Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Daikaya Izakaya - Stairway to Umami!

Daikaya Izakay (upstairs)
705 6th St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001


Out of the blue on a Friday morning my friend Mike Pentacost, who I haven't seen in 17 years, called me, said he was in town, and asked if I had time to go grab a beer. I said no, let's get dinner! I've been meaning to try this place out downtown called Daikaya Izakaya. He was game, so we went! It started out with a cocktail at one of my favorite places in DC, Graffiato, an Empire State of Mind, natch. When our reservation time rolled around we walked up the stairs to the Izakaya.

 We asked the server to order for us, as I like to do, and he came back with two Sake Bombs. This is beer with an encapsulated shot of Sake for those of you who haven't already read a review of the restaurant. It is a pleasant ice breaker and sets the stage. It also hearkens back to Exec Chef Katsuya's days at minibar.
 The food started showing up pretty shortly thereafter. This is the Mizuna Salad. Burrata, tomatoes and dashi gelee. Pretty and light.
This is the Tuna Poke. Basically chunks of raw tuna with seaweed and pine nuts. This was the dish were I found that my dining companion was allergic to nuts. More for me!
This is the Cucumber Salad. Not as phallic as the very penile lamb dish at Rasika West End, but only because it was made of cucumber. 
This is the Wasabi Octopus. Little pieces of everything chopped up and tossed in a nice olive oil...some little wasabi sprouts, apples. Nice. 
Grilled Rappahanock Oysters with Sake and Oyster Salt. Interesting.
The Of Hearth and Home. I liked this a lot. Rye, Anise, some nice bitters. Very tasty.
Edamame with garlic, EVO, lemon, and chili. A thoughtful spin on a classic.
This dish, this little un-assuming plate, was the winner of the evening. Egg 3 Ways. It was a special. Even if you just stop by, order one of these at the bar, and don't have anything else, you'll be a happy person. It was an Onsen egg, which is cooked to about 70 degrees, uni, and house-cured salmon roe along with some house-aged ponzu. This dish was one of the most savory, umami-tasting things I've ever eaten. The balance was perfect. 
It may not look that stunning, but it tasted like heaven.

The grilled avocado.  An interesting presentation. I may have to try this at home. It had fresh wasabi, ponzu, and nori salt. 
These were tasty little buggers...Crab Croquettes. The Tonkatsu sauce added a nice touch to the familiar Old Bay seasoning.

2nd favorite dish of the evening: Bacon wrapped enoki mushrooms. Very nicely done. Good bacon too!
Nice presentation and flavors, but for this one to rank it would have to be cooked a bit longer. I like my quail falling off the bone and this one was a little tough. 
These were the pork belly and brussels sprout skewers...fav dish #3.Definitely worth a shot. 

Overall impression? A fun place to go and get some unique items, or at least they were unique enough that I haven't had anything like them, and I do some eating around. 
It's architecturally creative, it's got a rock and roll vibe, and there are some very cool customers working there. Service was always right there and we wanted for nothing.
Next time you're down in Penn Quarter stop in. Say hi to Katsuya and James for me. Tell them you read about it on Pleasures of the Table. 
Daikaya on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Le Diplomate....Stephen Starr brings the cabaret act to DC

Le Diplomate
1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Stephen Starr's new restaurant in DC, Le Diplomate, is open and cranking. 
I scored a reservation for 7:00 last Friday and had a chance to run through some of the menu. 
This is the station where the servers put together your bread basket. It is right next to the host stand and is quite the tease.
Here's what it looks like when it gets to your table.  The baguettes were my favorite. Crusty, airy, authentic. Don't fill up on the bread though....better things await.
We had two youngin's with us, and the plan was for them to split an appetizer and then split an entree. Due to a lucky mistake they were able to get a couple of appetizers, the first being this mac n' cheese. Very tasty. The Panko topping was perfect and there was an herby component to it.
Naturally, I had the fois and chicken liver mousse. Very light and tasty. I wouldn't bother with the toast though.  The baguette was a perfect vehicle for the mousse.
One of the managers who happens to be a friend of mine dropped off a few extra appetizers for us to try.  This was the Mushroom Tart.  It's got Pioppini mushrooms and truffled Pecorino cheese. Earthy, flaky, and scrumptious is what that was. 
This is the Steak Tartare de Parc. It was served with a raw quail egg. Nice touch. The meat had great texture. Lots of horse radish, capers, and mustard. 
I stole a bite of the ravioli from my son. Nice execution. The ricotta was silky smooth.

This was the Duck dish that the kids shared. Confit and breast. The confit was perfect. The breast, unfortunately, was not. Too tough to bother chewing when everything else was so good. No one bats .1000 right? 
I had the Dover Sole. It was a very nice preparation.
My wife had the Trout Amandine. Her dish was my second favorite, right after the confit. 
The lemon browned butter and crispy almonds were just right...
We shared a couple of desserts as well.  This was a conversation piece: An interesting take on a Napoleon. It tasted as good as it looked.

Is that an intentional volcano in my Vietnamese Coffee? Crafty.

 It's meant to be casual and does a good job at it. There were people in little black dresses...and there were people there in shorts and flip flops. It's got a great vibe and it's exactly what it's supposed to be. A cafe. They serve brunch and dinner. I'd bet that they will open for lunch at some point.
If I were in the area and wanted some quality French food in a casual atmosphere, I'd be there in a heartbeat.
Well done Team Starr.

Le Diplomate on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Waypoint Seafood & Grill...A Great Find in Williamsburg

Waypoint Seafood and Grill
1480 Quarterpath Rd.
Williamsburg, VA 23185

So here's how this one started: My son wanted to go to Great Wolf Lodge with a few of his friends for his birthday. We decided it would be a fun over-nighter for them, but wanted to have an adult meal, in a quiet restaurant to celebrate our wedding anniversary (two years before my son's birthday for those who just snickered), without 1,000 screaming, sugared-up, soaking wet kids. I called one of my co-workers who handles that area and he suggested The Waypoint Grill.

I made my reservations and did a little research. The executive chef and owner is a man named Hans Schadler. He was formerly the executive chef of The Williamsburg Inn. He was in the dining room when we arrived and chatted with us for a while. I asked if he was interested in doing a tasting menu for us instead of having us order and he said he'd send his Chef de Cuisine out to talk to us about our dinner. Enter Kyle Woodruff.  Kyle, who was recently voted Chef of the Year by the Virginia Chef's Association, had his A-game with him that night.
 Kyle started us out with Waypoint Oysters which were local York River oysters baked with Virginia Ham, spinach, and Bearnaise. Nicely done. Served over a bed of large-crystal salt with some toasty herbs. This was paired with a brut cava if memory serves.
 After the oysters, out came a dish of Shellfish and Grits. The grits were ground locally and the dish was topped with lobster, a scallop, and a shrimp. It was served with lobster nage and was nicely layered with acid from the wine and some citrus. My wife said the grits were better than mine.
 Here's a better look.
This was my wife's favorite dish.  The K&J Asparagus Salad. It had marinated asparagus, house-made finnochionna, Green Hill cheese, fig compote, greens, and a gremolata vinaigrette. The finnochionna was excellent. lots of flavor. Cheryl went bonkers about the vinaigrette.  I'm going to have to make some of that...
Is that you, honey?
This is a Surryano wrapped snapper with cannelloni bean puree and a citrus herb vinaigrette. There was a lot of crunch and the ham brought a nice salty finish to the fish.
This was a house-made strawberry-orange sorbet sprinkled with a little champagne.  A nice intermezzo.
Here's where we got to the big finale. This dish is what I'll remember for years. The Tenderloin Oscar. The steak was perfectly done and seasoned. While I'm on that subject, I usually dislike it when there is no salt on the table, but it wasn't required here. EVERYTHING we had was seasoned just right.  Anyhow, back to the dish. There was Bearnaise on one side and Bordalaise on the other. The steak sat atop a blue crab/potato brendade, and there was a little pile of lump crab meat to the side. There were also some crispy-fried onions on top. Unfortunately, the light began to fail me here so I didn't get any pictures that would do this plate justice. I'd come back here for this dish and a glass of the wine they paired it with and leave happy.
Strawberries were in season, so we had a little trio of bites to try, each with strawberry.  The country-style shortcake in the forefront was my favorite.  The biscuit was perfect, house-made with butter and lard (Southern cooking at it's best.)
Here is a picture of me, food and wined-out, stopping in the kitchen to say thanks to the very talented Chef Kyle Woodruff. He's a young gun and I expect we'll see great things from him in the future.

Overall, a tremendous experience and a very good value. If you happen to be in Williamsburg it would be your loss not to stop in for a meal. 

Thanks for reading.  If you go, tell them you read about it on Pleasures of the Table.
Waypoint Seafood and Grill on Urbanspoon