Saturday, October 12, 2013

El Centro Review

El Centro is Georgetown's new, hip restaurant, located in the space that The Third Edition, a longtime Georgetown bar for college students and young 20-somethings, formally occupied. The brainchild of chef Richard Sandoval, this is El Centro's second location, the first of which is located on 14th Street. El Centro has two floors and three bars, including an outdoor space and an outdoor bar.

El Centro specializes in authentic mexican food and unique Tequilas. The largest section of their menu is reserved for their extensive list of tacos, ranging from nopal cactus to duck to adobo marinated pork shoulder. El Centro's drink menu is also comprehensive--especially their margarita selection, which includes their signature "El Centro," frozen, strawberry, chili-ginger, mango, prickly pear, and pineapple-habanero margaritas.

The first thing I ordered at El Centro was their guacamole, which they prepare table-side. El Centro offers guacamole with bacon, tuna, or crab, but I decided to stick with their traditional guac.


This guacamole was some of the best I have ever had, and the chips that accompanied it were just as delicious. The balance of serrano chile to onion to cilantro was spot on, and I just about finished the entire serving myself.

For entrees, we ordered the shrimp huarache and the slow-roasted pork taco. Huarache is a flatbread dish made from corn masa, and the huarache we ordered was topped with shrimp, avocado, bean puree, and chipotle aioli.


The combination of the flatbread, shrimp, aioli, and puree was pretty bizarre, and was definitely my least favorite part of the meal. The masa flatbread wasn't bad, but all of the toppings made it soggy, which defeats the purpose of a crunchy flatbread.



The pork tacos, topped with avocado and pickled onions, were paired with a side of beans, rice, and salsa verde. The pork was tender, spicy, and delicious, and the avocado added a layer of creamy richness which cut through the spice of the pork perfectly. 

Overall, I enjoyed the guacamole and the pork tacos, but was underwhelmed by the flatbread. I didn't try any of the Tequilas or margaritas, but I will definitely be back for happy hour and some guacamole. But I'll skip the huarache.



Visit El Centro at 1218 Wisconsin Ave, NW 20007

or

1819 14th St, NW 20009

El Centro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Neyla Review

Recently, a friend Instagrammed a picture of hummus at Neyla, a Lebanese restaurant in Georgetown. I don't know if it was the filter she used, or the expertly plated hummus dish, but I was sold on Neyla--I needed to go.

So when my Mom came into town this weekend, I knew that I wanted to take her there. Neyla is tucked in a corner of Georgetown off of Wisconsin and has a great outdoor seating area. The first thing that our waitress brought over to our table was a delicious plate of pita chips, olives, and Greek yogurt with olive oil.


The chips were topped with a variety of Lebanese spices and herbs--they were great by themselves, but when you dipped the chip into the Greek yogurt and olive oil it brought the dish to a whole new level. The richness of the olive oil and the creaminess of the Greek yogurt paired perfectly, and the spices on the pita chip really bolstered the flavors of the yogurt. The olives were succulent and perfectly salty.

Since the Instagram picture of Neyla's hummus was what drew me there in the first place, I knew I had to get that as an appetizer. We asked for the hummus with variety of vegetables on the side for dipping.


This hummus was by far the best hummus I've ever had. Velvety, rich, delicious--I couldn't imagine a better appetizer. The hummus also came with incredible pita bread, but I think that the pita bread almost masks the beauty of the hummus. I found the vegetables to be the better dipping vehicle because they really let the hummus shine.

For our entrees, I went with the beef kabob, and my mom went with the jumbo shrimp kabobs.



My mom said, verbatim, "This is the best shrimp I've ever had." The lemon, olive oil, and oregano marinade brought the shrimp to life and they were cooked perfectly. My steak was equally incredible. The filet mignon was cooked to a perfect medium--just as I had ordered it--and it was slathered with a garlic and red pepper marinade. This dish came with a side of batata harra, a Lebanese spicy potato dish made with red peppers, coriander, chili, and garlic. The potatoes were unlike any potato dish I had ever tasted, and their spice profile worked in perfect harmony with that of the filet.

Our overall experience at Neyla was a very enjoyable one, as the waitstaff was attentive and knowledgeable. The price per-person for our dinner was about $40, which I would gladly pay again for another dinner at Neyla.

If you like hummus, steak, shrimp, pita, or Middle Eastern flavors, Neyla is the place for you.


Visit Neyla at 3206 N St, NW
Washington, DC 20007

Neyla on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Puro Cafe Review

I've walked by Puro Cafe about 989230 times, but I'd never thought to eat there. I think it's location on Wisconsin is slightly detrimental to its popularity, because Puro is tucked into an area of Wisconsin that is often ignored by passerby. I've been looking to eat somewhere different in Georgetown though, so when one of my roommates suggested Puro, I was more than happy to oblige.

When we walked into Puro, I immediately noticed its laid back vibe. Puro calls itself a "Mediterranean tapas" restaurant, but the ambiance made it feel like a casual European bistro. The menu had a wide variety of tapas, ranging from quinoa with Medjool dates to meatballs with basil sauce to jumbo lump crab cake. Although Puro offers such a wide range of options, they are all infused with a Mediterranean spice influence and flavor profile.

We went with a selection of seafood, vegetarian, and meat tapas including the meatballs with basil sauce, shrimp with dill, shallots and dijon, golden rice with raisins and asparagus, grilled asparagus with sea salt and tapenade, and an arugula salad with gorgonzola, apples, and walnuts.



For me, the highlight of the meal was the meatballs with a delicious basil tomato sauce. The meatballs were tender and well seasoned, and the sauce was the best tomato sauce I've ever had. Basil is my favorite herb, and this sauce was the perfect combination of sweet tomatoes and earthy basil. I finished every ounce of sauce on that plate.


My roommate's favorite dish was the shrimp with shallots, dill and dijon. The sauce was definitely the star of this plate--it was creamy and slightly buttery without being overly fatty or too rich. The dill added another layer of flavor to the sauce that perfectly complimented the dijon.


The third-best dish was the golden rice with raisins and asparagus. I loved the combination of the sweet raisins, the perfectly seasoned rice, and crunchy asparagus. The textural contrast between the raisins and asparagus truly made the dish.

Overall, my roommate and I really loved our meal and the laid-back vibe of Puro Cafe put me at ease. We also noticed a great deal on mojitos ($15 dollars for a pitcher during happy hour), and vowed to return in the next few weeks for drinks. Mojitos, I'll be back for you.


Visit Puro Cafe at 1529 Wisconsin Avenue
Washington, DC NW 20007
Puro Mediterranean Tapas on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 6, 2013

Vegan Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

Ok, so I didn't plan on writing a post about the dessert I made last night, but it's just too good. I HAVE to share this with the world.

I was introduced to a vegan chocolate cake recipe by one of my friends tonight. She's vegan, and has recently shown me some incredible vegan dishes. We decided to tweak the recipe she found to make it gluten free (I recently found out I'm gluten and soy intolerant--but don't worry, I still plan on eating out and cooking all the time), with a gluten free flour from Trader Joe's, a combination of rice flour and tapioca flour. 

The original recipe template that we used came from Alicia K at http://www.instructables.com/id/The-BEST-chococlate-cake-ever...that-happens-to-be/#step1, and she's also got a blog at http://aliciakachmar.com/blog.

In order to work within my dietary restrictions, I substituted the soy milk for chocolate almond milk and used the gluten free flour in place of the regular flour. The recipe involves a cake as well as a chocolate glaze (which is where I substituted the soy milk for the almond milk), and the glaze tastes incredible when you drizzle it over the cake hot out of the oven.

We followed the rest of the recipe as written, with the exception of sunflower seed oil instead of vegetable oil, and apple cider vinegar instead of distilled white vinegar. Also, the recipe says bake for 30 minutes and let cool for 2 hours, but I prefer a molten center (and I just really wanted to eat the cake) so I did not wait that long for it to cool. We baked the cake for about 15-20 minutes, and it came out perfectly moist and gooey.



The best part of all of this is that it's not awful for you and if you've got food intolerance, you can FINALLY eat a dessert again. Also, chocolate cake is my #1 favorite food of all time, and this is one of the top 5 chocolate cakes I've ever had. So just let that simmer, and head on over to the grocery store and buy the ingredients to prepare this little slice of heaven.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Banana and Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt

I crave ice cream all day every day. Unfortunately, eating ice cream all day every day probably isn't the healthiest thing for me. So I've come up with an alternative. I've read a ton of articles about frozen banana ice cream or smoothies or frozen yogurt, but I hadn't tried my hand at making it until this week.

It actually happened on a fluke because I had two bananas that were about to go bad, so just threw them in the freezer hoping that would magically extend their life span. I forgot about them for a day and opened the freezer back up to look for something else, and there they were. I was bored so I decided to experiment a little and create my own frozen banana ice cream recipe. This is what I came up with.

Ingredients
(makes one larger serving or two small servings)

1/3 cup Almond Milk (I use unsweetened because it doesn't mask the banana flavor)
1 tbsp peanut butter (I use chunky because I like the texture, but creamy works just as well)
2 frozen bananas, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks

Peel two bananas and freeze them for at least 12 hours. Combine the bananas and 1/3 cup almond milk in a blender and pulse at five second increments until the banana and the almond milk have combined.





Once the mixture resembles a thick frozen yogurt, add in your peanut butter and pulse once more for five seconds. Pour out the mixture into a bowl or cup and enjoy.



If you want the ice cream to have a thicker texture, you can re-freeze the ice cream or add 1/4 cup of almond milk.

Best Burgers in DC

Finding the best burger in DC is more a matter of personal opinion than anything else. Everyone likes something totally different on their burgers, everyone likes a different style patty, everyone likes them to be cooked a different way, etc (even though medium rare is the only acceptable way to go).

Because everyone has different burger preferences, this list isn't in any specific order.

1. Rays Hell Burger -- Rays Hell Burger used to have their own brick and mortar restaurant, but they've now moved across the street to become part of Rays to the Third, a steakhouse located in Arlington, Virginia. Rays Hell Burger has insanely delicious burgers that you can dress up any way that you wants. My advice would be to add minimal toppings, because the patty is pretty damn good by itself.

2. The Tombs -- The Tombs burger tastes like the burgers that your mom used to grill for you when you were a kid, just 10x better. The burgers aren't anything fancy, but Tombs does them well. Occasionally, though, they can overcook their burgers, so be wary.

3. Thunder Burger -- Thunder Burger calls themselves a "gourmet" burger shop, and they definitely live up to that claim. They've got tons of burger meat varieties, including kobe beef, turkey, veggie, falafel, chicken, pulled pork, boar, elk, and bison burgers. This is definitely the place to try new and funky burger combinations, but I would advise you to stay away from the bison because the meat dries out quickly and get a little crumbly. I usually go for the kobe burger with a fried egg--the kobe patties are incredible. Also, get their sweet potato fries. Do it.

4. BGR -- BGR's brioche buns are amazing. I stick with "The Burger" at BGR because to me, simple always tastes better. "The Burger" is simply the brioche bun, their "mojo" sauce (I think it's thousand island dressing), lettuce, and onion. When you bite into the burger, the juices start dripping down your hands and its amazing. That's the sign of a great burger.

5. Good Stuff Eatery -- First off, Good Stuff's burgers are really small. The only reason I'm remotely ok is because they're really cheap, so I can just get two. Good Stuff is a solid burger joint that offers amazing milkshakes that pair perfectly with a greasy burger. Their signature shake is their toasted marshmallow, but try their milky way malt instead. You'll thank me.

6. Busboys and Poets -- Because some of my best friends are vegetarians, and one's even a vegan, I've got to give a shout-out to some places that do veggie/vegan burgers the best. Busboys and Poets serves a unique vegan burger (patty made with a bean/veggie mix) topped with arugula and avocado, and, once again, be sure to order that with a side of sweet potato fries. Their sweet potato fries are even better than Thunder Burger's.

7. Zaytinya -- Shout out to the vegans again. Zaytinya's food all-around is incredible (it's one of my top 5 favorite restaurants in DC), and it's got a very diverse and intricate menu. Their falafel, which comes with a delicate tahini sauce, is absolutely perfect. It's not technically a burger in and of itself, but I slather on some of the tahini and fold it into a piece of their warm, homemade pita bread, and there you go. It's a burger!

8. Shake Shack -- The lines may be long, but the burgers are worth it. Their burger selection is not as vast as some of the other options I've listed, but their product is high-quality and very tasty. Also, they have a special Washington, DC shake called the Washington Monu-Mint, that's made with chocolate custard, minted marshmallow sauce, and chocolate truffle cookie dough. Need I say more?


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Basil Thai Review

Basil Thai

People have been telling me to go to Basil Thai for the past three years. I love good Thai food, and people constantly raved that Basil Thai was the most authentic and delicious Thai food in town. 

The restaurant itself is small and quirky--the floors are white and black, which I found reminiscent of a 50's diner. The orange walls were a strange contrast to the checkered floors, but I just decided that the bizarre decor was part of the experience. The first thing we ate were the garden rolls with shrimp. Garden rolls are basically spring rolls healthier younger sibling because they're wrapped in rice paper and they aren't deep fried.



The steamed rice paper contained lettuce, basil, and shrimp (there were originally four rolls but I inhaled one before I remembered to take a picture). The best part of this dish was, by far, the sweet and sour dipping sauce. It was tangy without being cloyingly sweet and overwhelming, and the earthiness of fresh basil in the garden rolls complimented the sauce perfectly.

Next up were the entrees, drunken noodles with vegetables and a green chicken curry dish with rice.



The drunken noodles were definitely the stand out for the entree course because of the freshness of the rice noodles. Noodle dishes, especially noodle dishes that don't feature a protein, can be a little shaky because there's nothing else but the noodles--so if the noodles are bad, the whole thing is bad. Surprisingly, though, these noodles didn't need any other components to help bolster or even mask their flavor, because they were absolutely incredible. The dish was also laced with small little pieces of basil throughout, which gave the whole thing a little extra kick.

The green curry was less impressive, mostly because the chicken was overcooked and the curry was a tad too spicy. Next time, I think we'll go with a second noodle dish.

Overall, I liked basil thai, but I wouldn't give it a stellar rating. The decor was bizarre and they overcooked chicken, which is a cardinal food sin. I would definitely still order the drunken noodles and garden rolls as take-out in the future, but I won't be back to their brick and mortar anytime soon.


Visit Basil Thai at 1608 Wisconsin Ave, NW 
Washington, DC 20007 

Basil Thai on Urbanspoon