Friday, November 19, 2010
Bubble Express. Whenever there's a new Asian joint in town, my heart skips a beat and my knees tremble a little bit. This feeling increases exponentially when that restaurant is in Rockville because I know the competition is fierce, and the authenticity is generally a cut above the rest of Maryland. And on top of that, for me there's nothing out there that tops a simple bowl of delicious noodle soup as comfort food. Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband, 'cuz I'm eating e'rething out here.
I helped myself to the Beef Noodle Soup, which is actually prepared in the traditional Taiwanese style. Beef Noodle Soup (紅燒牛肉麵) is actually a staple of Taiwanese cuisine and I guess it could be equated to how the Vietnamese enjoy their pho. My mother and my aunt make some ridiculous Beef Noodle Soup so I am quite particular about this dish. I'm pretty much a BNS expert (self-proclaimed). Also I just made up that acronym. For what it's worth, this did not really stack up to my homegrown expectations. While it was still very hearty (as it should be), I felt the flavor of the broth was kind of bland. I needed to add a self-destructive amount of chili sauce to make the broth taste like anything. The meat itself was pretty solid though. The meat is slow roasted so it is very tender and easily tears away in your mouth. The noodles were thick and perfectly chewy (or QQ as the Chinese say) like I likes it though. No complaints there.
Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of Super Bowl my first time around I'm definitely going to give it another shot. They have a few very traditional Asian/Chinese dishes that I cannot find elsewhere and that I need to taste before I give my final verdict. Just wait 'til I scrounge together a few bucks to go again... (don't hold your breath).
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Perhaps I'm growing increasingly jaded in my old age, or maybe its just poor decision making in restaurant selections, but I just feel more and more like I'm having less than favorable things to say about recent dining experiences. In the case of Mt. Washington Tavern, it was a downright poor experience.
I have been to Mt. Washington Tavern on several occasions to meet friends for a few drinks at happy hour, maybe nibble on some bar snacks. Everything has always been at the very least serviceable. So when some friends came up from out of town and the tavern was brought up as a group dinner option. I figured why not. A perusal of the website before our night out didn't show anything particularly exciting, but nothing that a restaurant of 31 years should be able to screw up too badly either.
To start off with the pleasant, our reservation of eight was greeted politely and seated quickly. Our server was prompt, pleasant, and accommodating throughout the entire meal. The ambiance of the dining room was quite inviting, and the noise level wasn't invasive at all, though it was quite sparsely populated for 7pm on a Saturday night.
Then there is the not so pleasant, the food. I don't know if this is an owner leading a kitchen staff astray, or a kitchen that thinks its smarter than it is. The offerings are uninspired, way overpriced, and in some cases even just flat out incorrect. Tuna Tartar is described as "rare sushi grade tuna with sesame, over endive" - lets stop right there. So you are cooking a tartar.....interesting. I then inquired about the Fruits De Mer "Pan-Roasted Jumbo Gulf Shrimp,Day Boat Scallops, Littleneck Clams, and Rockfish in a Light Tomato Broth with Garlic Crostinis." The menu description was a little odd, and the server confirmed my suspicions. This Fruits De Mer is served as a hot entrée.......hmmm. Great dish? Perhaps. I'll never know because I wouldn't order a dish that is tagged as something that it isn't.
Ok, so enough of what I didn't have, what did I actually eat? I opted for the Steak Frites, medium rare, figuring it was a safe option. Rather than the more traditional flat iron, this offering was with a NY Strip covered with a "wild mushroom demi-glace" (someones being too clever) "and served with either sweet potato fries or roasted red potatoes." I ordered it with regular fries because it is listed on the menu as STEAK FRITES. All of the steaks at Mt. Washington Tavern are described on the menu as "Aged USDA Beef Selections," whatever the hell that means. Dry aged? Wet-aged? Sat out for week in the trunk of a car? Who knows?!! What I was served was without doubt, the worst steak I have ever had in a restaurant. This piece of beef had either been frozen and then quick thawed, or had been sitting unused for a very long time(perhaps this is where the aging part comes in) until it became oxidized to death. The cowhide slapped on my plate was so tough that I actually chewed one bite for several minutes to no avail, then tried to just hunk it down in one large swallow. This resulted in about 30 breathless seconds before I finally dislodged it from my throat. YUM!
A friend across the table didn't fare much better with The Tavern Steak. This, a pepper encrusted piece of leather, served with crispy onions and cheddar grits. The grits were like a molded ball of Playdough. Tough and tasteless rather than rich and creamy. I did try a bite of one of the Artisan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Which was decent enough. I would have been amazed if they managed to screw a grilled cheese sandwich up.
Want a nice place to stop by for a pint after work? Go for it. If you are looking solely for decent ambiance and good service. This is your place. Want good food? Get the hell out of Mt. Washington Tavern.
Monday, October 25, 2010
My Aussie friend just moved to the States from DOWN UNDA *ignorantly poor Australian accent*, and brought along a little taste of home. Besides their love of Outback Steakhouse, Foster's Beer, and the slogan 'No Rules, Just Right', Australians apparently also love Vegemite. Vegemite is a food spread made from yeast extract, whatever that is. It sounds like some sort of stomach parasite, which I guess isn't that far from the truth considering it's made from yeast. The packaging also looks like something that the Acme Corporation from Looney Tunes would sell. I'm in.
First thought: Kraft makes this?! Second thought: I'm hungry. F' it. My friend was kind enough to make some toast, spread a light layer of butter, and then slather on the Vegemite for me. I'm not actually capable of making food for myself. Today I threw a bunch of deli meat into a bag of spinach and ate it straight. Just like a real grown up. True story. Anyways, I took a bite of my toast and immediately fell in love with this spreadable delight. It's much saltier than butter, but also much more savory. There is also an oniony undertone and a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste. The salty flavor of the Vegemite mixed perfectly with the semi-sweet butter. Apparently Vegemite is an acquired taste for most, but I'm already on board. Now all I need to do is find a grocery that carries it...
Friday, October 22, 2010
For those of you not from the Baltimore area, pit beef is our very own distinct style of BBQ. A large hunk of top round is grilled until the meat is blackened on the outside, but juicy and rare on the inside. The beef is then thrown onto a deli slicer and carved paper thin. Typically, pit beef is served on a kaiser roll with tiger sauce, a mixture of horseradish sauce and mayonnaise, and Pioneer's model is no exception. The staff at Pioneer asks how you want your meat cooked, and then slices off a fresh bite for you to sample. This tactic is brilliant by the way. The sample I was given was so juicy and full of flavor that I decided to order a larger sandwich. Every meaty bite was tender and melt-in-your-mouth awesome. The decision to up size turned out to be rather unnecessary though. The 'regular' size along with some boardwalk style hand-cut fries would have been more than enough to satisfy me at lunch time. Good thing I'm a complete glutton.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Recently, a friend introduced me to something that combines two of my favorite things, comic books and food. The fine people at Viz Media have imported one of the most popular and long-running mangas of all time, and selected some choice chapters to translate into English. Each chapter reflects on and gives insight into the overarching theme of each volume, ranging from Japanese cuisine as a whole, sake, sashimi, all the way to Japanese pubs. Its dorky I suppose, but I'm Asian and I'm totally into it, for whatever thats worth.
Oishinbo follows Yamaoka Shiro, a slacker journalist for the Tozai News, as he attempts to put together a story on the 'Ultimate Menu', representing all that is great about Japanese cuisine. Yamaoka also happens to have a very refined palate and a strong all-around knowledge of cuisine. His rival in this endeavor is his very own father and mentor, Kaibara Yuzan, who has been hired by a competing newspaper to create their own 'Supreme Menu'. While the premise might seem a bit silly, the author does a great job of illustrating the complexities of Japanese cuisine and the exquisite care that goes into its preparation while infusing humor into each scene. Within each battle or challenge, Yamaoka explains the techniques required to cook each dish, discusses the quality of the ingredients going into the dish, and generally makes me incredibly hungry for whatever the characters are eating.
I've just finished the 1st volume and, other than an extreme craving for sushi, I already feel like I have a much higher comprehension of Japanese cuisine. Definitely incredibly psyched to start the 2nd volume: Sake. Finally I will understand what my Japanese pal Yuya is jabbering about when he gets drunk. Check out the series if you get a chance!
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
South Korea is running out of Kimchi! The world's greatest condiment is running low due to ruined crops of Chinese Cabbage (Napa cabbage if you wanna spend more on it).