Sunday, September 25, 2011

Japanese Vegetarian brunch

A friend finished a long relay race and to celebrate, my boyfriend and I made a light-ish vegetarian brunch with some other MBA friends. Our aim was to showcase a few traditional items that are more difficult to find in a restaurant. It was a great team effort, and I really appreciate how much work my boyfriend did. He made a delicious vegetarian Japanese curry.
Kinpira gobo and panfried vegetarian gyoza.
 Gobo is Japanese for burdock root, a super fiber-source and low-calorie root vegetable. Simmered with carrots, this is a great side item or bento-filler. Tried out two types of gyoza wrappers for the vegetable filling.
Steamed vegetable gyoza
The other gyoza were steamed. The filling was a mixture of tofu, cabbage, carrots, scallions, mushrooms, garlic and ginger. With some rice and Japanese curry, we had a nice vegetable brunch catching up with some MBA friends of mine and hearing about new relationships, terrrible blind dates and watching some Sunday football.

Sushi Express Lunch

Super busy Friday with three meetings and two reports to write, I popped out for a quick but light lunch. Sushi Express is cash-only, which I completely flaked and forgot about. Back out into the rain I went to the bank across the street.
Super Combo $8.45
Cucumber maki, tuna maki and a California roll, made fresh by the nice owner. The combo comes with a choice of miso soup or salad. My favorite was the California roll, followed by the cucumber. In all, it's a cute little takeout spot on the second floor above a Sport & Health gym on 20th Street NW.


Confession time. I've never gone to a Chick-Fil-A before. By the time I returned to the area from living in Japan, I stopped eating meat. I've vascillated between vegetarian, pescetarian and omnivore and back again in the years since. However, with CFA closed on Sundays and living on a car-free diet, I've just never had an opportunity to find out what all the fuss was about.
On the way to grocery shopping, we detoured in Fairfax to indulge my boyfriend's nostalgia. When he first came to the US, he used to go to Chick-Fil-A with his mom and the original sandwiches hold a special place in his heart.
Waffle Fries. Decent, but would skip next time. 
 The original.
Squishy bun, perfectly fried chicken breast and pickles.
 The Deluxe.
The original fried chicken sandwich with cheese, tomato and lettuce.
Seriously good chicken breast, with both a good crust and juicy.
Pretty impressive. I'll be honest, I like focus on families and a menu that offers some great, healthier options. Downside: the high salt-content put me in the mood for a nap.

Italian in Old Town

After a busy week of meetings and work semianrs, we stopped in for a quick dinner at Trattoria da Franco. We've passed by this tiny restaurant many times, but this was the first time to go together. They had a man with an accordian this night, although other nights they have opera. For such a small dining room, I wonder how any conversation is possible on opera nights.
 Garlic Bread. Super buttery with a nice chew.
 Fried mozzeralla with tomato sauce and capers.
Best item of the night with a delicate crunchy coating.
 Caesar Salad.
A little different rendition, the flavor was more muted than regular versions.
 Paparadelle with mixed seafood in a tomato sauce.
Linguine with white clam sauce.
The clams were disappointing, and although the pasta was supposed to be made in-house, I couldn't see a compelling reason to order this again.
It was nice to try something different, and my boyfriend particularly enjoys Italian as well as Japanese and Korean. Maybe I should learn how to make pasta. Perhaps if we had a larger kitchen...

Homemade bibimbap

Detox Dinners Continued.
 Top a bowl of rice with a variety of marinated and seasoned vegetables. I chose bok choy, yellow squash, carrots, bean sprouts, eggplant and kimchee.
Top with a fried egg and add kochujang sauce. Mix and enjoy.

Vegetarian Detox

Nasu Dengaku
 Sliced Asian eggplant topped with a miso-soy-mirin sauce and baked.
Tom Yum-inspired tofu soup with daikon radish and daikon radish leaves.

Birthday Dinner

After an impromptu change in plans for my boyfriend's birthday dinner, we ended up trying out a different Korean bbq restaurant in Annandale. Oegadgib is located near the Riverside Health space, a Korean bathhouse, and one of the more popular items is the all you can eat bbq. We started off with some little panchan. 
 Boiled mandu. Delicious.
 Miso soup with dark miso, tofu and jalapenos.
 Steamed egg soup.
 AYCE meat platter.
Sliced beef, marinated beef, pork belly.  This was for two.
 Grilled on a hot stone.
 The sliced meat was better cooked well-done.
Apparently there's a bit of waste concern, so patrons are encouraged to not ask for another platter of meat if they cannot finish it. Happy birthday to a super sweet guy. Good thing we had a week ahead of vegan detox.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Afghan Restaurant

In the effort to try someplace different, we went to try the kabobs at Afghan Restaurant on Jefferson Davis Highway. We started off with some dumplings. This generated a discussion of the variety of dumplings in different cuisines around the world, from the pelmeni and pierogi, to the manti, gyoza, har gao and mandu.
Beef-filled dumplings.
Vegetable-filled dumplings in a yogurt sauce.
Both types of dumpling were very good, and I really liked the tangy yogurt sauces.
 My boyfriend tried out the combination platter with the spiced rice, white rice, carrots, beef sauce, and two kabobs.
I ordered the chicken kabob with an extra skewer of vegetables. 
The Afghan bread was a great flavor and texture, and perfect for soaking up the juices. The chicken was juicy and cooked extremely well. Possibly the best kabob I've had in quite a few years. 

Front Page Brunch Fail

We made the mistake to head to Front Page on Saturday believing they served their buffet brunch. Unfortunately they were just serving a limited menu.
 Chicken sandwich.
Not the buffet of brunch items my boyfriend had eagerly anticipated.
Poached Eggs with crab meat.
It's a bit strange to serve the egg dish with sugar snap peas and baby carrots, but I do need more vegetables in my diet.

Sichuan Express #2 Soup

After discover the joys of the shrimp and bamboo noodle soup, I have a new favorite takeout soup. I like that they cook the soup to order, although next time I'll only eat half and save the rest for another day.
 They stirfry the shrimp, greens and julienned bamboo shoots quickly in a hot wok.
Topped with scallions and mixed with egg noodles in a chicken stock, this is a satisfying bowl of noodle soup. It's the only thing that calls to me more than the spicy mabo tofu.

Loeb's for Lunch

Walking back from a conference, I passed by the line of food trucks on 17th Street and stopped in Loeb's to pickup some comfort food. Their menu's a bit convoluted for the uninitiated, since the sandwiches all have fancy names.
 Matzo ball soup
Really lovely. Comforting chicken broth with a nice and soft matzo ball.
 The Loeb
I was looking for a corn beef reuben to satisfy a craving from my first job as a waitress.
This meat was a bit saltier than I prefer, but the combination with the sauerkraut and Russian dressing is undeniably appealing. I also like that the sandwich is grilled on the flat top. I don't like the ones with merely toasted bread. The Loeb sandwich is a bit on the heavy side, but enjoyable.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


We ventured out to Honeypig only to discover throngs of waiting diners milling about the parking lot. Instead of being disappointed, this provided a wonderful chance to try out a different Korean restaurant in Annandale. Heading a short way down to Hummer Road, we arrived at Yechon, another 24-hour restaurant. While Yechon is a Korean-Japanese restaurant with sushi in addition to an extensive array of Korean dishes, we were there to test the waters with some favorite Korean dishes.

 Yechon's array of pan chan.
My boyfriend was amused that it was the little details that really stood out to me. While I accept that Honeypig is a different price point, their lackadaisical pan chan generally disappoints me. The attention to detail and quality of the pan chan at Yechon really impressed me. From the fresh-tasting kimchee, the sauteed watercress, marinated bean sprouts to the pickled daikon radish, the pan chan was not a casual afterthought but an indication of the delights to come. 
 Hamul pajeon.
I love seafood pancake, and this version was massive, studded with seafood and scallions.
 Soon doobu
The soft tofu was left in gentle hunks in this nicely flavored but not overly spicy version. This seemed more homestyle, like something I could and will cook for us in the future. The one downside was we ordered everything at once, and the soup came out in the midst of a full table of food. Next time we'll order the soups later during the meal.
Most of the bbq dishes are cooked in the kitchen and kept warm on a table burner. To have the meat cooked tableside, we could only choose from three options, the brisket, a pork selection or tongue. Our intention of galbi was discarded for brisket and tongue.
 Tongue, or gyu-tan in Japanese, is one of my boyfriend's favorite bbq meats.
Traditionally it's served with lemon in Japan, but the dipping mix of sesame oil, salt, pepper and garlic worked well.
Cooked tongue.
The atmosphere is very different and prices are higher at Yechon, where waitress are clad in Korean dress. The menu is quite extensive, and I'm looking forward to a return trip to try out some of the casseroles and other dishes. Luckily we didn't need anything else during our meal, but if we had, a simple press of the button at the table would have summoned someone. 

Saturday Pho

We had a big day planned, and set out for some steaming bowls of pho to sustain us through the IKEA shopping trip and assembly tasks ahead of us. 
 Spring rolls
These are filled with vegetables and the fried bites contrasts nicely with the pho.
 Large #1 with little bits of everything.
Small #19, pho with shrimp.
The shrimp, cilantro and onions with bean sprouts and basil was really a nice surprise.
Afterwards we headed down to IKEA to look for a new bed frame. While there, we found a comfortable desk chair for the computer. While the prices are very reasonable, the assembly of the products is no small feat. While my boyfriend was busy assembling everything, I cleaned and did laundry. Boy do I detest dusting.

Fish Market vs. Anchor Bar

We debated where to go to eat Friday night. Choosing to stay closer to home, we ventured into Old Town. Walking by the window of the Anchor Bar, the room looked crowded so we chose to eat at the Fish Market instead. Sitting upstairs, the dining room was clearly winding down and the service was a little lackluster as occasionally happens after a busy night. 
 Linguine with white clam sauce.
Perhaps the one clam shell was meant as a nice decorative touch, but it just highlights that the rest of the clams are chopped.
Fisherman's Platter.
Fried shrimp, scallops and fish fillet with hush puppies, coleslaw and fries.
My boyfriend is convinced that the food is better in the Anchor Bar. The menu and atmosphere are more casual. Plus, it's loud enough to drown out the nearby neighbors. Upstairs in the Fish Market, we were subjected to an ill-informed and overly loud discussion of Japanese whaling. I also learned from the nearby table that NPR is considered a "hipster" radio station. We were also the only people of color in the room other than the wait staff. Sigh. Sometimes a little more diversity in Old Town would not be a bad thing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Burrito Brothers at International Square

I've tried most of the other spots in International Square, so I thought I would give Burrito Brothers a shot when the line looked short. This is not like the Burrito Brothers of yore that I remember from my freshman year at college. In a fit of indecision, I picked my lunch by pointing to a photo.
Carne Asada tacos
The avocado was nice, and I liked the cilantro. The carne asada was a little dry. 
Despite branching out to try the other places in the food court, my favorite places are Sichuan and the Greek spot, and I liked the black beans and salad from Havana Cafe better than these tacos.

Yasai-Tappuri Shoyu Ramen

I like to bring something to eat for lunch at my office, but the refrigerator is a glorified beer refrigerator size, the microwave does not heat food exceptionally hot or well, and the toaster, oy the toaster and I do not get along. Thinking creatively, I cooked the toppings and packed them separately in a container. Then the fresh ramen noodles were cooked, cooled and packed in another container.
 Boiled egg, matsutake mushroom, zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts and scallions.
Hello noodles.
The shoyu ramen is not as heavy as my favored tonkotsu ramen, but this worked really well with all vegetables. I look forward to the day when the ramen shops in Chinatown finally open up. I made the same lunch for my boyfriend, but he misunderstood me and told me not to cook the noodles for him. He thought I had instant noodles that he could cook with just hot water. sigh. I should have checked and asked why he didn't want the noodles pre-cooked. My version was definitely better than his...


My boyfriend started talking about the best burgers on our drive home from work, and I was sold. I needed one, now. Lucky for me, he accommodates my food cravings and we stopped in BGR in Old Town. Now, I've been burned before from bad choices at BGR. Once I tried the "most popular" burger that I'd rather forget. The other time I ordered sliders and the woman also mistakenly put in an order for a full-sized cheeseburger as well. 
 The Cuban
Burger with roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.
Who cares how good the burger tastes when the toppings are this delicious? The toppings gave the burger the juiciness missing from previous visits.
Bacon Cheeseburger with raw onions
My boyfriend's more of a purist than me. No fancypants burger options for him. Just a burger with lettuce, tomato and raw onion, on top of American cheese and bacon. This rendition came with two slices of cheese and we shared an order of fries.