Monday, February 7, 2011

Au revior to Restaurant Week DC and New York

Living on the east coast, I could only take advantage of two of the top cities to enjoy during the Winter edition of Restaurant Week (RW).  It was a gastric expanding experience to say the least.  And, while there are still great cities to enjoy RW (like Chicago, Feb. 18th-27th), I decided to wrap it up and give my wallet and stomach a break!

I ended weeks of finger lickin' and belt loosing with an "under the radar" pick: ANJA Bar in the Meatpacking District of New York City.  The "in-the-know" spot is easily overlooked due to its clandestine front.  But once you step through the unmarked doors, the transformation begins.

Hallowed wind pipe instruments and calming background chants made me wonder: "Is this a restaurant or a cutting-edge day spa?" I made my way through the rounded hallway with sage Buddhas lined in rows. As I entered the dining room, I knew the atmosphere alone would make the evening pleasant.  There were burnt oranges, funky red patterns and black-wood glistening in the low-lit dining room.  The "great" wall of candles in the back invited all non-believers to chant: NAMASTE.

I would describe the menu as "Asian appropriate".  A decent selection of traditional Asian options like steamed dumplings and duck dominate the menu.  The three course RW menu gave you an appetizer, entree and dessert.
My first appetizer was a Teriyaki Scallop dish.  It was a minimalist presentation of formed brown rice with Honshimeji (from East Asia) mushrooms and what appeared to be a petite scallop.  Am I food snob because I didn't completely enjoy the size or finish of the scallop?  For me, perfectly seared voluptuous scallops are one of the magical gifts of the sea.  The good teriyaki sauce was lost on the teeny weeny scallops.

I moved on to Grilled Chicken Salad. Much better!  A true representation of the restaurant, the pacific rim seasonings brimmed with  flavor.  The highlight for me was the slivers of fennel giving my mouth a burst of freshness with every bite.  It was a delicate balance of green papaya, mint and peanut tossed in a vinegar based dressing.  The strips of grilled chicken gave the salad great depth.

Encouraged again, I prepped myself for the entree.  A slow cooked beef short rib arrived to my delight. Holding true to the Asian theme cubed diakon and rutabaga replaced the typical potato starches that accompany the beef.   Ordinarily, I spend my time picking through any beef dish, making sure it is fork tender and the sauce is well-developed.  But, when I encountered the pearls of pickled mustard seed -- my routine was broken. The seeds burst in your mouth with the rich unique taste only mustard can provide. These blissful bursts gave this dish a whimsical edge.  Not to mention the beef was perfectly cooked.

Look at the pickled mustard seeds on top...HEAVEN!

My meal concluded with a molten lava chocolate cake.  It should be well documented by now that I don't like dark chocolate.  So, when a dessert based around dark chocolate impresses me, its worth noting.  This isn't one of those times.  Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh.  But the cake was basic.  The highlight was the  homemade vanilla bean ice cream and the salted caramel drizzle.  Personally, I could have had the ice cream and caramel without the cake.
Come for the food, stay for the that order.  ANJA was a fitting end to the "Big Apple" bonanza of food frenzy.  4 forks up for the decor, 2 1/2 forks for the food.  Now, if I can just burn off my self proclaimed "baby fat" in time for RW this summer.

I did scrape the beef plate clean :)

To recap, I am going to list the restaurants I visited and my brief review on each.


Vidalia - 3 1/2  forks up.  Check out my full blog review.

Jaleo -  One of few Spanish-themed restaurants that aren't "dives."  The Washington, D.C. stable delivers fresh and vibrant ingredients with swift service. 3 forks up.

Vieiras con calabaza y clementinas (Scallops)

CoCo Sala - 4 1/2 forks up.  Check out my full blog review.  A MUST.

Farmers and Fishers - Sister restaurant to the more popular Founding Farmer's, the locale is perfect.  The food is eh...okay.  The decor is fun and simplistic.  I definitely prefer her big brother.  2 1/2 forks up.

Birch and Barley - Beer lovers will reel at the endless spout of beer options.  The bread is disgustingly GOOD and can soak up all your "ales".  I enjoy kitchen theatrics, so the open air kitchen was fun.

Kalamata Olive Roll, Cornbread, Pretzel, Beer Mustard
Truffled Macaroni and Cheese

B. Smith's Union Station - There are a few constants about Union Station: Photo snapping tourists, dashing commuters and in the East Hall: B. Smith's.  With such a scarcity of upscale minority-owned restaurants, it's great to see B. Smith still at it.  Good Southern with stand out service.  3 forks up.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Oceanaire - One word: consistent!  Oceanaire is like Tim Duncan and Pete Sampras combined; a proven winner with no pizazz.  It's the perfect place for a business lunch or dinner.  3 forks up.

Cuba Libre - Check out my full blog review.  3 forks up.

Divino - Okay, this was technically part of Bethesda Restaurant Week but it was close enough. Flawed with food presentation issues and "the finish touch" Divino needs a little help.  I enjoyed the warm-herbed bread and that was about it. 2 forks sideways


Gotham Grille - Check out my full blog review. 3 1/2 forks up

Cipriani Dolci - BBBBOOOOOOOO!!!! Check out my full blog review. 2 forks of disappointment

Red Rooster - Marcus Samuelson is my hero!  The rebirth of Harlem continues with the addition of Red Rooster.  Sophisticated southern meets Samuelson's background.  Leave the allure of down and mid-town and hop on the (2) express up to Harlem and see how they've changed. 3 1/2 forks up

Morimoto -  If I wasn't so busy, I would have given this restaurant its proper "full review".  The famed Iron Chef delivers a zen-filled perfection of amazingly prepared Japanese traditional.  From the decor, to the service, to the food, I found reason after reason to give them "brownie points." 4 forks up and 2 chopsticks on the side.

Bento Box

Bon Apetite!  Make sure to check out of the photos from Restaurant Week on our facebook page:

1 comment:

  1. I want to try Morimoto, the pictures look amazing. Of all the restaurants both NY and DC, which one was your FAV?