Tag Archives: shrimp

Floriana: A Family Affair

Floriana is one of those places that I’ve walked past a thousand times, but never had the time nor the inclination to venture inside. That is, until this past Saturday night, when one of Floriana’s owners contacted me about trying out the restaurant. (Note: I paid for my own meal. Only drinks were comped, which I will not include in this review–though I will say that the sangria was delicious.)

Floriana has occupied its prime location on Dupont Circle’s 17th St. since 1979. For 31 years, Floriana’s handmade pastas and rustic Italian cuisine has built a loyal following, especially among the neighborhood’s gay community. The restaurant emphasizes its cozy and intimate ambiance, where regulars and newcomers alike are made to feel like they’re eating in someone’s house. Run by Floriana and her son and daughter-in-law, the restaurant is truly a family affair, with menu items even named after family members.

I was a big fan of the ambiance, especially the outdoor patio. It was inviting and pleasant, despite the muggy heat, and I loved the white twinkle lights strewn through the trees above. And on a busy, often flamboyant, corner of 17th St., the patio is an excellent spot for people watching and taking in the night scene.

I wish I could say I was as enthused about the food. We started off with the beet down salad ($9) and the shrimp and avocado appetizer ($12). The beet down consisted of roasted red and golden beets and Asian pears tossed with a honey ginger vinaigrette. I enjoyed the beets, but I found the pears lost a lot of their crunch from the dressing. I also wish the presentation had been a bit less rustic–perhaps a garnish on the plate would have helped. Otherwise, what arrives at the table really is a beet down–a haphazard pile of what could be, with a little more fine-tuning, a composed and elegant salad.

The shrimp and avocado appetizer was refreshing on a hot summer day. I liked the creamy ripeness of the avocado paired with the shrimp. And while I initially found the aioli on top to be too heavy, it eventually grew on me and brought all of the components of the dish together.

For our entrees, we ordered the two pastas that Floriana handmakes: tortelloni mignon ($19) and ravioli di zucca ($16). The tortelloni mignon are tortellini-shaped pasta stuffed with herb seasoned beef tenderloin, topped off with a cream tomato sauce. This was by far my favorite pasta dish out of the two; it reminded me of Chef Boyardee ravioli, but with better and fresher ingredients (and clearly, not out of a can). However, I’m not sure it was good enough to justify the $19 price tag, especially considering the on-the-small-side portion.

The ravioli di zucca was also tasty: pockets of handmade ravioli filled with pureed butternut squash and cheese, served with a sage butter sauce.  I appreciated that the ravioli weren’t swimming in butter and cheese, as I’ve been dismayed to find at other restaurants. But at the same time, the pasta tasted a bit dry and could have used a tad more sauce. The flavor of the butternut squash also seemed muted.

Everything considered, my meal at Floriana was decent. I’m a fan of the location and warm atmosphere; both the patio and the interior are adorable. It’s a great option if you’re in Dupont and looking for a homey spot to people watch and have a drink. But otherwise, judging only from the limited part of the menu I sampled, I’d head elsewhere for Italian food.

Floriana

1602 17th St. NW

Washington, DC 20009

(202) 667-5937

Floriana Mercury Grill on Urbanspoon
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China Boy’s Handmade Noodles

Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post’s food section published a great article about hand-pulled noodles made right in the middle of Chinatown. Authentic Chinese noodles in D.C.’s Chinatown–who knew?! What a novel idea to  have Chinese food in Chinatown! (For those who have not been to D.C.’s Chinatown, it has very few actual Chinese businesses. The streets are filled with chains like McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Chipotle, all of which have their names translated into Chinese characters, as if to justify their being there.)

Since I was in Chinatown on Sunday to watch the Chinese New Year parade, I decided to check out China Boy, one of the noodle purveyors listed in the article. China Boy occupies an unassuming store front on one of the quieter streets in Chinatown (a welcome respite from the crowds on 7th and H). The restaurant is tiny with only a few tables for dining in (most people take out).

Yet surprisingly, this small storefront churns out “1,800 to 2,000 pounds of rice noodles for more than 100 Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai restaurants in the District, Maryland and Virginia,” according the Post article.

The menu is pretty straightforward. You can order rice noodle crepes, which is a large rice noodle sheet folded over fillings which include beef, shrimp, and roast pork, or char siu ($2.75-4.00). The rest of the menu has regular rice noodles, which you can order in noodle soup or stir fried as chow fun.

I ordered the roast pork noodle soup ($5.95), a hearty and simple soy-sauce based broth filled with soft, chewy rice noodles and sweet roast pork. It was a very large portion for six bucks and I was certainly too full to order the shrimp noodle crepe I had been eyeing during my meal.

China Boy’s noodles were a cheap and filling end to a great day. I’ll certainly be back again soon to try those delectable looking noodle crepes.

China Boy

817 6th St. NW

Washington, DC 20001

202-371-1661

China Boy

X.O. Taste Is A Bullseye

Interior of X.O. Taste

In celebration of Chinese New Year (unofficial celebration, since I am not Chinese!), I have been eating a TON of Chinese food. I initially thought D.C. was devoid of any good ethnic food. But luckily, I have been venturing out of the District and discovering the wealth of authentic Asian cuisine in Virginia and Maryland: Korean barbecue in Annandale, Vietnamese bahn mi in Eden Center, and most importantly for this post, Hong Kong style roast duck in Falls Church.

Falls Church, in neighboring Virginia, has strip malls filled with Chinese restaurants on virtually every corner. These restaurants’ featured cuisines cover the full gamut of China’s eight great culinary traditions, ranging from numbingly spicy Sichuan to elaborate Cantonese cuisine. My friends and I were in the mood for Cantonese, particularly for roast duck–a Hong Kong specialty.

Though Mark’s Duck House is the more well-known restaurant for roast duck, we headed to X.O. Taste, located conveniently (and coincidentally) right across the street from Mark’s. X.O. Taste, with its multicolored pastel walls and friendly servers, offers a slightly more pleasant ambiance than its competitor across the street. Though we had to wait almost an hour for a table, the sumptuous feast that followed was definitely worth the wait.

X.O. Taste boasts a vast menu of specials, seafood, noodle soups, and (my favorite) Hong Kong style barbecue. One can get lost in the dizzying array of dishes, so I suggest taking a good look at the menu beforehand–perhaps while you’re waiting for a table.

My friends and I ordered a TON of food since it was Chinese New Year–the waiters actually had to bring over another table just to put our food on! We started out with the crispy spicy pork chop ($11.95; not pictured), which was hog heaven. Thin but fatty strips of pork are dipped in batter and deep fried with red chile peppers and scallions. The outside was crisped to perfection, while the inside just melted away in your mouth and left a salty and spicy flavor.

Next, the highly anticipated roast duck ($9.95 for half, $19.95 for whole) arrived, steaming hot. While Peking duck has crunch skin and is served with pancakes, Hong Kong style duck is a bit greasier and not as crispy, but still delicious. The duck has more of a mollases-ey flavor and soaks up the residual grease and cooking juices on the plate (which, according to one of our dining companions, tasted great when poured over rice).

In keeping with that night’s passion for poultry, we also ordered a soy sauce chicken ($10.95 for half, $19.95 for whole). The chicken arrived (like the duck) on the plate with its head in tact, but that did not stop us from digging in. The entire chicken is poached in a mixture of soy sauce, salt, pepper, ginger, and other spices. Though this is usually not my favorite dish, I couldn’t stop myself from eating the version at X.O. Taste. Served with ginger and scallions mixed in sesame oil, the chicken was moist and flavorful.

We also ordered stir fried spinach ($9.95), jumbo shrimp with walnuts ($16.95), and steamed sea bass with ginger and scallion (M.P.). The spinach tasted fresh and full of garlic (so good). The shrimp and bass, however, were the standouts. The shrimp were big and juicy, and the walnuts that came with them were caramelized to perfection. The steamed bass was flaky and light, and the ginger and scallions really brought out the flavor of the fish.

Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal. But, I still managed to save room for the complimentary dessert: sweet and savory red bean soup.

X.O. Taste is a must-eat for those in D.C. looking for authentic and delicious Chinese food. Plus, it’s perfect for large groups: you can share lots of dishes and the price per person is sure to be pretty low. I will definitely be back again for the sinfully good roast duck and soy sauce chicken, and perhaps try some of the soft noodle rolls or congee.

X.O. Taste

6124 Arlington Blvd.

Falls Church, VA 22044

703-536-1630

Open 7 days a week, 11a-2a

XO Taste on Urbanspoon