Restaurant Review: Le Diplomate

When you walk into one of the District’s “hottest table in town,” you’re unsure of what to expect. At least from my perspective, you give the benefit of the doubt and hope that the reviews are true.

Le Diplomate meets expectations. Did the restaurant exceed them? Not entirely, but I’ll admit the food is worthy for a return.

Kevin kindly reserved a table for two on a weekday several weeks in advance. To our luck, it poured rain prior (and during) our arrival. When I say pouring rain, I mean getting alerts on our phones that there’s a flash flood warning for the next couple hours.

Yet after running through the rain and getting wet enough to soak my Nike roshes, I rushed in flustered and dripping wet. Luckily the hostess handed me several cloth napkins to dry off, already a great start to an evening.

Waiting for Kevin to valet his car, I glanced around to see both a combination of an older generation of Americans and a handful of trendsetters more or less in my age demographic. One thing was for sure: I knew (and felt) like a minority.

After waiting several moments for our table, we overheard the hostess explain to larger parties that reservations were a mess due to the rain and closing the outside portion of the restaurant. Even though we waited a couple extra minutes of our table, we understood.

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After discovering the bread basket apparently gave the restaurant a run for its money, I didn’t think it was anything special. If I wanted freshly baked bread, I would walk to the bakery around the corner and this is more or less the most basic and plainest of what I could get. The butter seemed freshly churned though.

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With the appetizers on deck, I ordered the Ricotta Ravioli complete with plum tomato, basil and parmesan cheese. Most remarkable is the homemade pasta (clearly made in house) because after biting into it, I could taste the soft texture that you can’t get from any boxed good. The inside was filled with a rich, savory ricotta cheese and didn’t overpower, but complemented the sauce perfectly. Might I mention, Le Diplomate put the perfect amount of sauce in this dish as I didn’t have excess, nor did I crave more. The basil adds that perfect touch to the ravioli making it complete.

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Above is Kevin’s appetizer, Mediterranean Sardines. He deemed them up to par and kind reminder of his mother’s home-cooked meals.

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I opted out of the burger, but it did look delicious (see below) and instead ordered the Veal Escalope with morels, spring onion and a mushroom cream sauce. Writing this piece and staring at this dish makes me miss it. The veal came out perfectly tender and the sauce combined with the soft cut up mushroom paired well. After eating my entree, I wanted more, but I felt full. The cream sauce did kick in a bit later (as all Southern food seems to do) and by the time Kevin finished his meal, I felt stuffed.

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No dessert because I felt too full from the rest of the meal. Our server graciously took our plates after we both completed the meal. While we glanced and pondered ordering a milk chocolate cream pot, we decided we would need to return.

Beware though, with good food in this venture comes with a louder than usual ambience. It’s quite noisy for my taste, but it resembles a fast-paced French restaurant. Glance up at the ceiling and take in the restaurant’s architecture; it’s beautiful.

Recommendation: Go when you can! Everything looks and tastes as delicious as you would imagine. Make sure you bring your wallet because the French don’t eat cheap.

Photos by TheKevinJ.

Restaurant Review: Oki Bowl

After craving a warm bowl of ramen for clearly far too long, I stumbled upon OKI Bowl DC & Sake. Similar to SAKURAMEN, you go downstairs into a basement-like setting and find yourself immersed in beautiful Asian shop.

Low-key mellow top hits fill the room leaving you to fall into a wanderlust deciding what to order. Be sure to add sake or beer to bring out the full flavor of your noodle dish.

With only four flavors of ramen to choose from (miso, kimchi, curry, tom yum) I picked the curry flavor. Why? I’ve recently been infatuated with Asian dishes infused with the spice.

OKI makes my must-try list and I’ll surely be back. With young adult locals stopping in after-work hours, it’s clearly a dive spot necessary for the “DC-mover” to know. No one’s trying to wait hours for ramen at places like Toki Underground. While I have a deep appreciation for Chef Erik Bruner-Yang, when I’m hungry, it’s time to eat.

For the best seat in the house, ask for the table by the window so you can surround yourself with friends. If you’re alone, hit the bar for an authentic experience.

OKI Bowl DC & Sake is located on 1817 M St NW. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. try one of DC’s most up and coming ramen spots.

Baltimore EmporiYUM.

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I traveled to Baltimore last weekend and peeked into the EmporiYUM, a food festival that celebrates local eateries.

It’s always great to see the DMV come together in a collaborative effort, especially for a food-filled event. maketto1351dc​ passed free Taiwanese buns, Luke’s Lobsters sold their highly-acclaimed rolls and Birroteca created unique drinks perfect for all taste buds.

If you came in early for VIP, you received a gift bag with samples that weren’t at the event along with no lines. Come early admission though, the warehouse became packed within a few minutes and the crowd didn’t seem to stop until it was nearing general admission time. There was a wait time for every both, but you could definitely make your way to every table within a few hours.

Definitely check out the event if it’s in your area. You can sample a variety of foods both savory and sweet.

My favorite local bite?

Crunkcakes with its boozy take on a classic dessert. And yes, you’ll have to be at least 21 to try this treat. 

Restaurant Review: SAKURAMEN

Ramen is on point at SAKURAMEN.

The ramen bar embodies truly everything that I love. Good vibes, mellow music and delicious food.

The shop itself is almost hidden; it’s a small entrance and you go into a basement only to find yourself in an Asian restaurant. The waiters are friendly

Featured in the picture is the SPICY miso with a hit of seven spice. My favorite part about this place is that even not only do you get to choose how spicy you want your dish, but the spice also does not overpower the other elements in the bowl. It provides a great balance of both flavor, spice and broth.

The noodles are cooked perfectly, not too soggy or crunchy. It’s a texture that’s difficult to find in the DC area.

I finished the entire bowl. And let me tell you, I was more than satisfied. I highly recommend this with a side of buns. 

Don’t forget to always pair your ramen with some saké. It just gives everything a heightened flavor. 

SAKURAMEN is located on 2441 18th St NW. Avoid the crowd and visit during off-peak hours.

Restaurant Preview: Maketto

Let me tell you: Maketto’s housewarming party was only a set-up for the dopeness that was about to drop.

And praise the food gods, the shop officially opened this week.

In this pic, you’ll see Pork Steam Buns, Cambodian Noodle Soup and Taiwanese Sticky Rice Wrap.

And literally…I would eat this all over again. The pre-party was a great way to showcase three years of hard work. Music bumpin, live performances, a full house. Even Chef Erik Bruner-Yang was overseeing the entire kitchen and Owner Will Sharp ran around greeting media and VIP guests.

For a full scoop, be sure to check out my article, video and pictures (courtesy of both me and TheKevinJ) here.

 

Maketto is a combination of food, fashion and coffee located on 1351 H St NE. Peep the website.

Restaurant Review: Compass Rose

After procrastinating months and months, I finally tried Compass Rose in U Street.

I usually steer clear of hipster-looking restaurants. They’re usually dimly lit, eerie and filled with miscellaneous furniture pieces (nothing will be uniform). But I was glad to hop into the small space. At 9 p.m. there’s still a good 30-minute wait.

If you read anything, read this: the Khachapuri (Georgian pizza) does not disappoint. Its cheesy goodness isn’t too heavy and the egg combines perfectly with all of the flavor. The bread reminds me of “good’ bread at a classy restaurant; fluffy on the inside and just perfectly toasted on the surrounding edges.

Compass Rose creates international dishes, which can be seen in the variety of dishes varying from different countries. Aside from the Khachapuri, I sipped the Compass Rose signature cocktail (just bubbly and fruity enough for my taste buds) and tried the calamari.

The squid/octopus dish was slightly disappointing and quite salty for me (and I love my sodium). Don’t order the dish. I should have ordered two Khachapuris, but that much butter might give me a heart attack. Regrets. Le sigh.

 

Compass Rose is located at 1346 T St NW. The restaurant doesn’t accept reservations. For questions, call 202.506.4765.

Restaurant Review: Yona Pop-Up at G

Just checked out of the much anticipated Yona Pop Up at G.

For those who don’t know, Baltimore native chef Jonah Kim plans to open up a restaurant in Arlington later this year. Ramen is all the hype right now, and it’s no surprise that the pop up had not only a long waitlist, but also an extension to its stay at G by Mike Isabella.

After planning three weeks in advance, I arrived to an ambient, dark restaurant complete with several two-seat and four-seat tables.

The crispy brussels sprouts are on point. Crunchy on the outside; soft on the inner. It would be a dish worth ordering again. The best part about it though is its shareable for any number of guests at your table.

Next come the ramen. The Tonkotsu-Shoyu Tare looked more delicious than it tasted. I deemed the only worthy reason I would ever return: the egg. Composed in its usual cylinder form, the egg broke apart into a gooey, but beautiful explosion. The combination of both the egg and the tonkotso broth paired perfectly together, and after finishing the one dairy ingredient, I was left wanting more.

The bowl came with two pieces of chashu (meat), which we deemed the second runner-up to the egg. The tender texture nearly melts in your mouth. Yet after eating all the meats (took about a minute since there was only two slices), I decided that it was truly the only part I wanted more of. I dug into the noodles, but decided it wasn’t worth finishing. I left the bowl complete with a decent amount of broth and ramen.

Not sure I would return to the pop-up shop or recommend it to friends. I’m looking forward to Jonah Kim’s future opening, but he’ll need to do more to exceed my expectations, especially after this test run.