Monday, July 25, 2011

Willow

Willow
The second restaurant that deserves an A in my book is Willow. It's a toss up between Ris and Willow for my favorite dining experience thus far in the DC/Arlington area.

Location: 
4301 N. Fairfax Drive 
Arlington Va. 22203


Service: impeccable 
Food: 10
Atmosphere: 9
(the bar area could be a bit more inviting) 
Margarita flatbread
It doesn't get much better than Willow if you're looking for a fine dining experience. The prices are above average, but worth it. It's the perfect place to take a lady on a date...if any guys are reading this for tips. Great wine list and appetizers are perfect to share. I highly recommend their signature grilled flatbread pizzas to start off the meal right. 

There are two sizes, a smaller and a bigger one (not sure on the exact measurements). The smaller pie is plenty for two people if you plan to order entrees. The larger would def. feed a table of four comfortably. We were boring and ordered the margarita. But if you want to be a bit more daring, there are plenty of options including the calamari ali olio with savory pesto, roasted tomato, fontina and parsley & lemon. 



I'm big into seafood (if you haven't noticed a trend). Naturally, I chose the sauteed Alaskan halibut which was mouth watering, even to look at. 
Alaskan Halibut


Served with fried olives atop and warm barley salad with gigante beans, broccoli, sunflower seeds, basil & lemon under the perfectly prepared fish--this was an A+ dish in my book. I would honestly have a hard time going back to Willow and resisting the urge to order this again. There are a number of other seafood options on the menu ranging from roasted Norwegian salmon to seared scallops with potato ravioli. There are also non-seafood options as well. If you're in the mood for red meat, I suggest the filet medallions. 


Live in the Arlington area? You have no excuse to not try Willow. There is a parking garage right next to the restaurant so parking is not an issue!


Try it and let me know if you loved it as much as me!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Circa

Circa


Location: 3010 Clarendon Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201

*Also in Dupont 


Awesome atmosphere, but, unfortunately, not as awesome food or service. When I walked into Circa I was immediately impressed with the modern decorthe bar area and the comfortable seating. Naturally, I was expecting the dining experience to rate quite well.


Circa burger with sweet potato fries 
The servers were unorganized from the get-go. It took awhile to get our drinks (even water) and we had to ask for refills and ketchup for our burgers and fries. The food wasn't bad; in fact, my burger was above average


However, I feel like I can get a delicious burger at a number of places. Two of the other people I was dining with ordered the personal lunch pizzas and were less than satisfied. The chicken on the pizza was dry and the flavor was bland. Not terrible, just not worth the price or calories. Overall, it simply wasn't something I would rave to my friends about.


BBQ chicken pizza

 
Last thought: I've heard a number of people say they enjoy Circa for happy hour. You can't really mess up a vodka tonic and, like I said, the atmosphere is pleasant so don't count out Circa completely. Maybe I'm just overly picky.


After the meal, I decided I wasn't planning a future visit anytime soon. That disappoints me because Circa has the atmosphere going for it. My suggestion: amp up the service and tweak the menu a bit, then you'll be in business. 
Overall rating: C



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Georgetown Cupcake

My apology for the lack of posts this past week. I have just begun my internship on the Hill and have not had much spare time to enjoy dining and writing. Now that I'm getting into the swing of things, you'll see more from me.


Today's food for thought:
When did cupcakes become the latest sweet tooth craving trend? For those of you who know me, I'm not one to turn down anything sweet, but I personally prefer to indulge in homemade ice cream or a big piece of New York cheesecake. Nonetheless, I had to give in to the cupcake craze and try Georgetown Cupcake


Georgetown Cupcake, also known as DC Cupcake from its TV show on TLC is located at:
3301 M Street NW (corner of 33rd & M)




While I really admire the originality of the cupcake flavors and the fact that this bakery was started by two sisters, I honestly don't understand all the hype. When my roommate and I went to try it out on a weekday at 3 p.m., the line was pushed out the door and stretched at least half way around the block.


Don't get me wrong, the cupcakes are good and I have nothing bad to say. You would just think people were waiting in line to meet President Obama (ew) with the level of eagerness displayed. 


Because there was a "30 minute wait" for the flavor I really wanted to try, I ended up choosing "vanilla birthday." A madagascar bourbon vanilla cupcake topped with a traditional sweet vanilla buttercream frosting and rainbow sprinkles. Not too shabby, but def. didn't knock my socks off. Perhaps one of the more creative flavors, such as the "chocolate coconut," the "salted caramel" or the "honey banana" would have made a lasting impression. 
Next time, if I go back, I'll go for something more risky--even if they don't have the flavor I initially want. 


To end on a positive note, the prices weren't nearly as high as I anticipated ($3 dollars a pop), the what seemed to be a never ending line didn't take too long and the staff was super friendly.


Overall rating: B
Overrated, but still a yummy sweet treat for a reasonable price.  


My pick: Thomas Sweet
If you're craving the best ice cream in DC, this is the spot.
It's conveniently right down the street from GT Cupcake: located @3214 P Street Northwest!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Paolo's

Paolo's Ristorante 
"Traditional Italian made California Fresh"


Location: 1303 Wisconsin Avenue NW,
Washington D.C. 20007 (Georgetown)
*There is also a Paolo's in Reston


Paolo's Italian restaurant offers a fun, modern atmosphere for a happy hour get-together or a leisurely dinner with your significant other.


My friend and I decided to sit in the bar area because we didn't feel like waiting for a table outside. The wait on Saturday night without a reservation was about 25 minutes. Our table was a bit small, but absolutely fine for two people. Still, I would suggest reservations on the weekend. 



Breadsticks and hummus

The breadsticks and olive based hummus was a perfect way to start our meal. I was happy to see something a little different from the bland slices of bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 


Whether you're craving pizza, pasta or a hearty salad, there are plenty of options on the menu. I'm a pasta person. I love seafood so I went for the crab pasta dish. It was good, but not great. Capellini pasta with a light pesto/basil sauce, roasted tomatoes, corn and of course lump crab meat. The crab was delicious, but the pasta was a bit bland. While the corn and tomatoes added a nice flavor, it seemed that something small was missing from the dish.


Pizza margarita and half of house salad
The pizza margarita was above average in all regards. Plenty for two people splitting or a great appetizer for a table of four. The other pizzas sounded just as mouthwatering.

The waitress was friendly and informative and our food came out in a timely manner. One thing I noticed was my friend's salad came out with her pizza. Usually, salad comes beforehand. Not a big deal--I just notice the small stuff. 
Prices were moderate. $14 for the pizza and $22 for the pasta entree. If you're looking for an Italian restaurant that's not too heavy then this is a good choice for dinner or drinks. There was a large group of 20-somethings enjoying happy hour before a night out in Georgetown. 


Overall rating: B
Paolo's wasn't life changing like Ris. I wouldn't suggest it for a special occasion or to a friend that was only going to be in D.C. for a night or two and wanted to experience somewhere unique and memorable. Nonetheless, it's still an above average restaurant. If you live in the area and often crave Italian, try it sometime. 


Paolo's menu 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bayou

Sorry I've been slacking on the posts this week. I've been busy working so I've either made something easy at home or gone to Whole Foods to grab sushi. This week I'll step up my game and entertain whoever reads my blog--hopefully a few people!


Bayou: Coffee Bar Eatery
Location: 1515 N. Courthouse Rd.
Arlington, VA 
bayoubakeryva.com
Inside of Bayou
I've been to Bayou for my morning coffee and a blueberry muffin and thought it was a cute and yummy place to grab breakfast at. Until today when my roommate told me she had a delicious salad there a few weeks ago, I didn't know Bayou served lunch and dinner too!


After walking to Georgetown and back, my roommate and I were hungry and wanted something semi-healthy for dinner. The Bayou salad that she described sounded perfect for what we were craving. Not to mention, I also wanted to blog about a restaurant near my apartment in Arlington. 


Overall, the food at Bayou is New Orleans style cooking. For breakfast, take your pick of an egg sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit, beignets, oatmeal or yogurt with fresh fruit from the farmer's market, or one of their yummy muffins. I recommend blueberry. 


For lunch, there are a number of sandwiches available. I haven't tried any of them, but they all sound pretty good and are no more expensive than $8. 
Soup and salads are on the menu all day and "super hot plates" are only available for dinner. 


My roommate and I both chose the same salad: grilled chicken, apples, spiced pecans and local chevre (similar to goat cheese ) over mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette. I really enjoyed the freshness of the greens and the apples. The portion of grilled chicken was generous--some restaurants tend to not put enough protein on their salads and it really bothers me when I'm paying $10 or more for a salad.



Mixed greens with grilled chicken and a cup of gumbo

The other salads also sounded tasty. Especially the Bayou chopped with blue cheese, bacon, egg, avocado, oven-cured tomatoes and radish with a mustard vinaigrette. And if you don't like chicken, no worries--you can go for the spiced shrimp instead. 


I thought it would be boring to blog just about a salad, and I wanted to try something else too, so I got a side of the blackened turkey meatballs

Turkey meatballs 

One word: yum. 
Turkey meatballs with roasted tomato sauce and melted parmigiano cheese. Good Southern cookin' right there.


My roommate had a cup of the chicken & sausage gumbo with her salad and while I didn't try it, it smelled and looked full of flavor. She doesn't like spicy foods and enjoyed the gumbo because it wasn't overwhelming in the
slightest. So if you're not a spicy foods type of person, there are still plenty of options at this New Orleans style eatery that shouldn't be too overwhelming for your taste buds. 


Overall rating: B+
I would def. go back for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The prices were reasonable, the atmosphere was laid back and the food was ready in no time. There were a few people having appetizers and drinks while we were there. I'd even suggest that if you aren't starving. The selection of brews on tap isn't bad either. 


For my next post I'll be comparing Georgetown Cupcake and Crumbs Bake Shop. Can't say I'll hate comparing the two :) 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ris

Ris
Location: 2275 L Street, NW (Near Foggy Bottom)
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: (202) 730-2500


My roommate and I both had yesterday off so we decided to explore DC. After a visit to the National History Museum and a little bit of shopping, we were ready for a glass of wine and a relaxing dinner. 


We had the mindset that we'd stumble upon a great restaurant just walking around. We were wrong. It's not as easy as it sounds--even in the city! I definitely learned a valuable lesson. Get a recommendation beforehand and know exactly where you're going. We literally walked around for almost an hour then finally got on the metro and went to Dupont Circle. After walking around there for thirty minutes and still not finding something worthwhile (we're picky), we asked a friendly man for his advice. Bingo. He told us to follow him--he was going to meet some friends at Ris and he promised we would enjoy the wine and the food. He was right on point!


This is the first, and hopefully not the last, restaurant I'll rate an A.  
I would like to rate Ris an A+, but I have one small bone to pick. When my friend and I got there, the hostess wasn't very polite. She sat us at a table that wasn't particularly ideal. The sun was shining in our faces and the table was near the kitchen door. When we asked to be seated somewhere else, she said it wasn't possible. So we flagged down the manager and got our way. Sometimes I feel like young people don't get the same respect as older people dining out. 


On to the food... American contemporary is how I would describe the cuisine at Ris. The menu offered a number of unique dishes ranging from the Monday gourmet meatloaf special to pan roasted Alaska halibut. 


I was immediately impressed by the service (minus the hostess) and the atmosphere. We started our meal off right by ordering a bottle of Mohua sauvignon blanc. It's a white wine from New Zealand and hit the spot. We opted to split a mixed greens salad, which was plenty for two, while we looked over the menu.

It was hard to pick an entree because everything sounded so different, yet so appetizing. My roommate decided to go with the Monday
meatloaf special. This wasn't your typical 
meatloaf meal. This was high quality beef prepared perfectly and served with whipped mashed potatoes and spinach. 



Meatloaf

I went for the sesame crusted salmon with gingered beets, bok choi, over soba noodles and red curry coconut broth. Amazing. I'm assuming the halibut would have been just as tasty. I honestly don't think you could go wrong with any of the entrees!


Without the bottle of wine, my bill would have been around $30. Pretty reasonable, in my opinion, for an A restaurant with phenomenal service. 
Salmon



I wished I had saved room for dessert because the pecan carrot cake, along with all of the other options, sounded sinful (in a good way). I just couldn't do it. But I will 100% go back to Ris to try something else and make room for dessert. 


Of all the restaurants I've been to, thus far, this is the best. I suggest reservations if you're going for dinner!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cafe Asia

Cafe Asia
Location: 1550 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22209-2435
Phone: (703) 469-1953

If you like Asian food, and want a causal, reasonably priced restaurant, then Cafe Asia is your place.

Cafe Asia offers a wide variety of Asian cuisine from sushi to pad tai. It may be one of the biggest restaurants I've been to in years. There were at least 100 people dining there for dinner! 

To be honest, the size of the restaurant was a bit overwhelming and it was difficult to fully enjoy my company because of the noise. (Perhaps it's not as crowded for lunch?)
Besides the loud noise, I didn't feel as though there was the chance for a personable dining experience. To the server, we were just another table. 

With that said, the waiter seemed to have trouble giving our party individual checks and did not have a spectacular attitude about doing it when we asked nicely. 

While Cafe Asia is a huge restaurant, there are only two bathroom stalls in the women's room, which I found to be odd and poor use of space. 

To sum up: good portion sizes for a very reasonable price:

Garlic chicken


For only $10, I split chicken lo mein with my friend. It was plenty for the two of us after having an appetizer. While the service wasn't great and the atmosphere wasn't anything special, I would go back to fulfill my asian food craving for a cheap price.

Also, the drinks were pretty cheap during happy hour. 

Overall rating: C+
Next time I might try the sushi!

Teriyaki chicken


Fyve Restaurant Lounge

Fyve Restaurant Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City
Location: 1250 South Hayes Street
Arlington, VA 22202 
Phone: (703) 415-5000


Attached to the Pentagon City mall is the glamorous Ritz Carlton hotel and Fyve Restaurant Lounge. Whether you're up for a three-course meal or simply looking for a nice place to meet a friend for drinks, in my opinion, Fyve isn't a terrible choice. 

The dining room



My dinner reservations were at 7:30 and the restaurant was nearly full when my party was seated. To me, a full restaurant is a good indication of a good dining experience. This definitely held to be true at Fyve. 


To paint a picture in your head, you walk in and there is a full bar and lounge that leads into a bigger dining room. "Modern American cuisine is offered in an atmosphere with dazzling hues of red and orange that introduce an upbeat and contemporary d├ęcor."


Side note: by no means do you need to wear your Sunday best, but don't dress like you're going to Olive Garden for lunch. For guys, a nice shirt and khakis is appropriate attire.  Ladies, a causal dress or any pants other than jeans will work. 


Now I'll get to the food...
Surprisingly, the food was not terribly over-priced. Keeping this in mind, it was still expensive. The average entree price was around $28. The portions were satisfying and the service was nearly impeccable.


I love seafood so I ordered the Maryland style crab cake. 
Maryland style crab cake


It was a large cake (about the size of a big juicy burger). There was absolutely no filler, and it was deliciously fresh. The chef prepared the entree with a mandarin orange arrangement. The citrus added a nice, refreshing flavor. 


Finishing it all, I left no sign of disappointment on my plate. I would order this again tomorrow. 

I also tried the grilled New York strip; and it was pretty phenomenal. Served with mashed potatoes, it was cooked to perfection if you like a rare, tender piece of meat. A glass of pinot noir with this entree really hit the spot! 



New York strip

As I said, the service was top notch. Fyve is not a causal place to go to dinner, but I highly recommend it if you're looking for somewhere nicer to dine.


Overall rating: B+
Fyve is a little expensive for the young professional starting a career in the DC area. It's not somewhere you'd want to go spur of the moment. If you like what I've described, think of it as a great place for a special occasion. 










Thursday, June 9, 2011

Corner Bakery Cafe

Corner Bakery Cafe
"Perfect Stop for Lunch"
Location: 2111 Wilson Blvd. 
Arlington, VA 22209
Note: Franchise (they are everywhere)


A good way to sum up Corner Bakery Cafe is to say that it's a lot like Panera but more authentic, with better variety. 


I went to C.B. Cafe for a late lunch today. If had gone earlier, I probably would've taken advantage of the all-day breakfast menu. The scrambled egg sandwiches sound pretty good! 


For lunch, you have your pick of fresh salads, homemade soups, signature sandwiches and hearty pastas. And like Panera, along with many other restaurants, you have a combo option, or better put: the "pick two."


I chose half of the chicken pomodori panini with a mixed greens salad. The panini was great--all natural roasted chicken, fresh basil and spinach, oven-roasted tomatoes and provolone cheese with pesto mayo on sourdough. The salad was average, but fresh. (I hate when salad isn't completely fresh, especially when I dine out) Honestly, I have nothing negative to say about Corner Bakery. 


The atmosphere was relaxing for a quick, in and out, lunch. It wasn't as hectic as a Panera where you're fighting for an open table. There were a number of comfortable booths to sit in. Not to mention, there was actually decent music playing. A little '70s and '80s classic rock going on. And the best part was, a server brings out your food--no confusion with a buzzer and whatnot. 


Overall rating: B. I would stop in again for breakfast or lunch. However, I probably won't (this summer) because I have other places to explore!


Tomorrow I'm going out for a nice dinner. The blog post should be a little more exciting than this one. For some reason, I think dinner is always wayyyyy more fun.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien
"A Taste of France"
Location: 2900 Clarendon Blvd
*There are also locations in Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle and Alexandria 
www.lepainquotidien.com 


If I lived in France, I would be fat. Fact. I love bread way too much. Good thing I can't afford to eat every meal out or I would go to Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast and lunch almost everyday. It is the cutest French cafe' ever! The bread is fresh, the coffee is good and everything is organic. I highly recommend this place if you like French food or just want a relaxing atmosphere to dine in. 


I've been here only a few days and I'll admit I've already had breakfast here twice and lunch once. That's how much I enjoy this cafe'. It's a great place to stop in for just a snack or a cup of coffee. Each time I've dined here, the restaurant has been busy, but never too packed to get a table right away.


This morning I went to breakfast by myself--yea I'm one of those weird people who actually likes to eat alone sometimes. I read the paper and took my time eating a fresh avocado and tomato omelette.  The omelette came with a baguette, a piece of whole wheat bread and a small side of mesclun greens. 
Fresh avocado and tomato omelette  
At first I thought it was strange having a salad for breakfast, but it actually complimented the omelette well. Having a few greens made me feel like I was eating a pretty healthy meal (minus all the bread). Even sitting by myself, the waiter checked up on me and asked a number of times if I needed anything.


If you have any self-control and don't go over board on the bread or, what look to be, delectable pastries, then Le Pain Quotidien is a very healthy dining option. Like I said, everything is organic and made fresh. For lunch, I recommend tartines. Tartines are open faced sandwiches if that makes sense. Bread on the bottom but not on top. I had the chicken & smoked mozzarella tartine with arugula and basil pesto. It was served with a small fruit salad and greens. The fruit salad was noteworthy because it wasn't just your typical melon and a measly piece of pineapple; it came with delicious organic berries.  


The only bad thing I'll say about Le Pain is that the drinks are extremely over priced. An iced tea is $3 which doesn't seem worth it to me. Stick with water and you'll pay under $13 for lunch. Same goes for breakfast (and the coffee isn't any more pricy than Starbucks). 


Overall rating: A-
Definitely a great place for a lunch date with a few girlfriends!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ceiba



This summer I'll be interning on Capitol Hill and living in Clarendon. My number one passion is politics, but my interest in FOOD is a growing competitor for my precious attention. While I'm here for the next two and a half months, I plan to experience a ton of restaurants in the DC/ Arlington area. I love all food (and drinks)--Latin American, Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, French, of course classic American and I'm sure more I haven't named. After dining at a restaurant, I'll share my thoughts about the food (obviously), but I'll also rate the restaurant based on atmosphere, service and overall dining experience. Forgive me for leaving my AP Style book in Blacksburg. I'm not going to be grammatically correct with every sentence; I want to have fun with this and I want my readers to enjoy reading my posts. Hopefully I have a few readers... 
Blogging is new to me. I've been a tweeter for awhile now but this will be different and more exciting! So here it goes:


My first meal out in DC was at Ceiba.
Contemporary Latin American Cuisine 
Location: 701 14th Street, NW 
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-393-3983




Let me start by saying my overall experience was simply amazing. The food was prepared to perfection, the service was all that it should be and the atmosphere made the meal taste even better (if that was possible). 

All gone...I obviously hated it
If you like Latin American food and you're anywhere near 14th street, then you must go to Ceiba. Instead of the traditional bread to start the meal off, it was cracked bread, more like a chip-like texture, and freshly made hummus. Delicious. I was dining with my parents (last meal with them before they said bye for the summer) and we ordered guacamole for three. It tasted as fresh as the hummus and wasn't too spicy like some restaurants make it. For the main course, my dad and I both ordered the tuna. I wish I wrote down the exact name of the entree because it was the best fish I've had in months. I forgot to take a picture of it before I dove in...whoops: 
It was cooked perfectly--medium to medium rare. We hardly needed a knife to cut it. The flavor had an Asian sesame kick to it which was interesting for a Latin American dish, but the chefs made it work. On the side was crab meat, black beans and a guacamole-based sauce which surprisingly complimented the asian flavored tuna. Somehow the chefs pulled together the two different flavors, wonderfully. The portion was generous, but not overwhelming...and left plenty of room for dessert. What else at a Latin American restaurant than churros? 
Gourmet cinnamon churros with warm chocolate sauce
Not your everyday churros. Whoever thought to put warm chocolate sauce on churros is a genius. Yum. These were sinful, but worth the calories for sure. It was the perfect dessert to split two or three ways. 
Overall, Ceiba gets an A-
A- because it was a bit pricy but still, in my opinion, worth the few extra dollars. I believe my entree was $26 which isn't terrible but might be hard for a young professional living paycheck to paycheck. If that's the case, I suggest trying it for lunch at least!
I could go on and on about this restaurant but I'm going to go enjoy my first night out on the city. More posts to come soon!