Tag Archives: Woodley Park

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Afghan Grill’s Mantoo (Meat-Filled Dumplings)

A few years ago I produced a TV food segment about manti — tiny, meat-filled Turkish dumplings.  As the chef herself said, “It is not easy making the manti. This is occasional food.”

She wasn’t kidding.  After making the dough, she rolled it out and cut out squares the size of a postage stamp. Each square was dabbed with the meat filling, and the four corners of the dough were pinched together to form a star shape. The process was laborious, to say the least; she had to crimp dozens of manti just to make enough for a few servings.

It was right then that I realized I would never, ever, under any circumstance, be making manti at home.

(They were a marvel, incidentally.  We ate a full meal after shooting, and I’ll always remember those delicate, little dumplings.)

I hadn’t eaten manti since that day, until a recent dinner at Woodley Park’s Afghan Grill.

In Afghan cuisine, the dumplings are called mantoo. They’re basically the same idea, only larger, the size of ravioli.

Afghan Grill knocks them out of the park.

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Everything is working here; the lightness of the meat filling, and the red sauce with a drizzle of garlicky yogurt sauce. But it’s really all about the bite of that dough — soft and pillowy, yet 100% al dente. You can taste the care that goes into making each one.

I imagine mantoo are slightly easier to make than manti, since they’re about five times bigger. Nevertheless, I’m leaving these dumplings to the professionals. When a chef says they are “occasional food,” I’m taking her word for it.

One last thing: when you’re at Afghan Grill, try the dessert of vanilla ice cream with cardamom, almonds and rose water. Trust me.

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Afghan Grill
2309 Calvert St. NW
Washington, DC
202-234-5095

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There’s Messy, and There’s Hot N Juicy Crawfish

I have crawfish juice stains on a pair of wool dress pants, courtesy of a meal at Hot N Juicy Crawfish.

Dining at Hot N Juicy is impossibly messy.  There’s just no way to avoid it, so better to embrace the mess (and maybe don’t come in your nice work clothes).

Look at that pristine, white tablecloth and those unsullied bibs.

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A few of us shared the crispy, sweet, creamy, corn fritters. I would have been happy with a plate of those all for myself.

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Then it was on to the main event, a pound of shrimp, and a pound of crawfish, both in the Cajun extra spicy sauce.

They arrived in plastic bags. Elegant, no, practical… maybe?

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The crawfish were in this bag, along with potatoes and corn swimming in there somewhere.

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This was the last pic I was able to take for a while — soon after, crawfish juice and sauce were dripping down my hands and arms.

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I haven’t had crawfish in a long time, so this was a treat.  And the spicy Cajun sauce really cleared the sinuses. Don’t forget to suck the juices out of the heads — some of the best flavor’s in there.

Also, as you can probably guess, there’s not a ton of meat in a crawfish. If you’re sharing with four or five people, I’d highly recommend ordering a second pound of crawfish, or a second a pound of shrimp.

By the end, there was nothing left except for a mound of napkins, shells, beer bottles ($1 beers!) and what was left of the plastic bags.  And this was just one end of the table.

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Seriously though, anyone know how to get crawfish juice stains out of pants?

Hot N Juicy Crawfish
2651 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-299-9448

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District Kitchen: The Good, The Bad and the Hungry

Dinner at District Kitchen was like one of those weird dates where you get along fairly well, but at the same time several things stick in your craw — like how she hasn’t talked to her mother in over ten years, or hates Seinfeld, or “likes burning bridges.” Red flag alert!

Walking out of dinner I thought about the several positives of the meal, and the glaring warts. But unlike a person who hates Seinfeld, for whom there’s no hope, these warts are correctable.  I think. Here’s what I liked and didn’t like.

Liked it!

District Kitchen elevates the Woodley Park restaurant scene. Let’s face it, many of the WP restaurants are catering to tourists at the Marriott Wardman and Omni Shoreham. They jack up the prices a little, maybe don’t try as hard, because hey, they’ve got a captive customer base who won’t know that the better restaurants are in nearby Cleveland Park and Adams Morgan. I’d categorize District Kitchen firmly as a restaurant, not a tourist trap.

Didn’t like it

What did you just say? Can you repeat that? Yeah, it’s rather loud in here. Are you happy, Clark? She’s deaf.

Restaurateurs, I know the popular thinking is that a loud restaurant conveys liveliness and hipness, but it’s just aggravating as hell. We go to a restaurant to eat and talk, not eat and yell. For the love of god, please construct the dining rooms with some sound dampening materials!

Liked it!

Excellent service. We had a friendly, helpful server who was quite accommodating to our group, and the water refills were frequent and plentiful. I harp on the water thing all the time, but it’s important.

Liked it!

This small plate of herbed ricotta with crostini and roasted garlic.

Light, fluffy ricotta and sweet, soft garlic — a winning combo that spread smoothly together like butter.

Didn’t like it

Pardon me, can we get some bread for the table?  Bread?  Anyone?

What’s that? Bread has to be ordered? And it’s $4? You’re charging for bread?? When did this trend start? I suppose olive oil for dipping is completely out of the question.  (Sigh.) Never mind, then.

Liked it!

This entree of seared black bass.

An ultra thin and crispy skin that crackled under the snap of the fork.  Could have used less salt, but loved the texture. Tender bites of fish. And creamy polenta and sauteed spinach to round it out.

Didn’t like it

Unless the dish was meant for a Lollipop Kid, portion size was severely lacking. The fish fillets were delicate and thin, and I gobbled them up in a heartbeat. I could have used two to three times the amount of food; others at the table were chiming in with the same complaint. For these prices (I believe my fish was $24-$26?), they need to step it up. Between the lack of bread and a smallish entree, I’m calling foul. I appreciate quality, but don’t force me to start gnawing on the arm of the person next to me.

Next time I’d share a few small plates and a salad rather than order an entree. Possibly more bang for the buck, and considering how tasty the food was, it’d be fun to sample several items anyway.

For dessert, we opted for the more economical route. We walked next door to Baskin Robbins.

District Kitchen
2606 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, DC
202-238-9408

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New in Woodley Park: Lillies

Among the many pleasant D.C. surprises is how open and green the city is. Parks, trees and grassy spaces are a cinch to come by, and the wide sidewalks are worthy of serious strolling.  Try strolling in Manhattan and you’ll be run over by pedestrians like the bulls of Pamplona. I love the sidewalks here.

Wide sidewalks offer another benefit: al fresco dining. It exists all over the city; I just hope people appreciate the luxury. I certainly do, especially when it’s right around the corner.

Lillies opened a few weeks ago in the space where Pesto used to be.  I get the sense the space had been vacant for a while, so it’s exciting to have a new restaurant move in. Lillies does breakfast, lunch and dinner (though dinner’s only until 7pm on weekdays, 8pm on weekends), and it’s also a cafe, making it a nice spot to lounge around in for coffee or tea.

I’m a sucker for breakfast and on a recent weekend morning enjoyed an omelet with toast.

I sat outside on the cozy patio, read my new issue of Saveur and people-watched as crowds headed up Connecticut Ave. towards the zoo.  Made me thankful to live in such a wonderful neighborhood as Woodley Park, and thankful for those wide sidewalks.

**Update: They now have both free WiFi and a liquor license, so drop in for a glass of wine.

Lillies
2915 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-450-4824