Supreme FoodCourt Does Restaurant Week

Last week, the FoodCourt visited Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro to partake in the $20.12 three course lunch for Restaurant Week.  Results below.

Taste/Flavor: The three courses each had 2-3 options. Appetizers were either a chicken dumpling soup or a salad.  The salad was half a head of Bibb lettuce – perfectly fresh and tasty to the core – in a blue cheese dressing (with chunks of real blue cheese) with lemon breadcrumbs.  The flavor of the dressing and breadcrumb combination was light and tangy, and the breadcrumbs added intriguing texture to this dish.  The chicken dumpling soup was also very tasty – the gumball-sized dumplings had a distinct and delicious truffle oil flavor.

Entrees were between a rib pot pie, a fish burger, or a chicken dish.  The fish burger was served with a side of fresh greens and saffron aioli.  The chicken hindquarter was served with Israeli couscous and peppers.  The pot pie was served with a deliciously flaky and light puff pastry (obviously made in house) over the beef shortribs with truffled mashed potatoes making the bottom layer – the ultimate comfort food.

The three dessert choices were each outstanding: profiteroles filled with elderflower scented cream served with a vanilla bean coulis and raspberries; a warm chocolate tart that tasted like the chocolate had just been poured hot into the crust, with real whipped cream on top and dabs of caramel on the side; and a lime parfait with grapefruit sorbet and a caramel crunch garnish of utter deliciousness.

Proximity: A fairly long walk down New Hampshire – not prohibitive though if one is intending to go to a fancy place; it wouldn’t be an everyday lunch spot.

Service:  Snooty seater; Julia characterized her as being the “perfect stereotypical French woman.”  Table servers were lovely – attentive w/o hovering.

Atmosphere: Nothing special; felt “hotel-y.”  Didn’t feel like they’d put effort into the décor to have it make a signature statement – the food is where their energy is.  The kitchen can be seen behind an open screen so, if in the right part of the restaurant, one can see parts of the meal being prepared.  There’s a nice looking bar in the main dining area, too.


In Asian Noodle Soup Decision, FoodCourt Rules for Nooshi

Today, the Supreme FoodCourt ruled in favor of Nooshi in the case of Asian Noodle Soups v. AFJ.  The Court also considered the merits of establishments such as Raku, Thai Chef, Sakana, and Saigon Bistro. The opinion is below, and a formatted copy of the opinion is available here.

WINTER TERM, 2011

Supreme FoodCourt of AFJ

Asian Noodle Soups v. AFJ

February 29, 2012

Chief Justie Franco-Malone delivered the opinion of the Court, which was joined by Justices Shea, Yung, Edmonds, Steinberg, Smith, Horn, Zeise, Brown, and Kselman.

To insulate itself from the cold winter weather, the Supreme FoodCourt quested to find the best restaurant in Dupont Circle to warm up with a bowl of Asian noodle soup.  The Court’s term spanned several Asian cuisines, including Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai. The Court went to Nooshi, Raku, Sakana, Saigon Bistro, and Thai Chef.

  1. I.                    Nooshi

Nooshi was the clear winner of the Asian Noodle Soup term.  Nooshi (named, perhaps, after the two cuisines it features – noodles and sushi) served up the widest array of soups, each of which was delectable.  The only thing to find fault with Nooshi is its distance (closer to K Street than Dupont Circle), but the huge steaming bowls of soup make the ten minute walk well worth it.  Nearly all the soups are priced at around $10 and are a great value. Whether one is looking for a hot and spicy bowl of soup (like the Phuket noodles which featured a sour, limey, tear-inducing spicy broth with rice noodles), a hearty, comforting soup (like the seafood ramen, which came with perfect chewy noodles, a rich broth, and shrimp, fish cake, crab, and squid), or a rich, exotic soup (like the Chiang Mai noodles which came with a delicious coconut-curry broth, eggplant, and crispy egg noodles), it is hard to make a bad choice at Nooshi.  The soup was also extra tasty when slurped out of the specially crafted soup spoons with a hook at the end to prevent the spoon from falling into the bowl. The soup takes a bit of time to come out from the kitchen and is not particularly fast to eat, so Nooshi is best enjoyed when one has a bit of time to linger over lunch, though they also offer a takeout window adjacent to the main restaurant.

  1. II.                Thai Chef

Thai Chef came in second to Nooshi and made a respectable showing with its noodle soups.  The soup with minced chicken, ground peanuts, and rice noodles was particularly good – its intense flavor was described as sweet, spicy, and limey.  The dumpling soup with chewy egg noodles and dumplings filled with delicious minced shrimp was also very good.  The duck soup also received mostly good reviews – the broth had a sweetish flavor, the mushrooms were nicely caramelized, and the duck had lots of yummy fat.  The only soup to steer clear of was the Yaki Suki, whose mix of coconut-curry broth, beef, and rice noodles received the lowest reviews and came in smaller portions than the other varieties.  The justices appreciated that soups were served with an array of four different kinds of peppers and hot sauces so the diner could modify the spice level of the soup to suit individual preference.

  1. III.             Raku

While Raku is a longtime favorite of several of FoodCourt justices for its above average sushi and delicious stir-fried noodles, it fell short in the noodle soup department.  First and foremost, the justices were disappointed by the limited choices – only two broths and two noodles to choose from (though you can mix and match broth, noodles, and protein for more variety). Diners may choose between a dashi or coconut curry based broth, ramen noodles or udon noodles, and beef, chicken, or shrimp. While all the soups tasted good, there were no standouts as there were at Nooshi, and even Thai Chef.  One attribute to be commended is the good value of Raku’s lunches – the noodle soups were less expensive than at its competitors’ establishments, at $7.50 – 8.50 for a large bowl of soup that could easily suffice for both lunch and a midafternoon snack – particularly given that soups came with a free appetizer salad. Another point in Raku’s favor is that service was friendly and efficient. It is also undeniably the closet source of Asian noodle soup to the AFJ offices, making it a viable choice for those who need soup stat. Raku is a good place to come for a quick, workday lunch, if not the most delicious bowl of noodles to be found in Dupont Circle.

  1. IV.             Sakana

Sakana had a respectable array of Japanese soups available, including ramen, udon, and soba.  However, its limited focus on Japanese cuisine meant that there was less noodle soup variety compared to its Pan Asian competitors. That said, all of the soups consumed by the justices were delectable.  The ramen came with a cloudy, miso-based broth, barbequed pork, and a boiled egg.  The chicken ramen came with a clear, soy-based broth with lots of cabbage and onion heaped on top.  The seafood udon came with a nice medley of seafood, including a tempura prawn, clams, fishcake, and quid. It also featured a poached egg that could be mixed in to make the broth even more rich and delicious.  Like Thai Chef, a bonus feature of Sakana was the free salad included with soups.  Sakana offered a tucked away, serene atmosphere and is a good place to enjoy a quiet lunch. However, the service at Sakana was problematic – servers breached FoodCourt etiquette by chastising the justices for coming in a large group all desiring soup (apparently soup cannot be cooked in batches larger than four) and were reluctant to provide takeout containers.  Sakana is a reliable provider of noodle soups, particularly ramen, but the FoodCourt can only recommend Sakana for small groups of diners.

  1. V.                Saigon Bistro

Saigon Bistro lagged in last place less for the quality of its noodle soup, and more because Pho’s mild, soothing flavor was simply too difficult to compare to the other, bolder genres of noodle soup the FoodCourt enjoyed.  Saigon Bistro served middle of the road Pho which was largely unremarkable, but bears the mantle of being the only restaurant to serve Pho in the immediate Dupont Circle area.  Although service was quick and friendly, and the soup came to the table piping hot.

As an aside, it has recently been announced that a Pho food truck will be hitting the streets of DC this April. Justices who love Pho may want to attempt to petition the Pho Truck to make regular trips to Dupont Circle, thus expanding options for this term’s choice of food.


FoodCourt Issues Much-Anticipated In re Sushi Opinion

Download a PDF copy of the FoodCourt’s opinion:  In re Sushi

FALL TERM, 2011

Supreme FoodCourt of AFJ

In re Sushi

February 17, 2012

Justice Steinberg delivered the opinion of the Court, which was joined by Justices Franco-Malone, Horn, Edmonds, Zeise, Posner, and Shea. Justice Edmonds wrote a concurrence which was joined by Justice Franco-Malone. Justice Brown took no part in the opinion.

This term the Supreme FoodCourt heard the case of In re Sushi, in which the Court was asked to decide the age-old question of whose Dupont Circle sushi cuisine reigns supreme.  The Court initially granted cert to consider the merits of four restaurants located near the Circle—Oh Fish!, Umi, Thai Chef, and Nooshi.[1]  After much consideration, a unanimous Court rules that Umi is the champion of the chopsticks, with Thai Chef placing a distant second, Oh Fish! placing third, and Nooshi being disqualified.

  1. I.                    Umi

 

What an easy choice.  Simply put, Umi had the best food, in the largest quantities, for the lowest price, of any of our contenders.

Let’s start with the food.  It was very tasty.  The miso soup was far and away the best of the bunch, with a nice, slightly salty texture, an aromatic broth.  The spicy white tuna crunch roll was incredibly fresh and delicious.  The other rolls were also uniformly fresh, with large portions of fish.  The sliced ginger was noticeably nicer than at other establishments.  The sashimi was of a similarly high quality (and quantity).  Yum.

The price for all of this food was absurdly low.  The lunch specials—$8.50 for two rolls + soup and $8 bento box with a huge amount of food—are so surprisingly inexpensive that many of us opted to go all-in and order an extra (delightfully superfluous) à la carte roll  for $4-6 as well.[2]

For busy Court-watchers who may want to patronize this establishment, we recommend the free delivery.[3]  The food comes in an unexpectedly nice presentation, with tin trays for sushi and plastic bento boxes for bento meals.

All said, this restaurant may make you exclaim “Umi O My!”

 

  1. II.                 Thai Chef

 

Thai Chef is a pan-Asian restaurant that has average sushi.  The food is fresh and there are a fair number of items on the menu, but it’s all a bit pricey for the quality and taste.

Many Justices were displeased to be paying $11-14 for food that was noticeably less tasty (and in smaller quantities) than the food at Umi.  The spicy, crunchy yellowtail was decent, and the miso soup was better than average, but nothing on the menu was particularly delicious.  Many of the rolls were crumbly, and also fell apart.  One pro is that it was easy to get a table there at lunch.

All things said, we were happy to say Sayonara at the end of our meal.

  1. III.               Oh Fish!

Oh Fish! may be the ideal spot for southerly Dupont Circlians on the run (it’s a good 10 minute walk from the circle), but for the rest of us it is probably not worth going out of your way to visit.

The store is essentially fast-food Sushi with average fare.  While there are only a few choices of fish for your rolls, you can design your own, allowing for a wide variety of options and interesting flavor combinations. One plus was that they had a great variety of soy sauce options (wasabi soy, sweet soy, citrus soy, wasabi mayo, etc.), though you only get one option per order.  One good or bad thing, depending on your perspective, is that the rolls are really big, so much so that most Court members could not eat them in one bite.

  1. IV.               Nooshi

While the Court initially granted cert to consider Nooshi, the Court later rescinded that order after several justices, at a separate non-Court sitting at Nooshi, ate their sushi and found it to be hugely over-priced and below-average.

Supreme FoodCourt of AFJ

In re Sushi

February 17, 2012

Justice Edmonds concurring in the judgment, joined by Justice Franco-Malone.

I concur to say only that Thai Chef was still pretty good and much closer than Umi, so it does not trail by much.  I am actually more likely to return to Thai Chef for an in-person meal, though I would order delivery for Umi or go there for dinner.


[1] Cert petitions for other Sakana, Cafe Japone, Raku, and Sushi Taro were denied for the time being, though they may be revisited in a later term.

[2] For all rolls, soy bean wrappers are available for those who do not like nori.

[3] If you have more time, we recommend going in-person.  The ambiance and service are both excellent.


Indian Experience

In a Supreme FoodCourt first, the Ascot Restaurant (aka the Indian Experience) unanimously received the worst rating possible for overall score.  While the food was acceptable, it was decidedly worse than the other establishments to have been considered during the Indian Buffet term, and given the relatively high price and far away location, the sitting justices all agreed that no one was likely to return.

Overall: 1 (Eva: 1, Joe: 1, Ashley: 1, Danielle: 1)

Taste/Flavor: 2.6 (Eva: 2, Joe: 3.5, Ashley: 2, Danielle: 3)

Menu/Variety: There was a decent variety, though the buffet was heavily geared toward vegetarians. There were only two meat dishes.

Price: $12 – a lot for an Indian buffet lunch.

Taste: The food was generally okay, with a few weak spots.  The butter chicken was markedly sub-par, with a tomato sauce that tasted as though it was created using a Campbell’s soup mix, and breast meat that was much dryer and less succulent than the traditional thigh meat.  The stewed eggplant was another low point, described by justices as “spicy mush” with an applesauce-like consistency.  The cilantro chutney – usually a high point in Indian meals – lacked complex flavor and seemed to consist nearly entirely of blended up cilantro.  The kheer, perplexingly, was served warm, and was far too heavy on the sweetened condensed milk.  Better dishes included the cauliflower with potatoes, which was packed with flavor and cumin seeds.  The vegetable biryani was also flavor-loaded and delicious.

Service: Good.  Water was refilled regularly, and the staff was not flustered by the fact that our expected group changed from 8 to 4.

Pros: Nice decor – restaurant was located in a basement but was well-decorated.  The room was spacious and good for large groups.  Naan was available at the buffet so one was not limited by the contents of a bread basket.

Cons: Mediocre food, high price, inconvenient location.  Only one desert available.


Heritage India

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The FoodCourt entered its second week of the Indian buffet term with a visit to Heritage India.  While it is early in the term, based on today’s scores, it appears Heritage India has positioned itself as the front runner.

 

Overall:  3.6 (Danielle: 4, Timothy: 3, Joe: 3.5, Elizabeth: 4, Devan: 3, Ashley: 4.5, Jason: 3.5)

Taste: 4.1 (Danielle: 4.5, Timothy: 3.5, Joe: 4, Elizabeth: 4.5, Devan: 4, Ashley: 4.5, Jason 4)

Ambiance:  Casual yet fancy. Spacious and calm. Nice decor.

Price/Value: $12. A bit pricey for a lunch buffet, but the quantity and quality of food are better than average.

Service: Unobtrusive yet attentive service. Plates were cleared during return trips to buffet and water refilled with lightning fast speed.

Menu/Variety: There was a nice variety included in the buffet – about 8 entree choices, in addition to a salad area, desserts, and lots of chutneys and accouterments.

Taste:  Delicious food with higher than average quality food.  The naan was fresh and soft. The chicken curry and butter chicken (murgh makhani) were both tender and incredibly flavorful. The tandoori chicken was tender, moist, and far superior to that of Tandoori Time’s version. Most entrees were less spicy than those at Tandoori Time.  The desserts were also exceptionally good, with deliciously rich and sweet kheer, and a more unique dessert described as a carrot pudding.

Pros:  There was an entire table full of different chutneys and toppings.  Round tables made for easy conversation in a largish group. Despite the restaurant getting more crowded throughout lunch, we did not feel any pressure to hurry through the meal.

Cons:  No significant cons other than the slightly higher than average price.

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The lunch spread at Heritage India. Salad, dessert, and chutneys were tabled separately.

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The bountiful spread of chutneys and other fixings at Heritage India.


Tandoori Time

The FoodCourt began it’s Indian buffet term with a visit to Tandoori Time, with generally positive reviews.

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Overall: 3.4 (Danielle: 4, Timothy: 3, Joe: 3.5, Eva: 3, Devan: 3, Ashley: 4)

Taste:  3.4 (Danielle: 4, Timothy: 2.5, Joe: 4, Eva: 3, Devan: 3, Ashley: 4)

Price/Value: Very reasonable at $9 for the buffet.

Service: Totally adequate for a buffet. Handled splitting of checks very easily. As lunch crowd intensified, we felt pressured to wrap up our meal quickly, leading some justices to refrain from a second visit to the buffet. A reservation is a must for a medium-large group.

Menu/Variety: Seemed to have all the basics.  Choices apparently rotate daily.

Taste:  Overall very good. Quite a bit of very spicy food.  Lentils were yummy and made liberal use of ginger.  Tandoori chicken (perplexingly titled as “kabobs”) had too much sauce on it, a bit tough, and was just okay.  Chicken curry was good but not excellent.  Pakora like fritters were like scrumptious little savory donuts.  Paneer dish was delicious, spicy, and in a rich, cheesy sauce. The chickpea and daal stews were also quite tasty. Naan was adequate. Warm dessert donut balls doused in sweet sauce were delicious (see picture below).

Pros:  Nan delivered to table. Frequent water refills made the spicy food easier to eat. Lots of delicious chutneys on the side.

Cons: Would have appreciated rice pudding as a dessert option.   A bit of a walk.  Restaurant is on the smallish side and gets busy at lunch. Some food was too spicy for some justices and labels detailing more information about the dishes may have helped inform selections.

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Supreme FoodCourt Does Restaurant Week

Last week, the FoodCourt visited Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro to partake in the $20.12 three course lunch for Restaurant Week.  Results below.

Taste/Flavor: The three courses each had 2-3 options. Appetizers were either a chicken dumpling soup or a salad.  The salad was half a head of Bibb lettuce – perfectly fresh and tasty to the core – in a blue cheese dressing (with chunks of real blue cheese) with lemon breadcrumbs.  The flavor of the dressing and breadcrumb combination was light and tangy, and the breadcrumbs added intriguing texture to this dish.  The chicken dumpling soup was also very tasty – the gumball-sized dumplings had a distinct and delicious truffle oil flavor.

Entrees were between a rib pot pie, a fish burger, or a chicken dish.  The fish burger was served with a side of fresh greens and saffron aioli.  The chicken hindquarter was served with Israeli couscous and peppers.  The pot pie was served with a deliciously flaky and light puff pastry (obviously made in house) over the beef shortribs with truffled mashed potatoes making the bottom layer – the ultimate comfort food.

The three dessert choices were each outstanding: profiteroles filled with elderflower scented cream served with a vanilla bean coulis and raspberries; a warm chocolate tart that tasted like the chocolate had just been poured hot into the crust, with real whipped cream on top and dabs of caramel on the side; and a lime parfait with grapefruit sorbet and a caramel crunch garnish of utter deliciousness.

Proximity: A fairly long walk down New Hampshire – not prohibitive though if one is intending to go to a fancy place; it wouldn’t be an everyday lunch spot.

Service:  Snooty seater; Julia characterized her as being the “perfect stereotypical French woman.”  Table servers were lovely – attentive w/o hovering.

Atmosphere: Nothing special; felt “hotel-y.”  Didn’t feel like they’d put effort into the décor to have it make a signature statement – the food is where their energy is.  The kitchen can be seen behind an open screen so, if in the right part of the restaurant, one can see parts of the meal being prepared.  There’s a nice looking bar in the main dining area, too.


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