Wednesday, September 8

The Proof is in the Tartare

I've been to Proof before. They used to have a Restaurant Week menu when they first opened up, but they don't do that anymore. I enjoyed my meal, but it was a time when I was still trying to get into wine, and having to drink a full glass of red with my meal wasn't appetizing to me. This time it was a business lunch, so no drinking for me meant being able to fully appreciate and concentrate on the food.
The first thing I noticed when I looked at the menu was their ahi tuna tartare offering. Huzzah! I would get to check off yet one more restaurant tuna tartare off my list, AND I would get to eat tuna tartare. This day was turning into the Day of the Week! So of course I order that, along with a big glass of water for my hangover, and the rustic veal ragu over garganelli pasta, which is like a rippled penne pasta that looks like it's been rolled. My companions also ordered a cheese plate and a few other firsts, one of which was a very rich cold cucumber and avocado soup (I regretfully did not try any of the soup, as I had just met this woman and didn't think we were on spoon-sharing terms quite yet). The cheeses were accompanied with some sweet little accoutrements, like figs and raw honey. A few of the cheeses weren't really too my taste (a bit too stinky or bleu-ey), but I could tell that they were chosen with great care and precision.
The Tartare.
When the tartare was brought over to the table, it took most of my willpower not to pounce on top of it at once and claim it as my property. I had never seen anything like it before. The tuna was a deep burgundy color, the freshest I had ever seen in real life or even on Top Chef (Amanda's oxidized tartare almost killed me on the inside), and it was big! There were three layers of tuna, with blue nori tempura between each. It was peppered with avocados and the usual tartare flavors: sesame, wasabi, and heaven. I even forgot where I was for a moment, and for just a few seconds, I started dancing in my seat and humming my custom tuna-tartare victory song (good food can regress me to a toddler state). Needless to say, Proof is now the proud recipient of my Best Damn Tuna Tartare in DC honor.
My entree was a rustic veal ragu with garganelli pasta. The ragu was wonderful, perfectly thick and not overbearing (as ragu can be), and the pasta they paired it with was cooked perfectly. I don't really like my pastas as al dente as everyone else; I don't see anything wrong with a softer pasta. This garganelli hit just the right note; it was firm but easily digestible. It was accented with parmesan cheese, and I have to say, the entire dish was very simple and straightforward. In other words, it was fantastic!
For dessert, I tried the trio of sorbet: pineapple, coconut and strawberry. Although I really don't like the taste of coconut, it was pretty gently flavored, and the three flavors were all great compliments to each other.
I want to talk a bit about the service I received here. I've said before in my Bistro la Bonne post that I really appreciate and enjoy unassuming service. Well, the service I received at Proof was exactly what I look for every time I go out to eat (which is probably why I avoid T.G.I. Friday's at all costs). Our waiter was never too far away for help with a menu choice or suggestion. My water glass was filled by their backwaiter ninjas every so often, which is a very important task for the hungover patron, such as myself. Now I am always looking at the kind of service i receive and the behavior of my server. It's in my nature to do so, and so I usually notice things that no one else ever would. So when I mentioned to one of my fellow diners that that was great service, she said she didn't even notice anything. EXACTLY!
Bravo, Proof. You are steadily climbing my list as a place I will frequent more often than not when it comes to restaurant choices in DC. And that's a LOT of choices. For your impeccable service, a tartare nearing perfection, and a full glass of water at all times, you get 4.5 noms!


Kings of Leon's New Single. YES.

Tuesday, August 31

Oui, Oui, Bistro la Bonne!

I decided about two weeks ago that I deserved an expensive lunch. I'm sure the decision to pamper myself had more to do with my serial viewing of "Julie & Julia" on HBO and a few extra dollars in my pocket than any real momentous accomplishment. Amy and Meryl just made French food look SO goooood, I had to get some myself. So I set up a reservation for Bistro la Bonne on U St., a new-ish place I had heard good things about.
I arrive for a late lunch, around 1 o'clock, and there is one other table there, an older couple finishing up some mussels. Although there was more staff than patrons at this point, it still felt cozy and crowded, the way most French bistros should (in my limited Parisian experience, anyway). Beer and food specials were written haphazardly on some chalkboards above the bar. There was paper on the tables, full flatware and glassware settings at each seat, weird music being pushed through speakers hung high on the ceiling, etc.
My water glass was filled as soon as I sat, which was a GREAT thing, considering I was sweating my ass off from the intense heat wave washing over the District. She handed me a menu, smiled, and walked away. THANK. YOU. I love unassuming and gentle service, and she was well on her way to getting a fat tip.
Of course, I had already decided on one or two things from the menu, as is my M.O. Appetizer would have to be the soupe a l'oignon gratinee, one of my favorite uber-involved soups of all time (that's French onion soup, bee-tee-dubs). It came out in an immense crock, overflowing with molten swiss and gruyere cheeses smothering a few thick croutons. It was flavorful but not overpowering, filled with onions and even more cheese, and I had a hard time choking down the entire thing. The CHEESE, my god, all the cheese! A tad overkill for French cuisine if you ask me. It was almost like I had asked McDonald's to supersize it for me. Phew.
I could not decide what I wanted for my main entree; it was a toss-up between the short ribs (Travers de Boeuf puree de Pomme de Terre au Fromage) at $24 a plate, or the beef medallions with asparagus and shrimp risotto (Medallion de boeuf servi avec un risotto aux asperges et crevettes) for $22. I asked my server, and she convinced me to go fir the short ribs, at it is a more authentic French dish and not a more typical plate. I agreedto her upsell (I don't hate, I would have done the same thing), and I waited for my short ribs.
This was my first experience with short ribs. Every time I have tried to order them from a menu before, they were all out for the night, or something else like lamb or rabbit would entice me more than the shorties. So when my dish came out in a bowl, I was taken aback. Not in a bad way, I just expected, well, ribs. On a plate. With potato puree and some roasted veggies on a side, and some sauce poured over the meat. Not so with those slick little Frenchies. It was like a stew, with potato on the bottom, and a hunk of bone-in short ribs plopped in the middle of it all, and then surrounded by pearl onions, button mushrooms (gross, I actually ate one thinking it was an onion), and chunks of carrots that swam in this awesomely rich, dark wine sauce that I would have drank through a straw if I was having Secret Shame Night at home.
After the soup experience I went through just 10 minute earlier, I had a hard time getting through this dish, and when I asked if I could take it home, I was greeted with a smile, a nod, and not one hint of French pretension. Love love love. She packaged it up for me, asked if I would like coffee or dessert (I'm pretty sure I actually guffawed at this poor girl. Literally snorted a laugh at her, as I said I would just take the check, thanks). The whole thing ran me $40 with a fat tip as I had mentioned earlier. I would have tried to recruit this chick for my own restaurant if I had one. Her service was perfect.
I stuck around and tried to digest the lumps of cheese and meat I had engorged on as I read my book.
I guess the fact that I don't really eat French food often may have something to do with my surprise at its presentation. I always assumed it was lighter than what I got, but there must be some sect of their cuisine that takes after American's sentiment to eat until they're full, then eat some more. Either way, the food was great, I had enough left over for a great little dinner, the service was absolutely fantastic, and although it was pretty expensive, I knew what I was getting myself into, and it was proportional to what I walked away with. Bostro la Bonne, you get 3.5 NOMS!

Because it's funny.

Because we've all done this at one time or another, right?

Zola, Zola, Zola. You've been a bad restaurant!

The first time I ever went to Zola, it was Restaurant Week. H and M and I made a reservation at this lovely "restaurant of leaves", so to speak, and I for one was very excited. The thing about Zola, which was unlike any other restaurant I had been to up to that point, was their RW menu. They didn't limit the choices their guests had, and everything they offered for lunch and dinner was up for grabs. So, if you ordered appetizer, entree and dessert, you got the discounted price, no matter your choices. Bravo, Zola. Bra. Vo.
I had the tune tartare (big surprise) and the lamb, and some chocolatey dessert. I melted into my seat with each bite, and had to summon every ounce of sophisticated energy I had NOT to hum and dance in my seat as I ate. Five Noms!
I have been to Zola a few times since, always during Restaurant Week (I'm not rich. Yet.), and always with the highest of expectations.
So I was pretty deflated when my latest RW experience at Zola didn't live up to my hype. Sigh.
My server was definitely new. His name was Jeffrey and it took him 10 minutes to greet me after I was seated. Of course, I had already known what I was going to eat before I got there, as I research the crap out of every restaurant menu online before I arrive. Meh, whatever, I was in no rush and had brought a book with me. (Yes, I am that girl, and no, I don't feel pathetic. Eating solo lunches is relaxing to me, and I do not think this is a sign that I will end up a multiple cat-owner and the subject of an episode of "Hoarding.")
Jeffrey apologizes, takes my order, and brings me a glass of water. Then he brings the ginger lemonade, which was a bit too tart for me, even though they obviously added grenadine to sweeten it up and make it look pretty.
I get the appetizer, fava bean and pancetta tortelloni, which was absolutely incredible. It was sauced perfectly, the pasta was cooked to perfection, and there were complex flavors all up in that bitch.
My main entree was beef sirloin over quinoa with asparagus and a mushroom glaze. The flavors here were a bit overwhelming, but the asparagus, which was chopped into the quinoa, gave it a great crunchy texture. The mushroom glaze had no real mushrooms in it (score!), and that is where all the intense flavors came in. For something that is supposed to be a glaze, it tasted more like a reduction, and I found myself reaching for my water glass more often than not. The beef was cooked exactly as I had wanted it (medium), and there was not a piece of it left on the plate; it had been butchered to eliminate those fatty outer bits I hate so much.
I decided to go with the peach cobbler with vanilla/blueberry ice cream for dessert. Served in a tart dish, I thought the peaches were nice, not too sweet. But there was a lot more liquid in it than I had expected, and it was so hot when I got it that I asphyxiated on the crumble topping and started hacking like a choke victim right there at my table. After about 5 minutes of this, not a single person had checked on me, and I continued to eat my dessert through teary eyes. (I wasn't crying, people. That's what happens when you asphyxiate on crumbles. Duh.) I couldn't really taste any blueberry in the ice cream either, but I still liked it, even though the contrast of the hot cobbler to the cold ice cream made my sensitive teeth scream in agony. I guess you could say that it wasn't the most successful dessert experience I've ever had.
Oh, one more thing. Did you ever have the bread basket at Zola? It comes with a little butter dish with what I think it roasted crystallized garlic on the top of it that looks like raw sugar, and their flatbread is amazing!! Too bad Jeffrey never brought me my bread. Sad face.
So usually, Zola gets a 4.5 out of 5, but this time around, I can only give it 3 noms. But I still love you, Zola. See you at winter Restaurant Week 2011!


Tuesday, August 24


This just makes me happy! And kinda of hungry for some wings. Hmmm...