Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cafe Deluxe, Gaithersburg MD

Cafe Deluxe opened in my neighborhood at Washingtonian center a few months ago.  On a gorgeous spring-like weeknight, we took the dog out to the lake for a nice stroll, and decided to try the new establishment.  I called ahead to make sure they allow dogs at the patio area, and they seem very accommodating to small dogs.  Many other restaurants in the area are not dog friendly at all, for example Red Canyon does not allow dogs in their patio area, CPK allows dogs but they need to be 'outside the fence', which I did not like.  Guapos has a similar policy with the fence but they are really not that strict once you get there as long as you're not a disturbance to other patrons.  On the other hand, Nando is another dog friendly restaurant if you're interested in taking your pooch, but always call ahead to make sure!

from patio area

The patio area is spacious and has plenty of seating, so we were seated right away.  The location, of course, is lakefront so it's great for chilling and people watching (or paddle boat watching).  We even saw a huge fish jumped out of the water!  The place looks great for a happy hour because they have an outdoor bar with great ambiance, I might come back to try!  It will be nice in spring and fall to sit by the lake and enjoy happy hour specials and drinks!

Cafe Deluxe menu

I ordered a turkey burger in an attempt to be healthy, he ordered the beef short ribs from the entrees.  We chatted and people watched for a while before the food came, but it didn't take unreasonably long.  I'd say about 15 to 20 minutes tops.

turkey burger

The turkey burger was good!  It was moist and the buns were toasted buttery delicious, the sauce was a great compliment to the burger as well.  His short rib was okay, a little dry to my liking but it made the C+/B- passing grade.  

beef short rib

Overall, the new restaurant wins with their excellent bar ambiance and nicely setup outdoor dining area.  Their food is up to par, but nothing knocked us out of our shoes.  They do have a descent brunch menu though, we might have to come back for a Sunday brunch sometime!  (with a stroller and the pooch?)

FoodiePop's rating: 3.9/5

Cafe Deluxe
9811 Washingtonian Blvd
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Monday, March 26, 2012

Season 52, North Bethesda MD

I've wanted to try Season 52 since it opened couple months ago since it's in a new development area and I'd like to see what the hype is about.  So on a misty Saturday night, the hubby and I drove down to Rockville for a late dinner date.  As soon as we walked in, we took immediate liking to the whole ambiance.  The interior decor of Season 52 grill is gorgeous, up-scale, yet cozy.  They have a lobby area with gas fire place while you're waiting, and their bar area is also beautifully furnished with ample open seating and a nice round bar in the middle.  On Saturday nights, they even have live piano performance where the piano is situated right in the center of the bar.  I was immediately attracted by the beautiful sound of the piano and singing, so luckily we found an open booth at the bar and we got to enjoy the dinner and the show for the whole night!

Front entrance

They have a fairly simple but healthy menu.  Most of the yelpers recommended flat bread for appetizer, so we proceeded to do so.  We ordered the steak and cremini flat bread with blue cheese.  The flat bread came fairly quickly, maybe within 8 minutes or so, it was thinner and crispier than I expected but I enjoyed the extra crunchiness.  If you're not a big fan of blue cheese though, you probably want to opt for another flavor.

season 52 menu

steak and cremini flat bread

We order two main entrees, the pork tenderloin and the BBQ chicken salad.  The pork tenderloin was descent, not the best we've had but was on-par.  On the plus side, the pork tenderloins were served with a herb polenta which  I enjoyed more than the usual boring mashed potato as a side, and the broccoli was fresh.  Nothing too special or memorable though.  My BBQ chicken salad was pretty good, the chicken was tender and full of flavor, and the sun flower seeds added the perfect crunch factor.  I finished the salad in no time.

pork tenderloin

BBQ chicken salad

Since I had a pretty healthy main course, I was ready to order dessert!  They have these mini desserts in cute shot glasses that are the perfect portion for someone who's health conscious and just want a bite.  Instead of a traditional dessert menu, they bring you the whole display of mini desserts and you pick whatever you like!  How good does this look?

mini shot glass desserts

I was being semi-good and "only" picked 3 of them.  Well, originally I was just going to get two for taste, but they all looked so good!  Whoever came up with this idea instead of a traditional menu must be a genius!  We picked the key lime pie, mango cheesecake, and mocha macchiato.  Key lime pie was actually my favorite, I did wish it was a little bit more tart for my liking though.  The other two were pretty good as well.

At the end of night, we probably spent about $50 for party of two, which is honestly pretty descent for such an upscale restaurant.  On top of that, we were thoroughly entertained and enjoyed the live piano performance throughout the whole night, it was a date night success with perfect ambiance and good food!

FoodiePop's rating: 4.2/5
(I added 0.3 for the live performance and ambiance, I can be such a girl sometimes :)

Season 52
11414 Rockville Pike
North Bethesda, MD 20852

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sichuan Jin River (formerly Sichuan Pavilion), Rockville MD

Rockville houses some of the best Chinese restaurants in the area, last year Sichuan Jin River 八山蜀水 opened up and added itself to this list as one of the top authentic Sichuan cuisine.  I used to go to Peking Palace in Germantown for Sichuan cuisine, but since Sichuan Jin River opened last year, we've visited this restaurant more since it looks cleaner and the dishes usually do not disappoint.  Peking palace is still one of my favorite places, except for the fact they really really need an interior decor makeover!

They have two types of menu, an authentic Chinese cuisine menu and an 'American version'.  Of course we always stick to the authentic Chinese cuisine, it has all kinds of dishes that I have yet to try.  Additionally, the chopsticks prepared looked clean and sanitized (according to casing), so that immediately won me over!

authentic chinese style menu

re-usable but clean chopsticks (so it says)

We ordered an appetizer and three dishes since it's the beginning of the week and we can always use some leftover for the rest of the week.  For the appetizer, we ordered the meat dumpling in Chili oil 紅油炒手.  I think it's simply the best in the area!  I've tried the same appetizer in several other restaurants and only A&J is up to par with Sichuan Jin River.  I know it's a simple dish, but Pacifiica Cafe in Kentland definitely fails the category because their meat dumpling was soaked in peanut butter sauce rather than chili oil...

Meat dumpling in chili oil 紅油炒手 

For the dishes, we ordered Sichuan Soft Tofu 四川豆花, cumin chicken 關公然雞片, and steamed taro with fatty pork 南乳芋頭燉肉.  The tofu dish was mediocre but was what I expected, it was also priced cheaper at $6.25.  Cumin chicken was above average, except the seasoning was not distributed evenly.  We had to do some mixing of our own to avoid eating a super salty piece.  Peking palace definitely has better cumin chicken dish in comparison, good flavor and less salty.  The steamed taro pork was excellent, even though it took a good 20 minutes before it hit the table.  We were pretty much done with dinner by the time it came out, so I only had a few bites.  Nonetheless, it was delicious and the hubby loved it!

Sichuan Soft Tofu 四川豆花

Cumin Chicken 關公然雞片

Steamed Taro with Fatty Pork 南乳芋頭燉肉

When comparing the only two authentic Sichuan restaurants around the area (that I know of), I'd probably still pick Peking palace if judging by food only.  As far as overall dining experience, Sichuan Jin River is much cleaner and it also serves excellent delicious food.  A word of warning though, this restaurant apparently is VERY popular on Saturday nights.  We waited at least 30 minutes for takeout last Saturday because the restaurant was jammed packed with at least 45 min to an hour wait!  If you don't like waiting for a table, try the place on a weeknight.

FoodiePop's rating: 4.3/5

Sichuan Jin River
410 Hungerford Dr
Rockville, MD 20850

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pho Nom Nom, Rockville MD

We finally made it to Pho Nom Nom to try their food this past Saturday for lunch!  Pho Nom Nom (I know, funny name) replaced Bale Vietnamese Pho restaurant, situated across from Wintergreen plaza in Rockville.  The restaurant is small, but they did manage to put in more tables by moving the cashier back and they did a wonderful job renovating the place to make it feel more open and new.

The menu looks clean and elegant, has a lot of varieties including specialty noodles and rice.  We placed order for a grilled shrimp garden rolls for appetizer.  It was delivered rather quickly but just tasted okay.  The only difference was the shrimp was grilled instead of 'cocktailed', but there weren't enough shrimp for you to taste the difference anyway.  On the other hand, I do love all their white plates and bowls though, they make the food seem more sophisticated.

Pho Nom Nom Menu

grilled shrimp garden roll appetizer

Then we proceeded to order our noodles soups.  They have 3 sizes for pho, regular, large, and super large.  He was not hungry enough to venture to the super large size, so he merely ordered a large.  Now I wonder how big the super large will look like...  I order the regular sized special spicy beef with noodles.


large pho, usual #1 with everything

spicy beef noodle soup

The verdict is in, the pho was just okay.  It is probably comparable to pho 95 in terms of flavor or lack there-of.  But it definitely tasted more healthy than Pho Nam (less MSG?).  So if you're opting for a healthier version, this wouldn't be a bad choice.  Pho Nam still wins in the volume of toppings and meats as well though.  In addition, I think Saigon Deli in Germantown makes better and more flavorful spicy beef noodles (S4 on their menu) than Pho Nom Nom.  Again, maybe this is the 'healthy' light salt version, but I'd definitely pick Saigon Deli over Pho Nom Nom if spicy beef noodle soup is what I'm going for.

So overall, Pho Nom Nom wins in cleanliness, service, and overall elegance in decor.  But as far as the food goes, it's merely just mediocre....and it will end up to be a bit more pricey than Pho Nam for sure.

FoodiePop's rating: 3/5

Pho Nom Nom
842 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852

Saturday, March 17, 2012

*Updated* Lumpia, Pansit, Atbp, Gaithersburg MD

Since we had a pleasant take-out experience from Lumpia Pansit last time, we visited the place again for their famous lunch buffet.  Even thought it's a small restaurant, they had a pretty descent selection of entrees for lunch buffet!  I didn't have high hopes going in since the place is so small, but my stomach and I were pleasantly surprised :)

They had about 8 Filipino entrees on the hot bar, I don't remember all of them but some of the good dishes were: chicken curry, ox tail stew, and sweet sour pork.  They also had some dishes on the left side that consisted of usual fried rice, lo mien noodles, Lumpia beef spring rolls (my favorite), and a type of fresh vegetable rolls with bamboo shoots.  They had a sauce station also where you can pick various sauces.  On top of that, they had 2 types of soups! On the dessert side, they had a small dessert tray with 2-3 types of desserts, including a hot coconut milk flavored sweet soup with taro and rice balls.  I didn't get to take pictures of the buffet because I was busy filling up my plate, here's a sample plate!

buffet plate #2

chicken soup

Overall, I enjoyed their lunch buffet, the hubby?... not so much since he is not into Filipino food as much.  I think he mostly ate the lo mien noodles and chicken soup for the most part....

**** Original post 10/25/11 **************

This post is strictly about my carry-out experience from Lumpia Pansit, the Filipino restaurant located just off Muddy Branch road in Gaithersburg.  My friend asked me about this place so I wanted to give it a try.  It's only 5 mins around the corner from me anyway!

Lumpia pork appetizer (egg rolls)

I ordered the Lumpia pork appetizer because I love the Filipino style egg rolls.  This did not disappoint.  I like the crispness and the dipping sauce as well.

Pansit Palabok

Palabok is a very traditional Filipino dish.  It is a noodle dish with bright orange colored shrimp flavor and usually topped with cooked eggs and shrimp.  This dish had good flavors but they used the thick noodles which I was not a big fan of.  I believe the traditional Palabok are usually made with thin rice noodles and it is also more flavorful that way.  As far as portion goes, the carry-out portion looked small but it seemed enough for one.

curry chicken over rice

This was our 'safe dish'- curry chicken over rice.  I actually liked this a lot better than Palabok because it had good mild curry flavor and both the peppers and chicken were cooked just right.  I can't speak for authenticity because I'm not sure what Filipino curry is supposed to taste like, but it was definitely a safe dish that paid off.

Overall, we might visit the restaurant again for their lunch buffets since it seems to be a good value ($12.95?) and you get to sample a wider variety of Filipino food.  I'll definitely put up an update when we do!

FoodiePop's rating for Filipino carry-out food: 3.7/5 (adjusted according to buffet experience)

Lumpia, Pansit, Atbp
213 Muddy Branch Rd
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gui Lin Chinese Restaurant, Rockville MD

We've been to Gui Lin Chinese restaurant many times because it's fairly close to home.  It used to be pretty descent since we had no other Cantonese restaurants to compare it to, now that we have more choices, I'd definitely pick XO Taste or East Pearl over Gui Lin.

We ordered a soup and two dishes.  The soup was minced beef with egg white broth (west lake beef soup), a pretty standard Cantonese soup dish.  It has minced beef, cilantro, and a thick broth with egg whites.  The soup was pretty good, a bit on the salty side though.

minced beef in egg white broth

I proceeded to order a dish called 'sizzling triple delight' priced at $13.  It was basically just chicken, beef, and shrimp stir fried and poured over a sizzling fajita plate.  I was not very happy with this dish because they used all canned vegetables and the sauce was way too salty.  For its price, you would think they need to put some fresh vegetables in there!  Well, they did put a few fresh broccoli in there since they probably couldn't find any canned broccoli....

sizzling triple delight

He ordered a ham and bean noodle stew.  It was average or maybe a little below average.  The dish had a lot of bean noodles but not much of anything else, only bits of ham and bits of vegetables in it.  Overall, it was too salty as well.

We probably won't frequent this restaurant too much since we have other Cantonese restaurant choices in the area such as XO taste and East Pearl.  Both of them are much better restaurants and the decor at both places are much better than Gui Lin as well!

FoodiePop's rating: 2.5/5

Gui Lin Chinese Restaurant
10054 Darnestown Rd
Rockville, MD 20850

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cheesecake Factory, Bethesda MD

I've always loved a good meal at Cheesecake factory restaurant, but due to the long wait, we don't eat there very often.  On my birthday we decided to go for lunch since there is also a 10 off 50 deal on AMEX & Twitter.  So we went a little early for lunch around 11:30am on a Saturday, the timing was perfect because we got a table right away!

The waiter was extremely pleasant and courteous.  We were checked upon immediately after we sat and he brought us water within minutes.  We placed our orders after looking over the menu and out came the complimentary hot bread basket!  I absolutely loved the rye bread with nuts on top, it was warm and tasted delicious with butter.

Cheesecake Factory

complimentary bread basket

I ordered the chicken samosa small plate as appetizer.  It's a fried Pakistani appetizer with ground chicken and herbs wrapped with what seemed like wonton skin.  It was hot and delicious!  I loved the cilantro dipping sauce as well, I actually ate 3 out of the 4 on the plate since he doesn't eat fried food.  Yum.

chicken samosa small plate

For our main entrees, he ordered the steak Diane which was steak medallion and mashed potato.  I ordered the herb crusted salmon lunch special for $13.95.  They were both awesome entrees!  The steak medallions were seasoned perfectly, the meat was cooked medium tender, and the mashed potato complimented the steak well.  Meat and potatoes, what's not to like?  My salmon was also cooked perfectly and the seasoning was on point, I especially enjoyed the grilled asparagus on the plate as well!

steak Diane

herb crusted salmon

Of course, we had to order a cheesecake since this was a birthday occasion.  Waiter recommended Dulce de Leche Caramel cheesecake or the chocolate, since I was trying to be semi-good, we picked the former.  We only asked for a candle and no singing because we didn't want to draw attention to ourselves....  Look at the beautifully plated cheesecake here!  The waiter really won us over with this :)  The flavor was rich and had the right amount of caramel flavors to it, not overly sweet.  It was a perfect ending to a great meal.

Our check was just a bit over 50 and I ended up with 10 dollar cash back on my AMEX card!  What a great deal!  If you haven't signed up for the AMEX/Twitter deal, now is it the time to catch it before it's gone!

FoodiePop's rating: 4.7/5

Cheesecake Factory
11301 Rockville Pike
North Bethesda, MD 20895

Monday, March 5, 2012

Il Porto Restaurant, Gathersburg MD

We decided to try out the little Italian restaurant right in my neighborhood called 'Il Porto' on a Saturday night.  Little did we know, the place was crowded!  We only waited about 5-10 minutes though before seated at a table.  Just a side note, apparently this little Italian spot is very popular and they try to fit a lot of tables, so there aren't a lot of room to move once you're seated.  Definitely not a good place for family with kids that require room and high chair.

We were served water and bread right away.  The bread was just okay, it was cold and a little dry.  They brought the olive oil and I ate a piece with oil, salt and pepper, definitely not my favorite.  We proceeded to order fried calamari for appetizer since I was in the mood for fried seafood and wanted to try their marinara sauce.  The appetizer turned out to be the best out of the entire meal!  The fried calamari was airy and breading fluffy, tasted very fresh.  I'd probably order it again even though it was priced at $10.50.

Then we proceeded to order the entrees.  We ordered the sausage with eggplant, chicken Marsala, and I ordered the rock fish market special for $24.95.

sausage and eggplant with side of linguine ($13.99)

chicken Marsala with side of linguine as well ($13.99)

rock fish topped with crab meat ($24.99)

my low carb selection in place of linguine

The sausage with eggplant was pretty good.  The marinara sauce was flavorful but not overly sweet or sour, sausage had good flavors, and eggplant, well, tasted like eggplants.  We didn't like the chicken Marsala dish though, the chicken was cooked in this overly sweet sauce and the linguine pasta was very mediocre (a bit overcooked).  My rock fish, on the other hand, tasted pretty good and the sauce on top was delicious.  The side of vegetables with broccoli and carrots was especially good, not that it was difficult to cook though.

Overall, I would give a B- based on food.  I actually like Olive Garden better because they have better deals and I absolutely love their soup and bread sticks, but I guess it wouldn't be fair to compare a family restaurant to a large chain restaurant like Olive Garden.  We did have issues with our waiter, he was impatient and wanted to take our plates away several times while we were still eating.  He succeeded one time and already took both plates away and then had to 'give it back' since we said we were still working on the appetizer, how weird!

FoodiePop's rating: 3/5

Il Porto Restaurant
245 Muddy Branch Rd
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Super Q Mart, Germantown MD

We've been to Q mart food court numerous times for lunch and dinner, and we were pleasant surprised to find they have renovated the food court lately!  The food vendor has been combined into one central one with Chinese dishes and Korean dishes, and the dining area looks fancy now!

Fancy dining area

food vendor with lots of options

I always loved the food court here since you can get delicious food cheap and fast.  We ordered 3 entrees for dinner since we both knew what we wanted but they also advertised this 'award winning' beef noodle soup that we both wanted to try, so ....we just ended up ordering all 3 dishes.

Korean style jia jang myun, $4.75

spicy seafood noodle soup, $5.75

beef noodle soup, $5.75

They were all pretty descent, the beef noodle soup had good flavors even though not a lot of meat.  It had thinly sliced beef instead of big chunks.  But for $5.75, I definitely had no complaints.  Jia Jang Myun actually went up from $3.50 to $4.75, but still pretty cheap compared to Korean restaurants.  I've heard Lotte serves better Jia Jang Myun though, so I'll have to give it a go to compare.  Lastly, the spicy seafood noodle was descent, but Lotte spicy seafood noodle definitely wins on both the noodle texture and soup base.

Overall, we were happy with the prices and the selection Q mart food court provides.  We even picked up a few grocery items after so it was super convenient as well.  When you're in the area and in a mood for a quick bite, definitely give this 'upscale' food court some consideration!

FoodPop's rating: 4/5

Super Q Mart
19721 Frederick Rd
Germantown, MD 20876

Luke's Lobster, Washington DC

Yummy lobster rolls!!  We took a spontaneous trip to the National Gallery of Art on a Saturday morning and stopped by Luke's lobster for lunch since it's close to the museum.  We loved everything we had there!  The rolls were buttery and seafood fresh, and I even loved their lemon lime soda!  Luke's Lobster is a small restaurant situated across from the AARP building on E street, luckily there were plenty of street parking when we arrived, oh how I love the new mobile park app/feature!

Luke's Lobster

lively chalk board menu

dining space

order window

We picked a roll combo for each of us, additionally we also got the clam chowder and 4 Jonah crab claws as side items.  They were all pretty yummy!

Maine soda: lemon lime and root beer flavors

crab roll, full of yummy crab meat and seasoning, combo $13

lobster roll, look at all the meat! Combo $17

I forgot to take a picture of the clam chowder.  It was really good though, definitely worth the $7 price tag.  The soup had enough creaminess but not overly salty like most places, and the potato pieces were small rather than large (i hate clam chowder loaded up with huge pieces of potatoe - cheap!).  I'd definitely get the soup again if we make it back to Luke's Lobster.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the lunch at Luke's.  Word of warning though, the portions are all pretty small, so you're really hungry, you will be spending a fortune since one small roll will unlikely fill your stomach.  But they're definitely yummy and worth a try if you're into seafood rolls Maine style!

FoodiePop's rating on seafood rolls: 4.2/5

Luke's Lobster
624 E St NW
Washington, DC 20004