Mr. Smith’s – Georgetown [Update]

17 12 2010

“Hoya Saxa” – Georgetown University Chant (Latin “for these eggs are cold”)

Mr. Smith's
Original photo from original article

One Saturday we set off in the pursuit of having brunch at this place called EatBar. EatBar promised cartoons and brunch, a winning combination. Great concept, poor execution on EatBar’s part (There was no audio for the cartoons and atmosphere was too boushy for us anyway — Heathcliff). So we promptly exited the establishment and set off to find an alternate dining location. We ended up in Georgetown going to the good, reliable Mr. Smith’s.

Spikes and I ordered the coffee which was fairly solid. It wasn’t amazing, but it hit the spot and augmented the large cup I drank at home. Heathcliff ordered a milk. With respect to the entrees, we all possess of a particular love of hollandaise sauce that resulted in all three of us ordering variations on Eggs Benedict. I opted for the classic Benedict, Spikes went with lump crab meat, and Heathcliff went with a “Louisiana Style” chicken breast.

 

Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benaddicted

The breakfast certainly looked excellent and I ate every bite, but it felt like there was something missing; Temperature. The breakfast was lukewarm. There’s one thing I’m really big on, and it’s that my food be warm. It wasn’t just an isolated incident, both Spikes and Heathcliff’s dishes weren’t warm either. The lack of warmth in my food really impaired my enjoyment of the dish.

The eggs were poached in the traditional manner rather than in a cup, however they let them cook a bit too long since the yolk was slightly hardened and not properly runny. The ham was well grilled and the English muffin was well toasted, so no complaints there. The potatoes were properly fried, but because they weren’t warm they were fairly mediocre. The hollandaise sauce was another component of the dish that was really impacted by being lukewarm. I wanted to like this meal, I really did; it looked great and I was certainly very hungry, but it was just wasn’t warm. (Also, where was the Cajun spice? My chicken was inadequately seasoned and probably not worth the relatively low price tag of $8. — Heathcliff)

This wasn’t the first time Heathcliff had been there, so thanks to his recommendation this would’ve really turned us off of Mr. Smith’s. The most disappointing thing about this meal was that we knew it could fulfill it’s potential with very little effort. Mr. Smith’s is a very relaxing and casual atmosphere which we all really appreciated. We know their food is normally better prepared than this, but on this Saturday Mr. Smith’s just couldn’t bring it.

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Shawarma Spot – Adams Morgan

15 12 2010
Shawarma Spot

I hope it's shawarma inside because it's cold out here

Ever since the Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church burned down, there has been a general shawarma deficiency in my life. I had read about this place in the Washington Post and knew it was good. My friend Punches had also been there and had compared it to some of the best shawarmas he experienced while studying abroad in the Middle East. One day we had a hankering for shawarma that could not be stopped so we drove to Adam’s Morgan for Sharwarma Spot.

The shawarmas at Shawarma Spot were different than most of those that I’ve had. It turns out I’ve mostly had Lebanese and Egyptian style shawarmas. They’re very simple, well-spice and are done in a wrap style. The ones at Shawarma Spot are closer to the style found in Israel according to Punches. The Israeli style is a bit more akin to Western culinary practices, ie., stuff full of toppings and packed to the brim. They split open the pita round and stuff the shawarma inside (similar to the falafel down the road at Amsterdam Falafel). Punches ordered a beef shawarma and I went with the chicken. First they toasted the pita round, stuffed it with whatever you wanted from the toppings bar, put the meat in it, and finally applied the desired sauces to it.

Chicken Shawarma

Gone in 60 Seconds

In my shawarma I got hummus, turnips, cucumber and tomato salad, onions, what appeared to be a cilanto based salad, tahini, and hot sauce. There were even more toppings available that I didn’t pick, just to give you an idea of the diversity of their offerings. After I took this picture I took one bite, realized just how good this shawarma is, and then promptly destroyed the entire sandwich. The chicken was grilled to perfection and really warmed me up from the cold weather outside. The vegetable toppings (particularly the cucumber and tomato salad) provided a crisp, cool contrast to the warmth of the chicken and provided the sandwich with a great “crunch” to it. What really put the sandwich over the top though was the hot sauce. It had an excellent amount of heat to it, so even though I hadn’t purchased a drink, one wasn’t necessary after a couple minutes. It’s taste and heat was reminiscent of Sriacha, and paired perfectly with the cooling Tahini sauce.

This was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. It was fresh, great tasting, and had the benefit of being relatively good for you. Afterwards I had a feeling of satisfaction that is normally only reserved for my favorite places. Shawarma Spot is definitely on-par with its neighbor Amsterdam Falafel down the street. If there is any place that can fill the shawarma void left by the Lebanese Butcher, it is Shawarma Spot.

Shawarma Spot Website

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Note: The image of the exterior is not my own. Clicking on it will take you to the Shawarma Spot website (original source).





2 Amy’s – Cleveland Park

5 12 2010

“You better cut the pizza into four pieces, because I’m not hungry enough to eat six” – Yogi Berra

2 Amy's Exterior
Where are the crime fighting turtles?

One of the restaurants that kept popping up on the Chowhound DC/Baltimore board was 2 Amy’s. A lot of people consider it a must eat destination in DC and the unofficial title holder of “Best Pizza”. Despite all the buzz surrounding 2 Amy’s, I wasn’t really drawn to it until my friend Gchat raved on and on about the food and insisted that we go. One Friday evening I boarded the Metro and rendezvoused with two friends Spikes and Gchat who had just got off from work and off we went to the mecca of pizza. In big letters on 2 Amy’s window is “Denominazione di Origine Controllata”, which means that the pizza they serve abides by strict regulations set in Italy for what proper Neopolitan Pizza should be. They have a section of their website dedicated to D.O.C. pizza, and after reading this I realize just how seriously Italians take their pizza.

Suppli

Eat your heart out Mozzarella Sticks

The interior of 2 Amy’s is that of the classic pizzeria: a lot of tile, a lot of black and white, and a lot of hungry people. Despite it being around Six O’Clock we didn’t have any problem getting a table right away (Gchat did tell me a horror story about an hour long wait though). We each ordered a beer to properly begin our meal. I went with Old Speckled Hen, an English Pale Ale thought I thought would go pretty well with pizza (Spikes and Gchat went with Hefeweizens). One thing that we saw a lot of people at nearby tables eating were these round fried balls, I initially misclassified them as arancini, but they were actually suppli a telefono. The suppli were perfectly fried and once you broke through the outer shell, the creaminess of the rice and the mozzarella together was fantastic.

Crusts

This is what I dreamt about that night.

We ordered two pizzas to share between the three of us and combined with the suppli, it was definitely enough food. I don’t know if it’s the whole D.O.C. pizza thing, but this felt like simply the purest or cleanest pizza I’ve ever eaten. The first pizza we ordered was the Margherita (at the suggestion of Gchat). The pizza was superb but the crust and the buffala mozzarella stood head and shoulders above everything else in the pie. The quality of ingredients to make the dough combine with the wood oven used to cook the pie to create simply the best crust I’ve ever eaten. While I was eating my slices I wondered to myself why I never ate the crusts as a kid. I just never had crusts like these, never. The mozzarella was perfectly melted and just exploded, filling your mouth with an intense creaminess and salty undertones with each bite. If the crust is the foundation, the cheese the bricks, then the sauce is the mortar of the pizza. It did a great job of bringing the pie together creating this necessary counterpart to the buffala mozzarella.

Norcia
Try getting a reservation at Norcia now….

The second pie that we ordered was the Norcia, which had salami, grilled peppers, fresh mozzarella (Yes, there is a difference between fresh mozzarella and buffala mozzarella), and grana (similar to paremseano reggiano). I personally enjoyed this pizza a bit more than the Margherita. It’s more substantial and I’ve always been a big fan of peppers on pizza. The salami on the Norcia was definitely high quality and made the pizza in my opinion. The big slices of delicious, salty salami just seemed to cover the entire pie and perfectly complimented the salty fresh mozzarella. Grilled peppers by themselves are fairly bland, but when added to other things seem to elevate them. I don’t know how this works, but it does.

I really enjoyed my meal at 2 Amy’s. They took a simple concept (pizza) and DID IT RIGHT. Simple might be the definitive word for Amy’s. The decor, the menu, and the food was all simple. But it was all done properly and was put together well to create a fantastic place. I really took notice of the quality of ingredients, everything on the Norcia could be on a great antipasto platter. While the price hints at the quality of ingredients used, they don’t use it as justification to gouge you and I for one appreciate that. 2 Amy’s is a lot like Ray’s Hellburger, you will leave here extremely satisfied.

2 Amy’s Website

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Note: The images used in this review are not my own. Clicking on them will take you to the original website.





Sweetwater Tavern – Merrifield

15 11 2010

“Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s critical to know what it was.” – Traditional Cowboy Quote

Cowboy Mural
It’s like being in a Roy Rogers, but classier

After we attempted to come to the desert-themed Sweetwater Tavern for lunch during the week only to find the place jam-packed with hungry employees from nearby office parks, we decided to come back during the weekend. So we did, on a Sunday (the most cowboy of days). A few of my friends had been out here and told me of the gloriousness that was the Brown Butter Sauce at Sweetwater. Never one to stray away from a good sauce or gravy, I decided to mosey on down with them (Last cowboy joke, I promise.).

Even though we went in the early afternoon on a Sunday, we were seated immediately. Sweetwater is a very large establishment with what appeared to be multiple bars (with ample seating around them) equipped with flatscreens showing football games. (I sort of could watch the Colts play the Browns from my booth, not that I care about either team.) Despite being relatively close to a bar, it wasn’t exceedingly loud and we were easily able to hear each other while we conversed. The complimentary bread was also pretty solid, I definitely preferred the miniature rolls to the cheese-infused, half-slices of bread. We ordered the Fried Calamari as an appetizer (I know, this goes against everything I stand for). Calamari can really be hit or miss; here, it was most definitely a hit. It was served with some fried onion slices in this buttery red sauce (sorry for the lack of an image). The batter used to fry the calamari and onions was so light that it enabled the taste of the meat and onion to not be overpowered. It also didn’t fill you up too much, leaving you room for your entrée.

Brown Butter Sauce
Pollo a la Brasa for white people

Following in the steps of those before me I ordered the “Half Young Chicken with Brown Butter Sauce.” The mashed potatoes served on the side were excellent, especially if you like the skins left in them (I don’t really care.). They had a great consistency to them and weren’t dry at all, which is really all you need to for your mashed potatoes to be great. The corn served on the side was surprisingly good (I’m not a huge fan of corn), though it helped that I first coated the corn in Brown Butter Sauce.

Now that we’ve taken care of the side dishes, onto the chicken. The chicken is essentially Pollo a la Brasa with a crunchier skin that’s even saltier than what they serve at South of the Border. I know what you’re saying, how salty can it really be? The skin is like eating a soft pretzel where you have to knock off 75% of the salt granules to even possibly consume it. Even with all the salt, I couldn’t stop, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t. The aforementioned Brown Butter Sauce, the reason we came to Sweetwater, is a relative of chicken gravy. It’s chicken gravy’s thinner, lighter, more attractive cousin. (It also tastes sweet and nutty–an almond-like tasteHeathcliff).

This meal wasn’t anything fancy, just comfort food done very well (and at $12 for the chicken it better be). If I went back to Sweetwater, I’d definitely sample some choice beverages from their fairly extensive beer list. If I had to describe the Sweetwater Tavern in one word it would be: safe. I would be comfortable ordering any dish off the menu or any beer they offer knowing that there would be a high probability that I would enjoy it. Sweetwater is part of a group of restaurants, so that’s probably what they’re going for.

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Matsutake – Crystal City

12 11 2010

Matsutake (Japanese松茸, pine mushroom, Tricholoma matsutake = syn. T. nauseosum) is the common name for a highly sought aftermycorrhizal mushroom that grows in AsiaEurope, and North America. It is prized by Japanese for its distinct spicy-aromatic odor.” – Wikipedia

I go to Matsutake as frequently as the amount of mercury I consume from tuna based sushi allows. It’s my semi-monthly indulgence. I gorge on their sushi buffet, allow enough time for the mercury to leave my body, then repeat. Normally it’s the Ballston location that I frequent, but honestly the past few times I’ve been there have been less than stellar. They’ve been messing with the sushi buffet offerings, it’s more crowded than I desire, etc. On a whim the other day, we decided to go to the other Matsutake location in Crystal City.

The other Matsutake is like one one of those other flavors of Mountain Dew (Code Red, Baja Blast, etc.), familiar, yet intriguingly different. The selection of sushi they offered was better than the current offerings at the Ballston location in my opinion. The Crystal City location also seemed to be far less crowded than the Ballston location was at the time we arrived (noonish), which was a huge plus in my opinion. While it is further away than the Ballston restaurant, I’d rather take the extra time to ensure that there’s less hassle and a menu that is a bit more catered to my taste in sushi (i.e., not a lot of sushi with mayonaise like sauce on top of it).

Side Note: This review of Matusake Ballston was posted on TBD.com.





George Castañas – Spain [Franklin Smith]

8 11 2010

Today, the elementary school I work at celebrated “the foods of autumn”.  School closed an hour early, and about 75 Spanish children invaded the nearby park with some parents to get their snack on.  And snack they did.  Typical Spanish autumn fare is not what I expected; roasted chestnuts, walnuts, dried figs, and pomegranates.  While American kids are still gorging themselves on Halloween candy, these Spaniards are being oddly healthy.

Castanas

Newspaper: Spanish for cup

By far the most interesting of these foods are the roasted chestnuts. This is the Spanish variety though, and they are called castañas, and they are everywhere.  The grocery stores carry barrels of them you can buy per kilo.  Today, the Spanish mothers took castañas, roasted them over a fire, and wrapped some in newspaper for personal portions.  Eating a castaña is like eating a peanut; you have to peel back the hard outer shell and a second inner skin to reveal the treasure inside.  The actual nut looks like a big walnut, but with a saltier taste.  The castañas are hot, and they fall apart in your mouth when you are eating.   Walnut + hot boiled peanut + a Pringle = hot roasted castaña.   By the end of our celebration, the park resembled a massacre. Kids were passed out on benches surrounded by castaña shells and torn-up newspaper, the only remains of this fall feeding frenzy.

There are also vendors in my town that sell castañas on the street corners.  Their carts are surrounded by a wet steam smell of barbequed nuts, and if you look closely, you can see that most of the salesmen are missing at least one finger.

The second unique Spanish food I learned about is a little walnut and fig sandwich called a casera.  Rip the fig in half, put the walnut inside, close the fig, and eat.  It gives you the crunchy texture the fig lacks that, after eating, you realize you always wanted in figs but had never known it.  Best of all, it can be eaten in one bite.

Pomegranates are ripped apart and the seeds are eaten straight from the fleshy cobwebbed part of the fruit.  Sprinkle some sugar on top, but don’t let them stain your clothes.  (Also, if you are a beautiful girl in Ancient Greece, watch out if the God of the Underworld tries to convince you to eat one.)

These traditional fall foods have a mysterious earthy feel to them, like they came out of the depths of some lost forest, covered in dirt.  They are healthy and savory, but in the end, there was still some nagging part of my memory that kept reminding me of the sweet corn-syrupy and sugar-crashing goodness we all associate with this time of the year.  These kids are really missing out.

Side Note: The image used in this post is not Franklin’s. Clicking on the image will take you to the original site.





Super Pollo – Arlington

5 11 2010

“My chicken is good, but my neighbor’s looks better” – Romanian Proverb

 

Old Super Pollo

Rest in Peace OG Super Pollo

 

Super Pollo is one of the more notable Pollo a la Brasa joints in Arlington and was a fantastic option for lunch during high school. They sold their own location, which like much of Arlington is being converted into some ridiculous mixed-use high rise. Fortunately for the chicken-consuming public they moved down Wilson Boulevard and set up shop again. This is a review of their new location and perhaps our first Peruvian chicken review not about Pollo a la Brasa. Shocking, is it not?

 

New Super Pollo Location

New Hotness

 

One Sunday we were driving around to get lunch quickly before football started and we were in the mood for burritos, but just couldn’t go to Chipotle or California Tortilla for some reason. Then one of my friends remembered that Super Pollo had burritos so off we went. Two chicken burrito orders later and we were waiting in line for them, still waiting, still waiting, still waiting, and then we finally got them. I don’t know if they were training new employees or what the deal was but the wait for the burritos was at least twice as long as the wait for a standard chicken platter, so take that into consideration when ordering.

 

Menu

This is where I waited for an eternity for my burrito

 

The burritos at Super Pollo are fairly standard to what one expects in a burrito: meat, rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, etc. The quality of the chicken used here far surpasses that found at chain burrito places and is what sets Super Pollo apart. The beans they served in the burrito were pinto, which I enjoyed a bit more than I expected since I normally go the black bean route in burritos. This meal was all about doing something different, so it fell in line with the ethos of our outing. The side order of fries that came with my burrito were typical of those served at Pollo a la Brasa joints, so no complaints here. Take advantage of Super Pollo’s numerous options for sides, it’s truly what sets them apart from other Pollo a la Brasa places. The burrito was a nice change of pace and was exactly what I was searching for that Sunday afternoon. That being said nine times out of ten, I’d rather get the standard chicken platter here. It’s quicker, a better value, and the main reason to come here.

Side Note: The images used in this review are not my own, clicking on them will take you to the original site.

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