Friday, October 9, 2015

Ethiopic, DC #2

Based on my great review of Ethiopic several years ago, two of my friends suggested that we meet there for dinner on a Friday night. This restaurant has been hailed as the best Ethiopian in the city by the critics (including me!) so it seemed like an easy choice.

The atmosphere is always nice as they certainly cornered the market in terms of an upscale Ethiopian restaurant. You can sit and watch people on the street as you sip wine in their nice dining room and listen to recorded piano music. Their wine selection isn't bad either -- I mean it is just a few wines, but some are pretty good. I really enjoyed a glass of the Meritage from California.

There isn't much choice at an Ethiopian restaurant. You either choose from a few specific dishes or you get a sampler of all of them. Of course, we wanted a sampler of all of them! Since only two of us wanted everything spicy hot, they brought us some berbere spice and sauce, which was truly amazing. Unfortunately, our meal was not. The Gomen was perhaps the most disappointing with its dry collard green leaves in a mild sauce with little flavor. The Fosolia, which no longer has mushrooms, was good and different as it consisted of caramelized green beans, onions, and carrots. The Dinich Wot, curried potato, didn't have much curry spice at all. The Shimbra Asa Wot -- spicy chickpeas with a dumpling were fine as were the Kik Aletcha yellow split peas, Miser Wot split lentils in berbere sauce, and Tikile Gomen -- cabbage and potatoes.

Two years ago I was raving about this place so I have to say this was a complete let down. The food wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't "the best Ethiopian in DC" good. In fact, other Ethiopian restaurants would shine next to this meal that before I would have considered not as good as Ethiopic. Did they lose their chef? I don't know what happened, but I hope they improve. Otherwise, they won't be seeing me and my friends there in the near future. I guess it's back to Dukem for me.

Previous review
May 7, 2013

401 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 675-2066

Ethiopic Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Table, DC

For my birthday on September 29, I was surprised with a reservation at Table in the Shaw neighborhood of DC. Open since 2013, this restaurant had been previously run by Frederik De Pue, but after a falling out between him and his business partners, Akhtar Nawab, formerly of Gramercy Tavern in New York City, became the Executive Chef and I was excited to see what he had in store for us.

Table is an unassuming restaurant on a quiet block near the Convention Center. From the outside of this olive-colored brick restaurant, you might not think anything of it. The word "table" is painted in white above a large garage-like window and it doesn't look like anything particularly special. But, upon entering, I soon realized its charm. Inside, it's a small restaurant with about 10 small light wood tables with white chairs and a New York City feel. At either side of the open kitchen are two special high-top tables used for the Chef's Tasting Menu on Tuesday nights, which was exactly what we had signed up for.

My date had worked with Erica, the hostess, to ensure a vegan tasting and remarked that she was incredibly helpful in planning this special night. In fact, she was there to greet us upon arrival and seated us at the special tables.

We started with a Butternut Squash Soup, which was a great start to this incredible 10-course meal. The thick, rich butternut squash puree was complemented by Brussels sprout leaves and croutons.  The pairing was a Champagne by Marie-Hanz.

The second course was a Gooseberry Salad with shaved watermelon radish in a smoked olive oil vinaigrette. We found the gooseberries to have an odd taste, but enjoyed the unusualness of the salad for what it was. And I've always found watermelon radish to have a particularly pleasing aesthetic quality.

The third course was Fried Artichokes in a red pepper jam with arugula. I found the arugula leaves to be awkward as they were a bit too large to eat without folding, but the fried artichokes were very good in the red pepper jam. And the pairing of a Ouede Geuze beer from Belgium was a nice touch.

The fourth course was Bruschetta with a soy-almond aioli and piperade. I loved the bread and the red peppers, but it was a bit too much of the aioli, which tasted a bit like vegan butter to me. The pairing was a Bedell Albarino/Sauvignon Blanc from New York (2013).

A Cauliflower Meuniere made with capers, hazelnuts, pistachios, and lemons was the fifth course and one of the best dishes of the night. The flavors meshed perfectly -- simple, yet satisfying. Another Sauvignon Blanc was paired with this dish.

The sixth course was one of the most unique -- a Smoked Eggplant Ravioli with fresh peas in herb oil. I must say for a non-vegan restaurant to serve up a vegan ravioli -- well, that definitely gets points in my book. The ravioli was scrumptious though the eggplant was a tad too smoky for me. Still, I really enjoyed this dish and my date absolutely loved it. The presentation was absolutely wonderful. A delicious Pinot Noir from Silvan Ridge Winery in Willamette Valley was served alongside this dish.

The seventh course was an Heirloom Corn Polenta, which was my favorite dish of all. Talk about a flavor explosion -- over a pumpernickel puree was corn polenta, Brussels sprouts, and maitake mushrooms.  The pumpernickel puree really made this dish shine as it gave it a rich, unique flavor that blended well with the different types of polenta and sauteed vegetables and mushrooms. The pairing was a Tempranillo from Spain.

The eighth and ninth courses were at the point where I was having such a good time that I forgot to take pictures. My apologies. But, the eighth course was Le Tardiniere, a chef's selection of locally sourced vegetables, which included corn puree, carrots, greens, beans, and argula with charred onion powder. This dish was very good. It was served with a Syrah/Grenache blend.

This was followed by a Salted Watermelon sorbet with compressed watermelon and cilantro served with a Chateau Romieu Sauternes (2012). The watermelon was very good.

Last, but not least, the tenth course was a Sherry Poached Pear with pepita granola and an apple chip. We both loved the dessert.

Sitting at the Chef's Table made the entire experience that much more enjoyable as we could pretty much see everything they were doing. I will mention that there was a leg of an animal hanging on display on the counter (I kid you not) when we first sat down, which they promptly removed without me saying anything. Much appreciated. I also found it odd that wines were brought out in a glass without much explanation of which winery they were from and the vintage, however, when we asked they knew this information.

On the positive side, I will mention a few things. The service was great -- they were attentive to our every needs. But, with such a great date, I will say that he distracted me during most of the meal. The food, overall, was really exceptional. My date, who is not vegan, was very impressed with the complexity of some dishes and the simplicity of others. I also loved that they gave me a menu at the end that actually detailed all of the vegan dishes and wine/beer pairings rather than giving us a standard non-customized menu as many other restaurants do. Little details like that make all the difference in the world. They even sent us home with a bag of the fantastic pepita granola. For $95 per person plus $55 for the wine pairing, the price was a bit high, but we felt it was in line with the experience.

Vegans -- you have another restaurant to add to your list for special occasions. Highly recommended.

903 N Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 588-5200

Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, October 5, 2015

DC VegFest 2015

DC's biggest vegetarian festival, DC VegFest, went off without a hitch despite the impending hurricane and other storms! It was not the best weather, but, not surprisingly, the festival was still packed.

Without a doubt, the speaker lineup was the best ever. From speakers like Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby from Vedge in Philadelphia to Gene Baur of the Farm Sanctuary and David Carter, the 300-lb vegan, you really couldn't go wrong by stopping by the speaker tent.

Walking around I found some great vegan food vendors like South Block Juice Co.'s cold-pressed juice.

Nicobella's truffles were oh-so-scrumptious!

Cupcakes from the Bakeshop looked tantalizing.

There were some great vegan body product companies as well with lavender soaps and creams.

Non-profits like The Humane League, Humane Society of the U.S., and Sea Shepherd were in attendance.

Vegan clothing vendors like Herbivore were representin' as always.

There was even a new food vendor -- DC Ballers selling falafel and hummus sandwiches!

As always, the line for Vegan Treats was around the block!

And, of course, there were samples galore!  What a great time at DC VegFest this year! If you missed it, just be sure to mark your calendar for next year because it only gets better every year! See ya next time!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Trang Viet Cuisine, Tampa, FL #2

It's amazing how different one visit can be to another. I guess that's the testament of a good chef -- consistently good; not good sometimes, but bad at other times. I thought about this a lot during my second visit to Trang Viet Cuisine in Tampa. The first visit was so great that we couldn't wait to eat here again. But, this visit just turned into a disappointment and now I feel torn!

We arrived at Trang Viet on a Wednesday afternoon immediately after flying into the Tampa airport. This is not a vegan Vietnamese place, but they have a lot of vegan dishes!

I decided to try some new dishes and maybe this is where I went wrong. I started with the V3 Vegan Summer Rolls, which were filled with vegetarian fiber, fresh herbs, lettuce, and rice noodles. But, they had very little flavor. The peanut sauce helped, but they had little flavor otherwise.

For my entree, I ordered the V42 Vegan Noodle Stir-Fry with yellow noodles. This stir fry had carrots, broccoli, onions, and tofu with noodles in a light sauce. The problem was that it just wasn't very good. I just sat looking at my dish and wishing for something different.

Chris ordered what I ordered the last time, the V35 Vegan Lemongrass Beef Noodles, but this time he didn't like it.  He also didn't want to finish it because it lacked flavor. Where were the flavorful sauces these dishes needed?

We were both disappointed with our meals and with it being about 25 minutes from the airport, we felt like we went out of our way for nothing. Oh, and once again, the wine was pretty awful. Can't they just buy one good wine?  I'm not sure that we will return, but then again, with the lack of vegan options in Tampa, who knows. Sigh.

Previous review
May 7, 2015

Trang Viet Cuisine
1524 East Fowler Avenue
Tampa, FL 33612
(813) 979-1464

Trang Viet Cuisine on Urbanspoon