Restaurant Round-Up: Winter Restaurant Week
Guess who’s back! School has ramped up in full gear and my semester is going to be a lot heavier in terms of reading and papers so just fair warning that I might not be posting as often as I have in the past. But, I will do my best to post as frequently as I can. Especially since I have so many recipes I want to share and photos sitting on my computer ready to go—just there’s no blog post written for it, which doesn’t help.
Even though I’ve been swamped with work and school and attempting to socialize, I wouldn’t miss out on my favorite foodiepalooza: DC Restaurant Week. Though I’m posting two weeks late, my Restaurant Week was jam packed with delicious meals that I am super excited to talk about! This year I went to four restaurants—one repeat, and three new ones. Buckle up though, because I have a lot to say.
If you read my summer Restaurant Week recap, you’ll recognize this place as the repeat restaurant. Just goes to show how much I loved dining here! When I saw this eclectic Scandinavian cuisine venue participating in Restaurant Week, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat here again. The timing couldn’t be anymore well timed since I just came back from Iceland and this was the perfect opportunity to indulge in Icelandic cuisine without flying six hours. Joined by some school friends, the meal we enjoyed at Honeysuckle was beyond incredible.
For my appetizer, I ordered the baby shrimp smørrebrød (no idea how to pronounce it) but I don’t care because it was absolutely delicious. Delicately coated in a radish butter on a hefty slice of icelandic rye bread, this appetizer melted away after each bite. I couldn’t have started the meal off any better.
For the entree, I opted for the pan seared scottish loch trout. It’s essentially eating the loch ness monster, right? While perfectly seared, the trout was overbearing on the fishy taste I’m not a fan of. This dish’s saving grace though was the sweet potato mustard. I could eat a whole bowl of that with no regrets--creamy, sweet, and simply dessert.
Finally for dessert: bitter chocolate torchon, aka dark chocolate cake. With distinct espresso flavors, this cake had a topping I had never seen before--hazelnut foam. I don’t even know how one makes that, but the concept alone is phenomenal.
Honeysuckle is now my favorite restaurant in DC. A bold statement, yes, but I have had two wonderful experiences here and I’m dreaming about the food I’ll eat at my next visit. If you haven’t eaten here yet, make your way to the edge of Dupont Circle and dine in eloquent Scandinavian fashion.
For Restaurant Week dinner #2, I took a trip out to the Italian countryside to dine on farm to table cuisine. And by the Italian countryside, I mean Shaw. Dino’s Grotto, tucked away just a few blocks away from D.C.’s busy U Street Corridor, is a quaint restaurant that serves locally sourced ingredients with traditional Italian flair. While the music choice was interesting (a mix of 80s and disco hits, which I personally enjoyed), I loved the atmosphere here. It was pleasantly casual while serving upscale Italian fare. The decor alone is what I imagine to see in a Tuscan villa. Now imagine how crushed I’ll be when I go to Tuscany and it’s nothing like I imagined--stayed tuned on that one. The staff at Dino’s Grotto were extremely pleasant, helpful, and made sure my dining experience was a blast.
Dino’s Grotto did Restaurant Week slightly differently. Instead of the standard three-course meal, I enjoyed a five-course meal. The first course was an amuse from the chef of deviled eggs and crostini with mushrooms. Here’s the thing: I hate mushrooms. Here’s another thing: I loved these mushrooms (see mom I try them). My issue with mushroom is that they’re slimy and gummy and just not the type of food texture I choose to enjoy. But these mushrooms were neither of those things and I enjoyed them.
For my second course, I ordered “Octopus Cooked Under a Bag” solely for the name. I’m sure you’re scratching your head, as I was when I saw this on the menu, but this appetizer is a few hefty pieces of octopus that are char-grilled under a bag (somehow). As bizarre as this cooking method is, the octopus was spectacular. Octopus, and squid for that matter, run the risk of being too tough when overcooked. Thankfully the octopus at Dino’s Grotto was perfectly cooked. It had the delightful char that has me excited for the summer and grilling season with a very mild and sweet flavor. I loved it. Now I just need to see how it’s made.
For the entree, I ordered wild boar pappardelle. You can tell the pasta is made in house - perfectly al dente and slightly doughier than the Barilla pastas (no offense to Barilla). The dish itself was very reminiscent of a bolognese sauce but not overbearing on the tomato sauce, which is one of my pasta pet peeves. Overall, this pappardelle was perfectly palatable and pleasantly piquant (overkill on the consonance, eh?)
I can’t really call this a fourth course but the fourth...um...part of Dino’s Grotto’s restaurant week tasting was a small shooter of their homemade limoncello. Limoncello is an Italian liqueur made of a lot of lemons. And I mean a lot. So - when life gives you lemons, get drunk on them. Kidding (sort of), but this was my first experience tasting limoncello and I loved this. They have an array of different flavors to choose, but for their tasting menu, Dino’s provided me their asian pear flavor. I will be honest, I don’t know if it tasted like asian pear, since I’ve never tasted this pear variety, but it was delicious, which is what matters. It didn’t burn the back of my throat and the liqueur slipped down my throat. Delightful.
Finally, for course number five: dessert. When at an Italian restaurant, I 9/10 times go for tiramisu. Not all tiramisu’s are created equal, but I’m going to try as many as my little heart desires. At the same time, I wasn’t feeling the other desserts, so the tiramisu just popped off the menu. And boy did I make a good choice. The savoiardi or ladyfingers were deliciously moist. Sometimes tiramisu can be too mushy and is unsettling for those who are big on food textures. Dino’s tiramisu was sweet, earthy from the chocolate dusting, and fresh from the whipped cream layers. Honestly, one of the best tiramisu’s I’ve had.
So five plus paragraphs for a five course adventure. I loved my experience at Dino’s Grotto and I’m looking forward to my next trip to Italian countryside in the Shaw neighborhood. Certainly saves the hassle of booking a flight out of Dulles or BWI for sure.
The Source by Wolfgang Puck
Another thing I adore about Restaurant Week is it’s a place to eat at ridiculously expensive restaurants that my poor bank brainwashes me to dine elsewhere. But, when restaurants that are four dollar signs on yelp or OpenTable participate in Restaurant Week, I leap at the opportunity to dine there. Take The Source by Wolfgang Puck for example. I am very familiar with Chef Puck’s restaurants and know they’re very very good but also know they’re very very very expensive. So of course I’m going to treat myself to a three course meal for $35 at a world-renowned chef’s restaurants.
The Source is a haute-cuisine restaurant specializing in Chinese fare. The space itself is very eloquent and modern, so definitely felt like a “four dollar sign on Yelp” restaurant. Joining me for this fancy feast was the famous Ashley (and if you don’t know who Ashley is, check out my Iceland recap). To kick off our meal, we started with a glass of wine and the appetizers. Ashley ordered dumplings and I ordered the Taiwanese soup. It was so cold that evening that the soup was calling out to me. I wish it were spicier but it certainly was comforting. The noodles had top notch slurpability - nice and meaty noodles if that makes any sense.
For my entree, I ordered the “Hot & Numbing Catfish Clay Pot.” I like spicy food, so I was intrigued by the hot and numbing descriptor - challenge accepted. Unfortunately, the catfish was neither “hot” nor “numbing” but it was tasty and surprisingly filling for a seemingly small portion.
Third, for dessert I ordered the miso glazed doughnuts accompanied by vanilla ice cream. I appreciated the salty-sweet combination with these doughnuts. Lightly fried and fluffy, these doughnuts were a nice cherry on top for a good meal.
Overall, eating at The Source was a very luxurious experience. The food was divine for elevated Chinese cuisine. Alas my budget doesn’t foresee any return visits at the moment. Who wants to kickstart my lavish lifestyle so I can eat out at fancy restaurants more? No one? Kay.
Last but not least, I dined at Osteria Morini at the Navy Yard as my finale to Restaurant Week. Joined by my dance partner in crime Alyssa, we ventured down to Southeast DC to nosh on some Italian cuisine with a view. First let me start off with saying how lovely the Navy Yard area is. Gentrification certainly has its ups and downs.
I wanted to try Osteria Morini for a while now after seeing so many food posts from this place on Instagram. Restaurant Week was the shining opportunity to try it. For the appetizer, I ordered the bruschetta with an eggplant tapenade. Their bread, while perfectly toasted, overflowed with the eggplant. I mean, I didn’t complain, but I certainly made a mess. Can’t take me anywhere.
For the entree, I ordered the veal with lentils, and I wasn’t terribly pleased with this entree. The veal was dry once I finished the sauce, and the lentils didn’t really add much to the dish. It also wasn’t the most visually appealing presentation. I boxed up the veal though and enjoyed it for lunch.
And the last dish for my Restaurant Week extravanganza foodiepalooze donkey punch whatever, was pomegranate mousse with dollops of chocolate and a small serving of vanilla ice cream. I enjoyed this a lot. The tang of the pomegranate with the creaminess and sweetness of the vanilla blended very nicely and it was plate-licking delicious. Don’t worry I didn’t lick the plate - I do have manners.
I wanted to like Osteria Morini, but I just set such high expectations for it and this Italian venue didn’t rise up to the level I expected. To be fair, I tried a limited menu so it’s entirely possible that I didn’t pick the best dishes, so I’ll have to go back and give another try.
Phew that was a doozy of a recap. I mean it took me forever to write it (I’m really sorry about that everyone!) But, it was a four day tour of some of the finest restaurants D.C. has to offer, and paired with some wonderful company, it was a fantastic week. Looking forward to the summer!