I LOVE Valentine's Day, I really do. I didn't before I met Jasper, but now that I have someone to share it with I love to have a day to just appreciate and treat each other. We like to spend it at home so that we aren't distracted by other people/things, or feel like we have to act a certain way. So I spend all day cooking and setting up and we have a wonderful romantic dinner together.
We went back to Taro in October to see what it was like on a regular night (as opposed to a holiday). We both ordered the sushi tasting menu which comes with come cooked dishes and some sushi. I won't go into too much detail this time because, frankly, the cooked dishes were forgettable. Sure they were savory and good (except for the frequent use of large, chewy matsutake mushrooms), but they were not really special - not like that incredible sukiyaki from February. The sushi, however, was fantastic - the standouts being fatty tuna (of course), white salmon, and the wagyu beef (I realize this is not a fish, but my goodness it was amazing). We have decided to skip the tasting menu the next time we go and just order sushi a la carte, because the fresh fish is definitely the star of Taro.
I suppose it is about time for me to review OUR restaurant, the one where Jasper proposed to me, where we spend most of our anniversaries and special occasions - Marcel's. It is a romantic, old world, French restaurant. Marcel's gives you the ability to choose how many courses to have in your tasting menu - 3,4,5, or 7. You may chose multiples of a dish, choose all appetizers, all desserts - whatever you want! You may also order a la carte, but I wouldn't recommend it. You will want to be able to try many things. The Pre-theater 3 course menu is also a wonderful option (remember that you will have an amuse bouche and several additional sweets in addition to the 3 courses). If you valet your car, they will arrange to drive you via towncar to the Kennedy Center, and bring you back after the show. You can even opt to have the dessert course when you come back after the show. The wine list here is, of course, impressive. Leave yourself in the hands of the excellent sommelier - he knows what he is talking about.
The absolute best thing on the menu is Chef Robert Wiedmaier's signature Boudin Blanc - a fluffy, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, mousse filled white sausage. I get this absolutely every time I come. If there is foie gras on the menu, get that too - they know how to do it right. Usually it will be served on top of brioche, which is good for sopping up all that blackberry or truffle sauce - yum. Jasper loves the Diver Scallops, I love the raw fish crudos. Anything with lobster, especially if it is with pasta, is fantastic. The cooked fish courses are consistently good (especially turbot), as are the snails, when they are on the menu. The entrees are always good - I typically go for lamb, duck, veal, or anything involving phyllo pastry. Jasper tends to go for the beef. Sometimes I skip the entree entirely and order everything from the beginning of the menu. Sometimes I don't even get dessert *gasp*! Though, of course, they are very good. They change constantly, so I can't offer any specific review, except to say that I have never been disappointed on the few occasions I have chosen sweets over cheese. The cheese course is top of the line with cheeses like Roquefort and Taleggio, and accompaniments like honeycomb and Sauternes syrup.
I know that this review is a bit vague, so the next time that we go, I will bring back a report of exactly what we ordered to give you a better idea. Trust me though, this is a special restaurant, and special things will happen to you here.
By the way, Chef Wiedmaier practices the philosophy of using the whole animal. His other restaurants include Brasserie Beck, BRABO, The Tasting Room, and Mussel Bar.
We went to see Cirque du Soleil's OVO Sunday night at the National Harbor. The show was great (as usual) and afterwards we headed to the waterfront to have dinner. We went into the Gaylord National Resort to eat at their steakhouse - Old Hickory. The inside of the Gaylord is amazing - a huge glass atrium with a fountain light show. Old Hickory looks out onto the atrium and, more importantly, onto the Potomac river. The decor is GORGEOUS - room after room of clean, white, square architectural details on dark blue paint. I loved the bar area especially with it's white marble bartop and modern glass doors. We were sat with a view out to the river, it was dark already but the view was still lovely.
For my first course, I had the beef tartare. It came with crunchy potato strings, a gorgeous fried egg coated in a crispy batter, and a sprinkling of fluer de sel. Cutting into the egg and having the warm yolk drip all over the beef was wonderful. The meat was bright red and very tender - just right. Jasper ordered the warm Maryland blue crab on recommendation of our waiter. It was a large portion of lump crab meat mixed with a mustard aioli and topped with crunchy cauliflower. I managed to steal a bite and it was very good. For our entree, we both ordered the grass-fed tenderloin (medium rare, of course). Oh my goodness - tender, tender, tender, and packed with flavor. It didn't need the sauces we ordered, but I am glad we ordered them. Jasper said his peppercorn sauce was the best he's ever had (and he has had a lot), and I could have eaten my Bearnaise with a spoon - creamy, lemony perfection. We opted out on dessert in favor of a cheese course, for which the Old Hickory is famous. They have a special case calibrated to keep the cheeses at the perfect temperature. The Maitre D'Fromage wheels out a case filled with cheeses and explains each one. We opted for six cheese selections, since we like different kinds of cheeses. Jasper picked a cheddar, a pecorino, and another sharp hard cheese. I selected a smokey blue from Oregon, a fragrant triple creme, and a gorgeous taleggio. The cheeses were served with pickled raisins, dried apricots (of which I wished there were more), and Marcona almonds.
The restaurant also has a cigar terrace with a cedar humidor, should you be a fan of after dinner cigars.
So - we finally made it out to Komi (the raved about #1 restaurant in DC) for our 6 month wedding anniversary. It is a tiny little place right next door to Sushi Taro. The decor is very simple and clean. The service is enthusiastic and friendly and not at all stuffy. This is not a white glove type of establishment, but definitely a special occasion spot.
The dinner is a set price of $125 per diner and is degustazione style, meaning - the chef sends out what he wants, there is no menu. You can of course request a dish you have had before and loved, or ask to avoid foods you are allergic to/ don't like. The meal progresses from a series of mezze (small dishes), to a pasta course, to a shared entree, then a series of desserts. The chef is Greek, and the name Komi comes from a location in Greece, so it is no surprise that the food has a Mediterranean influence.
The mezze portion was definitely my favorite of the evening. I love small perfect bites, and this was exactly that - brought out one by one in a parade of tasty excellence. The first bite set the tone - a wonderful warm ball of bread topped with Greek yogurt and trout roe - yum! Included in our mezze for the evening were also several raw fish selections topped with various herbs and sea salts - super fresh, and the accompaniments were just right. The scallop with truffle was particularly special. One of my favorite bites was a take on spanakopita (phyllo dough with spinach and feta) that had a liquid spinach center, a crunchy outside, and sat in a greek yogurt sauce. And let's not forget the medjool date stuffed with mascarpone and topped with sea salt... heaven. I had specified in the beginning that I did not like spicy dishes, so when they brought a spicy sandwich out for Jasper, they also brought a dish made for me. That kind of service really makes me smile. My dish was dragon tongue beans (which I had never heard of) with a gorgeous soft farm egg on top. The pasta course was a house-made tagliatelle with duck ragout and truffles. The pasta was the perfect texture, and the duck ragout was creamy and gamey (in a good way), and the truffles... how could you go wrong? But the main entree stole the show. It was a huge portion of roasted goat that was crispy and salty on top and falling off the bone. It was served with the thickest, freshest pita and all kinds of house-made accompaniments including tzatziki, hot sauce, oregano salt, pickled cabbage, and eggplant puree. I was very impressed, and very pleased. The desserts were a bit downhill from there, but good nonetheless. A standout was the "frozen baklava", which I liked better than I have ever liked actual baklava. Others included loukoumades (Greek doughnuts), and a cannoli type dessert that neither of us particularly favored.
Please, please go to Komi at least once in your life. It is magnificent. Just make sure to call at noon exactly one month in advance of the date that you want a reservation.
A happy week brought us to 2941 to celebrate and relax. If you have never been here before, it can be tricky to find - set behind a wall of trees on the the first floor of an office building. But my-oh-my is it worth the hunt. The location is stunning, first of all, with several koi filled ponds flowing and waterfalling down and around the glass-walled building. The inside of the dining room is no less beautiful, with long strands of glass sculpture hanging like curtains from the lofted ceiling. The mood is very serene and romantic. The cocktail list is innovative and fresh. I ordered something with grapefruit and elderberry - fantastic.
We ordered the 6 course tasting menu with wine parings. I should have taken notes, because I can't remember all of the dishes (which may have something to do with the wine pairings...). Which is not to say that they were not good, they were all wonderful. The dinner blends together in my memory in a mix of culinary joy and romance. The bread that is served is baked in house daily. There was a variety and they were all fresh and yummy. Our first course was a duo of canapes - two perfect bites. Beef tartare on brioche with quail egg was rich and delicious. Smoked salmon topped with popcorn (yes, popcorn) was equally good. This was followed by a perfectly cooked scallop. Our fish course was paired with a creamy souffle of masa harina (native American corn) that I couldn't get enough of. Before desert, we were served a shot of frozen wine. I had the desert presented on the tasting menu - a sour cherry gateau - and Jasper requested something chocolate. Neither of us was disappointed.
The tasting menu changes daily, so don't expect to see what is on the website, or what you had last week, or yesterday. But do expect it to be fun, fresh, delicious, and beautifully presented. (And ask for a copy of the menu if you want to remember what you had - doh!)