington Monument for the penis of Thor.

The restaurant is located in the little known but vibrant Nordic community on the outskirts of Northeastern DC. Recent immigrants like Olaf have turned this once decrepit area into one of DC’s most treasured hidden gems. So treasured, in fact, that the community has taken to fortifying their enclave with a herring-filled moat, unscalable walls, and rather menacing sculptures of Norse deities. Inaccessibility aside, once you enter the compound you’ll be glad you made the trek to “New Vikington” and supplied the gatekeeper with the correct password. What awaits inside is a charmingly rustic community that stays true to its cultural roots and is teeming with traditional Viking shops that sell products strikingly similar to those found in stores outside the gated community for prices so low it’s almost criminal. The gender ratio of the population does seem to skew overwhelmingly male, at least from a casual glance around during the mechanical longboat ride from the gate to the restaurant, but that only adds to the aura of Viking Quest being one of the city’s best happy hour destinations for single females and hottest after-hours spots for gay Norsemen.

Atmosphere
The first thing you notice upon entering Viking Quest is the celebrity-filled crowd. Patrons included your usual DC pols and bigwigs, a litany of “who’s who” within Scandinavian diplomatic circles, poorly-animated characters from Ikea instruction booklets, and even former Vikings’ quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Unfortunately we were an hour too late and just missed meeting the stars of the famed Capital One “what’s in your wallet” commercials. Ironically, Viking Quest only accepts American Express.

Aside from the clientele, the general design of the restaurant seems to be one of chic minimalism. Almost everything in the restaurant is made from the same type of unstained wood–possibly teak, but also possibly drift–and with the exception of an oversized portrait of Olaf hung rather clumsily above the entryway, the walls are left bare. Far be it from this author to question the authenticity of segments of Viking culture, but I remain skeptical that the rhinestones used so prominently in the grand portrait of Olaf were a popular medium in the time of his ancestors. That one possible historical anachronism aside, the remainder of the restaurant did seem to project an unmistakable aura of true Viking-ness. Again with the assistance of Lief the Interpreter, I learned that Olaf chose not to hook his restaurant up to the power grid, given that electricity was invented far after the golden age of the Viking. Instead, everything in Viking Quest runs on power generated from dozens of wayward Hill interns shackled to rowing devices in the building’s basement.

Food
Given the gluten-free, low-carb diets that are all the rage these days, it’s no wonder Viking food has seen its popularity soar. Formerly-fat celebrities who grace the covers of check-out aisle magazine like Us, People, and Cat Fancy, credit the Viking diet with their fit new physiques. Even Jared, the formerly fat but now just ugly spokesman for Subway, has forgone his usual diet of a $5 footlong sandwiches and is all about the Viking food craze. In fact, Us Weekly reported last week Jared is now dating a Kardashian that he met at a Viking cooking class. They later retracted this story after discovering no one gave a shit.

Regarding the cuisine, Viking food is based on three simple ingredients: meat, meat, and more meat. The exact source and type of meat is a well-guarded secret within the Viking Quest establishment. I tried my best to get Olaf to divulge the secret origins of their house speciality, but his ire seemed to increase as my questions persisted, to the point where his words morphed into what the increasingly flustered Lief said were sounds frighteningly similar to the battle cries of a long-extinct variety of whale. After he pointed menacingly to the basement and made a rowing-like motion, myself and the rest of the party to decided to drop the matter and go about enjoying our mystery meat.

The meat-food itself was delicious and is easily the best all-meat cuisine I’ve had in this city. Even the presentation was charmingly authentic. Having eaten varieties of food like Indian and Ethiopian that eschew the use of utensils I was well-equipped for a similar experience with Viking food, but was pleasantly surprised by the utter absence of plates or serving conduits of any kind. While I think little harm would done to the restaurant’s claim to authenticity by adding a sprig of parsley to their dishes, or even providing patrons with a singular Wet-Nap, their maniacal fixation on giving diners a “true” Viking meal is admirable and really the heart and soul of the restaurant’s appeal. We all had a good laugh towards the end of our meal when Lief, himself raised in an all-Viking household and hence no stranger to this style of dining, ended up nearly ingesting an inch-long splinter while the rest of us newbies ate unscathed. Even the usually stoic Olaf couldn’t contain his laughter and eventually joined us for a final drink, served in hollowed-out, intern-sized skulls.

Overall Rating
If you’re looking for a culinary and cultural experience like none you’ve had before, Viking Quest is certainly for you. The one-item menu unfortunately leaves me no room to suggest a favorite dish, but chances are the chefs rotate the singular house specialty based on the season and resistance of outlying townspeople, so you’ll be in for a surprise treat regardless. The service may seem brusque, or downright belligerent at times, but chances are you’ll be able to look past that once you set your eyes on the charming two-horned helmets worn by the all-male wait staff. I would, however, suggest to Olaf that the restaurant employ some form of background music, if for nothing else than to cover up the faint sounds of tortured screams emanating from the basement, but even that fades into the background as the sounds of whipping gain an almost rhythmic, musical pulse to them. Do be sure to call ahead though. It’s necessary both to secure a reservation and to ensure your personal safety. If they say they’re packed just tell them Ryan sent you! And if that doesn’t work, quickly hang up the phone and get your number and address unlisted as fast as you can.

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