Category Archives: Restaurants

Dinner at R Table

R Table

R Table

Oh, this was fun!

The nondescript little building in the picture is R Table. As its website makes clear, it’s a kitchen, not a restaurant. There’s no sign on the building identifying it, and no menu in the window, because there’s no menu.

R Kitchen offers two sittings each night, one at 6 PM and one at 8 PM.  Guests don’t know what they’ll be eating until they arrive, only that it will be a five-course tasting menu.

There’s space for 20 on a covered patio, but the preferred seats are the 16 places at or near the bar in the kitchen, where you can see and hear the chefs at work.

Here’s what they served the night I was there:

Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Soup

Salad Preparation

Salad Preparation

Salad

Salad

Duck Taco

Duck Taco

Rib Eye Preparation

Rib Eye Preparation

Rib Eye

Rib Eye

Deconstructed Apple Pie

Deconstructed Apple Pie

What an enjoyable evening! Delicious food, a happy environment, and a new experience. On top of it all, I met some really nice people before, during, and after the meal. Couldn’t ask for more.

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Lunch at Magnolias

Magnolias

Magnolias

Magnolias, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, was one of the restaurants that paved the way for Charleston’s emergence as a great American food city.*

The cool elegance and upscale Southern cuisine of Magnolias was a sharp contrast to that “comfortable Southern joint” vibe at Leon’s.  I suppose that comparing the two is apples and oranges, but both the food and the service at Magnolias were on a much higher plane.

Chili

The short rib chili was one of the day’s specials, and I’m so glad it was. I’m a chili aficionado from way back, and this was one of the best examples of the art form that I’ve ever tasted.

Those large croutons are cornbread. Croutons on chili?  Cornbread croutons on chili? Whatever. It worked.

Seafood on Grits

Seafood on Grits

My main was Shellfish over Grits, another updated version of a Southern standard. This one contained sea scallops as well as the traditional sautéed shrimp, lobster butter sauce, creamy white grits, and fried spinach on top. Memorable.

Gotta mention that my server was also memorable, not only because he was knowledgeable and amusing, but also because he assured me that all of my choices were absolutely brilliant. I had to admire his perception, and tipped accordingly.


Here’s a promotional video showing Magnolias in action:


*According to The Washington Post‘s restaurant critic, Tom Sietsema, the 10 Best American Food Cities are, in no particular order, Charleston, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland (OR), Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington DC.

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.

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.