Ever since our favorite local sushi place (Sakana) closed, we have been on the hunt for a new sushi haunt. We have passed Yoshi many times on our way to Bazin's and finally made a reservation to go. Reservations are pretty much required on weekends because this place is TINY. They have maybe 12 two-tops that they can push together in different configurations. They were full to capacity the entire time we were there.
They only have one unfiltered sake, but it's one that we like, so that was ok (we both prefer unfiltered sake pretty much exclusively). We started with pork gyoza dumplings that were very good - crispy on the outside, tender inside. Then we were served miso soup and salad, both were standard - the salad is iceberg, but the ginger dressing is good, and there were sliced radishes. I ordered a sashimi sampler (tuna, white tuna, salmon, yellowtail, eel). The portions were nice and the fish was fresh. My tamago omelette was a bit grey, but still sweet and tasty. We tried a few rolls - the yellowtail and green onion was fresh and light, though redundant with my yellowtail sashimi. I really liked the crispy salmon roll - salmon, eel, cream cheese, and avocado wrapped in rice paper, deep fried with black sesame sauce - but Jasper did not. He thought the crispy outside was too poke-y (you do have to be careful when you eat it). I thought it was warm and comforting and savory - the black sesame sauce was particularly interesting. I normally don't like cream cheese in rolls, but when it is fried it's ok because it gets warm and melty. We also tried the bagel roll - cream cheese, smoked salmon, avocado - which neither of us liked mostly due to the cold cream cheese issue. The Center St roll was good - similar to a caterpillar roll you would get at other places (shrimp tempura, eel, avocado, and asparagus wrapped in tuna, avocado). We were excited to see that they had fatty tuna on the menu, it was delicious of course, but also expensive. They also have fresh wasabi, which is a must for us. The real stuff is vastly different from the dyed green horseradish paste you normally see.
Overall, best local place we have found so far (still not as good as Sakana, which I miss dearly). I would like to come back and try the cooked dishes like sukiyaki and yaki niku.
Addie's is a folksy, shambling house across the street from White Flint Mall in Rockville. I went with a (vegetarian) friend after doing some shopping. She is from the area and had heard good things. The dining rooms are small and funky and I was sure that at a place with a vibe like this there would be several options for a vegetarian - wrong. We shared a panzanella salad as an appetizer - chunks of rustic Italian bread with tomato and basil - it's a flavor profile you can't mess up! Addie's version was served with too much blue cheese, but after we removed some, it was very tasty. For my entree, I ordered a half chicken that was caramelized on the outside and very moist on the inside. It was served w/ roasted apples, a deliciously moist sweet potato bread, and a little microgreen salad with candied pecans. Overall, it was very good. My companion didn't have a lot of options to choose from, the one vegetarian entree is a collection of "fall vegetables". Luckily, they had a vegetarian ravioli appetizer that they agreed to do an entree portion of for her. It was a goat cheese ravioli with mushrooms, squash puree, and apples. And boy was it delicious - I was jealous! Best dish of the night. We decided to skip dessert.
Overall, the food is good, but the menu is limited. I might stop in again if I was in the area, but I wouldn't make a trip for it.
We were going to see the Nutcracker Ballet in DC and wanted to find a restaurant w/ a Pre-Theater menu. We settled on Tosca, an upscale Italian restaurant, which has two courses and a dessert for $35. It is also within walking distance of the Warner Theater, where we were heading, and the Metro Center station. The dining room is rather large, with a small and crowded bar tucked in by the door. The wine list was wonderful - we are more familiar with Italian wines than any other, so we love a good Italian wine list.
There are two dishes that are mentioned in every single review of Tosca I have read. They were both on the Prix-fixe menu, so of course I ordered both! The first was a carrot flavored pappardelle, topped with a rabbit ragu and fresh thyme. The idea is really cute (rabbit, carrots...), and the execution was wonderful. Big, soft pasta noodles smothered in a rich and comforting ragu, with just a hint of freshness from the thyme. This was my favorite dish of the night. The second course was a ravioli dish with a roasted veal, prosciutto, and pistachio mortadella filling, topped with a red wine reduction sauce with sage. This dish was very good as well, but having two hearty pasta dishes in a row did not allow for much differentiation. Jasper, who had a caprese salad as his first dish, loved it. We ordered a cheese plate for dessert - four cheeses selected by the chef with a few accompaniments. Overall - the pre-theater menu is a great deal, I will definitely return and I would order that carrot pappardelle any time.
Faryab is a tiny place that is easily missed - tucked in beside a cigar shop in the Woodmont Triangle area of Bethesda. It doesn't even have a website (though I've found a link to the menu, below). But this is a gem you will want to remember. The dining room is surprisingly sophisticated with touches of exotic artwork. The patrons are a mix of all types: families, older couples, young friends. I had never had Afghan food before, and I found it to be similar to both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.
I ordered the mantu - tender steamed dumplings filled with spiced beef and topped with yogurt and tangy tomato. The entree came with a side salad - your standard iceberg and shredded carrot affair, made special by a tangy yogurt dressing. We ordered some sides to share: kabu - tender sweet pumpkin with yogurt, and buranee bademjan - smokey eggplant with yogurt and tomato. My companion, who is a vegan, had no problems ordering and the server even suggested an alternative dressing so that she could have a side salad. For dessert, she ordered a baklava that was excellent - not too sweet or dry, with just a touch of honey. We agreed that it was one of the better baklava either of us had tried. I ordered the rice pudding, which was sweet and creamy, topped with pistachios, and had a hint of rose water. I also had the Afghan tea, which was flavored with flowery cardamom. I have read indifferent reviews in terms of service, but our server was very friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic.
I was very impressed and plan to return in the future to try the aushak (dumplings similar to the mantu, but filled with scallions) and the lamb with onion and spinach, both of which I have heard good things about.
As a bit of a departure from the norm, I am going to talk a little bit about home cooking. I LOVE the fall/winter food season - butternut and acorn squash, pumpkin, hearty stews - all that heavy, creamy, comforting goodness. Last October (as in 2009) it started to get chilly and I was ready for fall baking so I hit the grocery store, but (disaster of disasters!) there was no pumpkin puree to be found. I tried 5 different stores with no success - I was rather upset. So when that Libby's finally hit the shelves, I bought somewhere near 20 cans in a pumpkin induced panic. Over a year and 2 Thanksgivings later, I still had several cans leftover. Which brings me to the inspiration for this week's meals: get rid of that pumpkin!
I saw this recipe in my store and snatched it up: Spice Pumpkin and Lamb Tagine
I made some changes based on what I had on hand - the most important being the substitution of canned pumpkin for fresh roasted (the point of this week being to get rid of canned pumpkin). I also didn't have tagine spice of harissa on hand. The WS brand tagine consists of paprika, tumeric, ginger and black pepper - but I found an excellent recipe for a more complex tagine blend, as follows:
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch of saffron
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp coriander
Let me tell you - that mix smells fantastic. I added another 2 tsp of cinnamon to match the recipe, and I think I will leave it as is next time. I love the combination of cinnamon and meat in savory dishes, but it overpowered that lovely and complex tagine blend I had made. I also added a touch of honey to make up for the lack of powdered honey used in the recipe on the roasted pumpkin. The tagine ended up being really tasty, I will definitely keep it in the recipe box. I recommend serving it with couscous, rice, or (like I did) quinoa.
The next pumpkin recipe I made was a Thai pumpkin soup - recipe courtesy of my Vitamix recipe book (Jasper bought me a Vitamix 500 for Christmas, best present ever!) The soup is creamy and a little sweet. I would recommend pairing it with something savory to balance the sweetness. Alternatively you could omit the coconut cream and use twice the coconut milk to make it less sweet. I did not have any green chilies on hand, so I used a dash of cayenne pepper.
Thai Pumpkin Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2.5 cups canned pumpkin
2 tbsp ginger paste or chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp green chilies, chopped
3/4 cup coconut cream
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
Saute the onions in olive oil until soft. Add tomato paste, pumpkin, ginger, garlic, and broth. Heat through. Place in blender with remaining ingredients and puree. Season w/ salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream, peanuts, and cilantro. Makes 8 cups.
I often have the problem of leftover produce and not knowing what to do with it. For instance, many recipes call for 1 carrot - but it is more difficult (and more expensive) to buy 1 carrot. I often end up buying a 1 lb pack and having a ton of extra carrots. Sometimes I chop them finely and freeze them to be used in various soups and stews. This method, unfortunately, does not work with celery - the ice crystals destroy the cellular structure and it ends up as brown mush. If anyone has any strategies for leftover celery, i would love to hear them.
Anyway, I found a recipe at the store for a spiced carrot soup and decided to use my extra carrots from the lamb tagine to make it. The soup is creamy (without the use of cream), spiced with curry, and topped w/ crunchy bits of salty prosciutto. I used madras curry instead of vadouvan - which I have yet to try but is a green french curry. The madras curry blend is my favorite of the ones we sell - traditional with great flavors but not spicy. It took me forever to learn that curries did not have to be spicy by nature, and what a marvelous discovery that was for someone who loves bold flavors but can't handle spicy foods. But that is a story for another time. I hope you enjoy this small collection of winter comfort food.