For the month of August, yes I know it’s September, I wanted to try a “different” cuisine. I usually stick with traditional american, french, soul food, but I’ve yet to venture out to different cuisines such as Korean and Mediterranean foods. I decided to try out this restaurant that I pass by frequently when I go downtown D.C. towards Chinatown. I was told that this restaurant was a fan favorite, and it’s a Jose Andres restaurant so it should be filled with high expectations. If you’re unfamiliar who Jose Andres is, he’s a Spanish-American chef often credited for bringing the small plates dining concept to America. He owns restaurants in Washington DC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, South Beach, Dorado and Philadelphia. One of his restaurants called Barmini was ranked one of the top 50 restaurants in the United States. I haven’t been because it takes about 5 months to get a reservation, but it also costs a lot of money.
What attracted me most about this restaurant were the prices. No item on the menu that I ordered was over $14, so that’s always a plus. I was able to order five dishes ranging from grape leaves to octopus. The interior of this restaurant is absolutely beautiful, and I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a “date night” spot, because there are plenty of things to do around the area. The restaurant has high ceilings, tables that are not crowded next to each other, and huge windows that make for a nice setting during the evening.
The first dish that was ordered were the Grape Leaves. The Grape Leaves were stuffed with rice, tomato, fennel, pine nuts, sultanas, and served with labneh. Either I need to visit the dentist for a cavity check or this was the sweetest dish I’ve ever had in my life. The dish was so sweet I couldn’t finish it. Fortunately I had a waiter that was understanding and took the actual dish off the bill. I thought this Grape Leaf would be warm, but it was cold, so that was slightly disappointing. The labneh, which is comparable to a greek yogurt, was sweet as well. It didn’t make sense to have a “dessert” as an appetizer.
The second dish that was ordered was the Mushroom Couscous. It consisted of traditional Lebanese-style pearl couscous, peas, mushrooms, and garlic toum. This was my favorite dish of the night. The couscous was cooked and seasoned perfectly and peas added the earthy taste the dish needed. The only thing about this dish that I would change is their ability to add more mushrooms. Had I known the dish would only come with three pieces of mushrooms I would’ve told them to add more. I love mushrooms and can eat them every day. This is a great dish for someone who’s doing a “meatless Monday” or one that’s a vegetarian.
The third dish that was ordered was the Falafel. It’s traditional chickpea fritters with tahini sauce. This dish was okay, as it wasn’t something I would traditionally order. I did want to order something “new”, so I figured I’d go with this dish. The sauce that accompanied with Chickpea Fritters were sweet and that worked well with the bitter flavor of the fritters. The dish is presented beautifully, and is a site for sore eyes. I am excited that I ordered this dish as I finally know what Chickpea Fritters (Falafel) taste like.
The fourth dish that was ordered was the Bantijan Bil Laban. I haven’t had enough eggplant to like it or dislike it so I decided to order it. The crispy eggplant and roasted garlic-yogurt sauce was one of my favorite dishes of the night. It taste like fried zucchini that my mother used to make growing up. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and honestly wish I would’ve ordered more. The crispy eggplant was exactly what it says. Crispy on the outside, but it was soft in the inside. If you decide to go to this restaurant this would be something I’d recommend that you order.
Last but not least we have a dish that I knew I would like. I ordered the Octopus Santori, which consisted of grilled Mediterranean octopus, marinated onions, capers, and yellow split pea puree. The Octopus was absolutely amazing. It was packed with flavor, juicy, chewy, and sweet. The yellow split pea puree was light, moist, and had almost a nutty flavor to it. It was a different feeling of having all of these different flavors explode in my mouth at once. If you’ve never had Octopus, now is the time to order it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Overall, this restaurant is a go to. If you’re looking for something inexpensive and something different than your traditional meals, then this place will be for you. Make sure you decide to go to this place if you’re on a date night. I’m sure it’ll be close to one of the places you have your date at around the area.