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Announcing August DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at TenPenh.

DC Food Blogger Happy Hour TenPenhSo the next DC Food Blogger Happy Hour will be held on Wednesday, August 4 at TenPenh in celebration of their 10th anniversary. Ten years ago last August, TenPenh opened on the corner of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.  For nearly a decade, TenPenh has offered Washingtonians a glimpse into the flavors of the Orient with influences from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan.

What: TenPenh’s Happy Hour specials ($5 cocktails/drinks) will be extended to 8 pm for the DC Food Bloggers group only

When: Wednesday, August 4 6-8 p.m.

HH Drinks: include all 8 Specialty Cocktails, Draft Beers, and a Selection of Wines. TenPenh’s bartender and mixology program is nationally recognized. In fact, their bartender Brennan Adams won the DC leg of the GQ Magazine/ Bombay Sapphire “Inspired Bartender” contest in 2009. Brennan was one of 40 national finalists and the only one from Washington, D.C.Don’t miss the chance to have a cocktail shaken and stirred by Brennan.
HH Food: Half price all dishes on the Izakaya Small Plate menu (scroll down) featuring Asian specialties including Shredded Duck Springrolls, Lobster  Rangoons, Korean Pork Belly Bites, Chili Brined Chicken Wings, American Kobe Beef “Sliders”, and more!

Come meet, mingle, and chat with fellow food bloggers. Whether you’re a regular DCFBHH attendee in need of a reminder or you’re interested in putting a face to a name for some of your favorite local food bloggers, come have a snack with us. It’s the first Wednesday of every month so put it on your calendar now. Johnna Rowe of Johnna Knows Good Food is the “Hostess” with the Mostess this month.

Also, now the DC food bloggers have a new Facebook fan page, a virtual space to hang out, converse, and get to know each other. If you are a food blogger (or a food lover) feel free to “become a fan.” We’ll be posting future events via Facebook, so it’s a great way to keep up on what’s going on. If you plan on attending, please RSVP to the DC Food Blogger Facebook page.

A lot of people make these happy hours happen. As always, thanks to the planning committee:

Arugula Files
Beer Spotter
Biscuits and Such
Capital Cooking
Capital Spice
Common Man Eats
Dining in DC
Gradually Greener
Johnna Knows Good Food
Modern Domestic
Thrifty DC Cook
We Love DC

Hope to see you there! If you plan to attend, if you plan on attending, please RSVP to the DC Food Blogger Facebook page. Thanks! See you there! And feel free to repost this flyer on your blog to spread the word.

Also, you should know that in celebration of its 10th anniversary, TenPenh will place ten red envelopes with $10 gift certificates under random plates throughout dinner service during the entire month of August. Also, don’t pay your check without seeing if luck is on your side! If the total on your dinner bill has the number 10, then you get $10 off your check. On TenPenh’s official birthday, August 2nd, 2010, celebrate with a $10 Bento Box during our extended lunch hours from 11am-3pm.  TenPenh’s $10 lunch special can be served and devoured in 20 minutes, and you’re out the door in thirty!

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Restaurant Week Top Ten Picks

Restaurant Week occurs twice a year during the slow restaurant season in the winter (usually January) and the late summer (usually August). Restaurants are typically slow around the holiday season and in the summertime when people take vacation away from the DC area. Many restaurants welcome Restaurant Week as a way to drum up new business. This year’s summer restaurant week in DC starts on Monoday, August 24 – 30; however many DC restaurants extend their promotions an extra week or sometimes an entire month (see list below).

Restaurant week is an excellent opportunity to try a new place, or one that you simply could not afford otherwise. To get the most “bang” for your buck, choose really expensive restaurants with superior reputations, for example, I choose restaurants that have been on the Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurant list consistently that I haven’t tried. Or perhaps your dollar would be best trying a place that serves a cuisine that you’ve always wanted to try, but were too timid to risk shelling out good money for.

Dinner prices have increased this year; three courses now cost $35.09. Lunch remains, the same terrific deal it’s always been: $20.09 for a starter, main course and dessert. Some restaurants will offer their full menu while others will have a special Restaurant Week menu. One of the absolute best ways to take advantage of restaurant week is to go to lunch at a fine dining establishment that you would not normally be able to afford.

Restaurants that offer their full menu are considered the best deal. The restaurants that offer prix fixe menus or pre-theatre menus all year long you can take advantage of anytime. In addition, restaurants that offers any small-plates/tapas/mezze, such as Zaytinya, Jaleo, Oyamel, all great, but already generally offer good deals year-round. Some restaurants offer only limited selections, or include various upcharges (sometimes called supplemental fees) for some of their better dishes – these should be avoided.

Here are my top ten picks based on their reputation, quality of food, restaurant week menu offerings, or based on my own restaurant week experience.

  1. RW 2-09 001Vidalia- Open since spring 1993, the James Beard Award winning chefs Jeffrey Buben and R.J. Cooper, have driven this restaurant to be one of DC’s most highly regarded restaurants. In 2009, Vidalia was listed as #7 on Washingtonian’s Very Best list earning three and a half stars out of four. Their summer restaurant week menu offers many choices for appetizers and entrees. I went to lunch at Vidalia in February for restaurant week and had to date, the best restaurant week experience ever. Their brisket was, moist, tender, flavorful, and delicious. I also tried the shrimp and grits which is one of Vidalia’s “signature” dishes.
  2. ToscaExecutive Chef Massimo Fabbri is highly regarded and loved even by other top DC area chefs. With their superior reputation for beautiful pasta, which is house-made fresh daily, Tosca ranked within the top 25 of Washingtonian’s Very Best list two years in a row earning three stars out of four. Their restaurant week menu is one of the best – by offering diners their full dinner menu, including some of Chef Fabbri’s signature dishes black sea bass tartar, Veal Ravioli, Risotto with saffron, and carrot pappardelle with a rabbit ragu.
  3. compressed cookingArt and Soul – Under the direction of two-time James Beard Award winning Chef, Art Smith, Art and Soul made the Washingtonian’s Very Best list within the first year of its opening. Executive Chef Travis Timberlake (see photo on right) has crafted an excellent summer restaurant week menu by offering many of his Southern inspired dishes that are available on the regular lunch and dinner menu. This is a great opportunity to sample some of his extraordinary cuisine, prepared with love – at an exceptional value. On the restaurant week dinner menu enjoy Fried chicken with country potato salad; ravioli with herbs and spring vegetables; salmon with pea risotto, golden-beet relish, and preserved-lemon vinaigrette; pork chop with charred-stone-fruit relish and sweet-onion broth; crispy whole trout with spring-bean salad and rhubarb vinaigrette. They are extending their restaurant week promotion through September 6.
  4. Rasika – At one of Washington’s best Indian restaurants, Chef Vikram Sunderam’s offers deliciously authentic Indian cuisine. Rasika is ranked within the top 25 of Washingtonian’s Very Best list earning three stars out of four. Chef Sunderam’s restaurant week lunch menu is the most promising at such an excellent value and includes its much-praised palak chaat, lamb roganjosh and for dessert, carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon. For dinner, enjoy some his best dishes, the palak chaat, black cod lightly sauced with star anise, dill, and honey and for dessert enjoy the carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon. Bread or rice comes with each main course. Rasika is offering their special restaurant week menus until September 5.
  5. PassionFish – As the newest restaurant of Passion Food Hospitality restaurant group, whose owners, Chef Jeff Tunks, Gus Dimillo, and David Wizenberg, have a longstanding tradition of offering any entrée on their regular menus while offering selected appetizers and desserts for the restaurant week prix fixe menu. This year is no different. I went to PassionFish in February for restaurant week and was very impressed.  On the restaurant week menu for selected appetizers are some of their best dishes including their Crab and Corn chowder, Classic Peruvian Style Ceviche and Yucatan Shrimp + Ceviche “Cocktail”. I recommend the Monkfish “Osso Bucco” Amatriciana, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and Crème Brulee for dessert.
  6. Café Atlantico – celebrity Chef José Andrés is offering the full regular menu in addition to their special prix fixe menus. Make sure to order dishes that are not included on their pre-theatre menu which they all year round for $35. On the restaurant week dinner entrées include Duck confit with Brussels sprouts, apples, raisins, and pinenuts; portobello mushroom with huitlacoche, chihuahua cheese, roasted beets, and beet oil; braised beef short ribs with grilled eggplant and squash; Veracruz-style salmon with tomatoes, olives, onions, avocado, and capers; grilled skirt steak with mushrooms, green beans, and truffled potato espuma. Café Atlantico is extending their restaurant week promotion until September 6.
  7. HookFresh sustainably sourced seafood and fish combined with the best local and organic produce is Chef Jonathan Seningen’s focus at this Georgetown dining room. Hook has a solid reputation for delicious quality food, especially during restaurant week. This summer Chef Seningen is offering extensive lunch and dinner menus with choices such as salmon with chickpeas, tomato, spinach, and cayenne; including some of his best and signature dishes like the Arctic char with sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and celeriac purée; mahi mahi with prosciutto, black-eyed peas, and spinach; yellowfin tuna with white-bean purée, bok choy, and boquerone mustard.
  8. Dino – No one means business like Dean Gold – as he takes great pride in his warm and inviting Italian wine bar and dining room located in the Cleveland Park neighborhood. Dino serves excellent authentic Italian fare at an exceptional value all year round but has gone the extra mile by offering one of the most generous restaurant week dinner deals: any three courses from the regular menu, plus a free glass of house-infused grappa or moscato. I recommend the Saltimbocca, described on the menu as veal and pork Meatballs with onions, garlic, herbs, egg & bread crumb, with spicy tomato oregano sauce and the Linguine alla Pescatore, which is fresh mussels & mahogany Clams with house made pasta, garlic, tomatoes, wine & parsley. The promotion will be extended through September 13.
  9. Kaz Sushi Bistro Rammy winning Chef, “Kaz” (Kazuhiro) Okochi offers deliciously fresh and innovative sushi. At lunch, diners are offered a choice of two preset menus. On the lunch menu enjoy a choice of Miso soup; bento box (seaweed salad, Asian short ribs, spicy California roll, or miso-marinated salmon, and spicy green mussels). For dessert, choose between green-tea ice cream or mango sorbet. For dinner appetizers: try the deliciously fresh and innovative (See photo above) Scallop ceviche piña colada; or seared Sockeye salmon with wasabi/tuna sauce; spicy shrimp fritter; crispy calamari salad; teriyaki pork ribs; grilled miso-marinated salmon. For main course, choose either three nigiri or two maki. I recommend the lychee panna cotta with mango sorbet for dessert. (see photo).
  10. Ici Urban Bistro – (photo) Ici Urban Bistro offers a fresh and contemporary twist on traditional French cuisine. The Executive Chef, Olivier Perret who is a native of Burgundy, France has been on board just a few months and is already captivating DC diners with his innovative and contemporary approach to traditional French cooking. His restaurant week menu includes some of his specialties such as Pan Seared Halibut with Mango and wilted arugula, veal jus or  Duck Confit with garlic mashed potatoes, balsamic and star anis reduction.

 Restaurant Week Promotion Extensions

  • 2941 – August 3 through August 28 
  •  701 Restaurant – August 24 through Sept 6th 
  • Art and Soul – August 24- September 6
  • Café Atlantico – August 24- September 6
  • Cedar Restaurant – August 1 through August 23
  • Co-co Sala – August 24- September 2
  • Darlington House – August 24th through September 6th
  • Dino – August 1 through September 13
  • Grillfish DC – August 24th through September 13th
  • Ici Urban Bistro – August 21 through September 1
  • Il Mulino – August 1 through August 31
  • Mio – August 1 through August 31
  • Nage Bistro – August 17th to September 6th
  • Occidental – August 24- September 6
  • Rasika – August 24- September 5
  • The Heights – August 24th through September 6th
  •  Zaytinya – August 24- September 6

PassionFish – Jeff Tunks goes to Reston

FOOD:

FOR KIDS:

COST:
PassionFish
11960 Democracy Dr., Reston

I have reviewed three other Passion Food Hospitality (PFH) Group restaurants before such as Ceiba, DC Coast, and Acadiana. Each restaurant has their own expertise. Ceiba is Neuvo Latina cuisine, DC Coast is local seafood, Acadiana is what the name suggests, Cajun Southern cooking. I was anxious to visit their newest sister, PassionFish in Reston, VA. The website mentions that the restaurant focuses on “Global” seafood.

Chandelier inside dining room

The dining room decor and design resembles the other Passion Food restaurants. It’s open, clean, crisp, and modern except because this space was newly built, probably just for them it is much larger than the other restaurants. I’m not sure about the exact table count. Hmm… I could look into this. This dining space like the others offer diners remarkable views of the kitchen at work. This seems to be a signature of their establishments. I loved that I could see from my table Mike Yarger, General Manager checking each plate before it goes out. The floating glass chandeliers are gorgeous and the glass staircase is remarkable (see photo to the left).

Fish salt and pepper shakers. Cute!

It’s also the little things, the small touches that makes a restaurant it’s own. PassionFish continues their central theme to the table top with flatware with fish tails and hugging Koi salt-n-pepper shakers. I took a lot more pictures, but I can’t include them all here. (see photo to the right). My good longtime friend Rick and I were seated on the upper level at the top of the floating glass staircase. The view of the large dining room was quite impressive.

Crab Cakes

I was surprised and pleased to learn that the Restaurant Week menu offered all of their regular menu entrees with the exception of the lobster and there was a small surcharge. First course offerings included two kinds of Ceviche, a mixed green salad; Caesar salad; Louisiana seafood gumbo; lobster-and-roasted-butternut-squash bisque; blue-crab-and-corn chowder; Peruvian-style ceviche; Yucatan shrimp ceviche “cocktail”; and trio of nigiri with tuna, salmon, and hamachi. I was able to sample the ceviche cocktail and lobster bisque. The ceviche was a deliciously thick and chunky shrimp salsa served with tortilla chips. The server was very thoughtful and brought an extra spoon for us to share. The bisque had some lobster chunks and was deliciously creamy. I’ve had the bisque at other PFH restaurants. It was as good as I remembered. The portion was plentiful … certainly enough for two persons to share. For the main course, I ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Chipotle Remoulade (see photo on left). The crab cakes were pretty good; certainly not the best that I have ever had. Some bites were crunchier than others; I found a few shells, it’s bound to happen. I would have also preferred to have the sauce on the side.

Artic Char

Rick ordered the salmon colored Poached Icelandic Arctic Char. It looked exactly like salmon, coloring, texture except that it tasted like a white fish. I would have been pleased if I had ordered the Char as my entree. It is on the regular menu so I of course could order it at my next visit.

Creme Brulee

For desserts I sampled the Salted-caramel crème brulee with hazelnut biscotti and the molten chocolate cake with vanilla-malt ice cream. I don’t ever order chocolate desserts so I enjoy being able to taste someone else’s. Rick said that he thought the chocolate cake was the best dessert that he had ever had in his whole entire life. I didn’t share his enthusiasm, but it was flavorful.
I have to mention that I was very pleased to find out that there is a substantial children’s menu and at a bargain with entrees just $6 [including a drink], and desserts and sides $3 each. Kids also get an adorable Menu place-mat with a number of nautical word games. Menu items include a trio of Mini Burger Sliders, a “Beach Bucket” choices of Fish, Shrimp, or Chicken and Fries which arrives in a jaunty nautical blue & white tin bucket, fish Tacos, grilled Cheese, and even PassionFish’s own “Beginner Sushi Roll” which features cucumber, avocado, and fresh crab meat that comes with soy sauce in a seashell-shaped bowl. There are a few side dishes as well. I didn’t see any children in the restaurant when I was there so I don’t know if kids will dig what’s on the menu.

Ceiba offers Washingtonians a taste of Latin America.

Photo courtesy of Ceiba.

So tonight (Tuesday, February 20, 2007) I visited yet another one of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants — Ceiba (pronounced SAY-Bah).  Ceiba is owned by the same owners of DC Coast, TenPenh, and now Acadiana. Ceiba has done very well since it’s opening in September 2003.  The restaurant’s menu is full with cuisine based on Latin American influences. The decor was very bright and very colorful almost like a tropical paradise, right here in DC. I think the theme of the “bird and the tree” was very unique. The name Ceiba refers to a tree indigenous to much of the region and purported to have mystical properties.

Photo courtesy of Ceiba.

The restaurant’s decor includes murals throughout the restaurant celebrating the Ceiba tree. Even the furniture is from Brazil — made from wood indigenous to Brazil.

The menu includes dishes from specifically the Yucatan (Vera Cruz and Cancun), Brazil (Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), Peru, and Cuba. I did not try any of the Ceviche dishes offered (there were more than five offered), however I was able to sample three of their appetizers (one compliments of the chef). The chef brought out the Cuban Paella Crab Fritters. Described on the menu with a fried Lemon and peas served with a light Aioli. I was so pleased that the Chef brought out the Crab Fritter. I was going to order it as one of my choices, but I knew that I was ordering Crab Cakes as my entree. The crab fritter looked better than it tasted…. in my opinion. It reminded me of a hush puppy but just crab tasting. Also, the fritter needed a little more of the aioli. Maybe I just prefer a lot of sauce to dredge each bite, but I think without the aioli, I wouldn’t have been as enthused to eat it.

I also ordered the Albondigas de Chorizo. Described on the menu as Chorizo Meatballs, Shaved Reggianito, Soft Polenta, Tomato Sofrito. So I was asked, “What do you think of the Chorizo?”. I said, “It takes like a meatball.”
Well … I don’t know how else to describe it. It did. The chorizo was very moist and yet did not fall apart when trying to pick it up with your fork. I think the shaved Reggianito on top was the perfect touch. I really liked this dish. I would order it again.
Next, I tried the Beef Empanadas Criollas. Described on the menu as having Green Olives, Raisins, Eggs and Piquillo Pepper Romesco. I didn’t see or taste any of the olive or raisins, but I did have an egg in every one of the Empanadas. I really like this dish and would order it again.
Now that I think about it, the Empanadas seemed similar to Acadiana’s Trio of Pies. (Check the other blog). Mike ordered the Black Bean Braised Pork Shank “Feijoada”. Described on the menu as being served with Rice, Malaguetas, Toasted Farofa. I was able to try this … I have never tasted pork so succulent and with so much flavor. It reminded me of being on my Uncle Loren’s farm in Maryland at a pig roast. This pork was simply amazing. I have never had anything like it. It was served in a very large clay bowl. It felt like we were being served in some old Brazilian woman’s kitchen.Very authentic looking.

I ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Torrejitas. Described on the menu as being served with Peruvian Fried Rice, Red Onion and Asparagus Salad, Rocoto Corn Vinaigrette. I usually order crab cakes when I go out. For some reason, I am just always in the mood for a good crab cake. Saturday night at Restaurant Kolumbia, I ordered the Crab Cake there too. The presentation of the crab cake was good. It looked like a large volcano. The red onion and asparagus covered two crab cakes that sat on top of a bed of peruvian fried rice. I think it looked better than it tasted. The crab cakes were a little crunchy (I found shells), however I was surprised that there was actually “lump” to this crab cake. I can’t tell you how often I order “lump crab cake” and there is no “lump”. It’s all just crab meat that is basically “shredded” no real lump. I think I would have liked the red onion and asparagus salad more, but I think it needed more vinegar. Maybe there was too much vinegar. Maybe just something was missing. Can’t put my finger on it. I should have put some salt and pepper on it, but it didn’t occur to me.

I tried two of their “spirits”- First, I had the PLAYA DEL SOL. An eclectic delight of Cruzan coconut rum, touched with amaretto, pineapple juice, Coco Lopez & grenadine. I also tried the YUCATAN SUNSET. Bacardi Razz rum, Citronge, mango puree & grenadine.  I liked the first one best … probably b/c I love amaretto.

Dining at Ceiba was a very interesting experience. I hope I will make it back again!