Category Archives: Restaurants

Lunch at Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop

Leon's

Leon’s

The choice of Leon’s for my first meal in Charleston was easy—it was the only restaurant on my list that served lunch on Sunday instead of brunch. Bottomless mimosas and $20 pancakes hold no attraction for me.

Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop operates out of a converted auto body shop. Can’t get any less pretentious than that.

Seafood Platter

Seafood Platter

The restaurant, which describes itself as a “comfortable Southern joint”, was fun and friendly, with a good mix of families, singles, and dates.  This comfortable Southern joint, though, has been “recognized as a leader in Charleston’s food scene by Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler, New York Times, James Beard Foundation, and Travel & Leisure“.

I thought the food was just OK. I had the Leon’s Fish Fry: Three oysters, three shrimp, three pieces of catfish, two hush puppies, and a side of scalloped potatoes. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the superior platter that Captain White’s Seafood on the Wharf here in Washington offers for the same price, but I wasn’t impressed.

Leon's Interior. Image Found on the Web.

Leon’s Interior. Image Found on the Web.

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Barcode — Lunch on 18 January 2019

Barcode

Barcode

My last lunch of the week was a disappointment. I went to Barcode, which is one of those places that changes identities depending on the time of day. It’s a restaurant at lunch, a Happy Hour hangout—the best in DC, according to the Washington Post—and a bar and lounge from dinner until 2:00 or 3:00 AM.

Bluecrab Chowder

Crab Chowder

The Blue Crab Chowder. with bell peppers and corn, was a fine starter.

I’d arrive early, around noon, and found the cavernous restaurant nearly empty. By the time I finished the chowder, it was half full, and the servers were in the weeds.

Steak and Fries

Steak and Fries

Much later, when the Steak Frites made it to my table, the grilled skirt steak was only moderately warm. I suspect that was because the plate had rested too long on a kitchen countertop waiting for pick-up while my overwhelmed server attended to other tables. I thought about sending it back—something I almost never do—but decided against it, simply because it would take too long to get a replacement.

Meanwhile, the noise level in the now nearly full restaurant had reached stadium levels, and I just wanted to get out of the place ASAP.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

I stayed long enough to eat the Cheesecake topped with strawberry and rhubarb marmalade.

I left Barcode with no interest in returning.

The Monocle — Lunch on 17 January 2019

The Monocle

The Monocle

The Monocle is a Washington Institution. It opened in 1960—that’s 59 years and 10 Presidents ago—as the “first table cloth restaurant” on Capitol Hill. It’s still the closest restaurant to the Senate side of the Capitol building, and its clientele reflects its neighbourhood.

The walls of the main dining room are lined with large photographs of some of the Congressional powerbrokers who dine here. If you’re of a cynical disposition, that might remind you of the days when pictures of FBI’s “The Ten Most Wanted Criminals” hung in every post office lobby. It’s really not exactly the same, though. The Monocle’s photos are in colour, and signed by their suspects subjects.

Image found on the Net

Calamari

Calamari

Fried Calamari with a red pepper aioli. Perfectly fine.

Chopped Steak

Chopped Steak

I wasn’t sure what I’d get when I ordered this Wagyu Chopped Steak. The definition of “Wagyu” has been stretched in any number of directions, to the point where it can mean whatever a restaurateur wants it to mean. And…was I really just asking for an expensive hamburger?

I needn’t have worried. The core of each of these meatballs was filled with melting bleu cheese, which gave the tender beef a welcome and unexpected kick.

As you can see from the sides—String beans and carrots, and mashed potatoes—The Monocle is an American restaurant.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

The nifty thing about my cheesecake dessert is that it came with rum-roasted pineapple instead of strawberries or blueberries.

Bistro Bis — Lunch on 16 January 2019

Bistro Bis

Bistro Bis

It’s the third day of Restaurant Week, and we’re back in DC.  Lunch is on Capitol Hill at Bistro Bis, a stylish restaurant that’s an easy walk from Union Station. From the restaurant’s website:

“From the zinc bar with its tall columns and fabulous fixtures to the tiered dining area with its soft patterned tile floor, Bistro Bis is simply the restaurant on Capitol Hill where diners want to be. Current and sophisticated, warm and intimate, Bistro Bis’ natural cherry interior is a wonderful modern version of a French bistro.”

Image found on the Web.

Image found on the Web.

Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Another day, another ramekin of Onion Soup.

In the extremely unlikely event that I were a judge on Top Chef and had to choose between Bistro Bis’s version of the French classic and yesterday’s serving at La Côte d’Or, I’d probably mumble incoherently and make a dash for the exit, accidentally knocking over a camera and an assistant director along the way.

Both servings were excellent.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

I accept that I am powerless to pass on a plate of Duck Confit. Just look at that golden-brown beauty! You can almost taste the delicious crunchiness of the skin!

The duck leg was served with white beans, duck sausage, frisée, and a garlic and sherry vinegar-thyme gastrique.

Apple Croustade

Apple Croustade

The apples were caramelized and wrapped in a buttery pastry, with a
vanilla bean crème anglaise and calvados sauce.

This lunch at Bistro Bis was the best all-around meals I’ve has so far this week.

La Côte d’Or — Lunch on 15 January 2019

La Cote D'Or

La Cote d’Or

Day Two of Restaurant Week found me in a little French charmer called La Côte d’Or, far out in the Virginia suburb of East Falls Church. (Some people measure out their lives with coffee spoons. I measure mine by the number of Metro stops it takes to get back to Dupont Circle.)

Here’s an online picture of its interior. Could this be anything other than a homey French restaurant?

Image found on the Web.

Unlike the day before, when I’d found Rare Steakhouse nearly deserted, the much smaller La Côte d’Or had a nearly full house.

Onion soup

Onion Soup

I ordered this onion soup despite knowing that I’d also have onion soup at lunch the next day, because it’s winter, and nothing staves off the coldness and gloom of winter like a good French Onion Soup. I’ve never had a bad one.

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin

The Coq au Vin, with the customary bacon, pearl onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and, uh, coq, wasn’t particularly memorable. The sauce was a little thin for my taste, and I would have liked a bit more chicken. Acceptable.

Floating Island

Floating Island

For some reason, I’d thought that Floating islands were a relatively recent innovation. They’re not. According to Wikipedia, Jack London mentioned them a century ago, Richard Olney included a Floating island recipe in the classic Simple French Food, and—Trivia Tip of The Day—they even show up in 1930’s also classic The Hidden Staircase, the second book of the Nancy Drew series!

A Floating Island is made of a meringue floating on a custard sauce. La Côte d’Or’s featured caramel, toasted almond,  and a raspberry on top.

Nice people, fine environment, OK meal.

Rare Steakhouse — Lunch on 14 January 2019

Rare Steakhouse

Rare Steakhouse

It’s that time again! The several Washington-area Restaurant Weeks kicked off last Friday in Bethesda, the Metro RW started on Monday, and the Alexandria RW begins on Friday.

As you probably know, things are even stranger than usual in Washington these days. With much of the government shut down, parts of DC have begun to feel like ghost towns. Rare Steakhouse, the site of my first RW lunch, is on 16th Street, a couple of blocks north of the White House, in prime lawyer/lobbyist territory. Normally, it would be crowded. Maybe it was because of the shutdown, maybe it was because of the weekend’s snowstorm, but there were only about a dozen people in my section of the restaurant.

Photo found on the Web.

Above is a picture I found online of one of the dining rooms at Rare Steakhouse and Tavern. It isn’t the one where I had lunch, but it has the same look and style.

Sourdough Roll

Sourdough Roll

At first, I had no idea what this was. I’d ordered oysters for my appetizer, and wondered if they were being served en croute. I didn’t know whether to attack it by hand, by knife, or by oyster fork.

It was a sourdough roll topped with Parmesan cheese, which I later learned was a specialty of the house, and was served instead of the usual bread basket. It was wonderful.

Orchard Point Oysters DeJonghe

Orchard Point Oysters DeJonghe

Then came the oysters. I think.

It was hard to tell, because they were apparently minced, and practically indistinguishable from the breadcrumbs. I played “Find the Oyster” for a while, to avoid dealing with the very strange green vegetation on the plate. Triffids, maybe? The two bites I took were not encouraging. For me, this dish was a fail.

Duck Breast

Duck Breast

Ah, but the main! Spiced Long Island Duck Breast, served on hearts of palm purée and hot honey, cooked to perfection. I’ve never had duck breast served this way before, and I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing. A+

Pot de Creme

Pot de Creme

It was called a “Bittersweet Chocolate Rocky Road Pot de Creme”, and it was an interesting take on the classic.

Beautiful room, excellent service, and memorable main course (and sourdough roll). Good meal.

Café Hofburg and Hinterholz Bar-Restaurant — The Last of Vienna

I suppose you can tell from the increased frequency of my postings that I’m trying to wrap things up before midnight on 31 December. It’s my final New Year’s Resolution of 2018. A whole new list of highly-unlikely-to-be-completed projects and self-improvements goes into effect on 1 January 2019.

So I’m ending these Vienna notes with this entry about two v different restaurants.


Café Hofburg

Café Hofburg is in the inner courtyard of the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Today the Hofburg is the residence of the President of Austria. I was there to visit three of the Hofburg’s museums: The Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and the Silver Collection.

But first came lunch.

Wiener Schokolade

Wiener Schokolade

Hot chocolate, of course. It was Vienna, and it was late Fall. This drink came with whipped cream and a shot of rum.

Wiener Schnitzel

Another Austrian tradition. For the first time this trip, I had Wiener Schnitzel, with potato salad.

The meal was all right, but, once again, it was the location rather than the food that was the star here. After lunch, I headed for the Silver Collection and the other museums.

Imperial Table Settings

More Imperial Table Settings

For more on the Hofburg museums, including a lot of pictures, check out the posting from my first visit to the Hofburg in 2014.


Hinterholz Bar-Restaurant

Hinterholz

Hinterholz

You might think, on entering Hinterholz Bar-Restaurant, that you were in a classic dive. The first room you see is dimly lit and a bit shabby. As Raymond Chandler once wrote about another location, “a great deal of expense had been spared” on the decor. The sound system played mostly American rock from the 60s – 80s. Occasionally you might catch a whiff of marijuana from the Hemp Box Cafe next door.

But there’s a lot more to Hinterholz than that first room. You can explore the Hinterholz in 360° here.

I really liked this place. It had no pretensions and no attitude. The food was both good and hardy, and the portions were huge, even by American standards.

Traditioneller Zwiebelrostraten

Traditioneller Zwiebelrostraten

This was my braised beef with onions and roasted potatoes. It was priced moderately for a single portion, but the dish would have easily served two.

I liked it so much that I returned a couple of days later.


And that’s it for both my 2018 Fall trip and for my postings for the year.

Best wishes to all, for a much better 2019!