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DC (and Virginia) Report

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  • Andrew in Alabama Mar 14, 2001 05:40 PM
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Attended a conference in downtown DC last weekend, but made time to have several meals out.

Upon arrival at National Airport, went to Legal Seafood's airport location. This was my first time eating at a branch of this chain and I have to say I was impressed. I know they have a reputation for undisputably fresh seafood, and I must say that it makes a noticable difference. The mussels in garlic and white wine sang with flavor, I had an order of Kumamoto oysters that made me feel like I was tasting a sea breeze, and an excellent, meaty crab cake. The lobster roll, while creative, was a little heavy on the mayo, which covered much of the lobster's delicate taste. I had a harpoon IPA, which went down really smooth.

That night a friend from the area took us to Raaga Indian restaurant in Virginia. This is not a particularly ornate place, but the Indian food was first rate. We had an appetizer sampler, with a piece of tandoori chicken, a piece of interesting lamb sausage, and a vegetable patty that reminded me of falaffel (my ignorance of Indian food will be readily apparent here.) All was excellent. For my dinner, I had the tandoori mixed grill, which included lamb, chicken (unfortunately the same chicken as we had just had on the appetizer plate) and jumbo shrimp. All was excellent again, with the shrimp being ever so slightly overcooked. My friend ordered us ice cream which was surprisingly good and seemed to be homemade.

The next day for lunch we grabbed a cab and headed to Adams Morgan and Meskerem Ethiopian restaurant. There were three of us, and we shared the Meskerem platter, which had stews of beef, lamb, and chicken, along with lentils, potatoes, and what seemed like refried beans. Everything was good, the food was not (temperature) hot, and the chicken was difficult to eat, as it came on the bone. The bread that you eat with was cold, as if it had sat out for a while. This was a slight let down, especially since everyone seems to recommend Meskerem. One up-side was that we got to sit in the window, and see the people's reactions when they walked by and looked at our plate and the three of us eating with our fingers... entertaining!

The next night we went to Cafe Japonica off of Dupont Circle for sushi... we were concerned as we walked into the place and it did not seem really clean or crowded, and my concern heightened as my sake was served with a shot glass instead of a traditional Japanese ceramic cup, but we found the sushi to be first rate, if a little pricey. As we ate, the place filled up as well, so our other fears were dashed. One highlight was that they serve my wife's favorite Japanese dish, a hard to find specialty called onigri. It is a triangular rice ball with cooked salmon (or plum or dried fish) inside, and wrapped with nori. Their edition was passable, if a little salty... the best ever is at Yakitoro Den Chan in Atlanta (now defunct) where Dennis the chef would grill them on the outside. Probably not traditional, but delicious. Overall, above average sushi at an above average price.

Finally, we want to Les Halles. I have wanted to go there ever since reading Anthony Bourdin's book Kitchen Confidential, and seeing how we won't be going to New York anytime soon, we settled for the DC location. This is a "man's" bistro. The menu leans towards the heavy and carnivorous. We all found things to make us happy though. My wife and aunt started off with a salad, then Argentinian strip steaks. Although it was too well done for my taste (but cooked exactly how she asked for it) it was very tasty, different from our grain fed US beef. My uncle had lamb chops, which looked wonderful (to my regret, he didn't offer me a bite) and I had onion soup (a classic presentation, rich and thick) and steak tartare, which was marvelous, and I couldn't finish the plate, the portion was so huge. We had a nice bottle of cote du rhone and talked the night away, a lovely evening (and very french)

All in all it was a very good trip to DC... We hit several different cuisines, and enjoyed every minute.

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  1. To my knowledge, injera (bread like you had at Meskerem) is always served cold, even in Ethiopia.

    Was the chicken dish doro wat? It always comes with a hard boiled egg and a chicken leg.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dorsch
      a
      Andrew in Alabama

      I think the last time I had injera, it was actually warm, but my memory could be faulty. The taste was good, but the temperature was off-putting.

      The chciken dish did indeed have hard-boiled eggs, but the chciken pieces were like drumettes, the portion of the wing that looks like a little drumstick. It was difficult to eat with the bread.

      1. re: Andrew in Alabama

        You need to just pick up the chicken and eat it with your fingers. When I first ate Ethiopian food, I was very conscious about getting food on my hands. Meanwhile, my Ethiopian friends were having a good old time, not worrying about it at all.

    2. "One highlight was that they serve my wife's favorite Japanese dish, a hard to find specialty called onigri. It is a triangular rice ball with cooked salmon (or plum or dried fish) inside, and wrapped with nori."

      These are onigiri, and are actually quite common in Japan. They're sold in Japanese convenience stores everywhere, with a huge variety of fillings. Great snack! A lot of Japanese families make onigiri out of leftover rice and include them in bento lunches. Just wet your hands a bit, form the warm rice into a triangle (or ball) with or without a little filling in the middle, and wrap with nori (flavored nori is great for this!).

      "Their edition was passable, if a little salty... the best ever is at Yakitoro Den Chan in Atlanta (now defunct) where Dennis the chef would grill them on the outside. Probably not traditional, but delicious."

      These are called 'yaki-onigiri' -- or grilled rice balls without the nori wrapping, and these too are quite traditional. Often they don't include filling, and you can get them at most izakaya-style restaurants in Japan (or yakitori places, etc.). Yum.

      Best,
      Deb H.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Deb H.
        a
        Andrew in Alabama

        Thanks for the information!

        Andrew