willow restaurant.

Chris and I recently went to Willow Restaurant right here in Arlington, thanks to a Groupon!  Seriously, half of the time we go out to eat,  we use a coupon from Savored (formerly “VillageVines”), Groupon, or LivingSocial.  We sat outside, because we’d sat inside last time we went… and the feel of the restaurant is completely different depending on where you sit.  Inside, it’s got a very posh vibe.  You walk up to the host desk, and you feel like you’re checking into a very expensive and ritzy hotel.  Or maybe a night club.  (Well, that might be a stretch.)  Outside, the feel is a lot more casual and informal (though definitely still classy!).  Unfortunately, although the temperature was somewhat cooler than usual that evening, it still felt extremely muggy outside!  Oh well.

Chris ordered the Seared Day Boat Scallops with Potato Ravioli (“Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms, Ragout of Corn, Peas, Fava Beans, Roasted Tomato, Bacon & Savory, Corn Sauce”), along with a glass of a Tocai Friulano (an Italian white variety!).

Seared Day Boat Scallops with Potato Ravioli

He loved it.  Scallops are his new favorite thing, and they were seared to perfection.  I was feeling like going veggie, so I ordered the Duo of Fennel & Spring Asparagus (“Fennel Raviolini, Potato Gnocchi, & Spring Vegetables with Gratin of Fennel & Savory, Black Truffle Butter”).  I also ordered a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  (Typical.)

Duo of Fennel & Spring Asparagus

My meal was delicious, but I was so hungry going into dinner that afterwards I wished I’d ordered fish instead.

Willow is great, but I don’t dream about the food when I’m not there.  Food critics must agree… it was on the Top 100 list last year, but didn’t make the cut for 2011.  Sorry, Willow.  It’s definitely a nice place to have right around the corner!  The overall result — and the cost — make it more of a draw with a coupon though.

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top 100 restaurants: zentan

Zentan is a hip and ritzy Asian restaurant created by the famous Chef Susur Lee, and located near the McPherson Square metro in DC.  We discovered the restaurant when Village Vines emailed us another free $10 credit to get 30% off our final bill, so we went straight to their restaurant list and made our choice!  It’s also fun, of course, that Zentan turns out to be another Top 100 restaurant.

I definitely want to go there again.  I loved the modern vibe of the place, and the wait staff was very friendly.  Chris wasn’t as impressed as I was, but I think he just wished we’d ordered different sushi rolls.  We chose our entire meal and wine based on our waitress’ recommendations, and I was thrilled with all of it!  Next time, we’ll choose more of Chris’ favorite sushi instead.  :)

This was our view of the restaurant (before it filled up and was hopping!):

The bar and awesome candles at Zentan.

We ordered a 2009 Adelsheim Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Crisp, refreshing, and to the point.  We started with a half-order of the Singapore Slaw, which had a salted plum dressing and peanuts in the mix.  It was very light, and a great way to begin.  Next, we shared the Escolar, which is Asian crudo (raw fish) with pickled jalapeño, jicama, and shallot-sesame dressing.  As the waitress had said, it was just a really clean and nice fish!

Finally, we ended with two sushi rolls: The “Brick” (spicy lobster, scallop, barbeque eel, avocado, & tobiko) and The “Rock & Roll” (crispy calamari, yellowtail, mango, & jalapeño).

The "Brick" and the "Rock & Roll" Signature Sushi Rolls.

We usually ask for roe-less sushi… but oops, forgot to do that this time!  So we just tried to scrape off the roe as best we could and not think about baby fish being born in our stomachs.  :)

What is it about sushi?  To me, it might be the most romantic food in the world…

I really loved Zentan.  It reminded me of Passion Fish, a restaurant in Reston that is more highly-ranked on the Top 100 list.  I do think I might like Passion Fish better than Zentan, but I definitely prefer DC over Reston.  In any case, it’s wonderful to know about two delicious and trendy sushi restaurants now!

asparagus tortellini + new zealand sauvignon blanc.

I always know I’ve fallen in love with a meal/food idea/type of wine/etc when I can’t stop thinking about it, and start feverishly finding out how to recreate it… or at least somehow have it again!  The asparagus sauce on my red snapper at Kinkead’s Thursday night was SO divine, it made me think back to the other delicious asparagus experiences of my life… asparagus soup at Teatro Golodoni during Restaurant Week two years ago… “asparagus three ways” at Citronelle the night Chris and I got engaged…

So yesterday I started searching the internet for an asparagus sauce recipe to use with pasta.  Amazingly, this was not easy to find, and I began to wonder if pasta with asparagus sauce was a strange idea?  I eventually found this yummy recipe from The Cooking Photographer.  I set to work and followed the ingredients and instructions pretty exactly.  I probably used more than a pinch of red pepper flakes (which gave it a really nice spicy element), and I also used cheese tortellini instead of ravioli.  The result was very nice!

Cheese Tortellini in Asparagus Cream Sauce with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Cheese Tortellini in Asparagus Cream Sauce

The wine was a 2010 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand (around $10 at Trader Joe’s).  It had all of the nice lime and citrus flavors that I remembered from the one I had at Kinkead’s.  I really like the asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc combo.  I’m not an expert though, so I searched the Internet for affirmation.  Apparently, asparagus is quite a challenge to pair with wine!  It felt good to see “crisp, and refreshing wines like Sauvignon Blanc” on the list though.  The cashier at TJ’s said her opinion was that New Zealand is the place for SB, and after two nights in a row of enjoying it… I may have to agree!

top 100 restaurants: kinkead’s

Chris and I are trying to go to all of the Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants. It’s a slow goal, but we are making progress! Last night, we tried out Kinkead’s, a seafood restaurant near the Foggy Bottom metro. We used Village Vines (they emailed us a free $10 credit) to get 30% off our final bill… always a good option for the more pricey restaurants.

It was a funny environment. Loved the live piano-playing! Kinkead’s seems to be the place where the rich, elderly people of DC go. Chris and I enjoyed people-watching, and gathered a lot of info by eavesdropping on nearby conversations! There was a family a few tables away, representing a few generations, where one older man seemed to know the waiter very well. To the right of our table, an elderly couple barely spoke as they ate, but laughed loudly at a joke the waiter told about how people are always on their cellphones these days. To the left, a couple (probably in their 30s) dined with their parents; it was apparently the first time both sets of parents were meeting each other. We were hoping for a proposal! Maybe it happened after we left.

This is Kinkead's logo - on everything at the restaurant!

Anyway, Chris ordered the Alaskan Halibut with Crab Imperial, Scallion Spoon Bread, Sweet Potato Puree, and Mustard Cream Sauce. I can’t find the exact name of what I ordered, but it was Red Snapper with Asparagus, and some sort of asparagus cream sauce (which I MUST learn how to make!). The portions were perfect, and the meals were divine!

The Alaskan Halibut - Chris' meal.

The Red Snapper - my meal.

For wine, we each ordered a different glass. Chris got a yummy red blend, and I chose a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I need to branch out more into white wines… I truly loved this one! Dryer, and oh so full of citrus flavors!

We really enjoyed our time at Kinkead’s, but I’m not sure if we’ll rush to go back (maybe if we’re living around here and rich when we’re in our 70’s!). The meals were delicious though, and we felt very refined as we ate.