Strondin Bistro & Bar, Vik, Iceland

Was in Vik for two nights and had the choice of pretty much two restaurants. Might as well cover the territory. So the 2nd night checked out Strondin Bistro & Bar.

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A good amount to pick from on the menu but soup was something I really wanted because by Day 3 of the trip I felt like we’d have about a week of rain. Lamb is not a meat I truly have a taste for but that was the only thing I could pick from because the other soup/stew was diary based. So I went for the:

Heimalöguð íslensk kjötsúpa – Homemade Iceland traditional meat soup with lamb and root vegetables. 2,300kr.

It was quite good. The taste in the lamb was very subtle. And the rest of the ingredients were potatoes, onions, carrots that were very nice. The warmth brought it all together.

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Also needed some veggies. Iceland does not have an abundance of these things. But this Strondin place had a Miðjarðarhafssalt: salat m/sólÞurrkuðum tómötum, ólifum, fetaosti, tomötum, agurku og paprika – Mediterranean: salad with sundried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. 1,750 kr.

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That had to be one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Ignoring the lack of veggies the prior few days, the unique combo of sun-dried and ‘regular’ tomatoes in the salad and the dressing it had; SO good!

They also had some delicious bread with some kind of herbs in it to make all this even better, that was just brought to the table.

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Finally, was enjoying all this with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Maronde Pionero from Chile, 1,250 kr. Wine was pricey as usual, but at least since I live in the DC-area, it wasn’t total sticker-shock.

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What also makes a dinner amazing is the staff. A bit shout out to Antonio, Jan and Lammi. They provided great service, making this dinner even better. Thanks!! So, when you’re in Vik, check this place out.

Also, this yellow object started coming out in the sky when we walked out of the restaurant, it was tough to identify. But it provided us this scenery.

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Bistrot du Coin

Recently visited Bistrot du Coin in Washington, DC in the Dupont Circle area. They coin themselves as ‘The Original French Bistrot in Washington DC.’ The restaurant will turn 17 years old this year and offers a nice open space with high ceilings and opportunity to almost sit on Connecticut Ave when the front doors/walls are open on gorgeous days. They are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

We went on a Tuesday night, fairly early, 7ish. Was easy to get a table. By the time we left around 8:30pm, it was busy. The service was extremely slow. Took a long time to get simple things like water and drinks.

Looking over the menu, a decent selection of French food. What ended up coming to the table (along with some Stella Artois and Alsace wine).

Salade Niçoise façon Bistrot
Bonito tuna,hard boiled egg, Anchovy over mixed greens, Vegetables, black olives $17.95

While it was good, why do they have to used canned tuna? I would love some nicely grilled stuff.

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Moules Marinières
Steamed mussels in white wine with onions, shallots, garlic and parsley $13.95/$23.95

These were done nicely and the tasted delicious.

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Onglet à l’échalotte
Hanger Steak with French Fries served with compote of shallot, red wine sauce
(Chef recommends med-rare or rare) $25.95

Very traditional. Now it was ordered medium rare and came out pretty much bright pink in the middle. We did have to send it back because there is a difference between pan-searing it momentarily and letting it cook for a couple minutes. When it came back it out, apparently it was quite good.

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Overall, a decent dinner, but as commented initially, extremely slow service. Just getting refills on the water was challenging. So, glad I went, but not a restaurant I need to check out a lot, but also not one I would have a problem going back to.

Buck’s

Want to go fishing? Want to camping? Are you in DC? Just go to Buck’s. You might not actually get the true aforementioned, but you’ll get a great dinner.

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I had heard much about this place, located on Connecticut Ave., at the intersection of Nebraska Ave. in upper NW. Buck’s Fishing and Camping, here I come.

My friend and I checked it out in February and they had the Valentine’s theme going on, so the cocktail menu included sparkling rose. Bring it on! A perfect way to start off the evening.

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We opted for an appetizer to tide us over while we looked over the menu. It was a special that night, a white bean hummus with homemade chips.

Cowiche Canyon

When visiting Yakima Valley, had to find a place to enjoy dinner. Many locals suggested the same restaurant – Cowiche Canyon. Ok, I guess that’s where you go. Their tagline: ‘Craft cocktails & American classics are served with a modern twist at this industrial-chic hot spot.

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Arrived and fortunately were able to get a table easily. Had checked out the website before going and they weren’t on OpenTable… And why would one call to make a reservation these days, come on?

So we sat down and of course when in Yakima Valley wine is a priority. After looking over the options we decided to go for a bottle vs. glasses. Reason, if you don’t finish it they just put it in a paper bag and off you go. The vino we chose was the Syncline Subduction Red. It’s a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Counoise. It was a good medium bodied wine, nice fruit notes, and some spice. Just very tasty.

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For dinner (I’d checked out the menu on their site before), I was leaning towards the halibut. Of course halibut is pricey. I also found out why from a friend – it’s fished ‘by hand’ – as in it’s not net-caught. The fisherman use these things called fishing rods, if you’ve ever heard of them. So, it’s all completely manual labor for catching halibut, so pure man hours for each and every piece of halibut we enjoy.

Looked at some of the other seafood and meats, and all looked tempting, but halibut is something I don’t usually cook at home or get frequently because of cost. So, the two of us ended up splitting the halibut and getting starters – a house salad and roasted asparagus as first round, along with the homemade bread. I assumed we would have bread brought to the table as on the menu it mentioned that their breads are handmade from scratch every morning. But, we had to order it instead.

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Service was slightly under par. Took us about 3 requests and 20 minutes to get water. We also ordered the salad and asparagus as first course. Those and the halibut came out quickly (before the water and the bread). We asked for the halibut to go back and be served as the main course. The server was a bit confused.

However, the food was delicious. The halibut was spicy, with the posole it was served on top of. The asparagus had chimichurri on it, which added a great flavor, but the ends that you should snap off were still on there, on several pieces. The salad was nice and simple and the bread was just deadly. Overall, however, the restaurant lived up to the recommendations it received.

El Chalan, DC

I quite enjoy Peruvian cuisine — they have great cocktails and seafood! Was headed to the Kennedy Center one night and found a place sort of near it to check out for that cuisine — El Chalan. It’s in the basement/lower level of a building and is fairly small, so it’s nice and comfortable.

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They had a good amount of options on the menu, which made it tough to decide. But, the first order of business was a pisco sour. So refreshing!

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For dinner, I ended up going with 2 smaller options —

Palta Con Palmito/ Slices of avocado and hearts of palm

Ceviche Mixto/ Fish,shrimp,and squid marinated in mixture of lemon juice and seasoning

My friend went for some stew —

Cabrito Norteno/ Goat stew cooked in beer, vinegar, onion, and spices, served w/ rice and beans

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The ceviche was delicious, I love when I can find it with squid. And the nice basic salad balanced it well.  My friend said the stew was just as it should be and good & hearty. I tried a bite as I’d never had goat. It was fine, nothing overly exciting me for, but glad I was able to try it. So, great food, would check this place out again.

Mark’s Kitchen

A new (to me), local place I visited recently is Mark’s Kitchen in Takoma Park, MD (right near the Metro). They are a great neighborhood place with a menu that contains every type of food you could want. As they say —

Welcome to Mark’s Kitchen, a small neighborhood restaurant with an amazingly big menu full of so many choices that everyone can easily find something that will make them happy. Mark’s Kitchen is a very friendly place—it’s vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly, carnivore-friendly, kid-friendly, traditional family-friendly, alternative family-friendly and everyone else-friendly. A full meal or a light meal, a complete breakfast—most of which is available all day long—fresh juices, craft beers, wines, wonderful milkshakes, great ice cream desserts. That’s Mark’s Kitchen, a Takoma Park institution since 1990.

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It took me a long time to read through the menu and decide on what I wanted. Do I go for a basic sandwich, do I get some breakfast for lunch or do I go crazy? Well, I decided to go for a unique salad, because they had some great sounding Asian cuisine. And, my friend went pretty basic.

My choice was the Seaweed Salad —  wakame, hijiki & kombu seaweed, avocado, cucumber & sliced lemon on a bed of mixed seaweed w/ our own no-fat, no-oil lemon ginger salad dressing or our spicy sweet & sour chojang sauce.

My friend opted for the Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich — smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill havarti cheese, veggie bacon, red onion, capers, lettuce, & tomato.

That salad was amazing! I had never had so many different seaweeds. What’s funny is that I don’t really care for seaweed when it’s the crisp stuff that wraps sushi (rolls), but when it’s finer/chopped/in salad form, it’s so good! There was some great dressing or marinade to it and the avocados, bring ’em on!

My friend said the sandwich was quite good, just what a club should be.

We were there at lunch time — service was a bit slow. It was tough to get our water filled and the glasses at the table weren’t huge, so that was the one downside.

Will definitely check Mark’s Kitchen out again.

Pueblo Viejo

I love Mexican food! When I find a new place I can check out, I will. And what’s ironic is that I’m posting all these blogs about restaurants and I don’t eat out all that much. I cook the majority of my meals at home. I was away for awhile and I’m also catching up on a bunch of long-overdue blogs.

So, another place in Ft. Collins that I checked out was Pueblo Viejo.

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When they bring you the chips and salsa they also provide a unique bean dip. It’s made with pinto beans (not black beans). Nice to have something a bit different and just had some nice spices in it. Some guac was definitely ordered, too. Very good stuff!

Went for lunch and ordered some chicken tortilla soup. This stuff was amazing! They add tons of veggies to it — cauliflower, carrots and more. Not something very common and I loved it. It gives you a nice hearty meal. If you check this place out, definitely worth ordering.

El Pueblito

Dined at a new Mexican restaurant when I was in Ft. Collins last time — El Pueblito. They also have locations in Loveland & Greeley.

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They had some unique items on their menu that you don’t see in many places. We had to take advantage of them when ordering.

I decided to go with the FAJITAS DEL MAR — Octopus, shrimp and catfish, grilled with tomatoes, onions and bell green pepper , served with rice, beans, guacamole salad and your choice of tortillas.

The other at the table went with TACOS DE LENGUA — Corn tortillas or flour tortillas stuffed with grilled tongue, cilantro, and onions. Served with beans and tomatillo sauce on the side.

I love octopus and it was delicious on the fajita plate. The catfish, I wasn’t a fan of (I don’t know that I’d ever even had catfish). It was just super chewy and almost bland. I was also lucky enough to ask if it was served with cheese for my dairy issues and they mentioned they use butter. I thought that was interesting for a Mexican place. They said they would absolutely just use the oil because of my lactose issues.

You don’t often see beef tongue in restaurants, so this was a good find.

The gaucamole we had at the start was nothing to write home about and the margaritas were marginal, but it was cool having the unique main courses.

 

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.

 

Proof

There is a nice wine-oriented restaurant in DC, Proof. Had been there a few times and opted to check it out again after going to the theater to see Nutcracker for the first time.

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Started at the bar because my friends and I arrived before our reservation. We all enjoy wine, so we were inquiring quite a bit about several of the wines they offered. The bartenders didn’t particularly want to help us more than where the wines were from and the varietals. For a wine restaurant, it was surprising. We had to order it on a whim and hope it was good. It was fine, but nothing I’ll order again, or remember. I didn’t even remember to take a picture…

We sat down at the table and it was extremely dark. The picture above is a flashlight you can use to read the menu. It’s both a flashlight and magnifying glass. The print is very small on the menu. I have really good vision and was having problems. The waiter said that is the tone/ambiance they want to set — darkness, it’s a better mood.

Once we were able to read some of the menu, our not-so-helpful waiter (in addition to the start with the bartenders) came and explained some of the specials. We also let him know about dietary restrictions. My friend is allergic to shellfish and nuts, as well as being lactose intolerant like me.

We decided to get some side dishes as appetizers and went with:

-Brussels Sprouts, Kimchee Mayo & Vietnamese Dressing
-Fried Cauliflower with Lemon, Tahini, Garlic & Mint (didn’t get a picture since because of the nearly non-existent lighting, it was tough to get decent shots)

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After spending awhile looking over the entire menu we were finally able to choose what we wanted.

I opted for the Scallops a la Michel Richard: crispy brussels sprouts, apples, confit leeks, basil & vincotto. I asked if there was dairy in this and the waiter gasped and asked how could there not be and why would I make an alteration? I wasn’t sure and just needed it because of being lactose intolerant. He was flabbergasted that I didn’t know who Michel Richard was. Sorry. So, he said would check with the kitchen but didn’t think it would be possible to alter such a well known chef’s original recipe. Long story short, he said they would make and exception for me.

My friends ordered the Pekin Duck: käsespätzle, red cabbage, duck confit, horseradish, green apple, concord grape sauce. They made sure there was no dairy in there for her, and she was safe because there was also no fish on there, or no crazy fish ingredient in any of the sauces.

The other friend ordered the Sautéed Potato Gnocchi: butternut squash, cauliflower, beech mushroom, apple brown butter.

While we were waiting for the food, we asked for the sommelier. He came over and was a bit more helpful and gave some interesting comments about the restaurant and how it’s changed. He’d only been there a few months and once we started talking to him more he got much friendlier. The nicest service we had all night.  He did suggest another wine after taking into account our likes in wine.

The food was good. Overpriced, but at least decent in taste. The evening at least ended well when our waiter was kind enough to confirm my friend’s initial thoughts — Cal Ripken was sitting at the table behind us. My friends, who are huge baseball fans, got up after dinner to ask for his autograph to give to their grandma for Christmas. She’s a long time Orioles fan. Can’t go wrong with that.