Number 15 on the Washingtonian's top 100 restaurants is Sushi Taro, which flies its fish in from Tokyo! This place is top of the line, super fresh, and really expensive. We decided to go on a special occasion - Valentine's Day. Usually the restaurant has an a la carte menu along with the "Kaiseki" menu (chef's tasting menu), but for this night, only a special tasting menu was offered. After some champagne in our limousine, we were ready to submit ourselves to the whims of Chef Nobu Yamazaki; and we were not disappointed. Each dish was intricate and complex and artful - both in taste and in presentation!
We started with a sweet champagne cocktail with plum wine and yamamomo fruit, followed by sesame seed tofu with uni (sea urchin). The tofu was the most interesting texture! It was creamy and gelled at the same time. The uni was rich and creamy and fresh, and the savory sauce was fantastic! Next was unagi (eel) in a dashi starch sauce. The eel (one of my usual sushi favorites) was perfectly steamed, tender and flaky. The sauce was an interesting texture and complemented the eel perfectly. The next dish was both of our favorites from the whole night - fatty tuna tartar. I cannot even describe how delicious this tartar was. Fatty tuna is already one of the most delicious raw fish, and when it is this fresh it is unbeatable. The sauce was a perfect combo of vinegar, salt, savory, and sweet flavors. It was fantastic. Next was a gorgeous arrangement of sashimi including more toro (yay!), sweet shrimp - with the most unusual creamy texture, snapper, and salmon roe. The plate looked like a piece of modern art, and the fish was the best I have ever had (and I eat a lot of sushi). We asked for real, fresh wasabi with our fish - the green paste you usually see is not the real stuff - and they did something I've never seen before. They brought a whole wasabi root and grated it table-side! Next was a sake based soup with fish and tiny star shaped fish cakes. After that was a hairy crab sunomono (vinegar salad) - very refreshing. After that we got to choose from a list of sushi 4 items. I tried arctic charr, golden thread snapper, soy marinated tuna, and (of course) more fatty tuna. The fish was once again outstanding - better than I've had anywhere else. The last dish was a dramatic presentation of sukiyaki (stew). The broth and vegetables were brought in individual pots bubbling away on top of stone candle holders carved with symbols. They brought a plate of very thinly sliced Kobe beef to dip into the broth to cook instantly. It was served with a poached egg in vinegar which we were told to break and mix together to make a sauce to dip the beef in, rice, and pickled vegetables. It was beautiful, interactive, fun, and delicious - the ultimate comfort food. Even after all of that - the desert still blew us away (though the credit must go to Locolat for that). It was a chocolate raspberry cake with an airy-crisp crunch to it.
The sake list is also fantastic, we sampled 2 types that we had never seen before and both were excellent. The last was a sparkling nigiri (sweet, milky, unfiltered sake). Sushi Taro can be very expensive, but it is definitely worth it. The dishes are stunningly beautiful, creative, and complex, and the fish is stellar.
I got a craving for Indian food a couple of weeks ago, and Jasper suggested a place by his work that he had been to before, so we hoofed over there despite the snow. Haandi is in a shopping center, next to a Giant grocery. It's a tiny place, maybe 15 booths, with some traditional looking Indian designs including some interesting wall murals.
When talking about Indian food, I find that it is important to distinguish between spicy (hot) and spicy (flavorful), so I will make up a word for the latter - "spiceful". We ordered some Tandoori murgh (chicken) for an appetizer. It's marinated in yogurt and spices, cooked inside a big clay oven, and comes out this beautiful red color that I love. I have never been able to handle spicy food, and I was always afraid that the red color meant that it would be spicy and didn't discover that it was not until a few years ago. Anyway, Haandi's Tandoori chicken is really tender and flavorful with lots of smoke and paprika flavors. It comes on a platter with some big chunks of onion and green pepper. These were almost raw, so we basically ignored them.
For my main dish, I asked the waiter what I should order if I didn't like spicy food, and he said Murgh Makhini without a second of hesitation. Jasper ordered his favorite: chicken Tikka Masala. The dishes were brought out in these really cool handled pots that looked little - but neither of us could finish! Murgh Makhini means butter chicken, it is creamy and flavorful with big chunks of chicken and tons of spices - but not spicy! This is probably the best Indian dish that I have ever had! Jasper's Tikka Masala was really good too, "spiceful" and more tomato-y than creamy. He really loves spicy food, and usually Tikka Masala is really spicy - but not this time, which means that I got to try it! The dishes are served with rice, but it is a must to also order Naan bread (cooked on the side of the Tandoori ovens) - it was warm and pillowy, brushed with a little butter, just the way it should be! I always order a mango lassi (yogurt smoothie) when I eat Indian food - because it complements the spices, and cools and coats your mouth if the food is too spicy! The lassi at Haandi was very good - smooth and sweet with a little tang from the yogurt. I also ordered my favorite dessert - rice pudding. Haandi's rice pudding has a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg and is very creamy - yum!
The prices are pretty good - $15 for an entree that is enough for 2 people - but all the extra accompaniments can add up (naan, raita, etc...). This is definitely the place to go for Indian food in Falls Church!