Les Bistros & les Brasseries of D.C. & Pasta a la Jesse

The Dining Room at Central Michel Richard

First, Kitchen Monkey is posting this from a villa overlooking the ocean in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. I kid you not. But that will wait for a future post. Right now it's time to play catch-up.

Sushi Party
Last month I hosted a sushi party, putting the guests to work making makimono while I churned pork tonkatsu and gyoza out of the kitchen in batches that disappeared almost as soon as they were out the door. I love the frenetic pace of balancing the timing of various menu items and making sure everybody is well fed, but I'm glad I don't have to do it everyday. I finally read Kitchen Confidential, and as exciting as Bourdain makes it sound, the life of a chef would not be for me. In any event, the sake was flowing, and merriment was had. I also managed to find a Japanese market that sells quail eggs! So the hard core foodies in the kitchen were treated to quail eggs atop nigiri with ikura (salmon roe). Little salty bombs of goodness incarnate my friend. Credit is especially due to Tim, who brought miso soup and helped serve the appetizers. Credit also to Jesse who assisted greatly in the kitchen.

Jesse of Key West: a genuine foodie who cooks a mean pasta (more on that later) and has recently joined KM on food escapades to some of D.C.'s french restaurants, each of which deserve various amounts of praise.

Difference between a bistro and a brasserie? If you don't know, but really care, you can probably look it up on wikipedia. It seems like brasseries are more formal. During my few months in France I never really paid attention to the difference. Feel free to fill me in.

Bistro Du Coin
Frequently hectic and always noisy, Bistro Du Coin is the most authentically French in atmosphere and menu. They are located close to Dupont Circle, and are known for their mussels and fries. In fact, I've never had any desire to order anything there besides moules frites. Bistro du Coin packs you in tight, so its very easy to hear the conversation at the next table, which will probably be about public policy or in French.

This brasserie is near Eastern Market, and has a very cozy atmosphere. The menu is fairly affordable and the food portions are plentiful. Nearly everything is appropriately rich and heavy. For an appetizer we had a very good charcuterie plate with some tasty paté.
Honestly, I don't remember exactly what I had for an entrée, though it was delicious. Rabbit? Duck? Whatever it was, it sat in a box in the back of a rented PT Cruiser over night and was tragically never finished. The rental car people I'm sure appreciated the smell.

Belga Cafe
Also near Eastern Market. Not French, but Belgian. Atmosphere is interesting, a bit trendy-looking. I had steak and frites, and though it was good, I thought it overpriced. Also, it was a weekend, and they were cranking people in and out. It seemed our meals were already prepared when we ordered them, they came so quickly. I don't know that I'd go back to eat, but they do have one of my favorite Belgian ales--Lucifer--which brings back pleasant memories of the gallons I drank at La Gueze in Paris a few summers ago.

Central Michel Richard
The best by far of my recent dining experiences. One of the top restaurants in DC is Citronelle, by the world famous chef Michel Richard. To this point Citronelle is beyond my budget, but Jesse and I recently tried his more affordable place, Central, a mere lamb shank's throw from the Capitol Building. About $140 got us two appetizers, two entrées, dessert, and a bottle of wine plus tip. We started off with the "faux gras" board, which you can see in this NY Times review. The paté is made primarily of butter. Delicious, delicious butter. There also seemed to be some rabbit meat in it.

The "faux gras" terrine is chicken liver, and, again, butter. I can't recall the bottle of wine, which was less than impressive. We had a cold ratatouille which came with a mix of greens on the side. It was fantastic. Jesse had a charcuterie plate for an entrée as well, which meant enormous amounts of sausage and prosciutto sliced thinly from the giant hocks hanging in a display window not far away. I had a slow-braised lamb served with a very creamy polenta. On top of all that, we shared a dessert, which can also be viewed in the Times article: a glorified kit kat bar. As you probably know by now, KM has not the sweet tooth, but this was delicately textured, not overly sweet, and served with some of the best ice cream I've ever had. The wait staff was very professional, and kind enough to twice replace KM's napkin when he dropped it on the floor. I choose to blame this on the wine, which the waiter repeatedly poured into our glasses, hoping to get us drunk so that our judgment would lead us into another bottle of wine.

I definitely recommend this restaurant and will go back eventually. But next on the list is Cafe Atlantico, owned by another famous chef, José Andrés, who, according to the Post, is indefatigable. This is my new favorite word.

Pasta á la Jesse
After playing down her kitchen skills, the indefatigable Jesse whips this up from imagination, and daaaaamn eetz gooood. Very simple, fairly quick, and extremely tasty. You're getting the recipe in IM form. Deal with it.

Jesse: it was
ok -
so it's very detailed and intense
first chop one and half tomatoes
i used linguini if you care
me: i do, i really do
Jesse: i sliced, salted, and let the eggplant sweat for an hour
4:02 PM i didn't use any salt in the cooking otherwise
then i fried the eggplant in olive oil
me: lots of it
Jesse: you need lots
we drained it a bit - the eggplant after frying it right
then while the pasta cooked
4:03 PM i simmered the tomatoes with pepper and red pepper flakes
in a little bit of olive oil
added the eggplant cut into bite size pieces near the end since it's already cooked, just to heat it
added the procciutto right at the end
i think that's it maybe
4:04 PM i could be forgetting a spice
but i don't think so
i don't think i put onion
maybe i put garlic?

Note from the indefatigable editor: I think there was, in fact, some garlic in it.

Next time, Jamaica. (And fear not, I will not end any of my sentences with "mon").

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