It’s the Year of the Dragon folks, which other than promising good fortune and fire-breathing glory also means mouth-watering Chinese menus at some of DC’s best Asian haunts. Starting January 23rd Zentan, Toki Underground, and The Source will be paying homage to the Dragon through the culinary traditions of the Chinese New Year.
Now, for some brain food. The Dragon, also known as the divine beast, is the fifth sign of the Chinese Zodiac Calendar which consists of 12 animal signs, and is a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense power. The official Chinese New Year is Monday, January 23rd and is celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving, for a whole 15 days. Traditional foods include a whole fish (represents unity and abundance), chicken (for prosperity), uncut noodles (representing long life) and dumplings (for good fortune).
So, where can you get your Dragon on and eat for good luck?
Some might say there’s nothing better than biting into a sweet, juicy wedge of watermelon in the summertime. So to take that watermelon to the next level, you’ll find chef Jaime Montes de Oca’s recipe for a watermelon salad with mint, feta and a black pepper vinaigrette after the jump. It’s incredibly easy to make, and the soy sauce and black pepper with the sweetness of the watermelon and saltiness of the feta make for a great and refreshing combination. You can make it an hour or so in advance, although this is not a salad that needs time to marinate. Enjoy it on a picnic or underneath the breeze of a fan on a hot summer’s day.
There are a handful of characters in one’s life that can really have a profound affect on the shape of your life and career. For Jaime Montes de Oca, the executive chef at Zentan, there are three women who drove him to cook: his grandmother, a Colombian nanny he had growing up and Nancy, a kitchen manager/chef who worked with him when he was in high school.
“I would stand and watch [our nanny] cook and I would help prepare food with her,” says Jaime. “It was a creative outlet, a creative way to fill mouths and stomachs.” When Jaime grew up and started working in the front of the house at a “turn and burn” restaurant at a Holiday Inn, Nancy was the one who advised him to go to culinary school if he was going to be serious about working in the restaurant industry.
Following years of working kitchens across New York City, Thompson Hotels (the owners of the Donovan House which is home to Zentan) sent Jaime down to DC to try to convince him to take a job in Susur Lee’s restaurant. For someone who grew up in New York and has lived in almost all five boroughs, Jaime was slightly hesitant to pick up and move. “They showed me the brand new kitchen and talked about what I could do here in DC,” he says. “Looking back on it, it was the right decision. DC is having a renaissance with restaurants and hotels. A lot more young people are coming here. If DC continues on the path it’s going, it will become a food capital. We’re getting very close.”
After last month’s time as a vegan, I felt this month I owed it to my grease-loving, carb-loading, over-eating side to indulge. And indulge I did. I ate more burgers and subs this month than I do in a normal calendar year, and I seriously think I’m better for it (though my cholesterol probably has something different to say about that). Two trips to Taylor Gourmet, where I learned that though I love an Italian hoagie, I am officially a cutlet hoagie girl, and a road trip full of gravy-loaded dinners made for a happy and not so healthy customer. Maybe next month will be better? Because December is such a great month for eating healthy, working out, and getting lots of sleep…or something…
Rooftop. Pool. Sushi. Those are pretty much the only ingredients I need to be happy. And you know where you can get those three things all in one place? The rooftop at the Donovan House Hotel.
The rooftop at the Donovan House overlooks Thomas Circle, where you can sip cocktails and nosh on grilled skewers, like teriyaki pork belly, and miso and brown sugar glazed vegetables (a selection of 5 for $15) paired with sushi and sashimi (a platter of three six-piece rolls for $25), courtesy of the in-house Zentan restaurant.
Zentan also features my newest drink obsession, Canton Ginger Liquor, a deliciously dangerous sweet and spicy liquor that you can pour into champagne with ground cherries for a deadly, gorgeous cocktail.
It’s not exactly budget dining, per-se, but it sure does come with a view.
I usually use this intro text in Eat Like Me to pontificate ($10 word! I win!) on what part of dining out in DC I’ve been thinking most about recently. This month I’ve been thinking more about styles of restaurants.
I would be the wrong person to be food editor if I didn’t say that I love every kind of restaurant, and have an affection for most styles of restaurants. I can get behind a chinatown hole in the wall, and love a simple stainless steel tea kettle just as much as I can get behind a Georgetown patio with fire pits and fancy cocktails. I’ve been mostly thinking about what draws me in and makes me love a place more than another.
I think it’s in the details. (For me, most things are in the details.) I think about the places that I love eternally – Againn, Et Voila!, Westend Bistro, and have been trying to figure out what strings them together, aside from the obvious good food. At Againn, aside from the seasonal, thoughtful food, I love the details of the restaurant – the tiles that line the walls are the same tiles used in the London Underground. The fox and hound door knockers on the bathroom are something I make sure to point out to anyone who goes to Againn with me. And the details bring me back to Et Voila!, too. They serve coffee with steamed milk, and wrap fries in newsprint. The skylight adds sunlight and charm. Westend Bistro’s pass lets me take a look into the belly of the operation, and makes me appreciate the work that goes into the food. I’m starting to believe it’s the little things that bring me back to a place time and time again. It’s the little things that make me answer my most hated question of “What is your favorite restaurant” with a different answer each time.
This month the details were where it’s at. Birch and Barley’s pastries, an addition of wasabi to mashed potatoes at Zentan, and the perfect whipped frosting on a Georgetown Cupcake. Lovely, subtle details are available at every type of restaurant, but here are the best of the best of April. Continue reading →
People ask me all the time if they can have my job. NO! Mine. Well, you can have my day job, but you’d have to fight me to the death for my foodie blogging job. And it would be your death, not mine. Along the way, through press dinners, media previews, nights out with friends, and places I’m reviewing for our We Love Food feature, I run into some damn good dishes (for up-to-the minute reviews, follow me on Twitter). Forkful after forkful, I wind up eating some dishes that make me think back with ultimate fondness, and leave me longing for them. Last month I told you all about with them in a little piece I called Eat Like Me. It was so popular with you guys, and I enjoyed writing it so much, that I decided I’ll do it every month. Sort of like a what’s worth it of my food intake – a satoralist of food, if you will.
So. June. It was rainy, right? Ugh. But it was also chock full of food for me, my calendar was overwhelming. June is a busy month in the foodie world. New warm weather menus come hot off the presses, restaurants open their doors to hungry summer crowds, and my friends want to eat out more. It’s pretty glorious. So, click on through to see what made the cut. Continue reading →
Good Friday Morning, Washington! How are you out there? Is that, actual, like, sun? WHAT? Here I was thinking we had turned into the Amazon. I had bought a mosquito net and everything. But just in time for a *hopefully* sunny weekend, here’s all the news fit to eat in the District this week. We’ve got the Washingtonian Best Of Washington Party, Galileo III, a Mondavi wine dinner, where to celebrate Bastille Day, and um, Asian picnics on 4th of July (what?). Read on, dear readers. Continue reading →
Last night Inspiration DC‘s Rebecca and I headed over to preview Zentan, the new trendy hot spot at the Donovan House Hotel on Thomas Circle. The new hot spot opened on June 8th, after a bit of a kerfluffle (the space was supposed to be a new Todd English spot), when Chef Susur Lee of Shang in New York stepped up to fill in. Chef Lee, who is known for a wide variety of Asian-influenced restaurants, was also the second Canadian chef to appear on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America against Iron Chef Bobby Flay. So I was excited to see what came of all the drama – would Zentan live up?
Also, if you’ll let me ramble for a moment, Zentan signifies to me the solidification of the quality I’ve come to expect from hotel restaurants in our area. This is thanks in part to boutique chains like Kimpton, who work to pair quality Chef-driven restaurant concepts with their hotels. But excellent in-hotel restaurants are certainly on the rise in DC, and I have much higher standards for hotel restaurants here than I do when I travel. I was interested to see what Lee would bring to the District, plus get a peek at the Thompson Hotel. Continue reading →