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Sep 7, 2000 02:19 AM

Speaking of soft shells . . .

  • j

I was delighted (to my surprise) to eat a fabulantistic soft shell platter this afternoon at -- of all places -- The Palm (19th north of M)! (And James Carville didn't even ruin my meal!) Perfectly sauteed in butter, having been lightly floured, and served with a lemon/wine sauce, with roasted garlic cloves, whole, served hot from the cast-iron pan. (Lose the iceberg doily, though.) Wonderful. I mention softshells because of Jim Zurer's (rightful) obsession with softies at Full Kee. How nice, at Il Palmo, to enjoy -- really enjoy -- softshell crabs without having to bite through the typically helmet-like coating. Any other candidates for softie heaven, before the season ends?

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  1. I had a terrific soft shell appetizer two days ago at Seasons, in the Four Seasons Hotel (2800 Penna. Ave.). It's listed as soft shell tempura, which is a pretty good description, and may run afoul of the "helmet-like" objection. But it was delicious, both coating and crab deliciously hot, crunchy outside and sweetly soft inside. I didn't care for the salad it came with -- typical spiky mesclun mix and a dressing too sweet for me -- including candied citrus peel, yucko.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sirina

      Seasons, in the eponymous 4 Seasons Hotel, ain't exactly in Chowhound territory: how many of us out there can, and do, pay upwards of $25 an entree for lunch? Now, I realize that I started the post with lunch at the Palm, and mea maxima culpa, but I was being treated, and the Palm is at least in the bidness district. Any other softie recommendations -- in the Chowhound style, price and atmosphere are welcome. I'll leave "Seasons" to the euro crowd.

      1. re: John

        Yeah, you could probably find better value for this sort of thing. And at those prices, I'd expect really good salad! If I were Sirina I'd be pretty pissed off.

        But let me correct one thing.

        This site (and chowhounding in general) is not devoted to a certain price range. It's about finding the best stuff completely undistracted by hype, trends, or established opinion.

        Certain pleasures simply don't come cheap. They're not necessarily "the best" pleasures--Chateau Lafite is not "better" than a perfectly made banana milkshake. But Chateau Lafite is an awfully wonderful drink, and worth enjoying sometimes. Hounds with bucks spend what they need to. Hounds without bucks save up. We hate to deny ourselves pleasures.

        That said, at least 90% of one's eating life (even that of a millionaire) is likely to be non-luxe. And at least 90% of restaurants are not really pricey. Since covers all (good) places across the whole lopsided price range--and serves to assist everyone in maximizing the deliciousness of every bite they take, not just special occasion dinners--it might look to the casual observer that we spurn linen tablecloths and foie gras. Aw, contraire!

    2. I've had very good soft shells at La Ferme in Chevy Chase and at 1789. As it happens, I'm going to La Ferme tonight and will no doubt order them if they're on the menu. Related question: where if Full Kee located?

      8 Replies
      1. re: greg

        Jim Zurer would know the address of Full Kee in his sleep, but since he hasn't answered yet ...

        It's in Chinatown -- 509 H Street NW (betw. 5th & 6th St). At least that's what the DC Vindigo says on my Handspring.

        1. re: Gary Cheong

          China Block, as my friends call it, replete with the offensively Mao-ist "friendship arch" foisted on the city by . . . . Hardly a town. If you're looking for a town, try Eden Center, a fantastically evocative piece of Saigon circa 1965. "Seven Sisters," in case you're wondering where to eat.

          1. re: John

            Never been to the Eden Center; but there appears to be a whole slew of Vietnamese Restaurants there. Can anyone give further information on favorites, specialities, distinctions, etc.?

            1. re: Marty L.

              Delighted to introduce you all to the Eden Center, America's home for Viet food (pace Westminster, Calif). "Seven Sisters" is a restaurant, though it well describes the nabe. (Head out from DC on Rte 50, get off at 7 Corners, and . . . ask for directions if you miss the Eden Center. Seven Corners has about 15 different roads going through it, and long-time DCers still get lost. Look for the extralarge South Viet flag, yellow with red stars.) The Center is occupied completely and soley by Vietnamese merchants: music store, grocery (with a nice selection of condiments); barber shop; and, for us chowhounds, restaurants. Seven Sisters is, in my view, the best, though the others are also good; look for the most crowded. Decor is soothing: lots of pink, as befitting the namesakes, namely, seven sisters, most of whom will serve or hostess. The menu is classic Vietnamese. Start with summer rolls, the rice-paper wrapper containing fresh greens, shrimp, sprouts. Dip into the sriracha. Then enjoy some shaky beef (tenderloin chunks, sprayed with lime juice, dipped in a salt-and-pepper sauce). Top it all off with some Saigon cafe (espresso with condensed milk, a Saigon classic). Repeat, several times.

              And if beef's your bag, virtually every jernt at the Eden Center offers the "seven course beef dinner," which includes the aforementioned shaky, beef balls (ground beef and cilantro, dip it in vinegar), and lots of other delicacies.

              Eden Center cannot be beat for Viet food. Just don't start arguing about the War. (No joke: a cocky young a--hole was beaten in the parking lot for mocking the South Viet flag.)

              1. re: John

                That guy was not just beaten, he was beaten to death. But note that the beatdown was preceded by him not just mocking, but urinating on, the SVN flag, at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

                The Washington Post Wednesday food section had a guide to Eden Center a while ago. It might still be accessible on their website. The gist of it is you can get a great meal for cheap at a ton of restaurants (or a progressive meal at a ton of restaurants), and then get a Vietnamese iced coffee (MMMMMMMM) at any of six or seven cafes.

                I'm "ashamed" to say that I have never been to Eden Center, even though I work a mile away. There are so many good Vietnamese restaurants in Northern Va. that I have never needed to go there just to satisfy a craving, but for research purposes I promise to make a trip! The Mrs. and I have it on our agenda.

                While at the Post's website, look for their guide to Korean restaurants in Annandale. That area is to Koreans what Eden Center is to Vietnamese. I've been to Hee Been, which is probably the best known, for their lunch buffet, which is an incredible deal, and Yechon, which has a great sushi bar. Koreans love sushi as much as Germans love David Hasselhoff (we miss you Norm McDonald!).

                1. re: John

                  "Look for the extralarge South Viet flag, yellow with red stars."

                  The South Viet flag does not have stars. You have mistaken it for the North Viet flag. The South Viet flag is yellow and with red bars running horizontally.


                2. re: Marty L.

                  If Eden Center is what I am thinking of, its right across from the Home Depot on Rt. 50 but you have to go through some strange machinations to get there...can't just drive across the intersection.
                  I like it very much for pho. I don't know the name of the restaurant but it is on the west end of the strip mall, two doors in from the grocery. Looks like a high school cafeteria with unbelievably cheap and good doup and almost makes braving the crowd at the Home Depot worth it.

                3. re: John

                  Is "Seven Sisters" the name of a restaurant, or a reference to a group of seven restaurants?