Friday, December 28, 2012

Washington Weekend

I have about 5,000 things I want to write about, all flying through my brain, but it all brought me to that procrastination point where I just didn't write about anything at all. Oddly, I woke up this morning feeling a) like I'm catching a cold, but also b) more rested than I had been in weeks. Which is weird, but I'll take it (and some cold meds) and move on.

That said, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas holiday.

We kept it simple this year, and according to the news reports, it sounds like a lot of other people were holding back as well. I figured that would happen. Anyways, we took a quick trip to Washington D.C. last weekend as a small gift to ourselves and to finish our Christmas shopping.

Washington is driving distance from here at The Hundred Acre Wood, and Hubby got a hotel discount for all the traveling he does for work. So other than food, it was a relatively frugal trip.

We decided to stick to Georgetown – no monuments or museums this time. Georgetown has innumerable great restaurants, and you could literally walk from Glover Park, down Wisconsin to M, and pick a new restaurant every night. It would probably take months to get through them all.

We stuck with three: Sushi Ko, The Tombs and Old Europe, so this will probably sound more like a restaurant review than a real post. But hey, just sharing in case anyone has the opportunity to get down to D.C.

Sushi Ko isn't fancy, just a tiny restaurant with simple formica tables and a spartan décor. It opened 36 years ago and has the distinction of being Washington's oldest sushi restaurant. It is also refreshingly inexpensive for a D. C. restaurant.

The sashimi and nigiri were perfect. Very thinly sliced. Many sushi restaurants seem to go for “American sizes” and make the fish too thick, which can often be too chewy to be enjoyable. The Beef Kushi-Yaki (beef on skewers) was lightly marinated (in what, I do not know, but it was delicious) and tender. Just perfect.

The food is consistently high quality, and I have to say it was the best Japanese experience I've had. Which I should explain...

I've been to several excellent Japanese restaurants in the last 20 years. The two others that stand out for me would be Morimoto in Philadelphia and Kome in Allentown. Up until this point, Kome has been at the top of my list.

Morimoto (Iron Chef Morimoto) was outstanding until our last experience a few years ago. Our first visit was shortly after it opened in 2001. It was amazing and unbelievably expensive, but truly an incredible dining experience. I could certainly understand why everyone raved about Morimoto-san's skills.

However, this was his first restaurant after leaving Nobu in New York, and at that time he was physically involved. During our first few visits he could be found making sushi and visiting each table, making sure everything was perfect (it was oddly surreal having someone you watch on TV stop at your table to check on your dining experience, but a seriously nice touch). About five years later we stopped in to celebrate Daughter's birthday and it was not a good experience. The sushi was sloppy and the “Kobe” sirloin was burnt. Thinking it was a one-off, we went back again a year later, but it still wasn't the same as it had been.

It may be that after Mr. Morimoto opened a few more restaurants, he was no longer overseeing things in Philadelphia. However, Google tells me that Zagat's is giving it 28 out of 30 now, so maybe it's time to give it another shot.

I'm told Kome in Allentown has some connection to Morimoto, some say the owner or chef worked there at one point, but I haven't found anything on Google to prove that. However, it has been consistently outstanding for the past four years. It's a beautiful place, very trendy and they make a fab martini. And of course, the food is wonderful. Kome had been Daughter's favorite restaurant until our Sushi Ko experience. Now she's got even more incentive to go to school in D.C.

Our second day in D. C. meant getting Daughter out of bed before noon. But she had incentive – there would be shopping. Although, she didn't realize that while Georgetown did have the standard “mall fare” like Banana Republic and Sephora, it mostly had trendy mom-and-pop shops, antique and second hand stores, high-end stores like Barbour, Hugo Boss and Dean and Deluca, as well as European clothing stores like H & M and Benetton - none of which she had heard of before.

We started at Georgetown University, which was a ghost town. Since it was the weekend before Christmas, everyone was gone. It was actually pretty neat being the only people there. It was also freezing cold, because the storm that blew through the Midwest earlier that week was sending gale force winds through the East, and D. C. wasn't spared. After about an hour of poking around the school, we headed over to the 1789 restaurant, which is just off campus.

The 1789 is one of Georgetown's best restaurants, but our destination was actually it's rathskeller, The Tombs. Years ago, it had been a dark pub with just enough room to circumnavigate the square wooden bar. It's been redecorated in the last ten years, adding a restaurant area and more lighting. I'm not crazy about that. I preferred it cramped and dark. Heh.

Anyway, my understanding is that The Tombs shares the kitchen space with the 1789, and the food was outstanding.

After lunch, we spent several hours walking it off and exploring the pretty row houses and the shops. Headed down to M street, then up Wisconsin Avenue to Glover Park. I found the same old book store that I visited during my last trip to D. C., years ago. It's situated in the basement of a 150 year old brick row home, with stairs so narrow and steep they resemble little more than a cement ladder. Then, once inside, it opens up into a maze of bookshelves. I love places like that.

By this time it was getting late, so we stopped at Old Europe for dinner. Conveniently, it happens to be practically across the street from Sushi Ko, so we really didn't stray much.

Old Europe is a German restaurant with a standard fare of sausages, schnitzels and Sauerbraten. For December, it had a special menu dedicated to it's Wild Game Season. We tried the wild boar sausages for an appetizer, which were done with some kind of wine sauce and spiced apple slices on the side. I've never had that before, but they were so good I'm looking into trying to find some locally. Hubby went with the Sauerbraten, his personal favorite, Daughter was unadventurous with a sirloin, and I had the venison goulash. Venison has always been hit or miss with me, so it was a tough choice. This seemed to be slow cooked like a stew, then served in a kind of pastry shell. Each bite sized piece was fall-apart tender, and spiced just right.

Again, this is another restaurant I'll miss until we visit again in a few years. Thankfully, Old Europe has been in operation for 50 years and seems to be doing phenomenally well, so I expect it will still be there when we finally get back to Washington again.

No comments: