For Thanksgiving my husband and I traveled from the San Francisco area to northern VA to visit relatives. We then stayed two nights in DC since it's been a while since we've toured the sights.
Since I enjoy unique dishes, I really wanted to try minibar but sadly it was closed on the nights we had free. When I heard that the Latin Dim Sum at Cafe Atlantico had some of the same dishes, I immedately made a reservation and showed up at lunchtime on Sunday. We ordered the Chef's Tasting Menu and in quick succession were brought 14 or 15 modern and traditional Latin dishes with a twist. Most dishes were quite small -- just a bite or two -- but fortunately at the end of the savory courses we were given an option to repeat the courses we liked best, else we would have left hungry. Our favorite dishes were the tuna ceviche with coconut, fried egg with black beans, pork belly confit, and pan dulce. While some of the dishes were quite delicious, overall the experience was just so-so, with some dishes being boring and others not quite working as well as they could. The most best part of the meal was the cocktails: the "Magic Mojito" was absolutely wonderful and quite the show, and the special Bloody Mary, while not that tasty, was an intriguing interplay of tomato water and celery salt foam.
For lunch the next day we stopped by the Breadline. The merguez sausage sandwich was good, but the chicken & goat cheese sandwich didn't quite work for me, with the French bread being a bit too crusty IMO for a sandwich and the flavor combinations not gelling well. I actually liked our lunch at the Corner Bakery, across the street from our hotel, better the next day -- the chile & chicken panini there was super delicious!
Despite being uncertain about Jose Andres after our Cafe Atlantico experience, we gave him another chance by going to Zaytinya for dinner on Monday. Zaytinya is a very different restaurant, with trendy decor, walls of glass and a Greek / Turkish influenced menu. We ordered a bunch of mezze, our favorites being the lamb chops, pipe dreams cheese, and zucchini/cheese patties. The crispy eggplant, duck, and dill shrimp ranged from boring to just okay. The wine list was intriguing, with selections from Lebanon which we've never seen. The meal was fine but we wouldn't be rushing back.
We also had cocktails Monday eve at POV, the rooftop bar at our hotel (the W) -- the view was absolutely amazing, and my Whiskey S'More cocktail (really a hot chocolate with Drambuie) was exceptionally good. The service was full of themselves, and my hubby's ginger beer cocktail was just okay, but I'd love to come back when it's warmer to admire the view again.
While in NOVA, we visited my husband's cousin and asked to be taken to the Eden Mall for dinner. As a side note, my husband and his cousin are both Vietnamese (I'm not). We were a bit disappointed that the mall itself was a standard Vietnamese strip mall, which are a dime a dozen in the SF area. At Hai Duong we ordered the fish skewers with dill (very prettily presented but a tiny portion, and not as delicious as our go-to place in San Jose's Century Mall), the curry goat (nice flavor but lacking depth, and some of the goat was tough and dry), and quail (large portion, really big quail) -- the quail were by far the star of the show. Most families around us were having noodle soups, so that might be the thing to get in addition to the quail.
My family is Chinese and have lived in the Mclean/Fairfax area for over 30 years, but for dinner they took us to their favorite Chinese restaurant, Hunan Palace, all the way out in Gaithersburg, Maryland. While nothing was outstandingly good, overall it was a very solid choice, with our favorite dishes being the spicy beef (the only traces of Hunan influence we saw in what otherwise seemed like a standard Cantonese banquet), the lobster, and the sweet rice with red bean dessert.
While nothing was outstanding except for a couple cocktails, DC definitely has a lot of solid restaurant choices, and the museums and sightseeing blow SF away. Next time we hope to get a table at minibar, and perhaps try out Komi, the Maine Ave fish market, and maybe one of the Ethopian restaurants!
405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004
1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036
701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Hunan Palace Restaurant
9011 Gaither Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20877
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