Six-Course Tasting Menu at CityZen, 13 October 2012

It’s been some time since I’ve gone to a prix fixe dinner, so on Saturday I headed over to CityZen for their six-course offering.  I had previously made it to CityZen for a special ten-course chef’s table social, which had been excellent, and I wanted to see how they normally stack up.

Le Menu…six courses with the option for a entree upgrade and a cheese plate.

The dinner began with a glass of champagne and two canapés.  Both set the scene for the rest of the evening, and showcased chef Eric Ziebold’s creativity.

A canapé to start things off…pumpkin panacotta with a coriander tuile.

The second canapé was CityZen’s take on Chicken Cordon Bleu with Béarnaise.

I was a fan of the offered focaccia bread.  A little more salt and pepper than most, but it worked well, with just the right amount of moistness.  A couple other types were offered, including ciabatta and what looked like a wheatier option.

Focaccia bread.

The first course was the Maine Lobster, Cucumber, and Radish salad, served with a Greek Yogurt Sorbet, Turmeric Vinaigrette, and a Cumin Tuile…cool and refreshing, with chunks of lobster meat for an interesting twist.  Paired with a 2011 Albariño Rias Baixas Esencia Diviña from Adegas Gran Vinum.

The Maine Lobster, Cucumber, and Radish Salad. Nice and refreshing.

The next course up was the Soft Boiled Path Valley Farms Pullet Egg, with Brioche Pain Purdue and a Porcini Mushroom Velouté.  The mushroom and egg combination worked well together, and the brioche came in handy for sopping up the delicious sauces accumulated at the end of the course.  This dish was paired with a 2010 Chardonnay from Domaine Gaston & Pierre Ravaut.

Soft Boiled Path Valley Farms Pullet Egg

Next up – Swarnadwipa Poached Alaskan Halibut, served with Young Coconut, Lemongrass Mousse, and Roasted Corn Consommé.  The fish was light with a smokey flavor, which contrasted well with the lemongrass.  The 2011 La Meriana Gavi di Gavi from Broglia, with its front-loaded peach notes, complimented the dish well.

Swarnadwipa Poached Alaskan Halibut.

The halibut was followed up by the Oakleigh Farms Veal and Foie Gras Boudin Blanc, served with Mission Figs, Baby Leeks, Darden Ham, and a Hyssop-Red Wine Gastrique.  Those of you who follow this site may have noticed my love for all things duck, and this dish was an excellent rendering.  As it was boudin blanc, the foie gras was sausage-like, and stuffed with the tasty veal.  The red that accompanied it, a 2009 Corvina, Molinara, Rondimella Ripasso Superiore from Degani.

Oakleigh Farms Veal and Foie Gras Boudin Blanc.

After all that, I hit the entree.  This particular evening, there was an upgrade available…for an additional $50, you could change the main course, regularly an Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Lamb Ribeye, with a well-marbled Grilled Ribeye of Miyazaki Kuroge Beef, served with Potato Bone Marrow, Beef Tartare, Roasted Scallions, and Sundrid Tomato Panade.  Naturally, I did that (while my dining companion went with the lamb).  Both were excellent and quite different dishes, although the supplemental price increase was steep.  Both dishes paired with a 2008 Torroja Des de Dins blend of Grenache/Cab/Syrah from Mayol Viticultors.

Grilled Ribeye of Miyazaki Kuroge Beef.

The entrees came out with a small box of buttery Parker House Rolls (read more on them here).

These were perfectly baked…they looked perfect too, before I pulled the four on the side apart before the photo…oops.

An artisanal cheese course was also available with the tasting for a supplemental $15, and is well worth it.  CityZen provides amble options for your cheese plate, as seen in the following photos, including a few that will be picked up soon by me for some cheese plates at home.  My companion did an excellent job picking out winners:  Hoja Santa, a Texas goat cheese from Mozzarella Company; Robiola Bosina, a northern Italian sheep/cow mix; Hittisau, an Alsace cow cheese; Époisses de Bourgogne (the winner of the evening), a cow cheese from Burgundy, and Gorgonzola Cremificato, another cow cheese, from Italy.  As I expressed to our fantastic head server, Nicole, this was perhaps the best cheese plate I’ve had in the DC area.

Great selection…the recommendation is one from each row for a total of five per plate.

From left to right: Gorgonzola Cremaficato, Epoisses, Hittasau, Robiola Bosina, Hoja Santa.

BUT WAIT!  The dinner was not yet finished.  Before the dessert was brought out, CityZen provided a palate-cleansing entremet of pickled melon with a light sorbet (the type of which now escapes me, although I recall it being herbal/vegetable in nature – perhaps cucumber?)

The dessert before the dessert.

The dessert, Spiced Path Valley Carrot Cake, with Vanilla-Cream Mousse, Candied Walnuts, and Cream Sorbet, was a playful take on one of my personal favorite desserts, but the tastes left no doubts about what it was supposed to be.  Dessert was paired with a delicious Muscadet from di Lenardo that goes by the name “In My Next Life I’ll Be Thin, Pass The Cookies!” which should probably be my signature bottle, based on its title.

CityZen’s take on carrot cake…certainly a creative look.

The meal ended with a set of six mignardises to enjoy while taking care of the bill.  For this meal, that broke down as $120 per person for the six-course tasting, $85 per for the sommelier’s pairing, $50 if going for the entree upgrade, and $15 for a cheese course – within normal bounds for a high-end tasting menu in the DC-area.  I’d recommend it as a top-notch special occasion or date spot.

The end-of-meal petit fours, sans one.

CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental
1330 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 787-6148

Book on OpenTable

Update, 13 October 2012

I’m heading to CityZen tonight for the 6-course tasting with pairings. I went there about a year ago for a special chef’s table event, and I’m excited to try them again.

I’ve also got a post in the works on The Passenger. I go there so much that I pretty much have to put something up here to share their excellent bar food and top-notch mixological magic.



Dinner at Mintwood Place, 2 October 2012

I had a few people mention Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan as a place I needed to try, so on Tuesday I made that happen.

First off, I loved the menu.  Great nibbles (smaller appetizers), regular appetizers, entrees, and drinks.  My biggest problem was narrowing down what I could realistically consume in one sitting.

The shishito peppers and and escargot hush puppies.

I kept things at two nibbles (blistered shishito peppers and escargot hush puppies), and two appetizers (steak tartare with spuds and goat cheese and beet mountain pie) to start off.  All were good…the peppers were subtle (although I found the provided hush puppies sauce also went well with them), and the other dishes were quite  flavorful and creative.

The duck breast “au poivre” with minute sauerkraut, which I ordered for my entree, was excellent.  Well-prepared duck paired well with the pepper sauce and bed of sauerkraut.

Duck “au poivre” with minute sauerkraut.

Good desserts – a classic brownie sundae (with a super-moist brownie) topped with sprinkles, and a Baked Alaska flambé closed out the evening.

Oh look, my dessert is on fire.

The cocktail menu is also very creative.  The Smokin’ on the Bayou (Benevá Mezcal Añjeo, Grapefruit Juice, Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup, Bitter Truth Creole Bitters) and  Woodrow Wilson (Boomsma Genever “Gin”, Hum Liquor, Elderflower, Cava) were two that I tried out.  The former had a subtle, smokey flavor that I’d credit to the mezcal, while the latter had a slight all-spiciness…I’m guessing that came from the Hum, which I’m not familiar with, and bills itself as a botanical spirit with a number of different ingredients.

The Smokin’ on the Bayou cocktail.

This particular dinner was pricy – besides the above, there was one additional entree and two additional cocktails – for a total of over $200 with tip.  However, you’re getting what you pay for…everything was of excellent quality, and the tastes involved were exceptional.

For some other reviews on Mintwood Place, check out Tom Sietsema’s at Washington Post (3 of 4 stars), and this one from Been There, Eaten That.

Mintwood Place
1813 Columbia Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-6732

Book on CityEats

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 8 September 2012

Last night I tried Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, one of Jeff and Barbara Black’s DC-area restaurants.  Pearl Dive has been open for almost a year now, and I wanted to check them out before their big anniversary bash.

Naturally, I started off with a plate of twelve raw oysters.  I got a good variety – two each of six – including Hammersley (Washington), Chefs Creek (British Columbia), Broadwater (Virginia), Battle Creek (Virginia), Wild Goose (Rhode Island), and Fire Lake (New Brunswick).  The oysters came out with the usual cocktail sauce and mignonette, but also included was their Dive Juice and Yuzu-Mirin options, which were both great…I especially liked the yuzu with the oysters.

You can’t show up to Pearl Dive and not start out with a few oysters-on-the-half-shell. That would be wrong. Top right sauce was the Dive Juice, bottom right is the yuzu.

My second oyster dish of the evening was the Mariscos de Campechana.  A sundae glass filled with Virginica oysters, blue crab, shrimp, tomato-serrano salsa, and avocado, served with tortilla chips.  It was a little bit bigger than I was anticipating, but that was okay as it was delicious.

Another great oyster dish…bigger than I was anticipating.

Pearl Dive has quite a number of oyster preparations, including some hot ones.  My server, Blake, recommended the Tchoupitoulas plate – oyster confit, blue crab, tasso ham, and roasted corn – which was probably my favorite dish of the night.  The other options sounded good, but there is only so much I can try in one sitting.

My favorite from the evening…the Tchoupitoulas oyster plate.

I closed off the meal with an order of the Braised Pork Cheeks, served with chipotle-ham-hock broth and stone grits.  The tender pork cheeks went really well with the grits, which had a slight sweetness possibly imparted by the broth.

Nice and tender pork cheeks.

Good cocktails as well.  I got a Sazerac to start off….

Good Sazeracs here.

…and finished up with a recommendation – Pearl Dive’s cross between a Pimm’s Cup and a Mule – the Pearl Cup (Pimms, Plymouth Gin, cucumber, lime, mint, house ginger beer).  This one was excellent…I’ll be adding this to my list to reproduce at home.

Great take on a Pimm’s Cup. Recommend.

As a warning, Pearl Dive is first-come, first-served, so try to get there early.  I went on a Saturday at about 7 PM and they were mobbed…I got a seat at the oyster bar (four or five seats) which was not.  Pearl Dive has a frontage  bar which opens onto the street, and would be nice when it’s not as humid as this evening happened to be (here’s some photos of the establishment from the folks that built it).

Also, check out Tom Sietsema’s reviewat the Washington Post here…he recommends the catfish po’ boy, which I will be trying next time I stop by.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
1612 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-1612
Pearl Dive seats on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Tonight’s Cocktail…

I liked the cocktail I made tonight so much that I figured I’d put it up here for all of you.


I wanted to make something tonight with Fernet, so searching throughout Cocktail Virgin, I found this gem.

I wouldn’t usually be a fan of a drink with this much Sweet Vermouth, but the other ingredients (I believe especially the Fernet) really brought out the grape…I have to say I was a fan.

As posted on Cocktail Virgin:

2/3 Sweet Vermouth (2 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
1/6 Brandy (1/2 oz Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva)
1/6 Curaçao (1/2 oz Senior Curaçao)
1 dash Fernet Branca (1/4 oz)

I replaced the brandy with Armagnac, and the Curaçao with triple sec (which provided a dryer taste, I’d expect), while utilizing the same measurements.  I’ll make this one again.

Sweet Ginger, 21 August 2012

I just had some excellent sushi take out from Sweet Ginger in Vienna, VA.

I got five orders, all of which were fantastic.

  • Volcano Roll – “california roll topped with seafood and spicy creamy sauce”
  • Angry Dragon Roll – “california roll topped with whole eel tobiko & special spicy sauce”
  • Japanese Bagel Roll – “lightly batter fried fresh salmon cream cheese, roe with spicy mayo”
  • Beauty & The Beast Roll – “tuna avocado roe rolled with eel outside”
  • Spicy Tuna Roll

I’ve been to three sushi joints on or near Maple Ave…this one is the best.  I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that either…TripAdvisor shows Sweet Ginger as the #5 restaurant in Vienna based on user ratings.

See here for their menu.

The Volcano Roll…

…and the rest of the rolls. Even the pickled ginger was really good.

The interior of the restaurant was nice as well, and there are a few seats at the sushi bar.  Looks like it could be a nice date place.  I went to pick up around 9:00 PM tonight (Tuesday) and only two tables were taken…granted, it was a little late, but they should’ve had more of those tables filled with how good the sushi was.  Check them out.

(Also, here’s my plug for what I drink with my take out sushi – Kinsen Plum Wine…great stuff when served chilled with sushi.)

Sweet Ginger
120 Branch Rd SE
Vienna, VA 22180
(703) 319-3922

Sweet Ginger on MenuPages