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Amuseing our Bouches

The carpet felt like velvet on my feet as I walked toward our table and, when I sat down in the ivory-colored leather armchairs, I knew that this was the fanciest restaurant I had ever been in.

Wine bottles lined immaculate glass cases like those in jewelry galleries. They seemed to look down at my awestruck face saying, “I am way out of your league. It’s D.C. tap for you, kid.”

A waiter presented the amuse-bouche or “mouth pleaser”, which was a seafood dip served in a tiny cup. Regretfully, pleasure was not the word to describe the dull sensation in my mouth. Nevertheless, we found pleasure in cracking amuse-bouche jokes like “This chair is really amuse-ing my bouche!”

Lobster soup with tarragon was poured a la minute into a bowl over bits of lobster and croutons at the table. Although the tarragon was unrecognizable, the soup was soothing and complex, with strong lobster flavor.

The rainbow beet and endive salad was beautiful in the modest way the beet slices rested on the plate, intricately patterned and simply dressed. The candied walnuts were definitely mouth pleasing.

The roasted monkfish dish made me realize that all the fish I have ever eaten had been overcooked. It was simply prepared with peewee potatoes and a surprisingly delicate creamy mustard sauce.

Contemporary chicken breast parmesan was exquisite, proof of the fact that it doesn’t take an ill-mannered, Italian, mafia-involved chef to cook the dish. The elements were deconstructed; the chicken had a crispy-crumbly crust and was served with a béchamel-based cheese sauce, spinach that wilted as you ate (as did I), and a tomato marmalade.

Not just any tomato sauce, but one that could make single hundreds of old-world, Italian mothers. I asked the waitress for the secret and she replied, “I don’t know. They don’t tell us how they make it.” Although it tasted like pure tomatoes, the kind grown with the attentiveness of expensive wine, it’s possible that they used sugar to heighten their sweetness, while erasing all evidence of the clever trick.

I was never a dessert enthusiast, but I now realize why the course is served at the dénouement. A milk chocolate dome was filled with a luxurious moose and served with a quenelle of coffee-infused ice cream. A tian of silky, whipped cream and a fresh Clementine marmalade was both refreshing and comforting.  We swept these off the plates with the voraciousness of a Dyson. Thankfully, we too didn’t lose suction, popping in the petit fours which made those thin, chocolate-mint squares seem like gerbil food by comparison.

Adour is named after the river that Alain Ducasse grew up near, where he developed a love for cooking. And from the enticing appetizers to the seductive entrees and to the calmative desserts, we flowed out of the river and back on the streets, figuring that we probably wouldn’t have the chance to be amused again.


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We walked into Tandoori Time with a craving for a rich and piquant Indian dinner. Undoubtedly, we were the only customers in the entire restaurant. The dazed bartender stared at the empty seats, wiping off areas that he had already cleaned. The slouching waiter greeted us with much anticipation.

We were seated immediately at one of the many open tables and were given two of the cleanest water glasses that I have ever seen—probably the bartender’s doing. Jordan spent the time photographing the glass in black and white—he could find art on the bottom of my shoe—, while I perused the menu.

I looked past the kabobs, the lentil soups, and the seafood, spotting the true test of an Indian restaurant: Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish so otherworldly that the restaurant’s description said only: “Charcoal cooked pieces of chicken in a special sauce”. Of course, it was not the elegant language that enticed me; “charcoal” and “cooked” are hardly words that make me salivate.

The Chicken Tikka Masala was flavorful, and—I will admit—“special” without being overly rich, while the onions and peppers gave texture to the sauce. However, I prefer the chicken to be cooked in the sauce, so that the sauce not only flavors the meat; it tenderizes it.

We had Lamb Karahi, mildly spiced (for an Indian) and cooked with tomatoes, onions, and peppers. It had a sweeter taste with spice that hit your palate at the end. The flavor of the rice was fortified with fennel seeds and each granule doubled as a tiny vehicle for the sauce to cling on to on its way to my mouth. The lightly flavored Naan had great air pockets and was slightly chewy.

I am almost certain that Indians have an unspoken rule to constantly fill someone’s glass with water. Maybe, they’re afraid we’ll notice that our glass is half-full and leave the restaurant in outrage, dropping a penny as a tip in the little water that is left.

We truly had a relaxing and enjoyable meal, chasing the low-lying, cowering sauce on our plates with pieces of Naan. The waiter mentioned the dessert menu. Notwithstanding the fact that Indian desserts are notoriously nasty, the names are unappetizing: “Gulab”, “Burfi”, and “Badam”. “Excuse me waiter, I’ll have the Glob, the Barf, and the Bottom”. I don’t think so! I will stick to my Chicken Tikka Masala.

1140 19 St. NW.

Washington, DC 20036

http://www.tandooritimedc.com

 

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In Roti, in order to reach the ordering counter, I needed to walk by a lengthy stretch of menu options on the wall. First, I saw sides like falafel, then salads, kabobs, Mediterranean plates, and sandwiches.

Although there were many doubts in my mind, when I saw the rotisseries, towering shrines of meat, gleaming with juices, I had become enlightened.

The restaurant is influenced by a variety of Mediterranean countries. Venetian Murano glass lamps hang overhead, mounds of Israeli cous-cous rest in hotel pans, and Greek vertical spits line the counter-top. With these contraptions, thick slices of seasoned meat are skewered, methodically stacked, and rotated for even heating. The machine does all of the work because the juices from one slice of meat baste the lower levels.

I ordered the Venetian—fire roasted chicken with hummus, baba ghannoush, cous-cous, and tomato/cucumber salad. My roommate made his own sandwich of Laffa bread (Iraqi pita), chicken, grilled vegetables, sumac onions, lettuce, and tzatziki sauce.

The chicken was well seasoned and, unlike some other eateries, was not kept soaking in sauce. My one complaint is that the meat was not cut off the spit for service. When you are so close to fresh meat on the spit, why give the customer a product that has been sitting in a hotel pan?

The cous-cous was tastefully simple, featuring fresh herbs and to call the cucumber salad a side dish would be an insult to its color and flavor. The hummus was mediocre and the baba ghannoush—maybe it’s just me, but I can’t think of any food that’s meant to be served, gray, mushy, and flavorless.

Roti has good food, but also a few good philosophies, one of which is captured by this French proverb: “To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” To be able to create light and nutritious food that is also flavorful, vibrant, and unique is truly an art. Eat lunch out of necessity, but go to Roti out of intelligence.

1747 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington, D.C., 20006

www.roti.com

Weekday hours: 7am-5pm

 

 

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Location: Dupont

Luna’s is a trendy, family owned restaurant with a casual atmosphere, serving traditional, classic comfort food. It’s great for breakfast or lunch with your parents. The menu may seem like that of an average diner, but all the food, from their famous tomato soup to their Eggs Benedict, is scratch-made and delicious.

Hours: Sunday thru Thursday 8:OOam – 11:00pm
Friday & Saturday 8:00am – 12 midnight

Location: 1301 Connecticut Ave NW

Penne with chicken, mushrooms, asparagus, roasted red peppers, and parmesan cream sauce

Grilled chicken panino topped with avocado, fresh mozzarella, tomato and sun-dried tomato

 

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The mind behind Sâuçá, an ex-banker who traveled the world, decided to bring his love of exotic street foods to the curious palates of D.C. locals. Sâuçá distinguishes the different foods of the world by separating them into broad regional categories. On any given day, Sâuçá has menu options representing Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, Vietnamese, Argentinean, American, Asian, and European foods. To say that Sâuçá is eclectic is an understatement; they even boast a whopping twelve different sauces. Although the sandwiches are rotated, it is likely that there will always be a dish from your favorite region.

I ordered the Mexican fish taco; “a splendiferous grilled fish caressed with mango pico de gallo, cilantro, and hot chili sauce”. To be blunt, even for an English major, the idea that fish can be “caressed” by pico de gallo is absurd. Frankly, I don’t really want to know what their doing to the fish inside the truck. The grilled flatbread was hot and flavorful and the flavors were complex and strong inside. Yet I did not expect the fish to be shredded. It gave me the feeling that Sâuçá was either being cheap or trying to mask the second-rate quality of the fish. The former seems unwarranted since the taco was $7.50. Although there was little to no hot chili taste and the mangos weren’t even ripe enough for a monkey, the food was hot, tasty, and satisfying.

The Sâuçá truck is hip and well-equiped with a monitor and speakers for worldly music. At Sâuçá, you can “Eat the world” and still want more. For more information, visit their site eatsauca.com. It’s important to support these food trucks and their ideologies. With lots of rigid city regulations limiting where they can park and for how long, Sâuçá needs all the devotion that it can get. The manager even mentioned that customers frequently save parking spaces for them and occasionally put money in the parking meter when they forget—all it takes are a few tickets to really ruin business. For food’s sake, please take a walk down the street and experience the world.



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