Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's that special time of year

Restaurant Week for the DC area is scheduled for August 11 -18. Many of the restaurants announce their Restaurant Week menu, and only a few feature their full menu. The price for the three course menu is 20.08 for lunch and 30.08 for dinner, plus beverages, tax and tip.

For the full list, click here. If Open Table says they're full, try giving them a call. They usually keep a few spare tables.

In the spirit of Restaurant week, I've only picked restaurants I've never tried: Vermillion, PS7 and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

I've had great meals during Restaurant Week at Ceiba, Zola, Cafe Atlantico, Hook, Mendocino, Poste and Vidalia.

Happy Dining!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Neon's Blue Glare

Our plans for a 4th of July picnic got rained out, but we still wanted to eat somewhere Mall-adjacent in time to go down and see the fireworks. We wandered 7th street looking for a place that wasn't packed. After three failed attempts, D. suggested we get away from the main drag and explore the options behind the Verizon Center. We found ourselves in Kanlaya, a thai place (with the neon sign to prove it). In a hurry and very hungry, we sat down in the lacquered, but somewhat generic, dining room.

Our meal came as the best kind of surprise - the one paired with zero expectations. We decided to share all our dishes and stuck to thai ice tea, coke, and hot tea. We had no vegetarians in our party, but Kanlaya has an extensive selection of vegetarian dishes and is a good option for those so inclined. We started out with Papaya Green salad, one of the best I've had in DC - julienned papaya is dressed in lime and topped with roasted peanuts, string beans and tomato, and comes with a side of grilled shrimp. We also ordered Larb Gai, a dish made up of minced chicken in spicy lime juice. The dish lacks crunch but the mince chicken goes very well with the brightness of the lime. The Siam Dumplings were average (steamed and stuffed with a mix of pork, shrimp, crabmeat and mushroom) but the Thai soy sauce gave them an interesting spin. For entrees we stuck to classics - Pad Thai, Chicken Green Curry and a seafood dish billed "Southern Seafood" a mix of crab, squid, shrimp in a stir fry served with a spicy tamarind sauce. Everything was well prepared and brought out fast. We had no time for dessert - the menu had the usual, mango sticky rice and assorted custards.

Not really destination dining, but Kanlaya is a great option for a quick lunch or post-movie dinner in Chinatown.

Kanlaya Thai Cuisine
740 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20050
(202) 393-0088
Kanlaya on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mom's Flan

Preheat oven to 300 F

5 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can of condensed milk (nestle la lechera, if available)
1 can evaporated milk (carnation, if available)

For caramel:
Half a cup of sugar

Combine all ingredients for flan using a blender or a whisk (I always use the blender).

In a cast-iron skillet, caramelize sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon
(shortcut: break some brittle into pieces (pecan works great) and stick it in the mold) pour caramel into the bottom of the flan mold (if using a single one) or ramekins.

Put the mold or ramekins in a metal mold or pirex half-filled with water and bake for aprox. 1 hour.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shelter from the Storm

The skies opened as I was on my way to Penn Quarter to make my 9.15 reservation last Saturday. I've had enough of the rain by now, but at least the downpour could pass as a monsoon, which went very well with our restaurant selection, Rasika.

Tucked away on D street by the Woolly Mammoth Theater, Rasika puts a trendy spin on Indian fare without putting it through the full-on fusion treatment. The space is dominated by clean lines and light wood. Nothing is guild and the centerpiece is a large white and red crystal beaded curtain that separates the bar from the dining room. Our server was polite (she even provided extra napkins as we came in, wet just from stepping out of the cab), checked on us regularly, and was happy to recommend cocktails and wine pairings. M. had a glass pinot grigio, L. went for Indian beer, and I had a cocktail made from sparkling pinot noir juice and vodka. The cocktail came with an orchid as garnish, which I put aside. L. had just been to Peru and she insisted that the orchid was edible, and that restaurants in Lima serve them with a butter sauce, as you would with steamed artichokes. My skepticism faded when she took a petal and ate it herself. It was L.'s first time trying Indian food and we wanted to set a good example. The flavor was nothing special but the texture was similar to fresh Bibb lettuce.

For an appetizer we tried the Palak Chaat. This was my second time at Rasika and understand why people rave about this flash-fried spinach, which I've only seen on this menu in DC. Combined with yogurt, date chutney and tamarind, it is a combination of earthy flavors, enhanced by the way in which the spinach literally melts in your mouth. I have not tried their other appetizers and probably will not until the sad day when they take the Palak Chaat off the menu.

For second course, we ordered a bread basket with their most popular breads - onion and sage, classic naan, and garlic naan. M., who doesn't have many Indian options back home, stuck to a classic Chicken Masala, a green version with mint, corianded and ground spices. The chicken was well prepared and the sauce good enough to eat on its own. L. and I both ordered the Lamb Pista Korma, stewed lamb in a sauce made from pistachios, cashew nuts, mace and cardamom. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices and I love how it pairs well with both the sweet and the savory. While the pistachio certainly dominated the dish, it was not overpowering. The lamb was lean and easy to cut into with just a fork.

We were pretty full by the time dessert menus appeared, but we decided to split the Chocolate Somosa. This is more crafty marketing than an actual somosa, but the flaky pastry encasing thick chocolate did have the familiar triangular shape. I'd be interested to try some of their other desserts, but to in order to do that I might have to make a meal out of several Chaat an bypass the entrées. Though the restaurant had a lot of patrons, even in the summer storm, we were not rushed and allowed to enjoy the food and the company. Rasika is a marvelous place to wander and wonder.

633 D St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 637-1222
Rasika on Urbanspoon