The Hamilton’s sushi happy hour

I could live off of sushi. I am never not in the mood for sushi. I could eat sushi for breakfast, I could eat sushi as dessert after a meal of sushi, I could probably eat sushi in my sleep. So when the fake roomie, suggested hitting up a early happy hour the day before she started a new job, I immediately suggested The Hamilton‘s sushi happy hour. The Hamilton, the giant restaurant from the Clyde’s restaurant group, opened in 2012 in Metro Center. It spans 37,000 square feet and holds up to 850 diners, so I recommend making sure you know exactly where you are meeting somewhere in there because I once found myself waiting twenty-five minutes for someone before we realized we had been sitting at entirely different bars on the opposite sides of the restaurant.

On this cloudy Monday, I met up with A at the front bar where she had already intensely scrutinized the sushi menu in anticipation of our dinner. The nigri, sashami and sushi rolls are all 50% off between 3-6pm every day of the weekend (which means you can go on the weekend!!). We decided to get 5 rolls, in addition to an order of sea urchin.

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The top plate: spider roll. Bottom plate, clockwise from the top: avocado & eel, fire dragon, dynamite, yellow tail, uni (sea urchin)

The sushi rolls here are solid, and good deal during happy hour. I do not think I would go out of my way here when the rolls are not on special because $14 seems a little extreme for six pieces of rice covered fish. Out of the rolls we ordered, I enjoyed the spicy tuna and eel stuffed Fire Dragon roll, which is wrapped in crispy nori and creamy avocado. The Dynamite roll, topped with scallop and crab, was also interesting. The uni paled in comparison to the uni at Sushi Capitol, but for $2/piece, it cured my current craving. We polished off the plates fairly quickly, and were pleased to see that our total bill for this was around $40. For twenty bucks a person, this was a pleasant and filling dinner.

 

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I didn’t choose the pork bun life….

Another day, another pork bun:

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These buns are just amazing. The barbecued meat is slightly sweet and a little salty, while the fluffy bun holding everything together is the perfect amount of chewy. I bought six last weekend in Eden Center, and inhaled four of these bad boys in three days (one of them went to the roomie while another went to my friend B). Guess another trip to Eden Center is in store…

A much needed return to Eden Center

I’ve been craving some good Vietnamese food lately. Maybe it is because my parents have been traveling back and forth to Paris to help take care of my grandmother, and I’ve gotten a little lonely without them around. Maybe it’s because Vietnamese cuisine is the best form of comfort food to me. Either way, it has been a while since I made a trip to Eden Center in Falls Church, VA and I needed to make a glorious return.

I made plans to head there with AC on a Saturday afternoon, after a planned long run. What was supposed to be a 9 mile run up 13th street turned into a much shorter run due to my ovaries, who are currently channeling the devil. After popping several tablets of Advil, and having a one sided angry confrontation with my Fallopian tubes, AC and I headed across the river as she gave me the latest updates on the “I love you” game. Her relationship has hit that point where they both know they are in it for real, and ready to say those three words. However, neither of them has pulled the trigger. Her boyfriend has dropped several hints, including trying to trick her into saying it, so I have decided that we must be strong and not give into him (#teamabby).

We were both starving by the time we got to Eden Center, so we headed to Rice Paper straight away. After getting two orders of delicious iced coffees, I put in an order of Chim Cut Quay (roasted quail) to start. AC had never tried quail before, but approved once she chomped away. The crispy quail here is slightly sweet from the glaze, and incredibly flavorful. I like dipping the meat into the simple pepper, salt and lemon juice sauce and munching away on the little bones.

For my main dish, I went with my usual order of Bánh Hỏi Bò Nướng Lá Nho, which is grilled beef wrapped in grape leaves, served with rice paper wraps. The dry rice paper is dipped into water so that it softens up, and spread out over a clean plate. I then place the noodles (Banh Hoi), meat, and plenty of veggies into the center and wrapped everything up tightly. The smokey and tender beef, along with the crunchy vegetables, tasted like the perfect post-run treat. I like my wraps dipped into the sweet and pungent fish sauce, so I definitely was not sodium deficient after polishing off my dish. AC went with Bún Bò Xào Xã (stir fried beef with noodles and vegetables). We agreed that both of these dishes hit the spot, especially for the price (total of $21 per person for iced coffee, quail appetizer and 2 entrees). The two of us left Rice Paper satisfied and ready to wander around the shopping center. After picking up a few pork buns, we headed over to the new grocery store where I stocked up on supplies and picked up fruits I can’t find at Giant (hellooooo dragonfruit!).

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Since we were still in a snacking mood after all of this, we hit up a few bakeries for more treats and lychee bubble tea. Of course, when I got home, after repopping a couple more Advil (chill out, Fallopian tubes), I immediately inhaled a pork bun (I got hungry during the 25 minute drive home!!) and snuggled back into my bed for a few episodes of Friday Night Lights. A fantastic return to Eden Center indeed.

Belated father’s day at Sushi Capitol

To start: I have the best parents in the world. Of course, I have no always thought this (especially not during my emo teenager days), but now I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have such amazing supportive, loving parents. After they returned from Paris at the end of June, I wanted to take them out for a nice, and belated, Father’s Day celebration. I suggested Sushi Capitol for dinner, but my dad, who is obsessed with ballroom dancing (can’t make this stuff up, folks), said a lunch with be better for his dance schedule, so we made a reservation for three people on a Monday afternoon.

I have been wanting to eat at Sushi Capitol ever since Todd Kliman fawned over this Capitol Hill spot last year in his weekly food chat. However, I do not make my way to SE DC that often, and this intimate restaurant has only 20 seats, so reservations are both recommended and hard to come by. Actually, TBM and I had tried to eat here a couple of times, but each time we tried to call, it had been completely booked and the restaurant did not take walk-ins once all of the reservations have been taken. After a crazy busy work trip, I took the following two days off, and took advantage of my rare day in the city by scheduling a lunch date with my favorite people.

So on that beautiful Monday, after a long run up 13th street, my parents picked me up and we headed to Capitol Hill. Sushi Capitol opened in 2013 from chef Minoru Ogawa, who previously worked at the Mandarin Oriental. It has a small, focused menu, with a $50 omakase option. We decided to do two orders of the omakase menu to split among the three of us (my tiny mother has a tiny appetite), and an additional order of the tuna jaw and a eel & avocado roll.

First up was the hamachi kama yaki (yellow tail tuna jaw):

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The grilled jaw was simple and delicious, although both of my parents preferred the omakase menu tempura-fried striped jack fish jaw that arrived shortly afterwards:

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This was served alongside an oyster with ponzu soy sauce. This jaw was fried to absolute perfection, and the meat was juicy, tender and slightly sweet. The oyster was light, and the ponzu sauce made this a tangy and refreshing bite.

Then next up for the omakase menu was the nigri sushi platter. I mean, just look at beautiful sight:

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My favorites were the salmon belly (upper left), and the uni (lower left). The uni was just an incredibly rich and silky slice of heaven. The fresh sea urchin melted into my mouth like the creamiest butter. I probably could have inhaled at least 5 pieces easily of this alone. In general, I like the sushi at Sushi Capitol. The rice to fish ratio of good, and I appreciated that the soft rice was served room temperature, because I find it a little jarring when I bite into a piece of nigri with cold rice. In addition, each piece is brushed with soy sauce and wasabi. I love fresh wasabi however, so I dipped each piece in an additional coating of their wasabi.

The final course for the omakase menu was the fatty tuna handroll (not pictured because I quickly put it into my mouth). The crispy nori was wrapped around rich, fatty chunks of tuna and topped with a few slivers of green scallions. We all approved, and felt sufficiently full after this. Overall, I thought this was an excellent menu in a quaint, intimate setting and worth returning to. My father mentioned that he liked the omakase menu at Makoto better, but keep in mind the price point of that is over twice the cost of Sushi Capitol’s. For $130 for three people (including a beer for my mother – what a lush) here, we got a very solid lunch with high quality sushi that had obviously been prepared with thought and care.

 

Spotlight on my favorite happy hour: Pearl Dive (duh)

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My favorite thing about warm weather (although in DC, this currently translates to hot and muggy weather) and late sunsets is post-work happy hours. Nothing gets me through the 2pm slump like knowing I’m going to spend a few hours with good friends and drink specials after I battle the beltway traffic. While there are plenty of wonderful happy hour options in my neighborhood, and it feels like there is a new restaurant opening up at least once a month, I find myself returning to Pearl Dive over and over again.

Of course, a big reason is their amazing specials Monday through Friday from 4pm-7pm. But I love Pearl Dive for more than just their $2.50 beers. The outdoor patio is great, even though it can get a little packed, the bartenders somehow manage to stay attentive despite being slammed with yuppies demanding sparkling water, and people-watching on 14th street never gets boring. Plus the casual vibe makes it perfect for almost any occasion, whether you’re starting a date off here, or if you decide last minute during a long run that you want a refreshing alcoholic beverage and show up drenched in your own sweat, wearing spandex and french braided pigtails.

During the Independence Day weekend, I spent perhaps a little bit too much time here. I was eager show everyone how ready I was to reenter the glamorous world of dating (this attitude lasted approximately 4 days before I remembered that dating is annoying and stupid 97% of the time), and decided to meet up with a few girlfriends at Pearl Dive to kick off the holiday weekend with a impromptu bar crawl. Usually, I just grab the lightest draft beer when I hit this happy hour. However, my wonderfully supportive friend, Mariam, decided that we would all start off with some dirty martinis (vodka and olive juice), which is one of their happy hour specials for $7. This was delicious. However, a word of advice: maybe don’t go inhale four in a row after a break up because it may lead to a overly long, unnecessary night out consisting of you telling random strangers how this is “THE BEST NIGHT EVER,” shots of tequila with groups of men who drove in the from the suburbs where they eat at only chain restaurants, maybe some tears, and then maybe waking up at 3am to quickly tie your hair into a topknot before heading to the bathroom to vomit. Not saying this from experience or anything.

You would think this would be enough to get me to maybe either 1) not drink dirty martinis for a short period of time and/or 2) take a break from Pearl Dive. You would think. Well, less than 24 hours later, I found myself sitting at the inside bar of Pearl Dive sipping on another dirty martini during happy hour, inhaling another bowl of mussels. In the words of Selena Gomez:

A fake book club meeting at Central

When I realized that things were not working anymore with TBM, I knew it was best not to drag things out and just end it before I started second guessing myself. Unfortunately, he had just left for a week long trip back to California and to Phoenix for the holiday weekend. I tried to text him to call me when he landed, but because of a flight delay and his general inability to get back to me, it took two days for us to actually schedule a phone call. That Sunday morning, we briefly chatted and I explained how I felt that I just had reached the limit of my patience, and felt slightly pathetic after the last few months. He responded with complete silence, and I continued to word vomit for an additional 6 minutes before realizing he really had absolutely nothing to say about it being over. After getting off that awkward phone, I then had to rush to get ready for a “book club” brunch at Central Michel Richard down the street from my apartment. We had decided to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes this month, but realized a week before our scheduled brunch date that only three people had actually finished the book (confession: I had not even looked the book on Amazon, let alone read a single word out of the novel). So we just said screw it and decided to just meet up for an indulgent meal instead.

I absolutely love Central. I first went to Central on my 21st birthday, where my mother stood up in the middle of the restaurant and snapped approximately 32 pictures of the waiter checking my ID after taking my cocktail order. This is Michel Richard’s bistro, meant to be a casual option to his Citronelle (which closed in July 2012 due to extensive water damange). The food has always been top notch, while the vibe is comfortable and unpretentious. After reading a great review for their brunch menu, I had put it on my list of weekend spots to return to. They have a very fair 3-course prix fixe menu for $27, with bottomless drinks for only $10. I knew that I wanted to be productive the rest of the day, so skipped out on the drinks.

For the first course, I started with the chocolate pancrepes, which were served with a side of chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream.

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The pancrepes, a love child of pancakes and crepes, tasted exactly like they were supposed to. Slightly crispy yet fluffy, these were absolutely decadent (like all of Michel Richard’s sweets). I liked that the chocolate sauce was not overly sweet he crispy little chocolate balls (of course we laughed anytime someone mentioned “little balls” during that lunch because we are all classy, mature ladies) added some texture. I could feel myself filling up after just this first course. SM ordered the deconstructed caesar salad, which she enjoyed. A few girls ordered the yellow tomato gazpacho with burrata, and approved.

My second course, which I had been looking to ever since I started hearing about the prix fixed brunch options, was the famous chicken and waffles.

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This dish did not disappoint my already extremely high expectations. The boneless chicken was incredibly sweet and moist inside (gonna use that m word whether you like it or not), while the thin coating was light, crispy and just total perfection. The maple foam, unlike syrup did not soak into the waffles and make everything soggy  (great because I morph into a 6 year old throwing a temper tantrum when food gets soggy). Each bite, with the waffle and the buttery mashed potatoes was simply amazing. Everyone’s conversation just faded into a hazy background in my mind as I devoured this.

 

When I finally came up for air, I realized I was totally stuffed. In fact, we were all bursting at the seams after our second courses. Still, we had desserts coming and being strong, independent woman, we were not about to let a few spoonfuls of butter stop us (post-breakup self attitude here).

The creme brulee french toast was the final course for me. This was good, but at this point I was so full that I could not finish it. It had been an extremely decadent, carb-heavy three courses. Usually, I embrace my weekend carbs with loving arms, but I had spent the previous night in the corner of a dance floor housing pita chips and Costco spinach artichoke dip, so my arms were a little tired of hugging carbs by Sunday morning.

 

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The portions are shockingly large, and I was basically waddling by the time we got up. I debated going for a second run, but SM suggested hitting up some stores which sounded like a better way to burn calories (and dollar bills). The brunch is definitely a great deal, and full of deliciously (rich) options. While it is not something my cholesterol could handle on a regular basis, it was the best thing to immediate follow an awkward phone call because it reminded me that butter is always better than boys.