Recent Restaurant Recaps

The day after Christmas I found myself having a beer with a friend near her downtown apartment – it was a faux date.  Both of us were hungry, and she was unwilling to leave the neighborhood so we figured we would check the wait for Matchbox – only five minutes.  When was the last time there was a five minute wait for a table at Matchbox…on a Friday night? 

A watermelon based cocktail was too sweet for my taste (and out of season, moving on…) but was perfect for her.  The platter of mini-burgers that began our meal was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful.  The tower of onion strings that dominated the plate was cold but still more addictive than my diet would like.  A bottle of Tres Sabores Por Que No was served at the perfect temperature, and reasonably priced at around $35.  Our pie – the chicken pesto – was nicely blistered with a crust that was just chewy enough.  Service was warm, never rushed, and unobtrusive.

I’ve long been a fan of Matchbox but have never considered it to be a restaurant worth the waits required to dine there on many nights (Few restaurants are.)  This night the sum of the parts was largely good, but the whole was something subtly special. 

(In case you’re curious: two drinks, a bottle of wine, mini burgers, and a pie = about $75 pre-tip; don’t tell anyone that I’m a cheap date)

Lauriol Plaza is a frequent whipping post for me and just about anyone who actually likes restaurants.  When a woman I had been trying to date for weeks asked me to join her there  for a birthday happy hour I almost lost all interest in dating her.  Then she told me that the birthday girl was a work colleague and she promised that we wouldn’t have to stay long.  Nothing I sipped or supped in my hour there did anything to change my mind about that paragon to lemming mentality.

It always saddens me to see a line of lemmings waiting for LP when the extremely satisfying Regent Thai sits half empty across the street.   It was just more room for my date and me at their bar.  It’s not that I am an unadventurous eater when it comes to Thai food, just that it is such comfort food for me that I find myself returning to the same dishes.  This evening it was starters of Kanom Jeeb and Spring Rolls followed by Panang and Drunken Noodle.  We washed it down with a perfectly austere Alsatian Riesling from Erhart.  The heat was found wherever it was expected; the flavors were simple but still compelling and interesting.  Their service makes me feel like a once a week regular even though I haven’t been in months – something the good people at more than a few really expensive restaurants need to learn but I will tell those stories another day.

Two apps, two entrées, a bottle of wine, tea that was comped for no reason other then their kindness = $84 pre-tip

From one faux date to a first date to another faux date, I recently found myself at Axis’s U street bar for beers with a woman.  Since my first visit two years past, Axis continues to have one of the more interesting beer programs in the city and the coziness of the room was present as always.  They boast Twelve tap lines and not a single one wasted on generic beer.  Offerings from Red Seal, Anderson Valley, and Eggenberg were the highlights of the list.  The wine list is built for a place that specializes in beer, but has some well priced charmers that deserve the attention of both your money and your palate.  The night proceeded well enough until we got the munchies.  An order of their wings and a tomato and red pepper dip seemed like safe choices.  The wings arrived meaty and well spiced, the dip was problematic.  Watery and ambiguous were my first thoughts.  Another bite found my feelings growing harsher with every chew and swallow.  I don’t think the quality of a kitchen can be fairly assed based on one dish or even the culmination of a single meal.  However, there are times which beg the exception.  This dish was one of those times.  It was conceptually unsound, culinarily indifferent at best, and possessed the textural appeal of a Gerber product.  This was not simply the manifestation of an off-night, or a poorly executed notion.  No one who gets paid to feed people should serve this dish.  Axis remains on my list of great places for a beer, but I am more leery of their food than a woman who proclaims to be low-maintenance. 

Six beers, two glasses of wine, one good app and one abject failure = $104 pre-tip.

Faux date, first date, faux date, four, let me tell you about a Man Date more…

My dear friend, the Guest of Honor, had a free weekend when his fiancé left for the Christmas Holiday a few days ahead of him.  We declared a Man Date – there was much chest pounding and scratching as we basked in our masculinity.  The initial plan called for steaks, too much wine, enough cigars to choke George Burns, and excessive talk about women.  The appointed day arrived and the weather was much like it is as I write this post – cold, rainy and raw.  GH called and simply stated “a couple of the girls are going to this show in Clarendon, but I know I can’t convince you to go to the burbs.”

My response would have been a shock to anyone who has known me for more than five minutes – “Actually, all I really want is a good burger, some beers, the game on the tube, and a place to have a cigar; I think the Commonwealth is the logical idea.”  After assuring GH that he did not dial a wrong number, we formulated a plan to visit a mutual old friend who works at King Street Blues in the Crystal City Underground.  It was a sad state.  This Saturday evening every bar stool that cradled an ass was occupied by a person drinking themselves to death, one shot-gunned vodka tonic at a time.  The burger with blue cheese, sautéed onions, and bacon, however, was outstanding.  Cheap beers and burgers in a slightly depressing setting (more so if you have seen Leaving Las Vegas) is still worth the time if not the trip.


It’s Wednesday so go check the DC Blogs Round-Up to see the blogs posts which made me laugh, smile, think, or cry this week.

By the by, I would like to note that there are a number of blog posts with which I have been particularly enamored this and every week but for whatever reasons were not appropriate for my weekly DC Blogs post.  From here forward (unless I get too lazy busy) I would like to note a few of them here:

If it Walks Like a Duck, Talks Like a Duck, It Might be a Gay Boyfriend – Seriously, Katertot, I love this post.

An Addiction from the Abbott of Reason

Capitol B – really like this lady’s style


10 Responses to Recent Restaurant Recaps

  1. Fearless says:

    Even the bad reviews make me hungry. Sadly, I never seem to go out to dinner anymore. This must change in ’09.

    Must change when you come to town at the very least.

  2. I am shocked that you only had a 5-minute wait at Matchbox. I wasn’t aware that was even a possibility anymore. I’ve only ever been seated “right away” one time, and that was in their first 2 weeks of being open.

    I also admire the Man Date. I keep trying to get my gay friends on board with a similar event, sans cigars and perhaps the talk about women, but I’m constantly amazed at how hard it is to get a few guys out and about for steak and wine. Hopeless, they are!

    It was the day after Christmas – there was no one around. And somehow I just can’t imagine a Man Date, or any date for that matter, where there are steaks but no cigars. But that’s just me.

  3. SingleGirl says:

    Ate at Matchbox Saturday night. Settled for a seat at the bar since the wait was an hour and a half. Food was only okay, and I was completely put off by a 20-something girl who insisted on ordering her drinks from the bar by squeezing herself in between me and my dinner companion. I almost spilled (an entire glass of wine) on her on purpose, and I think it would have been a forgiveable offense (but a waste of good wine).

    And this is the paradox of success for Matchbox – on the weekends, they get so crowded that it is unpleasant yet crowds beget crowds. I really like the times I have been able to dine there on slow nights.

  4. Lemmonex says:

    Those onion straws at Matchbox are the bee’s knees. The dusting of parm sends them over the top.

    I like the beers at Axis, but the crowd is always very off. Not a terrifically huge fan.

    Yeah, those onion straws ought to come with a warning from the Surgeon General they are so addictive.

  5. carrie m says:

    I luuuuurve Matchbox. I will hurt the people who get between me and the mozzi carozzi (sp?). I was supposed to go with friends on Boxing Day but couldn’t get my ass off the couch in the burbs. Don’t hate on the burbs! Why, we have such fine establishments like Dave and Busters and…yeah, I can’t even keep a straight face writing that. But we have our share of good eats that aren’t franchised.

    There are some reasons to head to the burbs to dine – but it is usually the grand destinations (Restaurant Eve, Inn at Little Washington, Farrah Olivia, Nicaro) or the great cheap ethnic restaurants (Riverdale, Annandale, Langley Park) I need to write something about suburban places but I am still working on a paid gig to write about those places.

  6. LiLu says:

    Matchbox is my favorite drug.

    I like it only in doses when the wait to get a hit isn’t too long.

  7. Brett says:

    I like Matchbox, and sometimes they have great specials. But is the wait worth it? They also have good brunch skillets.

    Also alcohol + hunger sometimes makes even inexcusable dishes palatable.

  8. Lisa says:

    I like Matchbox but the waits irritate me. Plus I feel like they always tell you such a shorter amount of wait time than it winds up being. So I rarely go. And yes to Regent Thai! Yum! And no to Lauriol Plaza! I seriously cannot understand how it got and stayed so popular. So ordinary.

  9. lacochran says:

    How come your header isn’t listed on the left under Contributing Editors? Only seems fair.

  10. f.B says:

    i passed King Street Blues all the time, when i lived in Crystal City — focused on heading into the city. i’m disappointed that i missed a good burger that many times.

    and i’m with LA: contributing and not being listed is like playing for the Steelers and not getting a uniform

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