Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Del Campo

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I'm not sure if it's ever come up before, but I must say that I love a good steak. When I found out that a new Latin inspired steakhouse was coming to town and located only 12 floors below my office desk, I was pretty excited. Last weekend, I finally got to pay Del Campo a visit.  The only regret I have is that it took me four months to get in the door!

First off, I was really impressed with the interior design.  The ceilings were very high and the design was not Latin kitschy.  Rather, it was dramatic, formal, and lovely.  And, from the start of the night, the service was absolutely impeccable. From the host, to the food runners, to our awesome waiter, Del Campo blew this former server away (a feat that is not easy to accomplish)!  To start, I settled on the Pisco Punch.  This traditional cocktail was fruity and sweet with the perfect sour note, which was exactly what I expected. 

For appetizers, we decided to be adventurous.  I went with the Grilled Octopus. It was served along with tuna confit, two colorful varieties of potatoes and grilled avocado.  The octopus was grilled to perfection.  Not a hint of chewiness and spot on char grilled flavor.  The potatoes, while they did add to the beautiful presentation of this dish, really didn't do much for me with regard to texture or flavor.  I think the dish would have benefited from a bit more spice--I found it a bit bland truthfully.  But, the perfection with which it was prepared still allowed me to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy this dish.

My boyfriend decided to show me up and order anticuchos--or beef heart.  It was served both grilled and as a tartare along with a quail egg and grilled polenta.  I am so glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try this dish.  The grilled beef heart was so robustly flavorful, and in my opinion incredibly tender.  It was also served with a delicious tangy sauce that reminded me of a grown-up A1.  But only a million times better. I secretly wished I had ordered this dish for myself!

For dinner, I was incredibly overwhelmed by the many options of asados (grilled meats).  After debating the options with our server, who should be made a saint for his patience with us, I settled on the Terres Major Steak. Terres Major is a shoulder cut of meat, similar in quality and flavor to a Filet Mignon but less expensive.  My delicate palate could not tell the difference.  This was truthfully one of the best steaks I've ever had. It was grilled perfectly to medium rare with a charred sear on the outside.  I topped it with Salsa Criolla (peppers, tomatoes, and onions) to perfectly complete the flavor profile.  

Oh, and the presentation of the food was very cool.  Both entrees were brought out on a personal grill pan to keep them warm, and my steak had been sliced for me.  Two thumbs up.  We also received a complimentary piece of bone marrow with our entrees.  I have to admit, I had trouble swallowing this and would never sample it again. It was a bit too slimy for me to enjoy.  But, the gesture by the restaurant was greatly appreciated!

My boyfriend also had trouble deciding what to order for his main course.  He finally decided on the acorn fed Iberico pork chop.  Simply put, he described it as the best pork chop he's ever eaten.  I required a taste test to validate this bold statement.  The pork was extremely tender, and I almost felt like I could taste a hint of acorn in it.  Clearly a very fresh piece of meat. 

For dessert, (because we weren't full enough already) we debated between the S'Mores and the special of the night, Dulce de Leche donuts with an adult milkshake.  We went with the latter, and my sweet tooth was immediately satisfied.  The donuts were flaky, and the filling was the perfect balance.  Not too sweet, but sweet enough.  And the milkshake.  Let's not forget about that little cup of amazingness.  I hope Del Campo puts this dessert on their regular menu, it needs to be tried by everyone!

Do yourself a favor....get to Del Campo ASAP.  This new Chinatown restaurant is here to stay, and I think we can expect to see many more great things from Chef Victor Albisu. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kapnos - A new Isabella delight on 14th Street

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Image courtesy of the Washington Post

When my friend came to visit from NYC a few weeks ago, I had to put on my foodie game face to wow her.  This girl has tried just about half (definitely the better half) of the restaurants in Manhattan, and I knew how hard it would be to compete with that!  Thankfully, DC has some fantastic new options.  I took her to try out Mike Isabella's newest Mediterranean small plates restaurant on 14th & W: Kapnos.  I breathed a sigh of relief when she told me how much she loved the meal, ambience, and, of course, the company! 

We started off with the Melitzanosalata - an eggplant dip served cold with a charred flavor.  It was well- balanced by the fresh feta and was served with warm fresh pita bread.  There were a ton of delicious dips that appealed to me, and I can't wait to go back and try more of them! 

Next we got the Farmhouse Vegetable Salad, which turned out to be a traditional Greek salad.  No lettuce - exactly like they do it in Greece!  Fresh-from-the-farm cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, onions, and crumbly salty creamy feta cheese.  Yum.  Could seriously have stopped here. But we're not even close to done. 

Then we got the grilled/charred octopus.  I have never seen octopus in this form before, and I was worried it would be chewy because of the thick cut.  To my pleasant surprise the octopus was incredibly tender.  It had a delicious smoky flavor.  It was topped with fresh dill, radishes, and served with a creamy dipping sauce.

Next we got the hen-of-the-woods mushroom.  Usually I love any dish that features exotic mushrooms, but I was a little overwhelmed by the cream on the bottom and cheese on top.  Too much.  The mushroom is such a gem on its own.  I really wish they'd just let it shine without all the fixins. 

Next was the baked halibut with melted leeks and an avgolemeno (egg-lemon) sauce.  We ate it too fast to snap a picture!  I'm really regretting that there is no photo because this was a beautiful, perfectly cooked piece of fish that just flaked apart at the touch and melted with flavor in your mouth.  Although there is no evidence to prove it, this was the best thing we ate all night. 

By this point we were totally stuffed, but we still had one more dish! I always feel bad for the last tapa.  I always over order and it's hard to find anything appealing when you're so full.  That said, the spiced baby goat was still good.  Our waitress described it as having "Indian spices" which wasn't totally inaccurate.  It was definitely more in the Middle Eastern/Indian spice category. It was served over an "ancient grain salad" - which just seemed to be a fancy description for rice.  It was good, not my favorite, but good.  Next time I'll probably try the lamb instead. 

Overall, the charred octopus and the halibut were the winners of the night.  I will skip the hen-of-the-woods mushroom and the goat next time.  Kapnos is a welcome addition to the 14th Street neighborhood.  I can't wait to go back and try more of the offerings!