Winter 2015 Restaurant Week Recs

It is that time of year again! As I tell myself that I need to crack down after the holidays and attempt to incorporate healthier eating habits, Winter Restaurant Week arrives.

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This year, it runs between January 25-31, with 3-course lunches going for $22 and dinners going for $35. The list of participating restaurants is long, so it is important to pick your spots carefully! After all, you don’t want to start off 2016 wasting your time on bad food. So I would recommend staying away from places that, in general, do not have very expensive entrees (for example, Circa’s dinner plates run between $13-$23) because you are not really saving much money, while at the same time having to deal with RW crowds and less-than-enthused servers. Some places also already offer pre-theater menus, such as Central Michel Richard or NoPa for the same price through out the year, so you do not have to try to squeeze these into the week. I like either trying out new restaurants I would not normally go out of my way to head to, or restaurants with typically pricier menus where I would be scoring a good deal at. Some recommendations from this year’s list:

  • Casa Luca: Fabio Trabbochi’s “casual” Italian restaurant is located about 2 blocks from my apartment and I have yet to have a disappointing meal there. They are offering both lunch and dinner RW deals, which is a great deal here since “casual” in Fabio’s eyes apparently means $24 appetizers and $34 entrees. They do not have their Restaurant Week menus up yet, perhaps check back closer to the start.
  • China Chilcano: Jose Andres’ newest spot, located in Penn Quarter, has gotten a lot of praise since it opened last winter. I have not yet eaten at the Peruvian restaurant, but A, who I trust implicitly when it comes to all things related to eating, approves. So that must mean I approve of it as well! China Chilcano is offering lunch and dinner RW deals, but the menu has not been posted.
  • Del Campo: I made a dinner reservation here this time, since our lunch reservations last summer were a bust. I have only been to this South American restaurant for happy hour, and everything we ordered was fantastic. It is definitely on the pricier side and I look forward to trying the grilled meats offered on the RW menu. Note: if you cannot make it here for RW, try the Happy Hour at the bar for some great deals on small plates.
  • Fiola Mare: I also made a Winter RW reservation at Fabio Trabbochi’s seafood focused restaurant on the Georgetown Waterfront. I have not eaten here yet, and feel slightly left out since every single person seems to love this spot. As Tom Sietsema put it, this is “the city’s most sumptuous spot for seafood.” Well damn son, sign me up. Note: They are only doing lunch for RW, and I am praying that their burrata is included as one of the options.
  • Mintwood Place: I know, I sound like a broken record because I suggested them for Summer Restaurant Week, but I will continue to promote them because I just think it continues to be one of the best options. They include a large portion of their regular menu (the burrata and steak tartare appetizers are my favorite, and I have never tried an entree there I did not love). The restaurant is just so warm and inviting, perfect for keeping you warm on a cold winter night.
  • Nonna’s Kitchen: I came here during Summer RW with A, and thought it was just a great deal. It is a very small, intimate setting, with beautiful red painted walls and a warm, open kitchen. Not only was the food fantastic, RW provides a fantastic opportunity to try a restaurant that usually only offers pre-fix menus starting at $75.

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  • Pinea: The restaurant that replaced J&G Steakhouse at the W Hotel is a stunning beautiful spot with bright blue walls (and giant murals), high ceilings and a sophisticated vibe that surprisingly has no touch of pretentiousness. I went for Winter RW last year, and thought it was definitely worth it. They offered their entire regular menu, and I absolutely loved everything we ordered (the menu has changed significantly since then so there’s no point in me listing it out). Entrees typically run between $25-$36, and they will hopefully offer a wide selection this time as well for RW.
  • Riggsby: This is a fairly new spot from Michael Schlow (from Tico on 14th street) and has garnered a lot of praise in its first few months. With its retro design and menu, food critics seem to enjoy the “familiar and fresh food” offered. Entrees run around thirty bucks, so RW would be a good deal (assuming they are not just offering pasta) for three courses.
  • Sushi Taro: Yes, the broken record is playing the same song again. I came here twice for Restaurant Week already, and if I hadn’t spent all my money on Black Friday and post-Christmas shopping, I would not mind coming back for for yet another RW dinner. Sushi Taro’s food is just incredible. The sushi is so fresh and flavorful, perhaps one of the best places in the city for this.

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Hopefully 2016 will start out with some amazing meals for everyone!

 

Return to Bad Saint

*Full disclosure: I wrote this three months ago but was too lazy to finish and post it. New year…. new me?

After my date at Bad Saint, I spent a lot of time thinking about the food there and less time thinking about the company from that evening. So that seemed like the great place to celebrate my three year anniversary with my current roommate, Jason. Three years is a long time to be living with someone, and it is an especially long time to be living with a secret roommate that my parents know nothing about, so this seemed like an extra special milestone to celebrate. Also, Jason happens to be the most unemotional human being I have ever come across (I mean, research agrees with me here <– this is a joke, Jason is not dead inside), while I am definitely exceedingly high on the emotional spectrum, so I just like to have any excuse to be super sentimental around him.

I did the same thing as my first trip to Bad Saint: I ran up the hill to Columbia Heights during my evening work out and dropped by the restaurant around 5:45pm. Genevieve, the beautiful and gracious host, took my information and said she estimated around a 7/7:30pm seating. Since Jason is not really into “feelings” (his facial expressions are a mix between horror and anxiety when I cry over a guy to him), I thought it would be a wonderful touch if I handmade some sweet, loving signs to decorate our dishes. I handed them to Genevieve, who also knows Jason, and she agreed these would be a nice touch for our romantic anniversary meal together.

The two roomies headed back to Bad Saint around 7:15pm, hopping off of the bus just as I got the text from Bad Saint notifying us that our table was ready. We were seated at the back counter and very quickly sent our order to the waiter since we were both starving. To start, the kitchen sent us some house-made shrimp crackers. These were light and airy, just like the shrimp crackers we used to eat growing up. I love the crackling in my mouth, and the feeling of my tongue sticking to the chip as the air is released (eat one and you’ll know what I am talking about!). Our first order was the Ginisang Ampalaya: bitter melon, preserved black bean and farm egg. Like I said when I first experienced Bad Saint during their pop-up last winter, I usually do not like bitter melon, but the dish here makes me want to start a fan club for the vegetable.

Next up was the Inihaw na panga ng tambakol: the tuna jaw dish that was out the first time I ate at Bad Saint. The grilled fish is incredibly moist, tender and fatty. I loved the salt served alongside of the dish, although my blood pressure levels probably did not appreciate it as much.

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Of course, we had to order the Tapa, especially since I had fantasized about it an inappropriate amount since the last time I was there. I could smell the garlic rice well before the plate hit the counter, and my heart started racing in anticipation. It was every bit as incredible as the first time.

We also ordered the Pancit bihon guisado: a heaping plate of sauteed rice noodles, wood ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, and squash. The tender, thin noodles, the creamy mushrooms and the crispy vegetables made it an incredibly filling dish. The best part of this though, was the arrival of the sappy anniversary signs. I burst into laughter, looked over at Jason who was also laughing (that’s right, folks, he was EMOTING) and took out his phone to snap a picture. I MADE HIM FEEL SOMETHING. Even without the amazing food, this meal was already a win.

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After we cleared our entrees, I was feeling pretty stuffed, but Jason insisted that we order the bilo bilo. I don’t have to persuaded too hard when it comes to dessert so that was fine with me. The purple rice in coconut cream is topped with puffed rice crisps, and so rich and satisfying. After a couple of bites I was completed stuffed and threw in the towel. At that moment, our wonderful server presented us with a dish of caramelized rice cakes from the kitchen. It was such a sweet gesture, but I could manage one tiny bite of the delicious coconut flavored cake before I was convinced my stomach was going to explode.

Overall, this was another fantastic meal that made me 100% sure that my amazing first experience there was no fluke. I found the restaurant as charming and beautiful as the first time, and look forward to my next visit back (hopefully after my sodium levels have decreased slightly).