Capital Brunch

•August 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Birch and Barley – 1337 14th Street, Washington, DC 20005

From the moment you walk into Birch and Barley, which is located beneath a bar called “Churchkey,” you know what you’re getting into. The restaurant is small, busy, dark, and almost self-consciously hip. The decor is tasteful modern/industrial. The Sunday brunch clientele dresses casually, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be excited about here.  The wait times were surprisingly short when I visited- a mere twenty minutes. There is a wide variety of the more fashionable types of beer (pale ales seem to have proliferated exponentially) on the menu. Several varieties of bloody Mary are available, each priced between $8 and $11. The “Enter the Dragon” bloody Mary with sriracha and wasabi was piquant, and flavorful- creating an interesting balance between the dry, spicy flavor of the wasabi and the bright, acidic flavor of the tomato juice. The bloody Mary was, as one would expect, a tall hurricane glass full of flecked, caravaggistic liquid, and topped with a sizable skewer of garnishes. Punch and mimosas are also available for brunch, each costing $7. The smoked mussel and gruyere flatbread ($14) was chewy, salty, and cheesy in all the best ways. The onions in the soubise and the earthy, umami flavor of the mussels interacted in a balanced-yet-bold way. The gestalt of the cheese, onions, and mussels tended to imply a flavor that was at once smokey and briney, which truly allowed the mussels to reach their full potential. The stone ground white grits with Grafton cheddar ($4.50) were, without a doubt, the best grits I have ever eaten. At the conclusion of the meal I tried a bite of my dining companion’s peach brandy French toast ($14) with roasted peaches, candied almonds, and whipped mascarpone. It was unquestionably delicious, and would satisfy any sweet tooth. Whipping the mascarpone was an excellent choice to keep the whole affair from becoming entirely too heavy, even as a decadent treat. The staff errs on the side of cold efficiency rather than cloying small-talk, but even though I had a sense that our waitress wanted to turn the table around quickly, she was very skilled and professional.

 

 

Smoke Mussels and Gruyere Flatbread; Grits; French Toast

Smoke Mussels and Gruyere Flatbread; Grits; French Toast

 

9/10.

 

Birch & Barley on Urbanspoon

The Squid and the Whale

•April 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The Kraken Gastropub – 2910 Rosewood Drive, Columbia, SC 29210

This place is all about the food. The lobster grilled cheese contains rich brie and a saltier goat cheese, which acts to cut through the richness of the brie and lobster. The amount of lobster contained in this sandwich far exceeded my expectations, and the use of a fairly stout toasted bread enhanced the textural experience of this meal. The duck fat frites were delicious as well, though I would recommend having a cool Founders Red Rye Pale Ale on hand to wash them down. The Kraken is on the forefront of Columbia’s burgeoning food and beer scene.

8.5/10.

The Kraken Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Fish – 442 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403

Located on peninsular Charleston’s downtown King Street, this restaurant’s patio is an ideal place to do some excellent people watching and have lunch and a cocktail on a warm spring afternoon. The pork belly steamed bun with sriracha cream sauce was a perfectly balanced medley of rich and piquant flavors. The coconut soup avoided the pitfall of allowing the coconut milk to overshadow other flavors. Indeed, the curry was the clear star of the show. The “Frankly Speaking,” one of Fish’s featured cocktails, was absolutely bursting with bright orange peel flavor without becoming overly-bitter or saccharine. The tamarind flavor played an excellent accompaniment to the orange. The cocktail balanced sweet, sour, bitter, and alcohol in a way that made it enjoyable to drink from beginning to end, and was complex enough to hold my attention. The bar tender didn’t seem incredibly welcoming, but with French-Indochinese fusion cuisine of this caliber, I frankly didn’t care. The prices seem very reasonable.

9/10.

The "Frankly Speaking"

The “Frankly Speaking”

Lunch at Fish

Lunch at Fish

Fish on Urbanspoon

One Happy Island

•March 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Ketsu – 101 L.G. Smith Boulevard, Palm Beach, Aruba

The food meets expectations, and does not challenge the conventions of the sushi concept. The cocktails are overly-sweet, but thematically consistent with the locale and the type of restaurant. The prices are what one would expect at a hotel restaurant in Aruba.

7.0/10.

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La Vista – 101 L.G. Smith Boulevard, Palm Beach, Aruba

It is hard to identify a redeeming feature of this restaurant. The service is sub-par, the layout is slightly confusing, and the food is awful. The Caprese Salad consisted of the most fibrous still-green tomato served stacked in alternating layers with flavorless mozarella and drizzled with one of the oiliest vinaigrettes known to man. The only silver lining is that the complimentary bread is actually pretty good.

2.0/10.

 

Casa Tua Pizzeria – Renaissance Marketplace, L.G. Smith Boulevard, Oranjestad, Aruba

The Insalata Casa Tua was delicious. This restaurant is located conveniently to downtown Oranjestad. The price is a bit steep, but not far outside the typical range on the island. The service was slow and confused.

6.0/10.

 

Grand Cafe Rembrandt – Palm Beach 55, Noord, Aruba

Thematically consistent, menu in English and Dutch. This restaurant incorporates both continental Dutch cuisine as well as colonial fusion dished (Gegrilde kipsate served with traditional Dutch vegetables on a bed of rice, for example.) Food was well-seasoned and prepared expertly. Perhaps surprisingly, considering the restaurant’s Dutch theme, there were only two types of gin available from the bar. The prices were a bit steep, even considering the typical range on the island.

8.0/10.

Labor Day Vacation

•October 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

SAIA – 999 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

The food is good. The food is expertly presented, and the quality of the knifework and other preparatory technique is apparent. the bar has serious depth. Multiple types of rye, and several classic cocktails are on the menu. The decor is thematically consistent with the rest of the hotel. The drawback is that the staff is not particularly attentive, and the price is pretty high. The price issue is typical of restaurants at hotels.

7.5/10.

 SAIA (B Ocean Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Iries – 1 Seahorse Lane, Lucaya, Freeport, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas

The food at Iries is delicious. Conch fritters comprised of delicious conch meat and fluffy batter are served  hot with a tangy sauce. Cocktails are mixed to perfect strength with balanced flavors. The food and drinks menu are locally-themed and geared toward the tourists who patronize the resort. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful.

8.5/10.

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Turning Japanese

•August 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Menkoi Ramen House – 1004 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201

Located in Columbia’s upscale “Vista” district, this brand-new restaurant presents a fairly novel concept: a Japanese restaurant which isn’t sushi- or hibachi-centric. The decor at Menkoi is simple, modern, and not distracting. The experience is not enhanced  by the handful of awkwardly-placed plasma televisions. The layout of the restaurant is tricky, with the kitchen area bulging into the middle of the long, slender restaurant. The portions of food were ample, and well-prepared, however they were lacking in flavor. Other than a vague salty, broth flavor, there really wasn’t much to the ramen. Overall, though no element of the experience was entirely terrible, one was left feeling let-down by the gestalt of the dining experience.

6.5/10.
Menkoi Ramen House on Urbanspoon

Wasabi Japanese Restaurant – 4561 Hard Scrabble Road, Columbia, SC 292229

Wasabi is a restaurant the greatest flaw of which is its location. Located 25 minutes from downtown Columbia in a small shopping center on Hard Scrabble Road, this restaurant escapes the notice of most Columbia residents. This is unfortunate because Wasabi is the best sushi restaurant in Columbia. The sushiya is an old Japanese man who carefully crafts and garnishes each roll with great attention to detail. The knife work is excellent, as is the presentation. Careful thought was obviously paid to pairing ingredients in a way which compliments each element of the dish. Even the pre-meal miso soup is served with greater attention to detail than it is at the typical Japanese restaurant. The soup is presented with an array of noodles and marinated vegetables for the diner to add to the broth. The decor is typical of sushi restaurants, and is tasteful and not distracting. The staff is highly competent and attentive to diner needs.

8.5/10.

 
Wasabi Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Curry: The World’s Food

•June 14, 2012 • 1 Comment

Zabb City – 244 East 13th Street, New York, NY 10003

This small eatery was completely bereft of customers when I stopped in for an early dinner around 5:00 PM. It wasn’t because of the food, though. The Thai green chicken curry was rich, moderately spicy, and skillfully presented. The price was on-par for Manhattan ($10.95 isn’t bad.) The staff was efficient.

7.5/10.

Zabb City on Urbanspoon

Kung Food – 158 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1R 5DU United Kingdom

I didn’t expect much from this pan-Asian greasy spoon, but it was busy at lunch time, and frankly it was located really close to my flat. All of the westernized Chinese favorites are on the menu, as well as some Thai dishes. The green curry was lack-luster. It was under-spiced, and prepared with horrendously amateurish knife work. The prices are excellent considering its location in North London. The staff was helpful, if a tad impatient.

6/10.

Sweet Lemon – 273 Main Road, Kent, DA14 6 United Kingdom

St. George’s Cross, Blake’s “Jerusalem,” and chicken tikka masala are the vexillary, musical, and culinary emblems of that precious stone set in the silver sea. Sweet Lemon does England proud with their rendition of the classic. Bright orange and delicious with large pieces of chicken breast meat properly seasoned. The vindaloo is piquant enough to make strong men weep, and contained perfectly-cooked potatoes and delicious bits of lamb. Sweet Lemon is not an experience to be missed.

8/10.

Sweet Lemon on Urbanspoon
(Unnamed German Food Cart) – 53 Avinguda de Bartomeu Riutort, Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca is a haven for British and German expatriates who want a place in the sun. This means that everyone is sun-burnt and topless, and that Greene King and currywurst are available within yards of some of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful beaches. At this shady food stall, I stopped to get a frikadeller sandwich with curry ketchup. It was the perfect snack to replenish my strength after a long day of lounging on the soft sand.

7.5/10.

The Clerk and Well – 156 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1R 5DU United Kingdom

England’s pubs are said to have made great strides in the quality of the food they serve over the last few years. The Clerk and Well is an excellent example. The Clerk and Well serves delicious Thai food, expertly prepared and presented in a manner consistent with a more expensive restaurant. The draw back is that, like most pubs, you have to order from the bar. The staff is a bit impatient, but skilled. The Thai green curry is rich and appropriately spicy, but the portions are on the small side.

7/10.
The Clerk and Well on Urbanspoon

Who reads this, anyway?

•April 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

Who reads this, anyway?

Today I saw a nifty feature on the wordpress dashboard. It was a map showing me the number of hits from each country since February 25, 2012. A big thank you to all of my foreign readers.

 
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