Thursday, July 31, 2008
Anyway, for anyone who previously visited while the restaurant operated as My-Le, or perhaps Kim Than, and liked it - then you'll like Lotus too. In my humble opinion few things of substance have really changed. Yes, the front room is going through a transformation with a full bar on its way in hopes of creating a lounge scene. How this will happen really escapes me. But we'll see. In the main dining area, a large TV screen has been added to the back wall, but other than that, things are very similar. Yes, there are some new tables, a new paint job, and some newly-hung artwork (I'm being generous with the term artwork), but all in all this is the same place we all knew and loved.
In addition to similar decor, the service and food quality are on par with the old days. This has its pros and cons. I'll start with the pros - the food. At least one my first visit, the quality had improved from the last days of My-Le. In 2007, I felt the quality and consistency of the dishes at My-Le had gone downhill. Lotus appears to be taking a step in the right direction. The two vermicelli dishes my partner and I had were very good. And the summer rolls we started on were as good as the old days. However, the menu lacked a vegetarian version of the crispy spring rolls. This should be rectified fast! Summer rolls in warmer weather is fine, but on cooler days you gotta have the crispy ones!
On the con side, the service was very similar to years past. There is no way to satisfy all the customers on busy nights with one or two servers (and more often that not it was one server). Granted, the night we dined at Lotus was slow, but still, one server for the whole place - fogedaboutit. If the dining room gets packed and folks fill the outside tables, get ready to wait. And when the front of the house gets behind, so does the back of the house. My hope is that when Lotus establishes itself and begins to draw a consistent crowd it will be staffed accordingly.
Also, if folks didn't notice, Lotus received a nice review in DCist earlier in the week. So get out there and throw them some business. When it cools off, the outside patio is great. What's better than whiling away the evening and watching metro and CSX trains fly on by.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Although I'd be interested in hearing what others had to say since the last time I ate at Ceviche was in 2006.
And for those not aware, the prices for the 3-course lunch is $20.08 and for the 3-course dinner is $35.08. If you want to take a trip into the city there are certainly many places participating where you can find top-notch meals - and probably spend a lot less than you would during other weeks. Some of my faves that have signed on include: Bombay Club (great Indian food); Cafe Atlantico (who doesn't love Jose Andres - and check out his new show on PBS called Made in Spain; it's quite good); Equinox (high-end new American); Sushi-Ko (the best sushi in town in my opinion); and Tosca (fresh and exciting Northern Italian dishes).
In addition, for those who do plan to book, I highly recommend using Open Table. It's a free on-line reservation service. Typically diners get 100 points for each reservation made using the service. Essentially 100 points equals one dollar. It's worth noting that some places have 1,000 point reservations - usually early and late dining during the week. But this is a free service and if you eat out at places found on Open Table it makes sense to book there. I'm now at close to 8,000 points. I figure I need to continue using it a couple more years till I rack up enough points for my partner and I to have a nice meal completely gratis.
Now get out there and enjoy some good food. I will be out of town on vacation that week, so it'd be great to hear from folks on what was good and not so good. I'll do another post on this next month. During that week I will likely only be consuming lobster and beer.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Just kidding - we all know the Golden House has been shut down for months now, maybe more than a year. Who can remember. And also, who can forget walking by and smelling that wonderful fragrance of fast food Chinese. MMMM!
And what's in it for me? A library. Yeah right, reading is overrated. Who wants to have the ability and convenience of reading a book for free, when you call walk down the street and spend $20 for it at Border's? Again, kidding. I will be quite pleased when the day (or should I say year) comes when the SS library will open. I just hope I'm still alive.
And for Golden House, folks know you don't have to travel much farther to taste some of their exciting dishes. If you're not aware, they serve the best "Chicken, Subs, Seafood, Szechuan, Hunan, and Mandarin." That's at least what their website tells me. And hey, I believe them. I don't need independent verification from folks who have eaten there or some high-falutin' newspaper. Why would they lie? Any place where I can order chicken chow fun, a steak, ham and cheese sandwich, and lobster (lobster fried rice that is) all at once is OK in my book. I know the next time I'm hankering for these 3 dishes, I'm walking - no running - to Golden House! Who's with me?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Looking over their menu, I can certainly see many dishes that were served back in the Kim Than days (and served when it was My Le too). The starters are what you might expect, summer rolls, crispy spring rolls, fried wontons - but also calamari fries (muc chien). Then there's a nice selection of noodle entrees, chicken, beef, vegetarian and several grilled entrees with vermicelli noodles (always loved them). But one I see missing is tofu vermicelli. I'll have to put in a special request for that. And what Vietnamese restaurant would be complete without Pho, the traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Lotus has a few Pho dishes with beef, chicken and seafood. The prices do appear to be a dollar or two higher per entree than previously, but I had always wondered how the previous places stayed in business with some of the low prices they charged (and they certainly did not scrimp on quantity). The new owners will also be adding some new dishes to the menu in the weeks and months to come. Maybe in time there will be nightly specials?
I also should note that Lotus is serving lunch specials from 11-3 Monday-Friday for $7.45. They have 20 different options for these specials. The new owners have yet to completely finish all the renovations but a quick peak inside definitely showed some improvements. In addition, the patio has had a nice makeover too. I look forward to a dinner out there very soon.
Some other items to note right now: they are open Mon-Sun from 11AM-10PM. At present they serve bottled beer and wine (draft beer and a full bar are on the way - part of the lounge experience). But at least where liquor is concerned, given our county of residence, it might be a ways off.
I am certainly happy to see new (old) owners take over the spot. Since My Le has closed, my partner and I have certainly eaten much less Vietnamese food than usual. I expect that to change soon. I have a lot of making up to do. Vận may.
Friday, July 11, 2008
And I would highly recommend if you are in the area, you make a special trip to a place in Old Town Scottsdale called Sea Saw. On the whole, the places I've eaten in Old Town are OK/good, but not great. It seems mainly a place to be seen for the young and good looking crowd, and for tourists to visit. I do not think of it as a dining destination. But Sea Saw is the exception.
It is run by Nobu - no, not that Nobu - but Nobu Fukuda. It is essentially a Japanese tapas restaurant. But not sushi - more a fusion mix of Japanese. And its small plates range from great to fabulous! Potential visitors should know it is expensive. When I stopped by this week the cheapest item on the menu was a $6 cold edamame soup (with crème fraîche and what one of the chefs told me was vegetarian caviar), but most of the dishes were in the mid to high-teens with some in the low to mid-20s. And again, these are small plates so most eaters would need 3 or 4 to fill up.
In addition to this place being quite far from SoCo, it is also does not adhere to a "buy local" ethos. When I asked if a juicy looking lamb chop on the grill was local I was informed, "No, it's from New Zealand." So these chops made nearly a 7,000 mile trip to Scottsdale. Wow, this a long way. I would have to believe that somewhere in the southwest or western US Nobu could find some high quality lamb chops. But for now he chooses NZ. And I'll admit I ordered a melange of Japanese mushrooms (to die for) and as one would expect there were Japanese and Hawaiian fish scattered throughout the menu.
On my next visit I will continue to lobby for a SoCo Sea Saw. Wouldn't it be cool if it could take over one of the garages on Mayor Lane and help transform this strip into a lively dining alleyway. But I'm not holding my breath. For the time being us locals will need to head into DC to get something close to Sea Saw.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
FDA and CDC officials currently believe other salsa ingredients deserve closer examination. Experts in food-borne illness say that jalapeños are on the short list of suspects since they would best fit the timing, duration and distribution of the outbreak.
Every Saturday (9AM-1PM) folks certainly have the option of visiting the SS Farmers Market on Ellsworth where local farmers sell cheeses, meats, veggies, fruits, and more. If you miss it, you can head a little southeast of SS and visit the Takoma Park Farmers Market (10AM-2PM) in the old town area. Now I know this option is not for everyone. Cost of the items most definitely limits the clientèle - which is unfortunate since many of these products are top notch. But these small farmers cannot compete in price with factory farms.
But I do want to alert folks of an option of which you may not be aware. Now this is not an option for all your food needs - just some - but typically the price is right! This option is the urban farmer - Charlie Koiner - right in SoCo (NE corner of Grove St and Easley St), just a few blocks from downtown SS. Charlie has more than an acre where he grows a variety of fruits and vegetables and if you visit his farm you can purchase items for very reasonable prices. You can typically guess that Charlie will be selling whatever is in season - greens and scallions early in the year, tomatoes in July and August, etc. His fruit is also quite popular - blackberries, blueberries, and many other varieties.
If you haven't met him he's a great guy and my guess is that tending to his farm keeps him young (he's in his mid-80s). So do yourself a favor, if you're in the area stop by and check out the urban farm. He has a sign posted right near Grove and Easley listing what he has for sale. And if you see his silver truck (with a cab) you know he's home and open for business. But more than likely you'll see him in the garden taking care of everything.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
And I'm not surprised at all given the devoted locals who frequent this establishment that they were still in there this morning eating breakfast amid the glass and debris. Probably had nice breeze.
Jerry points out that the door and windows (both damaged by the wreck) are original to the 1960s building. Let's hope the insurance kept by Fresh Starts will be sufficient so that these can be replaced in their original manner.
Fresh Starts is definitely a throw-back kinda place. Even though the neighborhood is undergoing some serious change I am hopeful they can remain in place. In my opinion places like this help keep the neighborhood real. We don't need to replace everything - all right, I could do with a few less Dominican braiding shops - but we definitely don't need to add chain stores to the Village. I hope those remain in the new development area. What we have south of that is so much more organic and it's unfortunate that those who don't live in the area miss this and often times only see the handiwork of the Peterson Company.
Now I really need to go to Fresh Starts so I can add a real post. It's wierd because while I was walking my dogs last night I was thinking I should check them out this Saturday morning. I wasn't sure if I would order food, but at least go in, order coffee, take a look at the menu. I don't want this blog only highlighting the higher end places in the 'hood. I want to include places such as this, the taqueria on Georgia, and old stand-by's like Vicino.
Thanks again Jerry and let's hope that Fresh Starts can get back on its feet.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
It looks like soon a new tenant will be opening its doors at 8211 Fenton St. Silver Spring Mart - Beer & Wine is taking over for - and who can forget - Mama Fashion's Gallery. Mama didn't seem to fare all that well. If I remember correctly her shop wasn't open for much more than a year. Although I never set foot in the shop, it seemed to be a collection of African and other fabrics mixed together with kitchen ware.
You'd think that combination would have put Mama over the top - but I guess Fenton Village just wasn't ready for it. You watch - I bet Mama ends up in Bethesda or a trendy DC 'hood and we'll be kicking ourselves for not supporting her!
The new tenant is sandwiched between my favorite Turkish Cobbler (Arinas Shoe Repair - please give him some business. In all seriousness, he does great work. And he could be a cousin to one of the Mario Brothers!) and Sure Fit Lock and Safe. And let's not forget the folks who ran the shop before Mama - for years and years it was the Electric Shaver Shop. I had to believe in the 21st century the ESS wouldn't last too long. It's a shame but the 2003 law requiring all men to grow beards was a bit too much for the shop to handle.
From a peek in the window, SS Mart is starting to stock their shelves with wine and other goods. I'm not holding out much hope that this will be much more than a Kwik-E-Mart with Bud instead of Duff, but maybe I'll be surprised. In addition, it seems this might be the same bunch that currently run SS Mart at 956 Thayer. I think they must be getting out while the getting is good since 956 Thayer and its two neighbors - Roadhouse Oldies and a travel agency - won't be with us too much longer. The landlord there seeks to raze the structure and replace it with an office and retail development. It's a shame about Roadhouse. I think it's pretty cool that we still have a record store in the 'hood (and we used to have two when Vinyl Ink was still open on Bonifant - great punk and indie store). And you gotta love the Roadhouse facade designed by the Pittsburgh Paint and Glass (PPG) Co. If you haven't taken the time to admire it, next time you walk by, check it out.
My hunch is that since the Thayer Ave SS Mart is run by Ethiopian immigrants and that at the new location there is a window sign announcing the sale of injera bread, that this one will be Ethiopian-run too. And if you are not aware, about 20% of all Ethiopians who don't live in the country reside in the DC-area with SS being a big base. So it's not very surprising to see another Ethiopian-run small business open in SoCo. I wish them the best and when I'm jonesing for Twinkies and Bud Lite, I'll know where to go!