Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Melt Cafe and Gelato Bar, Rockville MD

I grabbed a groupon deal on Melt Cafe this past week, so we stopped by the place for brunch on Sunday.  The cafe is small and cozy, and I loved their gelato selections.  The gelato was not as good as our favorite one in Bethesda row though.

Melt Cafe




















nice and clean interior
















We ordered one sweet and one savory crepes.  They were both just okay, crepe-a-go-go in Kentland definitely wins in this category.  Another thing I did not like about Melt Cafe is they have restaurant prices but uses disposable plates and utensils, but having gelato as dessert in the same place is definitely a plus.  I was eyeing all the gelato choices while selecting brunch entrees.  The coffee was just average in this place as well.  We ordered one latte and one americano, nothing remarkable there.

savory crepe: lettuce, tomato, and pesto sauce
















royale strawberry crepe
















They have a $4.99 gelato sampler that is a good deal though.  For $4.99, you get to try six different gelato flavors.  I particularly like the espresso and the tiramisu flavors.  The gelato texture was not as creamy and sticky as I would like though.

gelato selections
















Overall, Melt Cafe made average grade for breakfast/brunch selections.  If you're in the mood for crepes, I would recommend crepe-a-go-go over Melt Cafe.  At least you get real plates and utensils, and the food and coffee are better as well at crepes-a-go-go.

Melt Cafe
14955 Shady Grove Rd
Rockville, MD 20850

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Volt, Frederick MD

Couple of my friends recently visited Volt in Frederick and loved their food.  So I made an open table reservation and visited Volt for lunch this past Saturday!  It was about 11:50am and they have yet to open so we waited outside with a few others and took some pictures.


volt


The doors opened a little before noon, we proceeded in and the restaurant was very modern looking inside, despite the antique exterior.  We were shown to our seats promptly by a beautiful hostess and greeted by our waiter right away.  We ordered the lunch prix set for $25/person, the meal was excellent!  And the service was impeccable the entire time as well.

We both ordered coffee to start, mine was a cappuccino and his was a specialty coffee with a hint of caramel.  I believe it was called highlander.  It had really good aroma!  Needless to say, we finished the whole pot.

highlander coffee

Then the fresh bread tray was served, we got one of each to try between the 2 of us.  I really like the rosemary herbal bread (dark one in the picture) where he liked the herbal biscuit, but all 3 flavors were pretty good.


2 out of 3 fresh bread


I got the goat cheese ravioli as appetizer, tasted good, but nothing special.  Their plating was beautiful though, I didn't even want to stick my fork in it!

goat cheese ravioli

He got the sheep's milk cavatelli.  He said it tasted pretty good, special pasta like textures with milky taste.  Take a look, doesnt this look like a plate of.....caterpillars?

sheep's milk cavatelli

For the main entree, I ordered the rock fish with forbidden rice.  It was very good use of different textures on one plate.  The rock fish was cooked just right and the forbidden rice added some highlights to the plate, but I liked the pork loin on his plate better!  The pork was cooked perfectly and worked so well with the red cabbage and sweet potato sauces on the plate. 

rock fish with soy 'bubbles'
pork loin, DELICIOUS!!!

Then, it was dessert time!!  My favorite part of the meal because they all looked delicious.  I ordered the textures of chocolate: dark chocolate ganache, chocolate caramel, raw organic cocoa.  It looked better than it tasted though.  Definitely a nice art piece but only the raw organic cocoa was special, everything else was just regular plain chocolate.

textures of chocolate

He ordered the honeycrisp apple: mascarpone gelato, opal basil.  This was an okay dessert as well, nothing special or extraordinary.  Can't complain though, it was also beautifully presented.

honeycrisp apple

Overall, I enjoyed the lunch at Volt and it was excellent food for a good price ($25/person).  A word of advice though, don't go on an empty stomach, the portions are small and you might be too hungry to savor every bite.  The place will be great for a date since it is elegant and the lunch prix price won't break your wallet!  Almost forgot to mention, chef Bryan Voltaggio from Volt was on the show of top chef Vegas and came in second!  Something to brag about if you ever make it in this venue, that is, if you want to :)

Volt
228 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers - easy and tasty lunch!

I went to Walmart to pick up a few things this past Monday, so I also picked up some 'frozen entrees' for lunch at work.  I picked up this healthy choice cafe steamers and it tastes pretty good!  The fact that food is separated from the sauces during the heating process makes it taste much more fresh (almost like freshly made entrees). 

The concept is great and cooking is very simple.  Just take out the paper carton piece, pop it in microwave (no puncture needed) and heat for ~4 mins.  After it's fully heated, remove the strainer with the food and dump it into the bottom container with the sauce.  Mix it up and you have a fresh healthy lunch!  The meals contain no preservatives, good source of protein and fiber, and really tastes fresh compared to other frozen entrees!

Best part is, only $2.75 from Walmart.  If you need 2 for lunch you're still pretty square with $5.50!

21 flavors available















dump food from top strainer portion into bottom container

simply mix it together and your lunch entree is ready!

















Monday, March 21, 2011

Hook, Georgetown Washington DC

Last Friday, we've had our first day of summer (yes we skipped spring for some reason). It was about mid 70s outside all day, almost made me want to turn on the AC!  We decided to meet up at Georgetown for lunch since it was nice out and I bought a groupon for the restaurant Hook.

It was so crowded in Georgetown!  I had the lunch reservation for 12:15pm but it took me 30 minutes to find parking.  Even after I found parking, the meter was broken so I had to search for a machine that actually worked.  Then waited in line to pay parking tickets.  But the time I was set it was way past my reservation.  Luckily the restaurant was not busy at all.  I was kind of hesitant at first since the place was almost empty, but the food turned out to be pretty good!  Oh and I got to mention that I love the lights in this place, very pretty!





















This is the complimentary bread, it was just okay, nothing too impressive here.
















Then we ordered this appetizer without knowing what the word 'crudo' means.  Apparently, it means 'raw fish dish dressed with olive oil and spices'.  It was actually pretty nasty with fishy taste.....I had to wash it down with the soup.....Needless to say, we did not finish this...
















Soup was pretty good!  This was the cauliflower soup, yummy.

















I ordered the Cioppino based on my friend's recommendation.  We both loved this dish!  My husband usually dislikes tomato based dishes but he enjoyed this one.  I especially enjoyed it since it was a little bit spicy :)  The dish consists of a spicy tomato base with king crab, bay scallops, clams, and laughing bird prawns.  Loved it!
















We also ordered the jumbo lump crab cake sandwich.  A word of warning, if you're looking for jumbo lumps of crab meat, you're going to be disappointed.  Other than that, the sandwich tasted pretty good and the fries on the size were delicious.
















Overall, I'd give it 4/5 stars.  The place is a tad pricey though, so if you can get a deal or groupon, it's a nice place to try!

Hook
3241 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lobster & seafood salad sub at Quiznos, Germantown MD

I received a coupon for lobster & seafood salad sub at Quiznos today.  So of course I rushed over to Quiznos in Germantown and redeemed my coupon for lunch.  The result?  Not so impressed...

The advertised picture looks like this, pretty right?

special lobster & seafood salad sub





















A large sub is priced at $8.29.  I had a $2 off coupon so it ended up around $6.50 with tax, not bad at all.  The sub had way too much gooey stuff though, I'd say about 50% sauce and 50% chunks of seafood salad.  There were some tiny bits of lobster meat but overall it wasn't very good.  Looks like I'll be buying some real seafood tonight to satisfy my seafood cravings.....

does not look like the advertised picture....
















Quiznos
13044 Middlebrook Rd
Germantown, MD 20876

Monday, March 14, 2011

Zen Tara Tea, Bethesda MD

During our visit to Bethesda this past weekend, we also stopped by the Zen Tara Tea shop some of my girl friends are raving about.  We only picked up bubble tea to go since we had our puppy dog with us.  The place is small, but warm and cozy.  Probably a good place to linger and hang out for a bit, but since we couldn't take the dog inside, this post is strictly about their bubble tea and smoothie.


small store front





















I ordered one regular black tea with milk and sugar for the dude.  Since the owner gave me an option, I picked the soy milk instead of regular milk.  The black milk tea was very different from traditional bubble tea shops in the area.  It had more tea flavor than anything else.  There was hardly any sugar, and the owner was very easy on the milk which I didn't mind, but the tapioca was borderline bad.  They were hard and not very chewy, also didn't have much taste (not sweetened like most other places).  Their black tea tasted very good though, not bitter or acidic like some other shops on a bad day.

I ordered the matcha smoothie.  It was pretty good and not overly sweet like other places.  Again, the tapioca was not up to par from this store, probably because it's not something they're known for.  Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with the tapioca served, but if you're in the area for a good pot of tea and some tea snacks, this might be a good spot to check out.

black tea with soy milk and matcha smoothie






















Zen Tara Tea
4710 Bethesda Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814

Yogi Castle, Germantown MD

The new Yogi Castle store is open in Germantown!!  We finally have a frozen yogurt place near work and it's the perfect timing since spring is right around the corner.  After eating at a nearby Thai cuisine, we decided to stop by Yogi Castle to check out their frozen yogurt flavors.

The store is decorated nicely, pretty much like any other hip frozen yogurt place.  Same trend continues here with some part time high school girls working the cashier as well.  The difference here is they have so many new and different flavors!  I counted about 14-16 flavors and varieties.  They even have some that are sugarless, which I have not seen in other frozen yogurt stores.


Yogi Castle





















I tried the chocolate, Hawaiian pineapple, cookies & dough, and peach white tea flavors.  I really liked the Hawaiian pineapple and peach white tea!  They also have the usual toppings you find at frozen yogurt places, but I think cookie dough bits might be a new item (or maybe I just haven't been to frozen yogurt for a while?)  Anyway, give it a try if you go next time!


my mix




















Here are some of their neat new flavors:

Nonfat Peppermint Stick, Lowfat Praline 'N Cream and Nonfat no sugar added Strawberry banana, Non-fat Hawaiian Pineapple, and Non-dairy Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet.

Yogi Castle
19877 Century Blvd
Germantown MD, 20874

Vapiano, Bethesda MD

On a sunny Saturday, we took our dog for a family lunch at Vapiano Bethesda since I heard good things from my friends.  They have very nice outdoor seating area with wooden table and benches, so we just picked a sunny spot and sat ourselves down.


customer #1 waiting for food





















As soon as I walked through the door, the hostess greeted me and handed me a 'chip card' (is that what it's called?)  She explained that you basically order at the different food stations, swipe the card there and pick up a pager, and your food will be ready for pickup when the pager goes off. 


we each got a 'chip card'
















My husband ordered some type of pasta with bacon bits and I ordered the pesto chicken pizza.  I then proceeded to order macchiato at the bar.  The macchiato was excellent!  The girl at the bar sorta mumbled that I picked the most difficult drink to make, but she still made it for me.  I'm definitely ordering this again when I go back next time.

macchiato





















After I took a million pictures of my dog, the pager went off.  The waitress actually delivered the food to our table to our surprise.  As far as the pasta goes, you can pick different types of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, penn, etc) and also you can create your own pasta and picked your own ingredients.  We are really not the creative type when we go out to eat, so we just ordered the combination listed on the menu.  My thinking was, why waste efforts to create your dish when you go out to eat?  If I wanted to create a dish I could just do that at home!  Well, maybe that's just me, but I'm the '#1' type of person (example: #1 meal at McDonald's).  Speaking of which, I dislike (hate is such a strong word) waiting in drive-through line listening to people order the 'Can I have a big mac without onions, extra lettuce, no ketchup, blah blah....'.  I guess it's a good thing fast food restaurant are so accommodating, but at the same time they are also encouraging people to be difficult and picky on what they eat!  I mean, it's okay to have special orders but I've actually heard moms ordering for their kids and it takes 3-4 sentences to complete a special order for a hamburger.  Really??  It's a hamburger!

Okay, back to food.  Here's what we ordered, the pasta was okay, nothing spectacular though.  The pizza was good, but I don't think I'd miss it much either.  So in conclusion, Vapiano looks real pretty, has good concepts, food makes the cut, but I won't be going back just for the food though.  I do love the nice outdoor area setup, so maybe I'll stop by when I take my dog out again on the weekend!

pasta with bacon bits
















pesto chicken pizza, this was tasty.
















Vapiano Bethesda
4900 Hampden Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814  
http://www.vapianointernational.com/vapiano/

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cava Restaurant, Rockville MD

I wanted to try the crab sliders that my friend raved about during our dinner last Friday, so we met up at Cava today around 12.  I've always liked their interior decor with the brick wall, but not their high prices.  But for lunch, their crab cake sliders is a steal with yummy fries and butter toasted bread!  The crab cakes were small but hardly any fillers.  For $12 dollars, I think it's a descent deal.  You also get a complimentary basket of delicious pita bread with 3 dippings to share!

reviews posted  in Cava Restaurant

crab sliders, $12 for lunch
















Wonderful meal and good company.  Thanks girls!

Cava Restaurant
9713 Traville Gateway Drive
Rockville, MD 20850-7408

BLT steak house, D.C.

I came across a blog entry about BLT steak house last week and added it to my top to-eat list.  Since my birthday was coming up in a few days, I was on the fence deciding whether or not we should go to BLT steak house since it is very expensive.  A few days later, I found that BLT steak house was having their annual 3.03 birthday celebration and they held special prices for most of their entrees, drinks, sides, and even desserts!  I made our reservation for dinner as soon as I found out about the special pricing!

We arrived around 7:20pm for our 7:30pm reservation.  It was not difficult to find street side parking but we didn't have enough coins (make sure you carry lots of quarters).  It was also difficult to find place to get change, so we ended up moving the car to a machined street side parking that took credit cards.

They had special prices on so many things!  They even had special menus made up just for the day.  Sorry for all the dark pictures, I was hungry and too lazy to adjust the camera settings.  And the restaurant was dark.  But I absolutely LOVED everything we ordered!  Including the prices of course!  A bone-in rib eye steak is usually $44 dollars on their menu but on 3/3 of every year (BLT restaurant birthday) it only costs 33.04 (representing 3/3/2004)! 

we were part of BLT's birthday bash!















 
elegant interior






















So the waiter took our orders and the complimentary bread arrived, it was a few slices of bread with amazing spread.  The spread tasted like it contained a little bit of foie gras plus some other spices.  It was so delicious!

complimentary bread & delicious bread spread
















Almost forgot to mention there are 2 special cocktail drinks that are only 3.03 as well!  Of course we ordered 1 of each, then I proceeded to order one more after I finished the first one.  So 3 cocktails for less than 10 bucks!  Regular price is about $14-15 each.  Here's one of the drink special.
 
the sparkling sunset cocktail





















Then the waiter came back with these two huge complimentary pop-over cheese bread!  These were absolutely piping hot goodness.  The butter that came with it was good as well, but I didn't even need to use it.  I was about full even before the main course and side items come!

complimentary pop-over cheese bread
















The steaks were delivered to our table on sizzling hot staubs dishes.  We ordered one bone-in rib eye steak and one new york strip steak.  Both cooked medium rare and both were perfect.  Excuse the half eaten steak picture since I was so excited I started eating immediately...  sooo yummy!  I transferred my piece of steak from cast iron staub dish to my plate after I checked it.  If you want your steak to cook a little more, you can always leave the steak in the staub dish which was still piping hot.  There were also plenty of steak sauces to choose from.  We chose one peppercorn steak sauce and one regular steak sauce.  They were both good but I didn't even use the sauce on my steak because the steak was charred to perfection.

new york strip steak















bone-in rib eye steak
















We also splurged and ordered 4 sides.  The sides are usually $9-$14 dollars but they were all just a merely $3.03 on that day!  So of course we ordered more than we could chew, and ended up taking some home with us.  I even used some of it for home-cooked breakfast the next day!  We ordered the stuffed mushroom caps, hen of woods mushrooms, jalapeno mashed potato, and brussel sprouts.  These all came in small staub cast iron dishes, very cute as well!

4 side dishes
















Then it was dessert time!  The desserts were on special as well, only $3.03 each.  We ordered the crepe souffle and warm chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream.  They were both delicious and not overly sweet!  The crepe souffle had some sort of passion fruit sauce underneath and it was a bit tart and sweet at the same time.  The chocolate warm tart tasted more like dark chocolate which I enjoyed very much.

warm crepe souffle















warm chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream
















With everything we ordered for the night, I calculated our saving to be about $100 dollars.  That's about half off the check, what a good deal!  I'm definitely coming back to BLT steak house next year on their birthday special event!

complimentary sweets















stacking up the savings!






















BLT Steak
1625 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
http://www.bltsteak.com/

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sabai Sabai Simply Thai, Germantown MD

I was craving for spicy food today so I decided to get Thai food carryout.  Sabai Sabai is a fairly new thai restaurant that opened in Germantown.  I ordered 1 of the 4 lunch special sets called kra pow chicken with fried egg.  The lunch set also comes with a cucumber soup for free, so it was a good deal for 10.95 (after tax).  I called ahead for the order and the dish was ready when I got there, the only annoyance was parking.  It was hard to find street parking around noon time!  But picking up this spicy Thai dish definitely satisfied my craving for spicy food for today.

Kra pow is made from minced chicken (or you can choose pork) stir fried with basil, various spices, and a lot of hot peppers.  And having that fried egg on top definitely made it more delicious!  The egg yolk from the mixes very well with the spicy chicken and rice.  I'd definitely get this again for lunch!

kra pow chicken lunch set
















Sabai Sabai Simply Thai
19847 M Century Blvd
Germantown, MD 20874

Tachibana Japanese Restaurant, McLean VA

On a sunny Friday, my husband and I decided to meet up at Tachibana Japanese Restaurant for lunch.  They have many lunch specials and bento boxes that are priced very reasonable!  But since the two of us are ramen lovers, we always order ramen when it's available on the menu...  But I definitely recommend the bento boxes for lunch if you're in the area, it's either 12.99 for regular salmon bento box or 16.99 for the deluxe version.  The salmon bento box is my favorite since it's cheaper and it has everything I like.  The bento comes with shrimp tempura, grilled salmon as center piece, 6 piece California rolls, chicken yakitori, and some marinated kelp plus a bowl of rice, very tasty!  I'll take a picture next time when I order.  I am not sure if these lunch specials are available on weekends as well, so make sure you give the place a try on weekdays!

We got to the restaurant around 11:40am, the restaurant was pretty empty.  By the time we finished, there was a long line waiting to get seated.  So definitely get there early on a weekday if you can!

















The ramen orders comes with one small dish, we picked both the bean sprouts (marinated with vinegar and sauce) and seaweed salad which was $2 additional.

marinated bean sprouts
















seaweed salad, $2 additional
















There are only 2 types of ramen on the menu since it's not their specialty.  I ordered the salt flavor ramen and it was good!  I believe it was priced at $8.95.  It's not as good as the ramen shops in Bethesda, but since we wanted to meet near Arlington, it's a good alternative!

salt flavored ramen
















We also ordered the soy sauce ramen, which seemed to be a healthier alternative since it was less salty.  On a side note, I really like the 'chia-shau' meat in the bowl!  They were very delicious!

soy sauce ramen
















All in all, the ramen is descent in Tachibana.  I would definitely order again if I'm in the area.  My first choice is still 'Ren's Ramen' in Bethesda.  Unfortunately, 'Ren's Ramen' closed in Sept last year.  They need to re-open again!


Tachibana Japanese Restaurant
6715 Lowell Ave
McLean, VA 22101


(703) 847-1771