Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Initial Review - Biergarten Haus

It's been a few years since I was in Europe but that doesn't mean that I have forgotten what it is like to sit outside and drink a pint of good beer. That's why I had been trying to wait patiently (without much luck) for the much anticipated opening of the Biergarten Haus on H Street NE.

As soon as I found out the exact opening date I called to make a reservation for Sunday evening. I had been hoping that some of the craziness from the World Cup would have died down without any games currently going on. I was also hoping that after a few days they would have a good rhythm going in the kitchen and with the staff. Well, I was wrong - extremely wrong.

When I walked in the door and gave the hostess my name she proceed to tell me that they have been unable to honor reservations because they have been unable to control the crowds. I then asked if we could sit at the table in the front window that was occupied by a tray of silverware. The hostess informed me that they needed that table and wouldn't be able to give it up. I found this to be quite surprising when I walked around the corner and saw another table occupied by more silverware. If this was a game of soccer - that would have been a yellow card.

My dining companion and I went upstairs to see if we could find seating. Instead we found drunk soccer fans who could barely stand up straight. Now, I understand that part of the fun of going to a beer garden is getting to drink the beer, but that is really no excuse for the number of people that were falling over their own two feet because they are drunk. There comes a point where any self-respecting bar tender will cut off someone when they have had too much to drink.

After wandering around we finally found 2 spots at the bar downstairs. After speaking to the bartender we come to find that not only is the kitchen closed, but their taps aren't working (everything is coming out with tons of foam) and there are only 2 types of beer that are cold. I am willing to bet that my jaw dropped because it just sounded so crazy. No food and barely any drinks at a restaurant? I think that may qualify as a red card.

The bartender had a good point - there is nowhere to go but up. I just hope that they get their act together sooner rather than later, because if they don't they will loose a lot of customers. Believe me, I'm not going to abandon a restaurant in my neighborhood after a single bad experience, but I think the management just needs to take time to train their staff a bit better, get the kitchen under control and (maybe most importantly) get more beer. This is a place that has a ton of potential so I am looking forward to them continuing to reach beyond where they are now and get back into the game.

image: / flicker: inked78

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I had such high hopes for a certain Chinatown hot-spot when I showed up for happy hour earlier this week. The menu looked great, the location was convenient and the price was right. So how come I left feeling hungry and feeling very underwhelmed?

Our evening at Zengo started off ok. Earlier in the day I had made a reservation thinking that we may want to sit down. Yet, when I got to the restaurant and took a look at the menu I realized the prices were different than what had been online. It wasn't a huge difference, but it was more the principle of the situation. When you are on a budget you have to stick to it and a few extra dollars here or there can add up.

So off to the bar we went. Trying to find a spot in the lounge was difficult but not impossible. After a few minutes of trying to squeeze through the throngs of people jockeying for the bartenders' attention we found a spot to sit.

After a good 15 minutes a waiter finally came over to take our order. My
dining companions suggested that we order in one go (even though it was tapas style) in case we never got our waiter's attention again. We ordered from the happy hour menu which looked as if there were enough options to keep our stomachs full and happy.

The first thing that came out was my drink - a pine mojito, aka a pineapple mojito. This was easily the best thing that I tried all evening. The flavors of the mint and the pineapple were unexpected but extremely tasty. Not long after the edamame was delivered from the kitchen. Normally edamame is the same wherever you go, but at Zengo it appears that they grill the outside of the pod to give it a nice smokey flavor.

Each of the other dishes that we ordered fell short of expectations. The Thai chicken empanadas were good, but didn't have much of a kick to them. The pork belly steamed buns didn't live up to the "steamed" part of the equation. Instead I found the buns to be a bit mushy, which made them unappetizing. The seaweed salad had a weird texture that no one at our table could quite get over. As my father would say - "Good idea. Bad execution."

Although happy hour at Zengo runs from 5:00 - 7:30 every Monday - Saturday, I don't know if this would be a place I would recommend that people go and spend their money. If you aren't looking to eat and just looking to have a drink go ahead and get cozy at the bar, but if you are looking to do some snacking, I would recommend that you head someplace else.

image: and

What You Need is Brainfood

One of my favorite shows on the Food Network is (and has always been) Iron Chef. There is just something so exciting about watching the chefs try and create amazing dishes on the fly while trying to incorporate the "secret ingredient." Sure, I enjoy the Japanese version better - I mean, really, it's pretty funny to listen to the voice-overs, but I can think of one thing that is better than that - a real-live-in-person iron chef competition.

Now, I know that this blog caters to young professionals who are trying to eat well on a budget, but even sometimes we need to go above and beyond our typical monetary limits, especially when it benefits a great cause. In DC there is an organization known as Brainfood, which is a non-profit youth development organization. Using food as a tool, Brainfood builds life skills and promotes healthy living in a fun and safe environment. Sounds like a great way to engage people, right? I mean, who doesn't like food?

Tonight they are hosting their 4th annual Grill-off, which is an evening outdoors with food, drinks and entertainment. The event in being held at the Stephen Decatur House in Lafayette Square. There will be an exciting grilling competition where you can watch teams of award-winning chefs, amateur grilling aficionados and Brainfood program graduates compete for the Brainfood Skillet Award and the Brainfoodie Choice Award. (i.e. a spin on an Iron Chef challenge).

If you have any interest in joining me (and chefs from Zola, Potenza, Birch & Barley, the White House and other well known area restaurants), click here to purchase tickets.