• 30Nov

    Dupont Circle’s Agora might be one of my favorite places in DC and a bit underrated. Though on a popular strip of 17th Street, this Turkish restaurant seems to be a bit of a hidden gem.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been to happy hour here, and until recently, the same was true of their brunch. However, I’ve now done brunch at Agora twice within a few months, and remember how much I love it.

    Agora’s brunch is a two-hour bottomless food and drink feast. Make reservations; you definitely need those. The menu is meze heavy, with some breakfast classics thrown in. It’s vegetarian friendly, as well. Service has always been good.

    Drinks are your choice of mimosa, Bloody Mary, Champagne, or rail liquor for mixed drinks, which is unusual for brunch, but appreciated. I stick with the Champagne because I don’t see a point in adding juice.

    Your server will start you with fresh, warm pita, but try not to fill up on it, no matter how hungry you are. That would be a rookie mistake. You’ll want to save room for some of my favorites, which, in no particular order, are:

    • Smoked salmon (lox)
    • Hummus
    • Baba ghanouj
    • Goat cheese
    • Feta
    • Grape leaves
    • Kasik (similar to a horiatiki salad)
    • Pide (flatbreads)
    • Baklava French toast

    The hummus and baba ghanouj are creamy and delicious. The cheeses are great, and I appreciate the fresh salad as a respite to the somewhat heavy options. If you love carbs and cheese, Turkish pide is for you, and it ties with the baklava French toast as my favorite offering here. I tend to order the mozzarella and tomato, but the Turkish sausage (sujuk) is also good, as the sausage has a kick of heat. The baklava French toast is sweet, but  not overly so, and super fluffy from the challah.

    The price is very reasonable, and it’s one of the best brunch deals you’ll find in the city. Many of my favorite bottomless brunches have now changed so much that I no longer care for them; I’m glad that Agora has not. Change isn’t always good, and Agora’s brunch offering is fantastic as is, so I hope it doesn’t change too much in the future.

    -LEM

  • 22Nov

    Lamb Soup

    After writing a recent article about the wonderful Sichuan food at Asian Origin in Tysons, we decided to return and try their sushi menu, which is only available Tuesdays through Saturdays. We dined on a variety of fresh Sushi and Sashimi as well as Miso Soup, and Seaweed Salad. The sushi is all very fresh and skillfully prepared; the eel was a favorite of my dining partner. The Seaweed Salad is a little spicy, which is nice. The homemade tofu in the Miso Soup is made from soy, unlike the black bean tofu used in a Ma Po Tofu at Asian Origin.

    Chef Liu even invited us to come back the next evening to sample the test run of a Lamb Soup recipe from the town in Sichuan Province he grew up in. The soup is made with lamb bones and fish stock, and includes lamb slices, radishes, and cabbage. It is traditional to dip the lamb slices in crushed red pepper. This is Fall/Winter comfort food at it’s best. The Lamb soup will soon be added to the restaurant’s menu. I even shared shots of extremely strong rice wine with Chef Liu near the end of our meal.

    We always end meals at this restaurant with an order of Sesame Balls, which are filled with black sesame seeds and black beans.

    -JAY

  • 01Nov

    You may have used one, seen one, or even have one. Today I’ll be sharing a tidbit on the French Press. Personally, this is my favorite way to brew coffee, and I also find it the easiest compared to other methods. When using a French press, three easy steps are required for perfect, care free coffee. First, scoop out the desired amount of ground coffee and empty into the French press with the lid completely removed. Second, heat the appropriate amount of water and pour it into the French press. Third, let the coffee steep for four minutes with the lid on and plunge slowly. The only hassle of the process is waiting for water to boil. Other than that it’s a breeze.

    Believe it or not, the French Press has been around since the early eighteen hundreds, but only caught attention in the nineteen hundreds. Perhaps the reason could be due to its various names it went by such as cafetière, press pot, coffee press, and many others. It had even been through many changes through the time period of the 1800s to the1930s. Various materials and designs were passed through until it was patented by Attilio Calimani in 1929. Even then, the design was constantly renovated and changed.

    When drinking coffee brewed through a French press, make sure you’re using a courser grind in order to avoid a bitter taste. Its also important to note that the french press brew is stronger than drip coffee. Overall, the French Press proves to be more flavorful due to the minimalist design and coffee filtering technique.

    -JMG

  • 15Oct

    We recently tried the newly created Picanha Burger from Fogo De Chao‘s bar menu, and enjoyed it. It is flavorful, has a nice texture, and comes with a brioche bun with smoked provolone, bibb lettuce, tomato, onion and chimichurri aioli; served with crispy polenta fries. We also tried two new seasonal (Fall) menu items, the Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Salad, and Butternut Squash Soup, both of which were flavorful and well-executed additions.

    We heard that there is a new Bone-in Cowboy Ribeye (aged 21 days) available through the end of the year, but the Tysons location did not have it available. It’s possible the DC (Pennsylvania Avenue) location (which we previously wrote about) carries it.

    Above are some image highlights from our recent dinner.

    Notes: Valet parking is $5 at the Tysons location. The Tysons’ location is the newer of the two DC area locations.

    -JAY

     

  • 08Oct

    Chef Liu Chaoshengs Asian Origin opened this wonderful Sichuan and sushi restaurant in the spring. This highly skilled chef/restaurateur also owns Hong Kong Palace in Falls Church; Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot in Merrifield; China Jade in Rockville; and Cafe Hong Kong Bistro in Germantown. We recently attended a media tasting at this establishment.

    Award Winning Dumpling Maker, Jixin Lv.

    I am thrilled that like other Chef Liu restaurants, this establishment makes everything from scratch, including the tofu. More restaurants need to do this; we are happy when we find places like Asian Origin and another newcomer, Sugar Factory, where restaurateurs understand that pre-made ingredients cost more and do not lead to the kind of deliciousness you can find in freshly made (and from scratch) dishes. You can really tell the difference from scratch cooking makes in Asian Origin’s dishes; we’ve been back twice since the media tasting. Plus, Chef Liu imports many ingredients from China (like the wooden ear mushrooms), to add even more authenticity to his made from scratch dishes.

    So. let’s talk about Asian Origin’s (house-made) tofu. It is delicate and wonderful, but I could immediately tell it was different than the (also delicious) Ma Po Tofu we’ve eaten at his other restaurants. It turns out that Asian Origin is the only Chef Liu restaurant using black beans instead of soy beans. The dish is great either way, but it was nice to try the back bean version, which is a modern take on tofu that you sometimes find in China nowadays.

    Besides the Chinese menu, this restaurant also has a sushi menu. We’ve only tried one sushi item here (a roll, which was good), so I’ll need to go back to to the seaweed salad, miso soup, and more sushi.

    I’m not a DCFüd writers who typically ends articles with “you need to try this place,” but you do, and now, especially if you are a spicy food lover. Sichuan cuisine includes a remarkable floral note in it’s spicy dishes that we (here at DCFüd) just love.

    -JAY

    Editor’s Note: Sushi menu is served Tuesdays through Saturdays.

  • 07Oct

    While popular, Clarendon’s vibe skews fratty over chic. With several newcomers, including Wilson Hardware Kitchen & Bar, Clarendon’s newest spot, that seems to be changing, and this Arlington girl appreciates it.

    Located in a former hardware store, this restaurant blends industrial and contemporary, with exposed brick, beautiful murals, and iron accents. The small patio proved quite popular, even later in the evening. A Thievery Corporation heavy soundtrack adds a funky, upbeat sound.

    I was graciously invited to try a few of their cocktails and shareables. I’d been looking forward to Wilson Hardware’s opening, but had not yet had the chance to check it out, so was very excited to be a part of this. The cocktails favor fruity flavors, but I found both my Aisle 2915 (rye whiskey, meletti, pineapple, lemon, ginger) and the Screw Him (vodka, lychee, hibiscus, lemon, champagne, marjoram) to be well-balanced and not overly sweet. I also appreciate the wordplay with the cocktail names.

    A variety of options from their Shareables menu were passed, including panzerotti, Brussels sprouts, sliders, toast with crab dip, and corn fritters. My favorite was the crispy panzerotti, which are Calzone-like and filled with gorgonzola, mozzarella, and fontina; they are hard not to love. The quite tasty hardware fritters are made with corn and filled with cheese. And while I’ve had some really great Brussels sprouts lately, their bacon/garlic/parsley version was perfectly done. While I didn’t try the crab dip or the sliders, they were both popular. I’m looking forward to returning for dinner, and brunch, which should be added shortly.

    Everything I tried was great, as was the service. As this neighborhood changes, I have no doubt Wilson Hardware will do well.

    -LEM (Lia)

  • 30Sep

    Popular chain JINYA Ramen Bar has been in Virginia’s Mosaic District for a while now, but has just opened their Logan Circle location in D.C.

    I had not been to to the VA location, but was happy to visit their new place during their grand opening party. The staff was super excited, friendly, and happy to have us. While I think there were some communication issues and the staff needs more training, that will likely come with time. JINYA was very generous and that is much appreciated. The vibe was awesome–it was really was a great party.

    As far as drinks, I mostly stuck with the passed sake or Prosecco, though I did try a light, fruity, Dragon cocktail that was quite good. The appetizers were passed as well, and the Brussels sprouts tempura and fried chicken were both really tasty and perfectly crisp. But what I really loved was the pork gyoza, pork chashu and kimchi tacos, and poke tacos. The gyoza is nicely seared with plenty of flavorful filling. The tacos are crisp from the wonton shells and while it’s a toss up between the pork and poke, I think I prefer the poke. The pork is amazing, but the poke is so light and fresh, yet delicious. For ramen, I went with the chicken ramen, and that is not the way to go; it was so bland that I had to add both sriracha and seasoned vinegar to coax any type of taste from it. I heard from others at my table that the pork ramen was good, so that will definitely be my choice when returning. We also got to try the mochi, and the chocolate mochi was rich with the perfect amount of chewy dough.

    I do look forward to returning to JINYA. I’m a huge ramen fan and JINYA offers plenty of styles to try, plus all of the sides were great. It’s also needed in the neighborhood, so it will be popular additions.

    -LEM (Lia)

  • 30Sep

    Eat Spain Up! is a month-long annual cultural event celebrating Spanish food and heritage. It rotates cities, but we are lucky enough to have it in D.C. this year.

    I visited the Former Residence of the Ambassador’s of Spain in Columbia Heights to attend a talk and tasting that kicked off the program. The talk, given by Manuel Estrada, 2017 winner of Spain’s National Design Award, delved into the design process and looked at how design intersects with culinary arts.He designed the core creative for this program. The residence had been transformed into a gallery, highlighting Estrada’s works and important ingredients in Spanish cuisine.

    The tasting featured appetizers from Jaleo, Taberna del Alabardero, Mola, Pamplona, and more. It also featured Spanish cheese and wine, anchovies (boquerones), and Iberian ham, all of which were fantastic. The Iberian ham was rich and delicious, and one of my favorite offerings of the evening. Jaleo’s quince and manchego cone was not only fun to eat, but the sweet, salty combination made it crave-able. I also really liked the ceviche from Mola, which was light and refreshing. It was a bit disappointing to see that two places offered ceviche, while yet another offered octopus (pulpo). While representative of the cuisine, more variety would’ve been appreciated.

    Eat Spain Up! has events for the rest of September and October, including additional tastings, gastronomic discussions, and exhibitions. I love Spanish cuisine, and if you do as well, or want to learn more about it, you’ll be happy Eat Spain Up! is happening in the district this year.

    -LEM (Lia)

  • 16Sep

     

    If you’ve not had beer brewed by primates before, then you are in for a treat at Twinpanzee Brewing in Sterling (full disclosure: the owners, Antonio & Maha, are friends of mine). Twinpanzee, named for nicknames of the owners’ children, has been a labor of love, and a long time coming from these avid home brewers.

    Located in an office park, just off 267, Twinpanzee is easy to find and has plenty of parking. Open to the public Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you’ll find a range of beers, plenty of seating, and good times. Snacks are sold inside, but there’s a rotation of food trucks outside, and you’re more than welcome to bring your meal inside.

    I visited on the grand opening weekend and truly enjoyed my brews. My first pour was the Toasted the Coconutz, a brown ale with toasted coconuts and 4.5% ABV. Definitely my favorite, though I could go for even more coconut, and perfect for someone who doesn’t drink IPAs but also doesn’t want something light. After that, I went for the Far From Lonely, a kolsch clocking in at 5.7% ABV. It was light, crisp, and refreshing. The aptly named Bob’s Brown Ale was my last drink. This 4.5% beer was tasty, and good for someone who likes a simpler beer, but I prefer the coconut version.

    For those that love delicious beer and supporting small, VA-based businesses, you’ll be happy you checked out Twinpanzee. It’s got a great vibe, amazing owners (chat them up if you can!), and fantastic offerings.

    -LEM

  • 16Sep

    I love barbecue and food trucks, so when I stumbled across Hardy’s BBQ in Bethesda, I was beyond thrilled. There’s not much in the way of food trucks daily in Bethesda, but Hardy’s is open from 11-2 each Friday in the parking lot of the Montgomery Women’s Farm Cooperative, on Wisconsin Avenue. Their Facebook page is often updated with their other locations as well. The line forms early, but moves quickly. Staff is friendly.

    I’ve tried the ribs, wings, fries, pulled pork sandwich, and collard greens. The most popular option seem to be the two wings, two ribs, fries platter. The fries are served crisp, seasoned, and hot, while the meat is pulled directly off the smoker and onto your platter. You then get to add your sauce. I’ve only done the hot BBQ sauce so far, and it has a nice amount of heat, but it’s not overwhelming. The ribs just fall off the bone and the wings are smoky. Both are delicious. However, the pulled pork sandwich my favorite. A nice amount of well-sauced pork served on a lightly toasted bun is both filling and tasty. And the collards are fresh and not overcooked, and work well to balance the richness of the meat.

    Hardy’s has been in business for a few years now, and while more BBQ places seem to be opening up in the D.C. area, Hardy’s a place worth visiting and worth adding to your regular rotation.

    -LEM

    Editor’s Note:

    Hardy’s is a long-time favorite of ours and is located in the same Bethesda location Saturday afternoons. Try the chopped brisket with mustard sauce and the barbecued chicken. Check their twitter (@Hardys_BBQ) on Sundays to see if they are at a festival (like last week’s Takoma Folk Festival).

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