Monday, March 14, 2011

NYC-NATSUMI is neat in Times Square(3-12-11)

I found myself wandering north of Times Square Saturday evening before
the theater and remembered how I adored Natsumi (
226 West 50th Street)on my previous visits. I headed right over and
the place was very quiet at 5:30pm, only to be full when I left two
hours later.
I was seated at the sushi bar and got to watch the three chefs at
work, and even chatted some, although they were busy and didn't seem
to like small talk in English.
I started with a SPICY MARTINI, knowing my show was a light musical, I
could drink heavily! This large portioned drink made with jalapeno
vodka, canton ginger liqueur and a splash of lemonade, is not too
spicy but is a strong martini for sure and was indeed a nice foil to
may starter salad of ENDIVE, Mustard & UNAGI. I am in love with this
simple salad of SMOKED warm EEL served in three large Endive leaves
with walnut pieces on the side (they should sprinkle them on top for
crunch as using chopsticks to move them can be tough--I reverted to
fingers) and a soy based Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette.
As I was at the sushi bar, I decided to forego some of the Asian-
Italian fusion pasta dishes I love here, but still chose the Italian
named "BACIA de FROCO." This Spicy Super White Tuna Sushi is made with
Kani, Tempura Flakes, Asparagus and has an medium spiced Asian Chili
Sauce. I liked to quickly dip each piece in soy for a bit of extra
flavor, although the wasabi on the side was totally unnecessary.
Indeed the ginger here is so fresh and tasty one could munch on it to
no end.
I enjoyed this with SHICHIKEN JUNMAI GINGO SAKE which is served by the
half carafe and each carafe has a hole in the center for ice to keep
it cold, but not dilute; how smart is that? After finishing this sake
I went on to a less pricey, but even better OTOKAYAMA JUNMAI.
I had a hard time choosing sushi and really wanted the DOPPIO TORO
(another Italian namesake), so the lady next to me offered me a piece
of hers as she could not nice was that! The Doppio Toro
melds two toro sushis-salmon and yellowtail--with asparagus, avocado,
tempura flakes (I love these for crunch), pesto and a spicy mayo
sauce. The sauces come beautifully decorating the platters and are
never overdone or too much, and you can easily use just a smidgen if
you like as it is not in a bowl or dish to dip.
I loved the TORO so the sushi chef suggested the HAMACHI TORO of two
pieces which was simply plain and perfect. I then finished my sushi
course with the CHUTORO two pieces of tuna toro, one seared and one
not. The unseared was a bit chewy, but the seared was perfection.
A small plate of WAFU SEAWEED Salad was my "dessert" here presented
atop cucumber "logs" with a slightly too rich Ponzu dressing. I will
stick to the seaweed at my Sushi A GoGo and in the future head to the
unagi/endive salad when here.

DINO's in DC is doing it better than ever (3-10-11)

Every year Food & Friends has te Washington, DC citywide benefit
called DINING OUT FOR LIFE. Many restaurants donate a portion of their
proceeds and DINO's was generous this year at the 35% level, so we
decided to return with Samuel and our friends Mel & Juan. The place
was jammed when we arived and we had a short wait for our table and
enjoyed somes wines by the glass at the bar: ALERAMO (Cortese) 2009
from PIedmont and Mt. Eden Arroyo Seco Chardonay 2008 from Monterey
while we munched the yummy complimentary olives, pickled veggies,
tapenades, bread, marianted beans and more that grace the bar each
When we got to our table Samuel ordered up his standard Pasta with
Tomato Sauce and a giant meatball (extra Parmesan, please) as he
dipped the yummy bread in olive oil (quality stuff). He was one happy
camper as we ordered some starters to share:
BURRATA with Kalamata Olive and Red Pepper Purees and Oven Roasted
Tomatoes is still some of the best burrata to be found around.
CAVOLINI are Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions, Crispy Pork
Belly and Aged Balsamic and will make any Brussels spout lover (we
both are) happy, although there were some belly pieces that were a bit
too fatty.
CARCIOFI FRITTI -These baby green artichokes are flown in from the
Santa Monica Farmer's Market and fried simply with black salt and
lemon and were gone so fast, we thought we should order
There is a fixed price 3-course option most evenings and at $39 for a
starter or half pasta/ main course/ and dessert we needed to move on
and avoid over-eating to boot.
Our first wine was a creamy but dry Santa Barbara "Le Vaglie"
Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi 2009 from Marche.
Juan started with the superbly seasoned and tasty TROTTER TOTS which
are a croquette made from potato and pig's trotters from Ossabaw pork.
This take on the "tater tot" is a great way to get kids into their
foods with new tastes!
RISOTTO ai FUNGHI was rich and creamy with sage and garlic and the
PAPPARDELLE with FUNGHI sported some great wild exotic mushrooms but
was not as exciting as the other pastas. My pasta was the simply
termed SUGO which was a mix of many meats in a rich dark sauce with
wide pasta that was simply superb. It was a huge portion, but I
managed to get through it (I did have to take home part of my main
We moved on to a \COLLEMATTONI 2007 Rosso di Montalcino 2004 and then
finally an intense La Chiete Brunello di Montalcino 2004 La Chiete.
These were, as all the wines at Dino's are, superb fully rounded and
just right for our food wines as suggested by owner Dean Gold, who
really knows his stuff (they are starting wine classes there again
Our main courses went from the lighter side of CAPESANTE- SPIGOLA alla
MOSAICA, grilled Rockfish in a traditional Livornese Jewish spicy
summer tomato essence (only Dean Gold, a Jewish chef who runs an
Italian restaurant could do this justice!) and Parsley Sauce which
comes with Wilted Turnips, Kohlrabi Radish and House Pickled Shallots.
What a treat!
SALSICCIA are huge eco-friendly garlic pork sausages with prosciutto
and lentils, cabbage and pancetta...another heavy but wonderful winter
If you sense the dishes are getting heavier, on you next cold night go
right for the SCOTTIGLIA, a Montalcino stew made with Texas Wild Boar,
eco-friendly pork from Virginia and Dr. Joe's Duck from Pennsylvania
in a soffrito (onion/celery/carrot) with wine that I dare anyone to
finish if they are eating three courses! It is rich and satisfying and
just plain filling.
We moved on to desserts with some yummy dessert wines
(grapefruitcello, berry grappa, moscato) and were thrilled with the
take on BUDINO di PANE or bread pudding that had barberries, raisins,
vanilla gelato and amaretto (whipped) cream that was none to overdone
or heavy. TIRAMISU is always great here and chocoholics will adore the
CAPPUCCINO di NUTELA with Mascarpone, Bourbon Cherries and Amaretto
I always go for the cheese and opted for ROBIOLA ai TRE LATTI, a cow/
sheep/goat treat and GUFFANTI BLU di Moncensio that is creamy and
rich, yet not intensely blue (which I prefer).
It was a great night for food, friends and charity indeed.

Monday, March 07, 2011

over in the Atlas District-having fun at the H Street Country Club(3-6-11)

H Street NE is DC's newest hip spot (if you can find a parking space) and is starting to sport many mid-range and upscale dining spots.One of the quirkiest has to be the H STREET COUNTRY CLUB ( at 1335 H Street, NE right next to the gorgeous Atlas Theater complex.
We headed there with Samuel yesterday after a matinee and were surprised to find the downstairs bar has miniature bowling and shuffleboard (for a fee), while the upstairs restaurant sports a miniature golf course at the rear (which is free to diners on Sun-Tues:$7 other times and not really worth that). We had fun for 20-30 minutes playing the nine small holes (#4 is a killer) and even Sam was in good spirits as we sat down. Of course, they have a kids menu and of course he chose the Chicken Fingers and a Ginger Ale. The dish came with a red sauce that resembled ketchup, but was a very spicy habanero salsa (OOPS!) which was quickly replaced with ketchup (they don't always have this, despite the kids menu).
The menu is Tex-Mex and a large tequila menu as well. If you arrive between 5-8pm nightly the happy hour (offered at dining tables) sports $3 Bud Light or Dos Equis, but we went right for the $5 Classic Margaritas which are a great deal. Last night they also have the Frozen Guava model on special!
The servers (Angela was ours) are cheery and the decor is about eclectic as it gets with metal tables and light fixtures made from upside down coffee urns, toasters and cuckoo clocks with antlers. This is not classy or fine dining, just a good deal. We started with BLACK BEAN SOUP for Will and I chose the NOPALITO SALAD made from slices of tasty cactus paddles with tomato, red onion, cilantro, Romaine and queso fresco with a light vinaigrette. We devoured the tasty salted pumpkin seeds on the table and even asked for more....
Will chose the CHICKEN ENCHILADAS with green rice and beans and a side of SPINACH that was way too salty. I went for the CHILAQUILES with ROASTED DUCK which was a whole half one of the biggest ducks I have ever seen on corn tortillas which were alternately crunchy and soft (depending on where they were in the casserole), Longhorn cheddar and a crema roasted tomatillo sauce (you can also get red tomato sauce).
The portions were huge and we couldn't even think about dessert, but sadly Will had a bad tummy all night, so not sure what to attribute that to (Sam & I were fine).
I do also have to note that one of the two bathroom doors does not close tight or lock, which could be an embarrasment.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Seek out the SOURCE (but not for quiet) 2-28-11

Last night after the Helen hayes Awards nominations were announced
Will and I headed over to THE SOURCE in the Newseum (http://, the well known and
sadly a bit too noisy dining emporium of Wolfgang Puck where chef
Scott Drewno reigns and does a pretty good job with a modern take on
Asian fusion.
We waited almost 10 minutes after being seated before anyone
approached the table with menus. I was surprised and this only
occurred when I caught the eyes of one server and kind of shrugged.
We ordered a bottle of superb STEINIGER "Loisium" Gruner Veltliner
from Kamptal in Austria, listed as vintage '07 on the menu, but '08
came. It had a superb dry apricot flavor hinting that this grape might
be superbly suited for a Trockenbeerenauslese sweet wine if harvested
An amuse of SPICY TUNA TARTARE in a Sesame Miso Cone was divine and
then a second amuse of Szechuan Green Beans with Toasted Sesame Seeds
and Candied Walnuts was a perfect blend of medium spice for this
traditional dish with the slightly sweet nuts (Will did not like
The appetizers here are large portions, especially those with wontons
or dumplings.
I had the SCALLOP & SHRIMP SUI MAI with Shanghai Lobster Curry-Uni
Emulsion and a Spicy Slaw and Fresh Cilantro on top. The 6 dumplings
were stuffed with fresh shrimp and scallop and the sauce was divine, I
wished for only a dribble more to coat each tasty dumpling.
Will started with the HOT & SOUR LOBSTER Egg Drop Soup with lobster
Wontons and Crispy Shallots which he asid was quite spicy, although we
both liked it. Again filling with the wontons. Instead of a main
course, he opted for a second starter with the GARLIC-CHIVE DUMPLINGS
with king Crab and Pork, again a large filling two
starters do easily make a meal here.
I had the CRISPY GLAZED QUAIL with Garlic Chili Sauce, Mizuna Salad
and Rice Sticks. There were no rice sticks so they brought another
salad with the sticks which were merely some rice cellophane noodles
on top. It was nice of them and the salad was great, but the quail was
slightly spicy and a superb preparation. I had switched to nice
Palacios Remondo "La Vendima" Tempranillo 2009 from Rioja (served by
the glass for $10) which was quite nice.
The BERRY CRUMBLE with SALTED STREUSEL and Vanilla Ice Cream was nice
but won no awards.
SOURCE is nice, but try to go when it's not crowded and maybe the
service and noise level will improve as the food is well worth the

Georgetown lunch-LA CHAUMIERE(2-28-11)

Yesterday I enjoyed a relaxing and enjoyable lunch at Georgetown's LA
CHAUMIERE which has been around for ages (http:// and still has great charm and great prices,
We had two fish main courses, both in the low teen price range! TROUT
AMANDINE came with mashed potatoes and carrots and the butter/almond
sauce was perfect while the trout was tasty and fresh.
HALIBUT came in a brown butter sauce with yummy fried potato chips
standing up in the puree on the plate.
SANCERRE by the glass was tasty and a great pairing.
You folks know I am not a Georgetown person, but this lunch treat at
La Chaumiere was much better than my last dinner experience there!