Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pulpo...Hidden Gem of Cleveland Park

3407 Connecticut Avenue NW, 
Washington DC 20008

I received an email saying I should check out this place in Cleveland Park named Pulpo. Strangely enough, I'd just walked by it that same day and thought, "Hey, I should check this place out. Wonder what it's all about....'
Cheryl, Alex and I didn't have anything to do on this particular Saturday. We're usually busy with some sort of kid-related activity or having dinner in the 'burbs with neighbors, but not this time. I talked them into indulging me in a little dinner down town.
Turns out the chef here is none other than Billy Klein. Alum of Cafe St. Ex. I'd heard he did good food and was stoked to give it a shot.
Kitchens like this make me want to get back in the business. Pretty. Shiny.
As I often do in places with small plates, I told the waiter that we were adventurous, had no allergies, and that he should have his way with us. Glad I did. We started out with several plates to share. The first was a salad with good flavors, crunch, and some candied grapefruit, fresh grapefruit and feta.
The second was the bacon brussel sprouts. These guys go through a lot of pig as you'll see in the following pictures. These weren't just tossed with bacon, they were braised with a LOT of it. Awesome.

Blistered Padron Peppers made their way to our table. These are neat because they have a huge amount of pepper flavor, but they don't light you up.
This was the Brisket Ropa Vieja. My previous experiences with ropa vieja weren't nearly so memorable. Generally some seasoned mushy beef. This brisket was the bomb. Alex ate most of it while I was taking pictures of the pork belly. The brisket is served on top of a crispy tostone and black beans. Excellent textures to accompany the flavors.
Cheryl took a bite of this and gave me that look. I don't see it often. It's the one that says, "This is better than yours." meaning that we were in the middle of a special meal.
This pork belly had been braised and pressed, then crisped. My preferred methode. Bravo Billy. Crispy on the outside, unctuous and creamy on the inside.
Mac n' Cheese with 1/4 lb of bacon. What's not to like? Great cheese combination as well.
The scallops were seared to perfection (one side only please) and sat on sweet corn puree with some spicy/salty popcorn. The sweetcorn and popcorn puree mixed together was like a mad-scientist's kettle corn. Awesome.

Pulpo: The signature dish here. Very tender, with the suckers stripped off. Normally the family isn't big on octopus. I didn't tell them what it was, just said to try it. Very good.
Alex asked specifically for the calamari, but this wasn't what he was expecting. No fried rings. I should have warned him, but then again, if I had I wouldn't have had a chance to try them. Perfectly roasted, tender, and flavored with a basil walnut pesto.
After all the seafood, we cried uncle. Alex pleaded for dessert, so I gave in. Pretty easily. The first was a Tres Leches, also unlike the classic one might expect. It was a fresh look at the ingredients of the standard and executed very well.
I have the same sentiments about the bread pudding you see here. Crisp and chocolaty on the outside and light on the inside. Cheryl liked this one best, but I could easily have both. 

I'm amazed that I hadn't heard about this place before. An old friend of mine I'd met back in the Caucus Room days is the GM: Dave Hansen. I love what he and Billy Klein are doing here and I'm sure we'll see a lot of good things come out of this kitchen.
If you stop in, make sure you tell them where you read about it.
Bon appetit!

Pulpo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gregorio's - Family Food in Potomac

Gregorio's Trattoria - Potomac
7745 Tuckerman Lane 
Potomac, MD
There's a new Italian restaurant in town, and I'm glad to welcome them to Potomac.
Gregorio's is a family-friendly restaurant. It's casual and reminds me of a lot of little restaurants you'd come across in New Jersey. It's owned by the Kahn family. They've been around the area for a long time dealing with a lot of restaurants as vendors, and now they own two. This is their second location, the first being in Reston.
They start you out with some warm bread sticks that fills the air with a great cloud of garlic. That always gets my appetite working.
The wine list has a good selection and plenty of bottles that don't require an expense account. If I remember correctly they are happy to go by the glass on most selections.
We started with some Calamari.
Fried nicely. It got to the table hot and crunchy. They took the right route with the breading. Not so heavy that it falls off, very mildly seasoned.
We had the Mozzarella Caprese. Good end-of-summer tomatoes with fresh mozz. 
They shook my up Manhattan, but we had a discussion about that..
Grandma was in town, so she got to join us. Even Grandmas like the food here!
They've got a comfortable bar to hang out and have a drink. They're just getting started on the bar program. I'll be interested to see how it progresses. It's nice to have a place to go and have a cocktail that's close by.
Their pizzas are good. We've ordered take out from them a couple of times now. Much better than the other locally available pies.
Pizza chef!
Alex had the pasta with sausage and meatballs. Good flavor to the meats.
.I had the veal chop Carmine style with herbed garlic butter. They were happy to switch out my pasta for some sauteed spinach. I have to say that the veal chop was done perfectly and was the most tender I've ever had. I've eaten a lot of veal chops, so that is saying something.
On a side note, they have dishes for gluten-free and carb-free folks. The carb-free lunch plate was really good and just the right size.
Cheryl had the linguini with clams. Not as good as mine, but, then again, whose is? Legal Seafoods tought me well.  I can say that it wasn't lacking for flavor and the clams had been washed well. The sauce is flavorful and there were plenty of clams.
Hello there tasty bivalves!
Grandma had the eggplant parm. I didn't get to try it, but she liked it.
We had to try a couple of deserts. The flourless chocolate tort was perfect. Rich and decadent.
The cannoli was the best I've had since Piancone's in New Jersey. Exactly the right amount of sugar and vanilla in the marscapone. 
The tiramisu was exactly as it should be. Give it a taste if you can fit some in after the cannoli.
Overall, a great place you can go and get a slice of decent pizza at lunch or have a good dinner with your family without driving downtown or breaking the bank. If you live in the area, it's definitely worth checking out. Their sign is small and they opened quietly. Now that they've got their sea-legs under them, give them a shot.
If you go, let Greg know that you heard about it on Pleasures of the Table.
Gregorio's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mala Ocean Tavern - Our Aloha Meal....and Mahalo.

1307 Front Street, Lahaina
On the Island Of Maui, Hawaii 96761
Lahaina is a quaint town that used to be the capital of Hawaii. I've heard that it's rocking and it has a Hard Rock Cafe and a few other chains that might lead you to think that it's THE party place. I drove through at 2:00am on the way to my fishing trip and it was so quite you could hear a pin drop. Regardless, it's home to a few good restaurants right along the ocean. Mala Ocean Tavern is one of them. It came recommended by an old friend who'd been here before.
They start you out with salsa and hummus. I liked the volcanic rock mortar it is served in along with the house-made chips.
This was my last Mai Tai of the trip, and one of the better ones. Cheryl had a Spunky Monkey. The kids got a kick out of that.
We started with some calamari. It came with Mojo Verde and fried lemons. Nicely done.

I had the Hoison glazed ribs with purple mashed potatoes and a peanut/edamame/coconut sauce. The ribs were more lean than I'm used to but very tasty.
Cheryl had the Big Fat Greek salad with some Mahi Mahi. Great presentation and very big.

Mugging for the can tell they were road-weary and ready to head out. We were actually on our way to the airport and Lahaina was our last stop. Note the lack of a roof...this is a cool place.
We were all full, and tired, however, we couldn't pass up this dessert. The description hooked us. Vanilla Macadamia Nut brittle ice cream with house-made caramel sauce. What's not to like?
And so ended our culinary tour of the 50th state to join our union. It was a grand adventure. I hope you've enjoyed reading about some of the great restaurants we visited and if you do happen to go to any of them, please tell them where you read about them.
Aloha and mahalo.
Mala Ocean Tavern on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Poolside Bar & Grill at The Ritz Carlton Kapalua - Casual, but still Ritzy

Poolside Bar & Cafe
Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
1 Ritz-Carlton Drive
Maui, Hawaii

Sometimes you need a little luxury. The pool at the Ritz is pretty swank. The place we ate was the most casual restaurant on property. We'd decided to spend a few hours just relaxing by the pool and decided to have some lunch. 
Just to preface this, we had stopped here earlier in the week and had what I, and all of my companions thought was, the absolute best pina colada ever created.  No lie.
Alex had the tuna sashimi. I'm about to out my palate here and say that the raw tuna I had was pretty much indistinguishable from the next restaurant's in Maui. It was all good, and all very fresh.

Michael had the flat-bread bbq chicken. Respectable, but nothing to knock your socks off.
I had the fish tacos. Grilled Mahi as fresh as it gets..could have been caught that morning, maybe the day before.
The atmosphere and service is what you're paying for here. Everyone was as gracious as could be. The grounds are immaculate and they'll cart you around on a 4-seat golf cart if you prefer. The area we were in had the pool on one side, then a bocce ball area, then the view stretched to the ocean.
Beautiful way to burn an afternoon.

Thanks for reading.