after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Dinner #2/20: Kitsuen (& More!)

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t says: We were on fire this weekend! We did a dinner out and a brunch the following morning (although we did bring p with us to brunch).

January 2020, Saturday Dinner. g and I love ramen. And while we were slated to head out to a fine dining establishment somewhere in DC (we’re going to save that one for later), we had a last minute change of plans. Instead, g and I ventured out, sans reservation, to the hip, hot new restuarant/bar Kitsuen. We sauntered in at 7:20pm, and were seated by 7:30 – not bad for a place with some buzz. I will say, however, that starting at 7:45, there were now crowds of folks waiting to be seated. Glad we got there early.

Kitsuen, from what I gather, is more lounge/bar, “but with good food”. But they only have one bar … and they serve ramen at that bar, so it’s being taken up by people eating … so it’s not “really” a bar you can walk up to and grab a drink at. So I’m confused. Maybe they’re still working out the kinks …

It didn’t matter: we were there for the ramen. But I have no pictures of the ramen? Goshdarnit, I forgot, again! Just imagine the standard bowls of ramen everywhere else on this blog and you get the idea. Here’s one:

This is NOT the ramen at Kitsuen …

g ventured the Hakata Tonkotsu, and I went for the Tokyo Shoyu. I’m going to cut to the chase: Toki Underground does it better. There’s a lot that is done correctly at Kitsuen. They used the appropriate shaped noodle for each bowl (the tonkotsu had straight, thin noodles, while the shoyu had some wave to them). The additions were standard. The broth was fine. But nothing really hit you in the mouth. g called it “balanced”. I call it “toned down”. The shoyu was missing out on the deep salty/savory backdrop. The pork chashu lacked the porky salty-sweet that I expected. The addition of the grisel of beef was pointless (it reminds me of how my mom adds a bit of bulgogi to wonton soup – it’s more for the soup’s flavor than for the experience of actually eating the meat, itself). Meanwhile, g’s tonkotsu was … inoffensive. Absent was the creamy/fatty goodness I had hoped for. I thought the noodles could have been a touch firmer. In the end, I think both broths were missing out on another several hours of reduction/concentration, as they had the mouth presence of a chicken noodle soup moreso than a hearty bowl of ramen that a Japanese chef toiled over for hours out of the day. Oh – and neither noodle had that alkaline twang to them – they could have been a standard pasta noodle in terms of flavor.

As for the rest: the karaage was tasty (reminding us of Popeye’s – and what’s wrong with that?) The octopus takoyaki balls were fun, but could have used a bit more octopus. The sake was refreshing and reasonably priced.

So was the meal a failure? Absolutely not. It was fun! We people-watched, reminisced over our previous ramen adventures, joked about how the server had told us they had Japanese wines (they pulled out a bottle of Sonoma chardonnay). It was worth the trip to see if Kitsuen was our speed (it wasn’t – we’re too old). Hopefully, as more people hit up Kitsuen, it’ll free up some space for Toki down the street (where we can engage in a discussion on whether their interpretation of tsukemmen is delicious or improperly constructed or both!)

But the night was not over! On the way back home, we came across Dangerously Delicious Pies. And this time, there is a picture!

Dangerously Delicious Pies

Now this was a place that really struck a chord with us. The theme, itself, is kind of silly: “a bunch of pies”. Hell – “Peasant Pies” in SF had the same theme, and we can agree that that place wasn’t good at all. However, this place was far more legit. All kinds of pies. Whole pies (not personal/hand pies). All right there. In a dive bar setting. With a music venue upstairs. And that key lime pie was delicious! (The other one was the Elvis: banana, PB, bacon was also good.) In this moment, we felt we finally hit upon someplace with a genuine feel. No million-dollar backer, no celebrity chef, no care to create a seen-and-be-seen environment. Just some pie (and we didn’t even sample any of the savory ones!). And music. This is where we’d take some out-of-town friends. Welcome to DC! Have some pie.

And now … brunch. No pictures. No details. Just a directive: Little Pearl is delicious. The menu is super-small, but think of this place as a cafe, not a restaurant, and you’ll understand. Apparently, if you’re a young family in capitol hill trying to eat somewhere actually good with your child but don’t want to commit to a full-on “meal”, Little Pearl is where you go. Now I want to try their dinner!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 January 2020 at 9:17am

Posted in Happenings

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