I've never posted on this board, but I'm just back in Brussels from a long weekend visiting a friend in DC and thought I'd share my thoughts. Visits with this friend, no matter on which side of the Atlantic they occur, are dedicated to the pursuit of GOOD FOOD -- usually we cook ourselves, but this time we decided to go for restaurants instead. There's some good eating in DC...
I've just done a search and found paeans of praise for this place on the board, so I won't belabour the point. It was really quite good (especially when converting from dollars to euros!), and lived up to its reputation, even though I'd pestered my friend to bring me to Palena instead. Antipasti included burrata (good, but not the Platonic ideal), sardines in saor (very good), fried squash blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies (excellent), porchetta (good) and crab cakes with roasted beets and parsley sauce (cakes were a trifle mushy but sauce and beets were wonderful). Primi piatti: divine eggplant ravioli with pine nuts and a less successful, because overly salty, tagliolini with sea urchin. In both, the quality of the pasta itself shone through. Mains: seared duck breast with rapini (both absolutely excellent) and rockfish with tomatoes, olives and tomatoes (also excellent). Cheeses: three chevres, including a soft Italian, a hard Italian and a semi-aged US. Desserts: cocoa nib panna cotta (sent my friend into an ecstatic reverie; I hate chocolate so I took his word for it) and a trio of sorbets -- cantaloupe, watermelon and blackberry (compared favourably to Berthillon's best).
Living in Belgium, I crave both low-brow and upscale Mexican...Frontera Grill is my benchmark for the latter, and there were some moments when Oyamel came close. On others, it fell short. Started with a taste of my friend's Oyamel margarita - loved the "salt air" but would have appreciated it being colder. I can understand not diluting, but in that case, bring a dish of ice to nestle the glass in) and the tableside guacamole (okay, not transporting, but I was very impressed by the flavour of the avocados themselves). Then shifted to antoijtos, including seared scallops with pumpkinseed sauce (excellent), short ribs with pipian verde (nicely flavoured, but not as meltingly tender as you'd hope for), papas al mole (ick. didn't get the point), rice with huitlacoche (no corn fungus flavour whatsoever) and chilaquiles (also excellent, with a lovely zing from the salsa verde). I would have loved to try the ceviches, as they looked delectable going by, but raw fish not on for a pregnant woman. Alas.
Nice little pizza place. We sat at the bar and ate salt cod croquettes (meh), rapini (loved the zing of the red pepper flakes but the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar masked too much of the yummy bitterness), oven-roasted olives (I hereby swear to never serve another olive unless it's been through the oven) and marcona almonds with fennel seed (an inspired combination), then split a pizza with eggplant confit, olives, capers and grana padano. Yum.
Had a craving for buttermilk pancakes one morning, and this place in Adams-Morgan filled the need. It was a lovely morning, so I appreciated being able to sit next to the wide open windows giving onto the street. The bacon, however, was atrocious.
Figs Fine Food
We'd cycled out to Black Salt on Macarthur Boulevard to buy scallops and decided to grab a bite here before heading back. My turkey club on foccacia with pesto mayonnaise hit the spot, and my friend's Lebanese platter (hummous, eggplant ratatouille, stuffed grape leaves and labneh) was also very good. A pleasant serendipitous find!