After going to the Bad Saint pop up last winter, I’ve been following the restaurant’s opening details closely. They had a few delays, but finally opened in mid-September in Columbia Heights (next door to Room 11). This spot is the brainchild of Nick Pimentel and Genevieve Villamora of Room 11, with chef Tom Cunanan from Ardeo + Bardeo running the kitchen. Serving Filipino food, the restaurant aims to “honor the flavors of those mom-and-pop shops while filtering them through the lens of modern, chef-driven technique.” Basically, comfort food in hipster form.
Calvin, the first (and only) guy I have met through Bumble, asked if I would be up for a second date. Our first date, which consisted of drinks and snacks at 2Birds, was perfectly fine. Being half Vietnamese, he and I had a lot of common, and I found him incredibly smart and attractive…. but I did not feel much of a physical spark. I also had been spending more time with Tinder Will, so I just was not sure if it was even worth throwing someone else into the mix. However, Calvin suggested trying Bad Saint for our second date… and since that was at the top of my current list, I figured, why not spend a Friday night with this guy especially when he’s equally excited about a restaurant? Food is the way to my heart, after all.
Calvin suggested meeting at 8pm on a Friday and after hearing about the wait times people have experienced at Bad Saint during the first few weeks, I figured maybe I should look into putting our names down early. Although I dislike the no-reservation policy that more and more restaurants in DC are adapting, Bad Saint is at least within walking distance to my apartment and makes the whole thing slightly more convenient. Around 5:30pm, I headed on my usual running route up 11th street towards Columbia Heights and swung by Bad Saint. Well, thank goodness, because Genevieve informed me that we would probably be looking at a 8:30-9pm seating time. I texted Calvin to let him know and he suggested meeting at Room 11 first while waiting for our table.
We grabbed a drink at the back bar, where Calvin let me know he had recently suffered a concussion when a woman rear-ended him earlier that week. Okay, great start to a second date! After ordering a Manhattan (for me) and a Grey Goose & soda (for him), we chatted and our conversation flowed relatively easily despite one member of the party potentially suffering from neurological damage. Observation: Calvin reminds of Dev Patel’s charater Neal Sampat, from Newsroom, in the most adorable way possible. He’s pretty nerdy, talking about engineering papers, all while wearing a tailored crisp button-up and some skinny jeans. After about thirty minutes, I got a text message from Bad Saint that made my heart break, followed by this hilarious exchange:
We headed right next door to Bad Saint, where the most incredible smells welcomed us, along with a laughing Genevieve who apologized for accidentally sending us the wrong text. The space where Bad Saint currently resides used to be a small beauty salon, but is now a cozy restaurant/open kitchen. Seating is definitely limited (leading to the crazy wait times) with only two actual tables, and rest of the restaurant seating located along counter space. Note: they only take parties up to four guests. Even though the space is tiny, the open kitchen, high ceilings, bright decor, and heavenly scents wafting from the kitchen make the space seem intimate and warm, instead of claustrophobic. We were seated at the back counter, and eagerly perused through the menu before putting our order with the very attentive and knowledgeable waitress.
First was the Ensaladang pipino, a lettuce tomato and onion salad that was light, fresh, but generally unremarkable. Next up came the Ginisang Tulya: a bowl of littleneck clams, Chinese sausage, Sichuan chile in an incredibly fragrant broth and served with sticky rice. This soothing, comfort dish was Calvin’s favorite dish of the night. Our third dish was the whole fried branzino, something I had not considered ordering, but since they were out of the tuna jaw for the evening, our waitress recommended this. This plate deserved all the adjectives: crispy, juicy, meaty, fresh, wonderful. It was served with a light vinagrette and more sticky rice. After we dug out the tender and flavorful meat from the body, Calvin tore into the fish head. Well, that is not something I see often, or ever, on a second date, and it was hot. So this is why Asians date Asians.
The last savory entree was my absolute favorite plate of the evening: the tapa. I could smell this dish coming towards us, and it made me feels things that could be considered inappropriate in a public setting. This plate consisted of air-dried beef and a poached duck egg over garlic, rice, tomatoes, and onions. The egg was poached to absolute perfection. I wish I could make a slo-mo video of popping this egg to unleash the yolk all over the garlic rice. Actually, it was not just the egg that was perfect; every single thing about this dish was complete perfection. The insanely garlicky rice, the sharp, tangy onions, the chewy beef, the creamy yolk all mixed together to create a perfect harmony in my mouth.
We decided to get dessert even though we both agreed our stomachs were not very pleased with the amount of food we shoveled in. Bad Saint has one dessert: Bilo Bilo, so we asked for one order. The warm purple rice in a coconut cream contained sweet peaches, and was the perfect way to end the meal. The dessert was pillowy soft, slightly chewy, and like almost all of our previous dishes at Bad Saint, a kind of comforting that makes your heart full and your stomach warm (and vice versa). I am going to fantasize about this dish on a cold night. Overall, our dinner was stylish, creative, and DELICIOUS in an unpretentious, fun setting.
Now in terms of the actual date, it seemed like our conversation continued to flow as easily as the egg yolk in the tapa. We discussed our favorite past meals, our grad school programs and continued to talk as the plates were cleared away. Background information: Bad Saint is located approximately 6 blocks away from Calvin’s home, which he told me on our first date that he basically gutted, re-designed and renovated. OF COURSE, I was dying to see it. I mean, of course. First, I just like seeing a guy’s place. Second, I am very interested in the state of his bathroom. Let’s be real here. It is important to understand the hygiene of a potential partner/hook up/boyfriend/whatever. Because if your bathroom is disgusting, no body parts of yours are going anywhere near my mouth. And then in case, I also just wanted to see the result of this guy’s project. So as we walked out, I assumed he would 1) ask me if I wanted to get a drink somewhere else or 2) Invite me back to his place for a drink or 3) At least wait for me to get a cab if I rejected those offers. Instead, Calvin quickly hugged me and immediately started turning north in the general direction of his house, away from me. I asked him, “Are you heading that way?” And when he said, “yes, which way are you going?” I decided to just go for it and responded “I am going that way, unless you plan to invite me over to your place.”
Well, apparently that worked because he stopped and asked me, “……….. do you want to come over to my place?” Yes, Calvin, yes I would. I suppose that could come off as slightly aggressive, but whatever. We were close and I wanted to do some investigating, dammit. Once we got to his place, I was not disappointed. It was a beautiful house. Also, the bathroom was clean. After a tour and a glass of water, we hung out on his couch for a bit before the itis hit me and I literally could barely keep my eyes open. I could feel my eyes getting heavier and heavier, so I said it was getting late and I would be calling an uber. In an attempt to mask my increasingly overwhelming exhaustion, I tried to make sure I extra engaged in the conversation which probably meant I was babbling away without even really thinking about what was coming out of my mouth. Calvin turned to me (while we were waiting for the uber to arrive) and blurted out, “Can you just stop talking for one minute so we can kiss?” It seemed so abrupt that I didn’t know how to respond so I shut up and stared at him in shock as he leaned in and kissed me. It seemed like a pretty good kiss, until we were interrupted by the sound of my phone telling me my uber driver was outside. I pulled away, and this is where things got a little odd. Calvin stood up and hugged me…. but then just continued to stand there as I walked to the door where my shoes were. As I slipped on my boots, he just stood there, and I opened his front door (fumbling because well, this isn’t my house) and walked into the dark knight as he just continued to stand in his living room. And Spring Rd at midnight on a Friday night is basically a secluded road pitch blackness in what I would consider not DC’s most safe neighborhood. Thankfully, my uber was right outside and I managed to get in without any incident but as I slid into the Toyota (because of course the uber is a toyota) I was a little perturbed. I’m definitely not expecting a knight in shining armor, but I would at least like a guy to open the door of his own house to let me out. Definitely not the ideal ending to a date.