Travel Eats

Irish Whiskey Public House

I received a text from my foodie friend Lisa saying "we are going to the Irish Whiskey Public House, interested?"  Knowing Lisa's excellent taste in restaurants from our year of school together and a working week in Cleveland, I quickly accepted her offer for Easter brunch.

One of the attributes that clearly differentiates good from great is attention to detail.  As you can tell from the pictures, the kitchen staff only sent out precisely prepared and plated food.  The food tasted as good as it looked, with edgy splashes of flavor overlaying traditional favorites.  This theme permeated throughout the "pub", with a sophisticated but comfortable interior designed by Maggie O"Neill.  For us, however, we enjoy one of the handful of outside table on a perfect sunny day in the Dupont Circle area of Washington D.C. 

The dish above is "From the Coast", featuring perfectly seared potato puffs with poached eggs and smoked salmon on soda bread, and covered in gravy.  Simple scrumptious.  

The Cream of Mussel soup with fried mussels and Irish cheddar cheese surprised us with the complex flavor profile in each bite, both blending and separating the taste of the ocean and the cheese.  I will order a bowl of this soup when I bring the family back here.

Lisa's dish, Chipped Corn Beef with gravy over brioche (aka. sh_t on a shingle) and double fried potatoes, spoke of ageless comfort food and tasted exactly as we hoped it would.  The SoS had a special place in my heart as it a traditional favorite in our family.

Having a late breakfast, I chose a lighter option.  Although slightly smaller than I hoped, the scallops blended beautifully with the bacon, red onions, and vinaigrette.

To complement the food, we received excellent service.  Our servers were my favorite type - unpretentious, helpful, and relaxed.  Prices were also quite reasonable.

In addition to great food, the Irish Whiskey Public House is also known for its 50+ brands of whiskey and 50+ mostly craft beers - in case food is not really your thing.  We also recommend the alcoholic apple cider.

If you can catch a beautiful day in D.C. we recommend you sit outside (see how happy the girls look?).  The neighborhood is quiet and the architectural structures remind you that you are in a scenic historic district, not as strip mall.  For us in the end, every one claimed they had the "best" dish.  I am looking forward to returning when Ginny and the girls make it out this way.

Irish Whiskey Public House Bar on Urbanspoon


Aromas Cafe

After skipping breakfast and going for a short hike in the Shenandoah Mountains, we stopped at this highly rated Moroccan and Mediterranean Restaurant in Charlottesville.  Maddy chose the salad, which included marinated chicken, feta cheese, and an assortment of vegetables.

Her friend chose the Chicken Shwarma Wrap.

I choose the Casablanca wrap, with lean beef Kafta with seven spices.  Both wraps came with lettuce, tomato, and Aromas sauce.  The entrees were delicious, although we had a few small quibbles.  The wraps were a little bready for my taste, the food was served lukewarm, and the meat Aroma sauce, which was delicious, was spread too thin to completely season the inner contents.  Again, all small issues, but next time I will remember to ask for a side of Aromas sauce.

The desserts were beautiful.  Above is the traditional baklava.  Below was a special variation with pistachios and grain that tasted like mini-wheat cereal, along with Greek yogurt and a pomegranate reduction.  The desserts were fantastic, although a little steep at $5 and $7.  Note however, that there is no lunch menu - the lunch and dinner menu are one in the same.

Both the service and the food met our expectations, and we know this restaurant is destined to be a hit in Charlottesville. 

Aromas Cafe & Catering on Urbanspoon


DC Noodles

Maddy took a break from studying and joined me in DC this weekend.  After our wintry morning with the red pandas at the National Zoo, we were in the mood for soup.  We plugged "noodle" into the Garmin, and found our way to DC Noodles.  DC regulars may know DC Noodles as the former restaurants of Rice and Simply Home.

The restaurant is clean, smallish, hip, and with a full bar.  This mural greeted us at the entry.

Maddy ordered the chicken with noodles in spicy sauce for $9.  Her dish was beautifully presented, and the broth knit together a sophisticated and complex flavor which warmed the lips but did not burn.  The wide noodles were quite wide at about an 1.5", and tasted a little too noodle-ly for Maddy (she will just order thin noodles next time - it's just preference thing).  The chicken, in strip and minced pieces, was scrumptious.

I chose the Burmese Kao Soi for $14.  While the price seemed a bit high for this curry soup at lunch, Kao Soi is a favorite in our family since our trip to Chiang Mai, and often difficult to find.  Other than an under proportioned amount of beef, the dish was excellent.  The fried noodles and egg noodles in the curry soup tasted wonderful.  Maddy and I licked the bowl clean - figuratively.

DC Noodles gets two thumbs up.  The service was excellent, the atmosphere comfortable and fun, and the noodle dishes tasted great.

DC Noodles on Urbanspoon


Toki Underground

While working the on the computer I spotted tonkatsu on the local news foodie segment.  So I headed out for dinner tonight to Toki Underground, which opened earlier this year.  The restaurant is small, above a pub which greets you with the smell of stale beer.  However, upon entering the upstairs restaurant, you are transported by sound and sight into a hip asian noodle house.  It was nearly full when I arrived a quarter past five.

I started with miso kiwi red potatoes, one of the specials.  I did not really tast the kiwi, but the flavor was good, and the potatoes were cooked perfectly.  Forgetting my tonkatsu ramen mission, I ordered another special instead.  That is okay, I had a feeling I would be back.

Above is the abura tsukemen dish, a soba dish served with an oily, soy based sauce on the side, for dipping.  The noodles were cooked in pork fat and included a generous portion of pork that tasted as if it were cooked in the tonkatsu broth.  The dish also contained sesame and scallions.  The broth tasted like salty tonkatsu broth.  Not really one to follow directions, I ended up pouring the broth into the noodles - tasted awesome.

Quite reasonable and delicious, I will definitely be back.  As with much of DC, parking can be a challenge, and similar to the Ramen places in Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, the restaurant is small and seating does not provide much personal space.  I think my area on the shelf off one of the walls was about 14" by 20".  Like in Asia, I sat on my coat and put my bag on the little shelf for your feet.  The experience may be a little too cozy for some.

Regardless, the food is terrific and the atmosphere is authentic.

Toki Underground on Urbanspoon


Nanami Cafe

The second favorite restaurant we dined in while in Baltimore was Nanami Cafe.  It is situated right on the pier, but offered an excellent selection of sashimi, traditional sushi, and fusion sushi for reasonable prices.  The decor is simple, and you have the option to sit on the floor or at a table.

Our first dish came on a flaming dish.

The fusion sushi was heavy on the sauce, but delicious none-the-less.

For the purest, they served beautiful cuts of sashimi.

All of the fish tasted fresh and looked great.

The highlight of the evening however was the above.  Is is squash?  No!  It is monkfish liver, which has an unbelievable creamy texture and straddles the line between hurling and gastronomic delight.  It was not on the menu, but my experienced friends knew to ask, and we were stoked they had it.

If you are jones-ing for fresh seafood in Baltimore, head to Nanami Cafe.