Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rasika West End - Vikram Sunderam Heats It Up In The Basement

Rasika West End
1190 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
                                                             Washington, DC 20037

Once again, I talked my friends into joining me for dinner at a chef's table.  This one was in the basement.  It's very private and has a view of the kitchen action. 
Here are the lovely ladies all dolled up at the bar at Rasika West End.  From left to right we have Cheryl, Sindhu, and Allison.  These same ladies and their other halves are always ready to humor me when it's time to dine.
Interestingly, Sindhu had her wedding reception at The Bombay Club, one of Ashok Bajaj's other restaurants, ten years ago.  Many of the same employees were present this night.  She is the author of the blog Four Courses and will be posting about this dinner as well.  She's a writer, so I'm sure she'll have better narrative.  Check it out!
There is no better way to begin a grand tasting menu than some rose bubbly.  This particular one was Conde de Subirats, Cava Brut Rosé, NV, Catalonia, Spain. 
 We were not the first group to dine at the chef's table, but we were apparently the first group that they had created a tasting menu with wine pairings for. 
 This is the Indian street-food version of nachos. Each of the six courses had two or three components to it, so in all there were 18 or so items to taste.

 Avocado and banana
 Curried sweet potato with yogurt sauce
 The ubiquitous Palak Chat.  Always awesome.
 These scallops were nicely done with a spicy curry dusting. For this course we moved on to Vassiliou, "Retsina of Attica", Savatiano, NV, Attica, Greece
 Chicken kabobs.  Simple, but perfect.
 This is Simon Stilwell, our guide for the evening, showing us how to hyper-decant some Telmo Rodriguez, "Gabo do Xil", Godello, 2007 Valdeorras, Spain.  He brought it to us freshly uncorked and discussed the notes behind the wine for a little before-and-after comparison.  It was very cool.
 Sindhu and I were obviously excited about something here, but I can't seem to remember what it was.  These folks are always great fun to dine with. 
 This is the Crab Pepper Masala with filo pastry, hot chili pepper, and balsamic glaze.  Sweet, hot, and delightful.
 Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside with a little yellow curry for flavor.  Once again, simple, but expertly executed.
 This Lamb Kathi Roll was very nice.  It was served with a mint chutney.
 The curries were awesome.  We enjoyed a Shina's Estate, "The Guilty", Shiraz, 2008 Victoria, Australia with this course.  Perfectly matched flavors and a great looking label as well.
Vikram is a master of the black sea bass.  If you haven't had the pleasure of trying his preparations I highly recommend them.  The quinoa served on the side had some great heat to it.  The wine for this course was Chateau D'Escalans, "Whispering Angel", Grenache Rose, 2011 Cotes de Provence, France.
Earlier in the meal I had joked with Vikram about requiring pork, so he whipped us up a couple of spicy pork chops.  We were already full to bursting by this point, so I don't think anyone but me tried them.  They were excellent.  They made it home with me in the goody-bag.
 These were very good.  Apple Jelebi with cardamom ice cream. With this course we had Heinz Eifel, Eiswein, 2009 Rheinhessen, Germany. 
 This was the Mango Kulfi.  Kind of like popsicles, but better.
Here's a shot of Executive Chef Vikram Suderam from when he visited me at work.
The chef de cuisine, Manish Tyagi works hard to make things perfect here.

Overall, a very good experience.  Don't tell Ashok this, but this was one of the best bang-for-the-buck tasting menus I've had the pleasure of trying.  The wine pairings were spot-on, and the service was impeccable. 
Thanks for reading folks.  Be sure to check out Sindhu's blog post on Four Courses as well.
Rasika West End on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Home Cookin'! Pig Roast

So you want to roast a pig, do ya?
We sure did.  It was worth the time and the effort.
 The occasion was a going away party for four of my neighbor's friends.  He asked me if I would be interested in helping him roast a pig for them.  We thought trying a La Caja China would be a good way to go as it avoids that whole back-breaking-dig-a-big-hole-in-your-yard thing.  We chipped in an bought the box for a very reasonable price and assembled it in about 45 minutes.

 Here's my neighbor David Drazen with a pig that we purchased from Mt. Airy Butcher.  They butterflied it for us and the price was very reasonable.
 Here David is injecting the muscle with Mojo.  This is a citrusy marinade you should prepare and chill the night before.
 This is David and wife and son.
I invited some professional assistance for moral and knife support.  This is Chef Jayson Lewellyn and his companion, The Good Doctor Gamble.

Once you get the pig in the rack and start with the charcoal, the process itself is fairly straight-forward and requires activity on the cook's part approximately every half-hour, so it leaves plenty of time for socializing and staying hydrated.
Every half-hour you need to either light new charcoal in chimneys so that they're ready to put on top of the box, or actually put them on top of the box, so make sure you have Siri being vigilant with bi-hourly alarms.

 This is what it looked like after six hours.  We flipped it over when the internal temp reached 180. Another hour is necessary for the skin to crisp up. Ideally 187 should be attained, but the natives were getting restless.  Overall, I'd allow 8 hours from the time you start until you want to eat.
Here is Chef Jayson beheading the pig.  We had a lot of kids around and we were worried that they might be put-off by the pig head, but it turns out that the adults were more squeamish about it than they were.  The kids were actually pretty enthralled by the whole thing.
I got to help a bit, though I really just wanted to stay close to the action so I could nibble on the good bits.

 I've been accused of talking someone's ear off before, but this was different.
 Watching the chef go at the pig was entertaining and educational.  I've never seen a whole pig broken down before.
 Here he's separating the tenderloin.
 In just a few minutes it was broken down into pieces that you could pick up and eat with your hands, which seemed to be the favored method.

Mmmm Good.

 Some folks didn't even use their hands!
 We purchased a 70 pound pig, fed about 50 people (there were lots of side dishes as well) and ended up with about 20 pounds of leftover pork.  Definitely worth trying if you've got the inclination.
Thanks for reading.  No vegetarians need comment on this post. 8)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bangkok Joe's....more than just a pretty face

3000 K W. N.W. Washington, DC 20007

 Bangkok Joe's has been around for several years.  I'd been by for a cocktail party at some point, but never got in to have a meal.  Business brought me down to the waterfront, so I figured I'd stop in and have some lunch.
 My friend and I started in with some crab and pork shumai.  Joe's prides itself on dumplings and these were fresh and steamy.  The filling was meaty, without being mealy like some can be.  The scallions in the dipping sauce were crisp.  Nice touch.
 My dining companion had the Pho, though this was far from the standard.  The broth was much richer than what you'd expect and was very substantial.
 I had the fried tofu with basil.  It was mildly spicy and the tofu had a great texture and flavor.  It picked up a lot of the basil sauce.  It wasn't spicy by my standards, but I was afraid to order anything with more than one chili icon next to it on the menu after my snack at Mandalay yesterday.
 It is a pretty face...the headline wasn't misleading.  The fixtures and decoration are unique.  These little meringue-looking puffs were on the far wall.
 This wasn't on our table, but I saw them lighting something a few tables down...snapped a quick photo.  Based on what I could see it's some sort of deconstructed bananas foster with a spun-sugar topper.  Nice.
 If they knew a photographer was in the house the least they could have done was straighten up the chop-stick holders! 
 Neat stuff...are those chrome thingies coat hangers?  Or do they represent the steam coming off the shumai?
 I'm clueless as to the light fixtures, though they are nifty.
Here's another shot of the meringue wall.  There are lights coming down from multiple angles and it looks pretty cool.
Hope you enjoyed my fru-fru pix.  Please feel free to comment.  If you happen to go down there, let them konw you read about it on Pleasures of the Table!
Bangkok Joe's on Urbanspoon