Monday, March 31, 2014

Washington DC - Zaytinya

Judith's recommendation for dinner on my first night in Washington DC was to take me to Zaytinya. We both worked in her basement apartment all day (yea, I had to bring my laptop on vacation to work ... score) and then in the evening, ventured out for dinner.

Though José Andrés is famous for his molecular gastronomy dishes, Zaytinya did not incorporate any of those concepts into the dishes at this one restaurant. The concept is a combination of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine.

complimentary pita bread, olive oil

kibbeh nayeh - lebanese style beef tartare ground to order, bulgar wheat, radish, mint, pita chips

baba ghannouge - fire roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, garlic

seasonal special - spring vegetables, artisinal feta

snail kibbeh - crispy potato crusted snails, baharat spiced labneh, heirloom lettuces

seasonal mushrooms - sauteed mushrooms, dates, toasted almonds, cumin

sea scallops - dill yogurt, sugar snap peas, radish

seasonal special - shredded lamb, puff pastry

greek yogurt and apricots - muscat soaked apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet, pistachio powder

chocolate rose - rose ice cream, chocolate custard, spiced berry puree

It was a great meal. And all this food for two people ... that's me and Judith for you! I particularly loved the steak tartare, seared scallops and Greek yogurt dessert. And the lamb special (apparently I was on a huge lamb kick when I was in DC last year). Though it would have been cool to see some of his famous molecular gastronomy concepts with Greek food ... maybe as the restaurant develops in the future?

I'm going to leave you with more pictures of cherry blossoms, since they were so amazing and beautiful. Happy Spring! Hopefully the East Coast warms up soon ... it's been a brutal winter for them.

701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Washington DC - Obelisk

It's cherry blossom time, marking the start of Spring! Look at them ... aren't they gorgeous in front of the house? That's exactly what I want my house to look like in the future except I want a Japanese maple in the front yard as well. And a lemon tree in the back. A year ago, I went to Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms at the Capitol. They were a gift from the Japanese in 1912 and planted around the Tidal Basin, which is the best area to view them. Yes, this post is ... quite late.

One of my best friends, Judith, moved to DC a few years ago for work. Though we're on opposite ends of the country, it's like no time has passed when we talk on the phone, on gChat or meet up in person. I need to see her more than a few times a year ... hurry up and move back, chica!!

I was lucky enough to have her host me in her basement level apartment for the week I was staying there. Of course this was the perfect opportunity for me to take her out to dinner. We do both love eating.

After looking around on Yelp, I finally settled on a restaurant in DuPont Circle and we headed there, not knowing much about it. The space was super cozy and intimate, like we walked into someone's living room that happened to be turned into a dining room. The menu changes every night depending on what's in season and is delightfully handwritten. After we settled on the two primi dishes, the lamb, and the desserts ... the food started appearing. And oh, did it start appearing.

My apologies in advance for the progressively dark pictures, I didn't know how to use my camera as well then.

marinated olives

bread basket

broccolini, anchovy dressing

rabbit loin, proscuitto, pesto

house-made burrata, olive oil (one for each person)

sardines, watercress salad, pine nuts

fava bean crostini, parmesan, fennel

These were just the simply named "Antipasti" section of the menu! Everything was delicious and full of great, simple Italian flavors! I was in love with this place. I'm still in love.

garagati with polpettine (meatballs)

spaghetti alla chitarra with squid, peas and pea shoots

lamb, asparagus, spinach

THIS LAMB. It was ... one of the best lamb dishes I've ever had. I was close to Easter and I hadn't eaten any lamb (does anyone else associate eating lamb with Easter?) and was craving it, so Judith agreed to order it with me since the entree is for two people. We each had one huge piece of loin and one large rib. The lamb was perfectly medium-rare, succulent, gamey and tender. I still think about it sometimes, a year later. NO JOKE.

cheese - robiola bosina, brunet, canestrato, fig jam

apricot strudel

chocolate cake, caramel anglais

mignardais - truffles, biscotti, pate de frut

All this for $75.00 per person! I thought actually that the price was a total steal for all the food that we were given. The service was attentive but unobtrusive and we were at the restaurant for over two hours. I definitely want to come back here every time I go to Washington DC. I just read on Yelp that apparently Wednesday through Friday are the best nights and we happened to go on a Thursday. Seriously one of the best meals I've ever had.

2029 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20036

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chengdu Taste

Spicy foods are generally a no for me. I'm a wuss. I freely admit that to people when they ask me why I can sometimes barely eat spicy tuna rolls. Yea, go ahead and laugh. I don't understand how other people handle it because I basically lose all sensation in my tongue, start drooling a lot, sometimes tear up and cannot taste anything for the rest of the meal. If this is what happens to everyone, then why do they like it?!

However, when a group decided to go to Chengdu Taste, I tried to mentally prepare myself. Luckily, they asked for dishes to be "small spicy" so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The above picture is the toothpick mutton ... my favorite dish of the night.

mung bean jelly noodle with chili sauce

water boiled beef and soft tofu

fried lion's name fish

squid on crispy rice

spicy wontons

crispy frog legs with spicy sauce

kidneys in spicy green chili sauce

Yea so basically everything has the word "spicy" in it. Some of the group complained that the portions were a bit smaller than they were before. If you like that Szechuan spicy taste that makes your lips and tongue tingle and numb then definitely try this place out. I'd want to try the water boiled fish next time. Umm, maybe hold the spicy. I would 100% definitely get the mutton dish again.

If you like spicy foods, just look at those chilies! Also, try to get there early as there can be a long wait at times.

latte to cool down afterwards

Chengdu Taste
828 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Slow Cooked Tuscan Kale

Excuse the blurry picture above! Kale is the hot new vegetable right now and people are swearing and fawning all over it but it's been hard for me to get into it. It's so ... it's like chewing grass because it's so fibrous that you have to chew for so long. Which has it's pluses and minuses.

I stumbled upon this recipe for slow cooked kale and it seemed much more up my alley. As of right now, the only time I like kale is in soups, where it's cooked to a toothsome chew. But this recipe got me to change my mind and paired with some grilled chicken, it made for a hearty, satisfying dinner.

Slow cooked Tuscan Kale
adapted from Suzanne Goin

3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 lb Tuscan Kale (or any kind except curly), leaves only
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 sprig rosemary
1 dried chile de arbol, broken into 4 pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rapid boil. Working in two batches, blanch kale for two minutes. Drain, let cool, and squeeze out excess water with your hands. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Heat a large pot over medium heat for two minutes. Add 2 tablespoons oil, rosemary and chile. Let sizzle and shake the pan often for about a minute. Reduce meat to medium-low, add onion. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook for two minutes, stirring often. Stir in garlic and cook further, stirring often, until onion is soft and starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Add remaining tablespoon oil and kale, stir to coat evenly. Season with 1/4 tsp salt, and cook more, stirring often, until kale turns almost black and is slightly crisp at edges, about 30 minutes. Pick out rosemary twigs and chile pieces before serving.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Maruhide Uni Club

Throughout my life, I have been part of many a club. Even ones I'm embarrassed to name now because they were fan clubs of things I was interested in when I was ten years old. But now, the Maruhide Uni Club is the only one that I want to be a part of! I mean, the restaurant specializes in uni so what more could I ask for?

There was seriously so much uni in these bowls (not both for me) that it left me feeling satisfied but not TOO grossed out, which can happen when I try to gorge myself on uni. It's sweet, creamy taste is pretty rich and if you have too much, it can be a bit overpowering (like the uni cream pasta at Marugame Monzo). Go eat one of these bowls and report back to me at once. Or better yet, take me with you.

Maruhide Uni Club
2130 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Torrance, CA 90504