Sunday, June 7, 2009


Ash and Al are on a hiatus from their alphabet guided food journey right now. We hope you enjoyed our reviews thus far (though they were slightly sushi heavy) and that we've given you a few ideas of some new places to try in the metro area. Ash, or Al, or the two of us will be back eventually, bringing you more opinions of local culinary delights. After all, we still have 19 letters to get through! :)

R is for RTs

Type of restaurant: Creole/Cajun

I had: Shrimp Norman
He had: Seafood in a parchment
We had: Jack Daniels shrimp

Thoughts: RT's is ridiculously close to my house. So close in fact, that we walked there. It's an unassuming place at the end of a strip mall (but as we know, there are great finds in a strip mall!) next to some check cashing type place. For some reason I had just never ventured over there to try it out, so one night we decided to give it a go. The inside is just as unassuming as the outside. There are green vinyl booths and four person tables, striped wallpaper and ceiling fans. Clearly decor is not high on the list for the proprietors of this restaurant, but who cares? The food is great! We started off with an appetizer of Jack Daniels shrimp, basically shrimp sauteed in a butter and Jack and served with some type of liquor-y tomato cream sauce. It was super yummy. Allister's seafood in a parchment was just that; assorted seafood in parchment paper with a buttery garlic and white wine sauce. It was served with rice and when the sauce mixed with the rice...YUM! My Shrimp Norman was fried gulf shrimp served with crab etouffee and rice. A-mazing!! It was one of those dinners where there was very little conversation besides "oh my God, this is so good!"

Overall opinion: RT's is clearly a hidden gem. The food there is so good, but there never seems to be a huge wait (I drive past here multiple times each day). It's location across the street from the Birchmere makes it a good place to go before a show. On Mondays they also have a special, two entrees and a bottle of wine for $29.99 which seems to be a pretty good deal. The staff was really attentive (although there weren't too many people in there anyway) and the bartender was very friendly, giving us recommendations and generally chatting with us. I should also add that RT's has quite an extensive bar. Pretty much anything you can think up, they have. I will be giving this a shot for happy hour in the near future...and it won't matter how much I drink because I can always walk home :) If you're looking for good New Orleans style food in the metro area, definitely hit up RT's!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

J is for Jaleo

Type of restaurant: Tapas

We had: Bunuelos de bacalao (salt cold fritters), pollo al ajillo (marinated grilled chicken), and cordero romero (lamb chops with rosemary sauce)

Thoughts: After a long day of apartment hunting, Allister and I found ourselves hungry in Crystal City. I knew Jaleo was a tapas place, but having been to Spain, and having eaten at La Tasca, I didn't trust an American tapas joint. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a tapas restaurant, its basically a lot of appetizer sized portions. You can get a few for yourself, but often groups come in and order a bunch and everyone just shares. The idea is to get a little taste of everything. Its a godsend for indecisive people like me :) Anyway, somehow Allister talked me into it, and we ended up trying it. I'm really glad we did. It was a beautiful day so we sat out on the patio. After consulting the menu for a while Allister decided that I should choose our food because I knew more about it. I hate being the "decider" so we each picked one dish that we thought would be good and then one to share. Mine was an easy choice. Salt cod fritters were one of my favorite things when I was in Spain so that was that. Allister wanted lamb, and chicken was just an easy choice for both of us. I got the sangria. Again, I will admit that I am biased because of going there, and I typically don't like sangria at restaurants. It seems watery, there's never enough brandy, and often the cheap red wine taste is overpowering. Jaleo's sangria wasn't awful, but it wasn't something I'd probably try again. I would like to try their white sangria though. Allister got a Spanish beer called Estrella Damm. It was amazing. It made me scowl at my glass of sangria just a little. After our food arrived, we were pleasantly surprised. Everything was DELICIOUS! The fritters were perfect, totally reminded me of my fun filled summer in Sevilla, the salsa verde that was with the chicken was excellent and the lamb was amazing! What really struck me was the authenticity of the food we ordered. Everything was just so good.

Overall opinion: Jaleo in Crystal City is great! Their food is wonderful. Their executive chefs Jose Andres and Ramon Martinez do a great job of bringing authentic Spanish tastes to the DC area. They also have an amazing staff...although I might be a tad biased, since I now work there :) But honestly that just makes me vouch more for the restaurant. Seeing it from the inside now, I see that Ramon is in the kitchen every day, really taking care to make sure dishes come out perfectly. The entire kitchen staff work tirelessly to make sure the food is great, and the management is always looking for suggestions. The other day that asked what we thought of the sangria, and I did suggest a little more brandy, so we'll see if they take me up on that. I definitely think people should give Jaleo a try, whether you've had tapas or not. If a restaurant makes food so good that you hear people complimenting the pig trotter salad (seriously? yuck!), it's definitely worth a shot.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I is for Ichiban

Type of restaurant: Chinese and Sushi

He had: Shrimp fried rice
I had: Shrimp lo mein
We shared: Hollywood Roll, Ichiban Roll

Thoughts: Okay we went to Ichiban over the weekend with the full intention of NOT eating sushi. As some have pointed out, we have several reviews of sushi restaurants, and not much else. True. Hey, we have a preference, but we're trying to work on it. After consulting the Chinese portion we decided on our dishes and decided just to get a little sushi as an appetizer. There was NOTHING little about the two rolls we ordered. I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of these two rolls. They were huge! And super yummy. The hollywood roll was made with soybean seaweed which meant, much to my delight, that the rolls were pink! It was one of the special rolls of the day and it was amazing. The Ichiban roll was awesome too because it had shitake mushrooms, and we are both huge mushroom fans. I told myself when we ordered the sushi that I would not write about it, only the Chinese food. But after tasting each roll Allister said, "you have to write about these!" I will just leave it at both of the rolls were up there with some of the best sushi I've ever had and the presentation was beautiful. Now on to the Chinese portion... Seems lame that we ordered such basic dishes, huh? Allister swears this place has the best Chinese food, and even the simple things are so good. Shrimp lo mein is pretty simple so I went for it. Awesome decision. The noodles weren't super thick like typical carry out lo mein and the flavor was great. The shrimp were abundant and not overpowering. The whole dish had a really nice, subtle, smokey flavor to it. Allister's fried rice was just as good. There were a lot of different vegetables throughout, as well as a lot of shrimp. After eating our huge rolls (which we didn't even finish) we were only able to eat a little of our entrees. On the bright side, they made fabulous leftovers the next day.

Overall opinion: This isn't the first time we've gone to Ichiban and I'm just as pleased this time as I was the last. Its a small place (though they will be expanding) but its nice. There are a lot of little touches that make it more than just a strip mall sushi place, for instance, they have really pretty stainless steel chopsticks with intricate designs. The food, both Chinese and sushi is very good. Since we spend most of our time on my side of town, we don't go often, but if I lived closer, I'd definitely go here all the time. The staff is also nice and very attentive. If you ever find yourself out in Bowie, definitely check this place out. Allister says it can get pretty packed on weekend nights, but even so, I'd say its totally worth the wait!

Monday, March 2, 2009

H is for Hana Tokyo

Type of restaurant: Sushi

We had: Shumai, Spicy Tuna Roll, Hana Tokyo Roll, Fancy Roll, Volcano Roll, and Firecracker Roll

Thoughts: We decided to head out to Hana Tokyo on Valentine's Day around 7ish. After following the directions, we ended up in a strip mall and the H on the sign wasn't lit...not a good look. As we walked in, there were TONS of people waiting. Good sign, but not so good for our hungry tummies. After Allister talked to the hostess we realized everyone was waiting to the hibachi tables and we were able to sit right down at the sushi bar. After consulting the menu for a while, we decided on the shumai appetizer, spicy Tuna, Hana Tokyo, Firecracker, and Volcano rolls. It was Allister's first time having shumai and I don't think he was super impressed. I typically get it as an alternative to pork filled dumplings, but I thought they were pretty average. As for the rolls, there isn't much to say except they were all amazing. Seriously. They first gave us the Hana Tokyo and Spicy Tuna rolls, both exceptionally good. When we got the Firecracker and Volcano rolls, I was thinking, these have a lot going on...After I figured out the best way to dig in, I was pleasantly surprised again. The Volcano roll, which is topped with a mix of scallops, crab meat, and tobiko, was my favorite. Everything tasted very fresh, which is always a plus. It was also nice to see how much care the sushi chef put into his work, he was very detail oriented (luckily we were seated right in front of him so I could see all the action). After finishing those rolls, we chatted for a bit and decided to have one last roll. The decision was between the Fancy roll and the Dragon roll. We had to eeny, meeny, miny, moe it (I know, very precise method of choosing). We ended up getting the Fancy roll, which was pretty good. The only reason I wouldn't say it was amazing is because I have a bit of an issue with too much raw fish in my mouth at one time. Again on the plus side though, it was very fresh, and not at all fishy, its just a weird texture thing for me. Allister liked it a lot.

Overall opinion: Hana Tokyo is delicious!! We definitely have to go back and try the hibachi tables, but the sushi is wonderful. Its that perfect mix of a nice place with good quality food, but just hole-in-the-wall (i.e. broken sign, strip mall location) enough not to be too chi chi or expensive like so many sushi places in the city are. I'd totally give this a 5/5, the atmosphere was fun and the food was awesome. I'm definitely adding this to our list of favorite sushi places.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

S is for Sushi Damo

Type of restaurant: Sushi

We had: Garlic Shrimp appetizer, Spicy Tuna roll, Rockville Roll, and miso soup

Thoughts: Very cool restaurant. It had a very lounge-y feel to it. They had tables to the left but they had a large area of couches and cushy chairs which is where we sat. They also had a full bar and a lot of tvs which was nice because we were watching football. The garlic shrimp appetizer wasn't so great. It was very true to its was just shrimp sauteed in coarsely chopped garlic. It wasn't awful, but it didn't have much flavor either. The spicy tuna roll was very good, well above average, but not the best of our lives. The Rockville roll (named for the restaurant's location in Rockville Town Center) was amazing. For some reason it's not listed on the online menu so I don't remember everything that was in it, but it was amazing. Allister and I both loved it. The staff was very attentive even though they were watching the game just as much we were.

Overall opinion: Sushi Damo is a cool place. If I lived closer, I'd probably go there more often. It seems like it would be a cool place to meet friends after work or for a low key Friday night. We would totally go back just for the Rockville roll, it was that good. Also, kinda random, but they have really nice bathrooms. And the decor is on point too.

M is for Matuba

Type of restaurant: Sushi

We had: Shrimp/Vegetable Tempura appetizer, Spicy Tuna roll, Continental Roll, shrimp and tuna sashimi, and miso soup.

Thoughts: Nice and quiet. I've been to Matuba several times and it was Allister's first time. They aren't too big on the specialty rolls, but everything they serve is good. When I try a new sushi place, it always has to pass the "spicy tuna roll test." Aside from being one of my favorites, its a pretty easy roll. If they can't get that right, the place usually isn't so good. The Continental roll was pretty good which surprised me because I don't always love avocado in my rolls. They also get high marks for the tempura because Allister and I didn't have to fight over who got the sweet potato, there were two! Yummy miso soup also.

Overall opinion: Matuba is a good, steady sushi place. I never have to wait when I go there, and the staff is really friendly. Also, you can't beat their Monday night $1 sushi special. If you're looking for somewhere more upscale or with more adventurous dishes, Matuba may not be for you.