Himitsu

Himitsu has been open for almost 3 years, but the fact that it did not accept reservations gave us pause every time we considered going. The restaurant is tiny and we never felt like standing in line for hours. However, they finally started taking reservations a few months ago. With a place as small as Himitsu, though, actually getting a reservation isn’t easy. We were fortunate enough to snag a reservation on a Tuesday night, the week of Valentine’s Day.

Himitsu restaurant in Petworth, DC

We told our server up front that we were not drinking alcohol and she accommodated us with a non-alcoholic cocktail simply called “Orange-Ginger.” A frequent concern about mocktails is that they often skew sweet, but this one had a nice kick from the ginger which balanced the orange’s natural sweetness.

Orange Ginger cocktails at Himitsu restaurant in Petworth, DC

We started out with the “French Onion Dip” with chives and ranch powder, which is meant to evoke Lays’ French Onion Dip. Believe it or not, I have made it 32 years without eating French onion dip, so the flavors were new to me! But if all French onion dip tastes like Himitsu’s, I certainly will not be going another 32 years before eating it again. The best part of the dish was the deep, narrow bowl of seasonal veggies, all you could see were the green tops which made it feel like reaching into a garden and not knowing which veggie you were going to get.

French Onion Dip appetizer at Himitsu restaurant in Petworth, DC

Vegetarians take note – you can eat well at Himitsu. In fact, three of our four dishes were vegetarian. Marnay thought that the vegan Nasu Dengaku, thin slices of grilled eggplant in a Szechuan black bean paste with pickled red onions, tasted more like pork belly than a vegetable. The eggplant tasted like so many different amazing textures and flavors I couldn’t decide what it reminded me of. Whatever it was, it was thrilling—and very spicy.

Vegan Nasu Dengaku eggplant at Himitsu restaurant in Petworth, DC

The piece de resistance, as our server put it (to our table to and to all the tables surrounding us), is the kaarage fried chicken in a gochujang glaze. It is served with hot housemade buttermilk biscuits that easily break in half, Japanese mayo and pickles. Those easy-to-break biscuits come in handy for making sandwiches, which is the way the chef intends that you eat it. As Marnay put it, this may have been one of her favorite “first-bites” in a long time. It was so crunchy and flavorful, with a little bit of heat from the gochujang. The thing that puts it over the top, though, is the salt sprinkled on top of the biscuits.

Kaarage Fried Chicken with buttermilk biscuits at Himitsu restaurant in Petworth, DC

The service at Himitsu is relaxed and professional, if perhaps a bit scripted. That being said, the restaurant is so small and cozy every meal feels like a special occasion. There is no doubt that we will be back soon.

Best Bite
Paul: Eggplant in Szechuan black bean sauce
Marnay: Kaarage Fried Chicken

Address
Himitsu: 828 Upshur St, NW Washington, DC 20011
Closest Metro: Georgia Avenue – Petworth

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Rye Street Tavern

I work in downtown Baltimore and wanted to have a fun daytime adventure before the end of 2018. So, before the holidays, Marnay met me for lunch at Andrew Carmellini’s Rye Street Tavern, in the Port Covington section of south Baltimore.

The restaurant, for now, is nearly all alone in Port Covington. The only exceptions are a few industrial buildings, an UnderArmour office and the restaurant’s sibling distillery, Sagamore Spirits. Down the line, though, this will be a large mixed-used area that will grow around the restaurant. As of now it is a destination spot with an incredible waterfront location. On nice days (such as the day we dined), the windows are opened for a cooling breeze.

Paul and Marnay Meyer standing outside Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Since the restaurant is isolated from residential areas, we were surprised to find it crowded on a workday. We went to the bar but had trouble finding two seats next to each other. We briefly had a feeling of helplessness until the wonderful bartender saw our plight and came out from behind the bar. She was able to play bar-patron Tetris and figured out a way for Marnay and I to sit next to each other. During the whole meal, in fact, she really went above and beyond!

The free cornbread to start the meal was a bit dry (but, hey, also free) but after that just about everything was fantastic. I opted for the $25 three-course prix-fixe, a good deal. The ember-roasted beets with sheep’s milk yogurt and candied hazelnuts tasted smoky like barbecue. Plus, the big chunks of sweet beets were so juicy they reminded me of watermelon, but with the texture of a root vegetable. The yogurt and the hazelnuts made it feel like a complete dish. Above all, the presentation was stunning.

Ember-roasted beets with sheep's milk yogurt and candied hazelnuts at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Marnay ordered the Southern-style fried chicken, Rye Street’s Tavern’s signature dish. It was perfectly seasoned, and we especially liked the housemade hot sauce, which the bartender encouraged us to use. It really only needed a little bit because it was well-seasoned already. The only disappointment was the honey-butter biscuit, which tasted like it had been drenched in melted butter.

Southern-style fried chicken with honey-butter biscuits at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

I came in with low expectations for the rock shrimp tacos—after all Rye Street Tavern is a modern-American restaurant. But the battered and fried shrimp topped with pickled jalapenos and a fiery guajillo chile paste and young cilantro were quite good. I would even consider getting them again!

Rock shrimp tacos at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

My prix fixe came with dessert, so we shared a slice of vanilla buttermilk pie. It was a tasty end to the meal. Throughout everything, our bartender did a fantastic job of taking care of all, as while still serving the other bar patrons. If I had gotten her name, I would have passed along a good word to the manager on the way out. On a nice day, it’s hard to top Rye Street Tavern’s waterfront setting as a place to grab a bite in Baltimore. I can definitely see us going back in the Spring when the weather is warmer.

Slice of vanilla buttermilk pie at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Ember roasted beets

Address
Rye Street Tavern: 13 Rye Street Baltimore, MD 21230

2018 Year in Review

2018 was a year of traveling. I felt like we were Eater roving food critic Bill Addison, we were in so many different places. It definitely shows in our 2018 blog posts – there are more posts from outside the DC-area than there are posts within the DC-area. Marnay and I asked each other questions about our favorites of 2018, here are our responses:

What was your favorite meal of 2018?

Paul – My favorite meal was the Taste of Zahav prix fixe menu – a lot of incredible food for an absolute steal of a price, $48 per person. This may be one of the best dining deals in the country.

Marnay – My favorite was lunch at Al Ameer, the Lebanese palace in Dearborn, Michigan. We headed there as soon as our plane landed in Detroit and while we ate way too much food, I still can’t stop thinking about the stuffed lamb.

Stuffed lamb at Al Ameer, Lebanese food in Dearborn, Michigan

What was your favorite bar of 2018?

Paul – Maxwell, the wine bar in Shaw, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, is a wine-lover’s dream. They don’t take themselves too seriously, either. It is equally great for wine-geeks as it is for casual drinkers. It’s also the perfect place to go if you want to learn more about wine.

Marnay – Brenner Pass, Richmond. I really enjoyed the bar at this modern Alpine restaurant in Scotts Addition. We shared a bottle of wine with dessert – a perfect combination! The vibe was cozy, despite the fact that the place was packed and our bartender was incredibly knowledgeable.

Bar at Brenner Pass in Richmond, Virginia

Which restaurant do you want to visit again in 2018?

Paul – Commander’s Palace, in New Orleans. It made for an incredible, old school Creole experience.

Marnay – We loved eating breakfast every morning at Time Market when we were staying in Tucson. Closer to home, we are definitely going to back to All Purpose Shaw and Kuya Ja’s (for some lechon belly) ASAP.

Commander’s Palace, old school Creole in New Orleans, Louisiana

What was your favorite food/restaurant-related experience?

Paul – I would consider going outside of one’s comfort zone as a food-related experience. So in that case, my favorite experience was our meals in El Paso. That area feels closer to Mexico than the U.S.

Marnay – We went to “Mexico in a Bottle” at the Mexican Cultural Institute, the old Mexican Embassy on 16th Street. For a modest fee, we got to sip on unlimited mezcal, meet local chefs and eat some delicious Mexican food. It was a dream come true!

Lunch in El Paso, Texas

Which restaurant surprised you the most?

Paul – Chai Pani in Decatur, GA, just outside of Atlanta. I had no idea how much I enjoyed Indian street food until we ate there.

Marnay – Momofuku CCDC. We had not been there in years, mainly because we were not super impressed the first time we went. But the menu has been totally revamped and that bronzed whole roasted chicken was delicious – and enough to feed an entire family!

Bronzed whole roasted chicken at Momofuku CCDC in Washington DC

What was your favorite meal in Silver Spring?

Paul – The medium-rare ribeye from Urban Butcher hit the spot for me. And it is consistent.

Marnay – The calzones at Pacci’s are insanely good right now. For years, we stuck to ordering Neopolitan pizzas and a salad. This year, inspired by our trip to Milan, we started ordering calzones at Pacci’s and we haven’t looked back.

Calzone and pizza at Pacci's in Silver Spring, Maryland

What was your favorite meal outside of the DC-area?

Paul – There were so many meals outside of the DC area, but my favorite all-around meal was at H&H Car Wash in El Paso.

Marnay – Mine was dinner at Park Place Cafe in Merchantville, NJ. We were treated like family and the sauce on our pasta was something I will never forget. So incredibly simple yet so good.

Eating breakfast at H&H Car Wash in El Paso, Texas

What is your favorite recipe to make at home?

Paul – Grilled lamb chops with cucumber salad. Tender, crusty, fatty, salt and cooling. Mmmmmm.

Marnay – I’m a big fan of cooking weekend at breakfast at home. Since we are not home on the weekends very often, it’s a special treat. One of our go-to’s is making homemade biscuits and topping them with a fried egg and side of bacon. We use Alton Brown’s biscuit recipe. Who wants to go out for brunch, anyway??

Paul and Marnay in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Here’s a list of our favorites. Go ahead and give them a try!

Zahav: 237 St. James Pl. Philadelphia, PA 19106
Al Ameer: 27346 Ford Rd Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
Maxwell: 1336 9th St, NW Washington, DC 20001
Brenner Pass: 3200 Rockbridge St #100 Richmond, VA 23230
Commander’s Palace: 1403 Washington Ave New Orleans, LA 70130
Time Market: 444 E. University Blvd Tucson, AZ 85705
All Purpose Shaw: 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly: 5268-H Nicholson Ln Rockville, MD 20895
Chai Pani: 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave Decatur, GA 30030
Momofuku CCDC: 1090 I St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Urban Butcher: 8226 Georgia Ave Silver Spring, MD 20910
Pacci’s: 8113 Georgia Ave Silver Spring, MD 20910

Bindaas – Foggy Bottom

On a frigid Thursday night, Marnay and I checked out Bindaas at the Indian street food purveyor’s Foggy Bottom location. This was our first time at Bindaas (the original is located in Cleveland Park). Afterwards, the most important question in our head was – what took us so long?!?

Bindaas Indian street food in Foggy Bottom, DC

I started out with a masala lassi – a traditional yogurt and spiced based traditional Indian beverage. It was nearly savory, although with a touch of sweetness. We ordered four dishes, and once they are ready they start appearing rapid-fire. There isn’t much coursing, but since you are going to end up sharing everything it is not a big deal.

The puffy, pillowy olive oil naan was a great way to orient our palates from the work day to the Indian subcontinent. A wild mushroom uttapam, or rice pancake, was a mushroom bonanza. Not only that, though, it was quite spicy. A swab of mint raita proved to be a worthy foil.

Wild mushroom uttapam at Bindaas Indian street food in Foggy Bottom, DC

Then there was the shrimp bezule, or breaded and fried shrimp, which was pleasantly light. The modest-sized shrimp gave off a very distinct jalepeno flavor. A garnish of mustard seeds, toasted in oil, added a bit more crunch and heat.

Shrimp bezule at Bindaas Indian street food in Foggy Bottom, DC

We rounded the meal out with a chicken kathi wrap. The chicken tikka masala, wrapped in naan, was dripping with flavor. A little mint chutney on the side for dipping helped lighten things and give a contrast in temperatures (the wrap was really hot, temperature-wise). It seriously was cold on the night that we went to Bindaas. But the Indian comfort food really warmed our souls and left us wanting more.

Chicken kathi wrap at Bindaas Indian street food in Foggy Bottom, DC

Best Bite
Paul: Chicken Kathi Wrap
Marnay: Shrimp bezule

Address
Bindaas Foggy Bottom: 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20006
Closest Metro: Farragut North or Farragut West

Momofuku CCDC Revisited

It has been over two years since we visited Momofuku CCDC and the restaurant has had some momentous changes since then, so it was time for a return visit. Back then the City Center hot spot had a menu full of David Chang’s greatest hits plus dessert from neighboring Milk Bar. We liked the food fine-enough, but certainly weren’t impressed with dessert. It was a place that we may have eventually gone back to, but a return visit certainly wasn’t imminent.

Since then, they have installed a new chef, Tae Strain, who has been given complete control over the menu. So long ramen and pork buns, hello bing bread. When we walked in, the noise in the bar & its surrounding dining area was so loud it was intimidating. Fortunately, the host took us down a short hallway to a more secluded dining area, slightly set off from the rest of the restaurant.

Momofuku CCDC in Washington DC

The new Momofuku CCDC is the rare restaurant that actually requires a rundown of the menu from the server, because of the recent menu changes. No matter what you order, you can’t miss out on the bing bread. These housemade, warm, pita-like rounds come with several choices of toppings. Marnay and I went with the sunflower hozon, a David Chang trademarked creation that tastes like hummus.

Bing bread with sunflower hozon at Momofuku CCDC in Washington DC

We also tried the spicy cucumbers which came with almond togarashi and some sort of green paste/puree—cheffy touches that completely transformed the vegetable. As leftovers the next day, they were even more flavorful yet did not lose their crunch.

The true showstopper of our meal was the bronzed whole roasted chicken which comes with a salad and rice. This isn’t just any rice through. This is chicken fat basmati rice, with chunks of pulled roasted chicken, vegetables, dried currants and 3 fried eggs on top. Absolutely decadent…and it was just a side!

The chicken is cut into pieces and served in a large platter, alongside roasted peppers, green olives and herbs. The olives were a bit of a surprise, but they provided a nice mildly salty contribution to the dish. The best part of the roasted chicken was the irresistible crispy wings. Even though the chicken was roasted, they were so crispy they tasted like they had been fried.

Bronzed whole roasted chicken with chicken fat basmati rice at Momofuku CCDC in Washington DC

The new menu has a lot of great sharable items, such as a whole duck and whole short rib. Based on our recent visit, we would definitely return, maybe even with a group. We did not get a chance to try the new, non-Milk Bar desserts, and that is reason enough to go back!

Best Bite
Paul: spicy cucumbers
Marnay: roasted chicken

Address
Momofuku CCDC: 1090 I St NW Washington DC, 20001
Closest Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown or Metro Center

Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly

Kuya Ja’s is a Filipino counter service joint located in the White Flint area. The restaurant, which started out as a pop-up at the chef’s sister’s pastry shop, specializes in Filipino pork belly. It’s been on our radar since it was a pop-up, but once they got a permanent spot we knew we needed to head to Rockville and try it out.

Outside Kuya Ja’s restaurant in Rockville, MD

Kuya Ja’s had only been open two weeks when we visited. It’s located about 0.5 miles from the White Flint metro, inside a random and partially forgotten strip mall in an area otherwise teeming with new residential high-rises. We walked there from the metro but to give a sense of where it is: the entrance to the parking lot contains a grand sign for the White Flint Mall, which is currently a pile of rubble and has been for three years.

The place opens at 5pm and when we arrived at 4:58pm there were already people queuing outside. A word of advice: this restaurant is extremely popular and also tiny, so try to go during off hours. We had a few questions when it was our turn to order at the counter, but the staff was extremely friendly and patient.

Inside Kuya Ja’s restaurant in Rockville, MD

We ordered ½ pound of lechon belly and a crispy adobo chicken sandwich. As a bit of background, lechon belly is basically Filipino porchetta. The chef, whose nickname is Ja, hails from the island of Cebu which, according to the restaurant’s website, has the best lechon belly in the world.

The first thing you’ll notice about the lechon belly is that the skin is so thin and shiny from glaze it looks like glass. In fact, both Marnay and I were legitimately concerned that when we bit into it, it would be like biting into glass. Thankfully, our concerns were misplaced. Here’s another thing: Very often, the skin is the best part of meat since it gets the most flavoring, while the actual meat is a letdown. Let me tell you, that is NOT the case as Kuya Ja’s. Here, the skin is crispy and redolent of all types of umami flavors. Meanwhile, the meat is insanely tender and unctuous to the extreme. The meat is made even better by two condiments: one is a thick vinaigrette that taste a bit like soy while the other is a Filipino vinegar. Our favorite was the vinaigrette because of its balanced flavor.

Kuya Ja’s dinner: lechon belly and crispy adobo chicken sandwich

The crispy chicken, with an adobo glaze and crisp lettuce on a soft hamburger bun, is also a winner. The abobo glaze, with its soy sauce undertones, turns this from a good chicken sandwich to a great one. It doesn’t hit you over the head but it is lurking in the background of every bite.

The next day we came back around 8pm. While it was packed, we miraculously got a table just before our food came out. It was a good thing, since it was raining and therefore we were either getting a table or eating standing up. (Unlike most people who come here, we do not have cars). They did not have the ½ pound of lechon belly available, but that ended up being a good thing. Instead, the staff steered us towards the lechon belly combo, which comes with white rice and atsara, or pickled ginger papaya salad. As Marnay noted, the addition of the rice made it feel like more of a meal, with the added benefit of using the rice to scoop up the sauces.

Kuya Ja’s dinner: lechon belly combo with Ube Brazo for dessert

Kuya Ja’s also serves Filipino pastries from the chef’s sisters bakery, many of which contain ube halaya, a sweet paste made from purple yams. I would compare it to how red bean paste is used in Chinese and Japanese desserts. We tried the Ube Brazo, which tasted like a delightful cross between bread pudding and pound cake.

The fact that we liked Kuya Ja’s enough to go back two days in a row should tell you how we feel about this place. The incredible food, warm service and wallet-friendly prices are sure to keep us coming back again and again.

Best Bite
Paul: Lechon belly
Marnay: Crispy chicken

Address
Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly: 5268-H Nicholson Lane Rockville, MD 20895
Closest Metro: White Flint

Ultimate Annapolis Adventure

On a Saturday morning, Marnay and I had a wild, car-free adventure in Annapolis. We saw some cool sights, got lots of exercise and had some great food and drink.

Traditionally when we go to Annapolis, we rent a Zipcar and drive there and back. This unfortunately limits what we are able drink. This time, we came up with the genius idea to get from Silver Spring to Annapolis without driving. We took the F4 Metrobus from Silver Spring to New Carrollton and then took a Lyft the rest of the way to downtown Annapolis, all for considerably less than the price of a Zipcar.

Annapolis capital

We arrived in Annapolis around noon and had brunch at Metropolitan Kitchen, one of our go-to spots for a solid meal. Metropolitan Kitchen is more known for their great craft beer selection and their nightlife than their food, but it was nice to get some traditional brunch food to start our long day.

Metropolitan Kitchen brunch in Annapolis

I had recently been in Annapolis for work, so I played tour guide and showed Marnay around some of the historic buildings. The State House, for example, is where George Washington resigned his military commission and became a private citizen. The original handwritten copy of his speech is on display in a replica of a room where the speech occurred.

After some walking, we were ready for a pick-me-up so we headed to Ceremony Coffee Roastery, in a semi-industrial area on the western edge of downtown. Ceremony is one of the most respected coffee roasters in the region and this is their original spot. They now have multiple cafes in Baltimore and Annapolis. Because the location is off the beaten path, it feels like a calm space in the otherwise crowded downtown Annapolis. We sat outside on this unseasonably warm afternoon, drank some nitro cold brew and planned the rest of the day.

Ceremony Coffee Roastery in Annapolis

There’s another part of Annapolis that I consider to be our little secret and that is the Spa Creek Trail. It starts near Ceremony, winds its way along Spa Creek behind a school and then eventually ends in a neighborhood. Once we arrived in the neighborhood, we took a short detour to Amos Garrett Park, a secluded alcove with incredibly peaceful water views.

Amos Garrett Park water view in Annapolis

Hungry, we walked back into downtown and hit up Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls. I devoured a Connecticut Roll, with lots of butter and no mayo, while Marnay ate a surprisingly good hot dog.

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls in Annapolis

Ready for a drink, we walked across Main Street to Dry 85, the premier bar in Annapolis. Dry 85 has an incredible whiskey program, right up there with the best bars in DC. Marnay and I bellied up to the bar and enjoyed some well-made Vieux Carres and Sazeracs, in preparation for our upcoming trip to New Orleans.

Dry 85 cocktails, Vieux Carres and Sazeracs

All of this fun was leading up to our 7pm dinner at Flamant, a brand new French-Belgian restaurant from chef Frederik De Pue located in West Annapolis that has been garnering ample attention from local food writers. Flamant immediately grabbed our attention with its magnificent outdoor fire pit, perfect for this cold winter night. Very similar to Vin 909, Flamant is in a historic Craftsman house. Unlike Vin 909, Flamant takes reservations, meaning we don’t have to wait in line at some unreasonably early hour.

Flamant Salmon Rillette

Our favorite part of dinner at Flamant was that all of our small plates; the Maryland Blue Crab Rolls, the Salmon Rillette and the Cauliflower Strudel tasted exactly like their main ingredients. This seems like an obvious thing, but I mean that the crab actually received top billing in the crab rolls and the salmon flavor in the rillete was intense and not overpowered by the crème fraiche. The Old Bay gin dip for the crab rolls was a particularly nice touch. We rounded everything out with a tender, buttery roasted chicken. We watched as the chef torched a thyme sprig nestled on top the chicken from a window inside the partially open kitchen. The chef and I shared a knowing glace as he torched it – our eyes expressing something along the lines of, “This is going to be really good.” Service was professional, which was impressive because it can be tough to get fine-dining quality servers this far from a major city. Flamant is definitely a winner.

Flamant Cauliflower Strudel

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Blue Crab Rolls

Places we visited
Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge: 175 West Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Ceremony Coffee Roasters: Roastery: The Warehouse, 90 Russell Street #500 Annapolis, MD 21401
Amos Garrett Waterfront Park: 101 Spa View Avenue Annapolis, MD 21401
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls: 188 Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Dry 85: 193 B Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Flamant: 17 Annapolis Street Annapolis, MD 21401

Winter in Philadelphia

Between Christmas and New Year’s, Marnay and I spent a brutally cold 36 hours in Philadelphia exploring as much of the dining scene as we possibly could. We took Amtrak after work on Wednesday and then kicked things off with dinner at a.kitchen.

visit

a.kitchen

a.kitchen (that’s really how it’s spelled) is a cozy restaurant inside of the AKA Hotel, located at the ritzy Rittenhouse Square. Marnay and I shared the choucrute garnie, a platter of Alsatian pork done four ways—sausage, pork chop, pork shoulder and French pork belly, or what our server described as “French Super Bacon”. All this pork goodness sat on top of addictive Riesling-braised sauerkraut that had sopped up the pork drippings. The best pork items were the sausage and the pork belly, which tasted like a really thick piece of perfectly crispy bacon.

a.kitchen 2016 Domaine Schoffit Chasselas, an Alsatian white wine

Our server smartly recommended that we pair all this pork with a 2016 Domaine Schoffit Chasselas, an Alsatian white wine with a creamy mouthfeel that effortlessly cut through the meal’s richness. All of our servers (and it truly was server-by-committee) were professional, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Hungry Pigeon

We started our Thursday morning at Hungry Pigeon, an all-day café in the Queen Village neighborhood of South Philly. All-day cafes are a concept that has yet to gain traction in the DC-area but which has exploded in Philadelphia. At its most basic form, an all-day café as a restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for after dinner drinks. It seems like a lot of work for the restaurants, requiring many employees with different specialties, so I think that is why you do not see it that often.

Hungry Pigeon all-day cafe in Philadelphia

The chocolate croissant at Hungry Pigeon showed the marks of a great baker, with its dark golden brown skin that was crispy and flaky—sort of like the fried chicken of pastries. After our huge dinner the night before, I took it easy and ordered a vegan breakfast bowl, a really unique creation that had a brown rice porridge base, along with vegetables, avocados and kimchi. Marnay’s eggs and toast came with a crispy, square hash brown that I swear was created to try to replicate the McDonald’s hash brown. It tasted exactly like one! Eating it brought back happy memories of going to McDonald’s for breakfast and playing the McDonald’s Monopoly game.

Hungry Pigeon breakfast in Philadelphia

Walnut Street Cafe

After a few hours of truly frigid walking and exploring, we headed into Walnut Street Café, our second all-day café. Walnut Street Café is on the ground floor of a brand new skyscraper, one block south of 30th Street Station. The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass windows, great for looking out on Walnut Street towards the Schuykill River below.

Walnut Street Café in Philadelphia

On this cold day, butternut squash soup was an ideal start to the meal. The velvety soup is made richer with a drizzle of crème fraiche. Toasted seeds and diced squash add some welcome crunch. Marnay and I also shared the fried porgy, which arrived on our plate in the form of fish and chips. It was a bit of a surprise, since the menu just says “fried porgy”, but a delicious one! The batter was light and crispy but not oily and the porgy had a better, less bland (in my opinion) flavor than the traditional cod. Walnut Street Café also has an exemplary wine list, and Marnay enjoyed a glass of a white blend from a notable natural wine producer in the Finger Lakes.

Walnut Street Café fried porgy

Vernick Food & Drink

It seems to be nearly impossible to get a reservation at Vernick these days. Luckily, we were able to grab a high top table in the walk-in bar area, along with Marnay’s Mom. (A tip: The bar area opens at 4:30pm while the rest of the restaurant opens at 5:00pm.)

toast

The crab toast and roasted chicken were as incredible as they were during our last visit, impressive, since it had been almost two years. Still, the one thing that was not consistent was the service – this time it was a bit pushy, our server trying to get us to order more than we wanted. I am willing to give it a pass, if only because the food was so good, but it may be a while before we go back to Vernick.

We had so much fun with our winter adventure in Philadelphia! The all-day-café trend really needs to take off in the DC area, or we are going to be making more trips to Philly. In fact, we are returning in a few weeks. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Paul and Marnay Meyer in Philadelphia

Best Bite
Paul: Roasted chicken at Vernick
Marnay: Sausage at a.kitchen

Address
a.kitchen: 135 S 18th Street Philadelphia, PA 19103
Hungry Pigeon: 743 S 4th Street Philadelphia, PA 19147
Walnut Street Café: 2929 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104
Vernick Food & Drink: 2031 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

Two Dinners in One Night – Richmond

We are going to start a new feature on the blog called “Two Dinners in One Night”. We recently stayed overnight in Richmond, VA but only had one night for dinner. Since we had so many places we wanted to try, we decided to eat two dinners. There was a theme, though: both restaurants are owned by Chef Brittany Anderson, one of Richmond’s finest chefs.

Metzger Bar & Butchery

Dinner 1: Metzger Bar & Butchery

The small, intimate Metzger Bar & Butchery is the chef’s first restaurant, located in the quiet residential neighborhood of Church Hill. “Metzger” is German for butcher, and the restaurant specializes in German cuisine with an emphasis on meats. Marnay started the meal with a dry Riesling-based cocktail, that iconic German wine. Our first course was Chesapeake oysters: three Ruby Salts and three Moratticos. The Ruby Salts were all briny deliciousness, however the Moratticos were simply bland.

Metzger Bar & Butchery cocktail

A slightly inauspicious start, but Metzger more than made up for it with the next two dishes, both showstoppers. The night’s special was steak tartare, hand-chopped sirloin with shallots, capers and either turmeric or paprika topped with a fabulously runny egg yolk. The mouthfeel of the perfectly salted, chewy-yet-tender raw beef was out-of-this world. It was even better when scooped onto crusty grilled garlic toast. The last time we were at Metzger, their striped bass crudo was our favorite dish. A lesson: Metzger does raw really well.

As good as the steak tartare was, the restaurant topped it with their chicken schnitzel, so crispy yet so tender to be almost airy. We have no idea how they get the chicken to taste like this, but if we did we would be making a lot more chicken at home.

Metzger Bar & Butchery steak tartare

Dinner 2: Brenner Pass

After getting the check at Metgzer, we hopped in a Lyft and headed across town to Brenner Pass, the chef’s second restaurant located in the red-hot Scott’s Addition neighborhood. The scene at the restaurant was hopping, full of 20-somethings at the bar, the total opposite of the sedate Metzger. In DC terms, it was like going from Cleveland Park to Shaw.

Brenner Pass bar

We talked to the bartender as soon as we arrived, since going in we knew we wanted a bottle of wine. He gave us an option each for sparkling, white and red. The one he got most excited about was a bottle from the Lombardy region of Italy, so that’s what we went with. It was actually off-menu; we felt like such insiders! The wine had some weight to it, so the bartended suggested decanting it. Good choice, as letting it breathe really opened it up.

Brenner Pass wine from Lombardy

Since the last thing we ate was the schnitzel, we chose the Shaved Fall Vegetables, a lighter option. The salad was resplendent with ribbons of parsnips and carrots and topped with a cracked pepper ricotta, along with golden raisins. I don’t think that parsnips get enough respect, but I love their sweet but not too-sweet flavor, complemented by the rich ricotta.

For dessert, we ordered the Mont Blanc, which gets my award for the prettiest dessert ever. It was almost too pretty to eat! Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain in Western Europe, located in the Alps at the border of France and Italy. Our Mont Blanc was an almond cake with a snowy base of vanilla barvarian cream and “icebergs” of citrus meringue. The mountain was then topped off with a dusting of “snow” –powdered sugar.

Brenner Pass Mont Blanc dessert

Once we finished our wine, we were definitely ready to go home and go to sleep. I don’t think we will be doing many more of these Two Dinners in One Night events, but it was a lot of fun! In terms of food, Metzger Bar & Butchery was our favorite. As far as atmosphere, Brenner Pass was the clear winner. Both places offer reasons for us to go back.

Best Bite
Marnay and Paul: Schnitzel

Address
Metzger Bar & Butchery: 801 N. 23rd Street Richmond, VA 23223
Brenner Pass: 3220 Rockbridge Street #100 Richmond, VA 23230

Kinship

We made reservations a month out for dinner at Kinship, the new restaurant in Mt Vernon Triangle from acclaimed chef Eric Ziebold (James Beard Award Best-Chef Mid-Atlantic, 2008).The menu is separated into “Craft”, “History”, “Ingredients”, “Indulgence” and “For the Table.”   This is one of the few restaurants where an introduction to the menu from the server is actually necessary.

Kinship menu

The restaurant feels like it is in someone’s narrow rowhome, with brick walls and low lighting.  We knew going in exactly what we wanted to eat so we ordered drinks and food and the same time.  I started with the Kinship Spritz (Cocchi Americano, Dolin Blanc, Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Champagne) and Marnay got a glass of French Chenin Blanc.  For some reason, my drink came at least five minutes before Marnay’s.  When it finally arrived, her glass of wine was brought by the manager of the front of the house (who happens to be the chef’s wife) instead of our server.  The exact same thing happened when we ordered a second drink.  There is no doubt that we received great service at Kinship and we left feeling like VIPs.  There was just a lot of duplication of effort among the staff.  Not really a critique, just something that we noticed.

Kinship cocktails

Our meal started with the torchon of white mushrooms from the “Craft” section, a riff on a torchon of foie gras, with baby beet and wild mushroom salad served on top of a huckleberry gastrique along with slices of toasted brioche.  The torchon was rich and earthy on its own but it was transformed when spread on the toasted brioche along with the gastrique.

Kinship torchon of white mushroom

We also ordered Kinship’s famous roast chicken, from the “For the Table” section. We got a little hungry waiting for it to be made (it takes at least an hour) but I am glad we did not order another dish because the chicken is a lot for two people. When the chicken was finished, the server presented it to us (perfect picture opportunity!) before bringing it back to the kitchen to cut into pieces.  The garlicky, buttery skin was the best part of the dish.  Second best was chef Ziebold’s famous Parker House rolls, pillowy and soft.  Last, but certainly not least, was the well season fried potatoes.

Kinship famous roast chicken

Kinship is a cozy neighborhood restaurant with James Beard Award quality food at reasonable prices.  The roast chicken, for example, cost less than two individual entrees.  While we had to make our reservations a month in advance, the full menu is offered at the bar and there was no one sitting there when we arrived at 7:00pm on a Tuesday.

Kinship famous roast chicken

Now go and try it!

Best Bite
Marnay: Torchon of White Mushroom
Paul: Torchon of White Mushroom

Address
Kinship: 1015 7th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Mt Vernon Square