Grand Ole Wasabi?

Was in Nashville recently and had to visit the Grand Ole Opry. Before the show started, there was time to roam around the Opryland Hotel and enjoy some dinner. After looking over the menu at the many restaurants the venue offers, we decided on Wasabi’s.

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When our waiter came over to take our drink orders, at a Japanese restaurant, we asked what they had to offer. He mentioned the traditional stuff, along with the local offering — the Gaylord Opryland 77 APA by Blackstone Brewing Company. Why not go local? Nice amber beer with a good history, so had to pair it with asian food, right?

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They have a traditional Japanese menu so deciding what to eat was sort of hard but sort of easy, in the sense that we knew what was on the menu. Ended up starting with some Seaweed Salad. Very nice taste to it.

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For the main course, we went with the Wasabi’s Sushi Sampler:
California Roll (6 Pcs)
Tuna Sashimi (3 Pcs)
Nigiri (3 Pcs): Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp

It was a very nice size and very well presented. Quite tasty, too. Now, since two of us were splitting this, we weren’t really full at the end. So, come the end, we opted to get one more bite to eat, which was/were some edamame. Perfect.
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And after dinner, the fun truly started…

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China Chilcano

Was able to dine at a restaurant I had not yet checked out awhile back — China Chilcano in the Gallery Place/Chinatown/Judiciary Square area of Washington, DC. I had heard rave reviews about it so couldn’t wait to check it off my list.

It is one of Jose Andres’ places and it brings together Peruvian, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. And their feature cocktail – Pisco Sours.

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I went on a Wednesday night. Made a reservations so the table was all set. The tables were at a very low level (from the ground) so you really have to bend over/down to eat. The light was very yellow-y, too. Not sure why. Hence why the picture all have an odd light to them.

The service was very slow, as in it took a long time to get our waiter. Once he finally arrived, we had to make the required order at such a restaurant — pisco sours! And they also bring you these little nibbles — pepitas.

Once we received the pisco sours (that also took awhile), cheers! Very nice.

The menu is tapas-style, so most of the dishes are small and meant to be shared. The choices were almost overwhelming. But we finally decided on:

Ensalada de Chonta — Hearts of palm, tamarind, avocado, tomato, kiwicha seed, sweet plantain

Ceviche Clásico La Mar — Red snapper, leche de tigre, sweet potato, red onion, cancha, cilantro

California (Roll) — Potato causa, jumbo lump crab, spicy mayo, cucumber, avocado, tobiko, huancaína sauce

HaKao — Steamed glass dumpling, shrimp, pork, ají rocoto-soy sauce

Yàn Wõ “Birds Nest” Soup — Coconut “Birds Nest” soup, pink grapefruit sorbet, mint, sesame, ginger

Like a typical tapas restaurant, these orders came out randomly. Some within a minute then others about 15 minutes later.

The hearts of palm salad was by far my favorite. Could have ordered several of those. The ceviche wasn’t quite what I was expecting because it was ‘soupy’. I could have used a spoon to eat it (picture below, top row, right). Unique and tasty, nonetheless.

The other dishes were very good, as well. The others at the table enjoyed the dessert and said they’ll have to pass next time. I had a small bite of the sorbet and it was interesting. I’ll stick with just the citrus itself.

Very glad I checked the place out, would totally go again.

 

Grace’s Mandarin

Was at National Harbor, MD for a week-long event so had the opportunity to check out several restaurants in the area. One evening oriental food sounded good so a couple of us went to Grace’s Mandarin.  The restaurant provides ‘a variety of Asian inspired dishes with a modern flair in an elegant ambiance.’

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The reservation was for 6pm so not an overly crazy hour and it was mid-week. The restaurant was not packed. Opted to start with some edamame as an appetizer as we looked over the menus.

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We asked the waitress several questions and she did not speak very good English. Considering National Harbor is a high traffic area with tourists, this isn’t great. She didn’t understand a lot of our questions. One of them was about the Sashimi Taco, which was labeled as — Sashimi Taco Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, white tuna, cilantro, avocado. Sounded delicious! I wondered what made it a taco, though. She told me that it was only fish, nothing else. I inquired a few more times, however, about why it was considered it taco. She kept assuring me it was only fish, nothing else in the dish.

So, I went ahead and ordered that, along with a Mandarin Green Salad Organic baby greens, tomato, carrot, goat cheese, low-cal sesame soy vinaigrette. My friend ordered Singapore Rice Noodle — shrimp, chicken, egg, onion, scallion, bean sprout, carrot, curry.

The salad came out nice & quick. Good tastes all around.

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Then came out the other two. The rice noodles were just as they were described, and a huge serving. Tasty is what I was told.

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Then my tacos. Not what I was expecting per the waitress’ comments, but they did fit the description. They were indeed tacos. They has cream in them. It could have been aioli but nobody seemed sure. We asked several restaurant staff and after, honestly, about 10 minutes, we still didn’t have an answer. I had to send them back in case it was dairy. At this point I was frustrated because when I had asked before ordering if these were tacos the waitress said no and now that they were, she could not identify what all was in the tacos.

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She asked what else I would like and I opted for the safe bet of simple sashimi. I went for salmon, tuna and some whitefish (I can never remember what it is but it’s good).

Yes, it was dinner time and the restaurant was getting a bit busier at this point, but it took over 20 minutes to get simple cuts of sashimi, after there was an error with an initial dish. Don’t you think they might hurry a bit? And all it takes is cutting the fish… It was quite good (as I should hope for this type of dish or I would be quite concerned).

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So, overall, though the food ended up being decent, not at all impressed with the service at Grace’s. Not a place I would recommend on that level. Not sure if they expect they’ll get business because they are in a tourist location, not sure if we just hit the wrong place at the wrong time, but there are definitely places I would rather enjoy a dinner out.

Green Bamboo

Had a recommendation from a friend for a great Asian restaurant in Rockville, MD right next to the Twinbrook Metro station to check out.  It’s Green Bamboo.  They have various food and drink happy hours as well as evening food specials.

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I started with a simple house Asian salad with ginger dressing — a whopping $2 for the special of the evening.  It was made with spinach, which was unique.  This thing was huge, with a great taste.

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I ordered the Sashimi dinner that had 6 different fish on it.  It also comes with soup. The pieces were all so good.  I very much remember the salmon and how it just melted in my mouth.  The platter also had these great spirals of carrots.  Very nice presentation.

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My friend ordered some rolls and sashimi pieces that were very nicely done and apparently tasted very good.

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My one comment, don’t ask about wine here.  The waitress had little awareness of dry wine, or even what sauv blanc vs riesling are.  So go basic or know what you want.

Overall, great dinner, check this place out.  Good prices, good service and good to have on your list.

Tuna Steaks, Ginger and Broccollini…oh yeah!

Dinner time, new recipe, bring it on.  Found something with some Asian flair that had to be tested recently.

Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks with Ginger Vinaigrette, from Food & Wine

Ingredients

5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
5 tablespoons sake
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons minced shallot
1/2 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Pepper
1 bunch of Broccolini, trimmed
Two 1-inch-thick yellowfin tuna steaks (grabbed frozen Ahi from Trader Joe’s)
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
Lemon wedges, for serving

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Directions

In a small saucepan, simmer the soy sauce, sake, mirin and shallot until the liquid is slightly reduced, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the ginger. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup of the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
In a steamer basket set in 
a large saucepan of simmering water, steam the Broccolini until tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer to plates.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season the tuna with salt and pepper. Sear over high heat until golden brown but still rare within, about 30 seconds per side. — Ok, I actually had a BBQ to use to I did this thing called grill the tuna.  Short, sweet, to the point.  Delicious!

Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. (So didn’t have to do this part).

Slice against the grain and transfer to the plates. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Serve with lemon wedges and the remaining vinaigrette.

IMG_3840To be honest, I almost forgot the brocollini because there was so much going on in the kitchen and I don’t serve stuff just like the recipe, but then I realized something was missing.  This was a great combo of flavors, and I often forget about brocollini.  Was pretty quick to make, too.  So, give it a try if you’re looking for something new.

Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime

Got together with friends to make a feast recently and found a tasty-sounding Bon Appetit recipe to try — Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime.

Made a couple changes in the recipe because of nuts, lack of beans, and other stuff.

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2 pounds mixed snap beans (such as green, wax, haricots verts, and/or Romano), trimmed — used straight frozen green beans from Trader’s Joe’s
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ large shallot, finely chopped
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, finely grated on a Microplane
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup salted, roasted peanuts — used cashews vs. peanuts
3 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped — I went to 4 stores, including international markets, and couldn’t get these.  The guys at both the Mexican markets and Asian markets laughed at me.  I thought that was comical myself that they didn’t carry them.
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon sugar
⅓ cup (packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving

Preparation

Working in batches by type, cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 1–4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice water; let cool. Drain and pat dry.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a small skillet over medium and cook shallot, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and coriander and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet over medium-high. Cook peanuts, tossing often, until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; let cool, then coarsely chop. Set aside 1 Tbsp. peanuts for serving.

Whisk kaffir lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, sugar, ½ tsp. salt, and remaining 3 Tbsp. oil into shallot mixture. Add beans, remaining peanuts, and ⅓ cup cilantro and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with more cilantro and reserved peanuts.

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It was good, but nothing that exciting.  Don’t know if the lime leaves are what would totally bring it in.  Glad I made it, would not discount making it again, but not top of my list.

Riverside Hotpot

Checked out a new and new type of restaurant recently.  It was Riverside Hotpot.

riversideSome history of hot pot —

“The Chinese hot pot has a history of more than 1,000 years. Hot pot seems to have originated in Mongolia where the main ingredient was meat, usually beef, mutton or horse. It then spread to southern China during the Tang Dynasty and was further established during the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. In time, regional variations developed with different ingredients such as seafood. By the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644 to 1912), the hot pot became popular throughout most of China. Today in many modern homes, particularly in the big cities, the traditional coal-heated steamboat or hot pot has been replaced by electric, propane, butane gas, or induction cooker versions.
Because hot pot styles change so much from region to region, many different ingredients are used.”

In short, you get tons of food, especially since it’s all you can eat!  First you pick the base broth you want:

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Then choose all the veggies and meats to throw in there.  OMG!  Way too much to pick from!

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They bring the broth out first so it can heat up.  Then they start bringing the other stuff out and you throw it in there when you’re ready and at what pace you like.

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You go and go until you are maxed out.  It’s just amazing.  They also have a spice bar, with sauces and topping, that you can choose things from, including soy sauce, sesame seeds, green onions, etc.  So much fun.  What’s also great is you can make it full of veggies, full of seafood, full of meat — it totally caters to what YOU want.  I can’t wait to go back!

Some tahini here, some lemon there, and kale everywhere!

Had some friends over for dinner and was going on an Asian theme.  Was making some stir-fry like chicken dish and was looking for a salad to go with it.  I found a great Cooking Light recipe to pair with it based on a whole page of kale salad ideas they had.

I went with the Tahini-Lemon Dressing — quick, easy and refreshing!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini
2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 cups thinly sliced stemmed Lacinato kale
3/4 cup cooked quinoa (I did not include this)
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Prep:
Combine water, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, soy sauce, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
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Add kale (and cooked quinoa; toss) — I did this in a more normal salad way.  After making the dressing, I dressed the salad/kale.
IMG_2130[1]Delicious, I’m addicted.  I’ve made it twice since they’ve been over.  And the dressing keeps/holds well, so you can make a good amount and just keep it in the fridge.

Daikaya

Checked out a new restaurant in DC the other night after various suggestions and trying not to go for the tried and true that I’ve had.  So, I have now check Daikaya in Gallery Place-Chinatown off my list.

I was told that it has two levels and be sure to go upstairs.  I naturally picked the wrong place to go at first.  Their lower level is a noodles restaurant for quick, easy meals.  It’s perfect to grab before a game (this place is right next to the Verizon Center, so ideal for Caps or Wizards game night) or at lunch.  So, I had to ask where to go.  An obvious common question based on the quick answer.  Immediately next to the bright-light was a hidden black door with the Daikaya name on it.  Upstairs we go.

IMG_1270[1]This non-ramen portion of the restaurant is based on how “the cuisine is freestyle and adaptive in nature and each izakaya in Japan puts its own touch to their menu items. In this spirit, we also like to put our twist on our dishes and drinks and embrace our role as an izakaya in DC, with international and American influences as we feel inspired.”

It’s very similar to a tapas restaurant.  Everything on the menu was small plates and you might need 3-4 per person, if not more.  They also had quite the drink menu, from beer to sake.

For the drink, I opted for a red beer, in a bottle — Echigo Red Ale.  It was hilarious because they bring you a glass that is the size of a juice glass at breakfast.  I guess it makes you feel like you’re drinking a lot from the 12oz bottle.  Very unique and nice beer.

IMG_1274[1]For food, opted for a few different tastes.  There were so many choices on the menu, it was honestly hard to pick!

-fried garlic
-grilled avocado
-tuna poke
-cold steamed chicken breast

IMG_1272[1]This picture doesn’t do the food any justice.  The flavors were incredible!  I wish I had room for more food to taste for options from the menu.  Will definitely have to go back again.  If you live in DC or are visiting, definitely add it to your list!

Sushi’s a Wrap

The final night in NOLA some of us decided to head to a sushi place – Sake Café Uptown.

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Huge menu. After reading and reading, I noticed some grilled squid. I love it when I can find that, because I don’t enjoy the (fried) calamari. So I opted for it. Ok, that could be a meal. It came out on a fajita-like platter and it was amazing. It might have been the simplest thing but I could eat that stuff all the time. I need to figure out where I can get that stuff in DC.

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Then at the table next to us, I ask this woman what she ordered because I was just trying to get one other thing (this was before the squid came out). She told us about this edamame that’s not on the menu – garlic edamame. They do the ‘normal’ edamame then do something with some form or garlic – I don’t know if it’s roasted or something else but this stuff just makes you melt. This is another one that I need to find out who in the DC area has. Way too good.

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So glad we checked this place out and it’s another place to check out if you’re in New Orleans.