We eat out at least once a week and more if our sister-in-law doesn’t invite us over for dinner. These days we get home from work around seven in the evening and it is too late to cook and to clean up as well. Here are some of our recommended spots.
Cee Fine Thai Dining is roomy but cozy. One of my favorite dishes is the deep-fried pompano. Love the crunchiness and savory, sour and spice sauce. Its drunken noodle is very tasty as well. Even Dao enjoys eating here. The service is also very nice.
Vespucci Fine Italian Dining has excellent service. Loved the prime rib and the old screen theater that played Charlie Chaplin.
Havabite is a small, friendly family eatery. The folks are really nice. I had a nice, juicy burger with fries. The price is affordable; therefore, it is a perfect spot for a quick bite.
Eastwind is a new Vietnamese restaurant just opened up for business early this month. While the name is Eastwind, the banner on the front uses Western, cowboy typeface. At first I thought it was an old sign from the previous owner of the place. It really needs some help with selecting the typeface. Eastwind is started by a young Vietnamese business major. He seemed to make quite a bit of investment into the place. The place is surprisingly large. We had a short conversation with him and I wanted to make sure that he didn’t Americanized the taste for none-Vietnamese customers. We had Mi Xao Don Do Bien (Vietnamese Crispy Chow Mein with Seafood) and very pleased with it, but Com Tay Cam Do Bien (Seafood in Clay Pot) was just average. Dao was treated with fried banana with ice cream for free. The owner was very nice and I really do wish him success. Since this place is a bit closer to our house, it will be a perfect spot if we want Vietnamese food and too lazy too cook or to drive to Eden center.
I had two hamburgers this week. On Tuesday, I visited Bobby’s Burger Palace and ordered a classic and beer battered onion rings. The meat was moist and juicy, but lacked the flavor. I suppose a true classic doesn’t need any marination. The service was good and the place was packed after 12:30pm. The line was long and the price was decent.
Early today, we went to Dish for a farewell lunch. One of my co-workers is leaving GW. Of all the choices, I picked an angus beef burger. Yes, I know I am addicted to hamburger. The meat was just perfect and the size was not as big as Tonic’s so I didn’t feel so bloated after lunch. I also had a Chimay pale ale to complement the burger. Not bad at all.
Hu Tieu Mi La Cay Cho Lon opened for a while now and bluntly scooped up customers from Hai Ky Mi Gia. I tried the house noodle soup a couple weeks after its grand opening, but was not impressed with it. I prefer Hai Ky’s broth over La Cay’s for the noodle soup.
A couple weeks ago we went back to La Cay and I decided to try the curry goat noodle. The curry is a bit salty, but I was hooked. The noodle was near perfect (not too soft and not too gummy) and the goat was spicy and savory. Last week I reordered it one more time with a bottle of Vietnamese Beer 33 and I loved the combination.
If you’re at La Cay the next time, skip the typical noodle soup that everyone orders and give curry goat noodle a try. Squeeze in some lime if the curry is too salty for you. Other than that, the bowl is off the hook.
Just realize that I haven’t written much about food and haven’t taken photos for quite a while. I hope to get back to posting more photos again.
Despite the pouring rain, our little family hit Pho 95, our only current favorite spot for hot Vietnamese noodle soup, as part of our Saturday morning ritual. What makes Pho 95 stands out is the wonderful fragrance of pho as soon as you open the door. Pho 95 is generous with meat and its noodle is just right (not too soft or overcooked), but the best part is that even after you finished your pho, the broth is still hot.
What makes pho unique is the customization. You can order pho according to your preference, but for an adventurous enjoyment, check out the following tips.
First you have to order a large size because that is the Vietnamese style. Only a buck more to upgrade to a large bowl. We love more for less. You can order the special with everything in it, but I prefer tendon, meatball with raw beef on the side. Add a side dish of fresh onion soaked in vinegar and a bowl of fat with scallion root.
When the soup comes out, add chilly sauce to the onion bowl depending how much you can tolerate the spiciness. Add chilly, hoisin sauce with pieces of basil into your raw dish. Squeeze lime into the raw beef as well to let it cook. With the bowl of fat, dump the whole thing into your pho if you don’t care about cholesterol. If you do, just two or three tablespoon is sufficient. Taste the broth and you can tell the tremendous different.
With your hot pho, put in bean sprouts and basil, but do not stir. The trick to keep the pho hot is not to disturb the noodle. Just take what you can eat at a time. Work gently into the noodle to prevent it from expanding. With raw beef, hot and sour rings of onion and fat-soaked scallion, that’s how you enjoy your pho.
Even with the pouring rain outside, people where standing in line to get into Pho 95. People must like to eat pho when it rains as if the wetness and the cold temperature make pho even more delicious. Another great part about Pho 95 is that it located right next to Banh Mi DC, my favorite spot for iced coffee. I happened to pick up a banh tieu (hollow bread) that was fresh off the stove. I let Dao tried a small piece and he wanted the whole thing. In the car, two little kids (Dao and Donny) were fighting over banh tieu. It was just awesome.
The heat is rising; therefore, it is time to switch to iced coffee. Although, I am not an expert on coffee, I like to rank on the ones I have access to on a regular basis. So here is my list:
- Banh Mi D.C. Iced Coffee is number one on my list because I love the French-style brew. While there are tons of them around Eden Center, Banh Mi D.C.’s stands out for me for its strong, dark roast. I have to have a cup when I am on the road. It does a great job of keeping me up. If I have it my way, a bit less condense milk would be perfect.
- Iced Seattle’s Best Coffee from BK is my second choice. I prefer the plain one for less sweet. I can drink this at one in the morning and still be able to go to sleep because the coffee is light.
- Saxbys Iced Coffee would be my third for its dark and strong taste. I like its hazelnut-flavored brew. It has a nice, lasting after taste.
- Starbucks Iced Coffee isn’t so high on my list simply because I drink it almost every day. The flavor has become plain and ordinary. I just need it to get my caffeine fix.
- Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee used to be my favorite, but it is feeling light for me as well. Still a nice summer drink once in a while
- McDonald’s Iced Coffee would be my last resort if nothing’s around. It tastes more like cream and sugar with coffee flavor than the other way around.
Hot rice with Cava’s Harissa has been my favorite lunch whenever I don’t feel like packing meat. The spicy, tangy table condiment made of tomatoes and peppers is like the Greek version of Vietnamese fermented tofu. Thanks to Dana for introducing to me such a killer dip.
Last Sunday we went to Eden center and decided to check out the grand opening of Lang Nuong Tay Do. We ordered three BBQ dishes, but changed our selection after found out that they do not have license to serve liquor yet. BBQ without alcohol just doesn’t cut it.
We switched to a 2-person meal instead. The deal consisted of 2 egg rolls with generous greens complimentary, sour soup with fatty catfish, caramelized fish in clay pot and a dish of Vietnamese spinach. Not bad for $30 at all. I was starving and tried to clean up all the food. I ended up threw up later on that night. It was my own fault. The food was actually very decent.
When I went up to pay my bill, I asked the owner if he needed a web site. I handed him my business card. As we were chatting his son came up and said, “cool, we needed a web site so bad.” I reply “cool and I’ll be back when you would like to talk about the project.” The owner was eager and asked me how soon I can come back. So I told him I can stop by after work tomorrow.
At this point I was completely forgot about the tips. So I return the next day and gave the waitress her tips and tried to explain to the owner the benefit of having a web site. He has created a niche for his business since we don’t see any Vietnamese BBQ places around here. The web site will allow him to reach customers beyond the Eden community, which is mostly Vietnamese. I explained to him how people could discover his restaurant through Google. I showed him my previous work for Le Mekong Vietnamese Cuisine. He seemed to understand the potential, but when I gave him the rough estimate of the fee, he said he wanted to check with his daughter who was on her way to the restaurant from work.
She arrived half an hour later and asked me if I have a business card. She had to leave in a few minutes. I told her I only needed a few minutes to explain things to her, but I had no chance. I spent an hour and couldn’t get a straight answer.
The first time I went to Present cuisine, I didn’t get a chance to try different dishes so I invited my in-laws back last Saturday for dinner. As I stepped into the restaurant, a hostess in traditional ao dai greeted me and set up the table for us.
We started off with the server’s recommendation: Banh Da Xuc Hen and Goi Hai San Trai Thom. The former was a bit too salty but decent. The latter was a bit sour. Canh Chua Ca was too sweet. Ca Kho To was way too salty. Bo Luc Lac was burnt. Muc Xao Chua Ngot was sour. After dinner, our throats were coarsen. I suspect MSG had something to do with it.
As much as I liked the service and the presentation, I doubt that I will revisit Present Cuisine for the taste.
While in San Antonio, we wanted to check out some steakhouses. My brother-in-law looked up Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse and read some raved reviews so off we went. Chama Gaucha is an all-you-can-eat joint, but the design is quite upscale. Five of us (including Cu Dao) arrived first at noon and expected four of our cousins and two kids to join us. Since this is a buffet place we could just hand out and wait for them.
I kicked off lunch with fresh, delightful salad and a glass of Caipirinha. The servers then came out with fresh-off-the-grill meats on their hands. I just had to tell them how cooked I wanted and they would slide me a juicy piece. My favorites were ribeye, sirloin and beef rib. I didn’t like the lamb too much because of the strong scent and didn’t even have room for the chicken.
Dana and I took turn to eat and look after Duke. After about fifteen minutes, Duke didn’t want to stay in his high chair anymore. He got up and roamed free around the restaurant. I couldn’t take him outside because it was too damn hot. We ate and waited for two hours and none of my cousins showed up. One couple who came from California were lost and they didn’t have a GPS in hand. The other couple with two kids just copped out without even letting us know. I checked on them and thought they were on their way, but later found out that they never made it out of the hotel because the kids were sleeping. Saying no seemed to be the hardest word.
The restaurant closed out lunch at 2pm and we were still in there. Finally the couple who were lost found their way in around 2:45. The servers continued to served us. Luckily there were other tables filled with patrons so I didn’t feel so bad. My point was that the service was exceptional. If they were to kick us out at 2pm, I would still think service was decent. They were patience with us and even offered to give directions to the folks who were lost. They didn’t make us feel like we need to hurry up and get the fuck out. So we basically sat there from 12pm to 4pm. I had Flan and a Brazilian coffee for dessert. The coffee liquor was strong and I loved it. What I enjoyed the most still was the service they gave us.
If you’re in San Antonio, you have to check out Chama Gaucha. The food is great; the service is superb. For $22 a pop, I can come back again and again if I live near by San Antonio. Big props to the servers for such a wonderful dining experience.
Last Friday evening, I had an opportunity to meet up with one of Ngoc Lan’s devoted fans and she introduced me to Thai In Shirlington. She recommended the drunken noodles and it was delicious. The taste was well balanced, not too sweet and not too salty. I tried some of her beef salad. Although the grilled beef was marinated to perfection, the meat was a bit chewy. It would had been great if the beef was not too cooked. I had fresh mango and sticky rice for dessert, which wasn’t so bad. I also tried some of her fried roti dough, which was similar to the Vietnamese version of xoi vi (fried sticky rice), and it wasn’t bad at all.
I was glad to get to know a Ngoc Lan’s fan in DC and I am still amazed how that angelic voice had reached so many people in many different ways. The fan I talked to spoke little Vietnamese, yet she knew by heart the songs Ngoc Lan had covered. Although we only met for the first time, we could talk to each other so easily. Our passion for Ngoc Lan made that possible. We both thought that it would be cool if we could get a bunch of Ngoc Lan’s fans together, try out different restaurants and talk about Ngoc Lan, politics or whatever. Any Ngoc Lan’s freak in is DC up for this? There are two of us now, but the more the merrier.