An Evening at Doi Moi

Don’t get me wrong; I love the food scene in New York City. It’s the cream of the crop. But a part of my stomach will always have a soft spot for Washington, DC, as I have just spent the last four years of my academic life there. DC is a bit more manageable of a food city: You still have all your choices of cuisine, with a little less competition, and a little more attention to detail. Last month, I made my first trip back to DC since graduating, and I knew I wanted to go somewhere very special to bring back all of those great food memories. Doi Moi is 14th street’s newest Vietnamese restaurant, brought to you by the owners of Proof and Estadio. My expectations were high, as I have dined at both other restaurants and proudly call them two of my favorite restaurants (and dining experiences) in the District (I even had the pleasure of reviewing Estadio for GW’s newspaper). Doi Moi did not disappoint. Let’s start with the menu, shall we?

1. Everything on the menu is meant to be shared. Point for Doi Moi

2. Everything on the menu has one of two spice rankings: “spicy” and “really spicy.” Point for Doi Moi (love me some spice)

3. There’s a whole section dedicated to curries. Point for Doi Moi.

4. Two words: Fresh produce. Point for Doi Moi.

I treated my best (and luckiest for still being in college) friend, Chelsea, for her birthday, so naturally, we went all out.

We started with Crispy Pork & Shrimp Spring Rolls with a chile dipping sauce. The rolls were- per the name- crispy, full of fresh veggies, not the least bit oily, and a great way to start off the evening.

Next we ordered sliced raw scallops that came with chiles, lime, lemongrass, crispy garlic and cilantro. These scallops were by far the freshest, cleanest tasting scallops  I have ever tasted. They were buttery and smooth, and the Asian flavors didn’t mask their taste, but rather enhanced it. I could have eaten a whole extra plate.

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We also ordered the duck breast red curry, with pineapple, cherry tomatoes, kaffir lime leaf, and sweet basil. The duck was succulent and perfectly cooked, and the spices left just the right amount of heat and flavor on my palate.

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I had read on Yelp that the Blue Crab Fried Rice at Doi Moi is the best dish on the menu, so we had to order it. Although it looked similar to a Chinese take-out version, it tasted fresh, and was full of tender cooked veggies and sweet, juicy crab.

Finally, we shared a cup of soft serve ice cream- half lemongrass, half coconut. I know what you’re thinking: Lemongrass is not meant to be eaten in dessert. But let me tell you, the combination of the two were a perfect palate cleansing sweet note to end on. Not too heavy but just sweet enough to leave us feeling full and truly satisfied.

My experience at Doi Moi more than exceeded my expectations. I am already thirsting to go back the next time I made it to DC.

Happy birthday, Chelsea!

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Happy Hour at Hank’s Oyster Bar

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that for 21 years of my life, I went despising oysters. Slimy, chewy and salty, the small and delicate mollusk just wasn’t my thing. However, one summer night at a luxurious Huang family dinner at Eataly, Rick Huang, Chelsea’s dad, changed my mind forever. With just a sprinkling of lemon juice and cocktail sauce, my pallet was overwhelmed with a pleasing and unexpected combination of flavors and textures that I had never experienced before. I began shooting oysters like I was a pro.

This newfound love has lead Chelsea and me to seek out DC’s best oyster happy hours, and needless to say, I think we have found it at Hank’s Oyster Bar in DuPont Circle. Offered Monday through Friday from 5- 7, the happy hour specials truly can’t be beat: $1 oysters, $4 bar snacks and discounted cocktails aim to please any hungry oyster-loving patron. Already well into the Thanksgiving mindset, we decided to go on Monday after class.

The Hank’s atmosphere is a welcoming one, with a narrow entranceway and bar leading to an intimate lounge that seats about 16. The dim lights and relaxing music set the mood for an aphrodisiac-filled dining experience. Chelsea and I went pretty hungry but left satisfied after ordering- and devouring- 2 dozen oysters, truffle popcorn, chips and pan roasted onion dip and a selection of three cheeses. We had two different types of oysters from Virginia, both uniquely savory and briny, naturally accompanied by lemon wedges, oyster crackers, homemade cocktail sauce and vinegar. The potato chips were visibly homemade, perfectly salted and crisp, without being too greasy, and the onion dip was sweet and rich. The truffle in the popcorn was more prevalent in scent than in taste, but was still delicious, and the selection of cheeses offered a wide variety of taste and texture. We also shared a beer flight complete with five different beers of what Hank’s considers to be more of their “hoppier beers,” and a wine flight of a Tinto, Malbec and Cabernet. I was quite pleased with the drink selections.

12 beautiful Virginia raised oysters

Truffle popcorn and chips and onion dip

Our beer flight: yet another example of why I dislike dim lighting in restaurants

I genuinely have no complaints about Hank’s Oyster Bar, and am already looking forward to returning for another happy hour. I have heard they have a phenomenal brunch, as well, so you can bet that I will be checking that out- once I’m back in DC and digested from Thanksgiving!

Tasty Kabob: No Kabob; All Tasty

I’m well overdue on my review on Tasty Kabob, but they say good things come to those who wait, right? So thanks for waiting, this is good. I’ve been enjoying this Middle Eastern cuisine since about mid-March, when the “super clean green machine” first braced the GW campus with its presence. Ever since day one, students have been raving on Twitter and across campus about how delectable the food is, and I’d have to agree. GW students love this truck so much that during finals we managed to get them to come back for dinner and the later hours for anyone needing a good study break. Boy did it cure my exam blues. They are also very responsive to their Twitter followers, as the founders are recent grads of George Mason. I like getting to know my food truck tweeps on a personal level 🙂

The photo above was taken this summer, and judging by the picture and the title, you are probably wondering why it’s called Tasty Kabob if they do not serve actual kabobs. To be honest, I don’t know, but the name has stuck and the food is so good that they could probably call it Ass on a Stick and people would still flock there for lunch.

Tasty Kabob offers variations of chicken and lamb: either with rice, in a pita or over a salad (and on Fridays they offer chicken with mushrooms- mm is that one good). My food truck partner in crime, Rachael, and I usually opt for the chicken and lamb combo over salad, which comes with a side of chickpeas and spinach. I’ve had a very hard time deciding which meat I like better. The lamb is tender and juicy while the chicken is sweet and moist, with a little kick of heat at the end. Really, in the battle between lamb and chicken, it’s a straight tie. And then there’s the sauce- oh the sauce, what a vital component to any well-balanced dish. The dill cream sauce is the perfect accent on both meats and dresses the salad perfectly, while the spicy sauce gives just the amount of heat without overpowering everything else. I can tell you, however, that I enjoy the chickpeas more than the spinach. They are so flavorful, perfectly cooked and, well, there’s pretty much nothing wrong with them. The spinach is good and makes me feel better about consuming so much meat and gluttonous goodness but it is still spinach and it is still runny and a bit bland. Popeye would probably be impressed, though.

To give you an idea of my affection for Tasty Kabob, I will leave you with this: most food trucks I try once. With Tasty Kabob, I know I am going to continue to go back for more, until I leave DC for good (who knows when that is). I usually never get the same thing twice, anywhere. At Tasty Kabob, it is always lamb and chicken with chickpeas and spinach. I will make an exception on Fridays for chicken and mushrooms and I’m secretly dying to try their newest side of okra!

See you soon, TK!

Your avid supporter (you should know this by now),


Pi Truck: A Love Story

My food truck review continues with the truck that has become the dearest to my heart… and my stomach: Pi Truck. At first glance, this four-wheeled green monster looks a little dorky; the truck wears the Pi symbol proudly on all four sides. But when you take a closer look, you’ll see that beneath the mathematic stamp lays a beautiful interpretation of deep. dish. pizza. Mmmmm…

The battle between Chicago-style deep dish and New York-style thin crust has been ongoing since before I can remember. People tend to get rather snobby when it comes to taking ownership and pride in one’s hometown culinary name tag. Do you go deep dish and eat your slice with a fork and a knife? Or do you go thin crust, fold the slice in half, and shove it into your mouth like a hot dog? Personally, I like to combine the two methods by using a fork and a knife on thin crust pizza; I consider myself to be a pizza snob and tend to over-enjoy this simple cheesy delight as often as I can.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had deep dish pizza before I experienced Pi Truck, but boy, did it turn me into a believer. The food truck craze has slowly made its way to the GW campus and I will be the first to tell you how lucky we are to have it. First you should probably know some background information on my Thursday before I so luckily encountered the truck of Pi.

Like I mentioned earlier, Thursdays are the hot days for food trucks to roll on over to Foggy Bottom. I had finished class for the day and made plans with my friend, Rachael, to get lunch from Red Hook Lobster Truck. I brought the lobster and shrimp rolls back to my apartment for the two of us to share, and lunch was amazing (more to come on Red Hook, this is about Pi Truck remember!). As we sat contemplating which food truck we would next explore, we checked Food Truck Fiesta for other trucks around campus. “Pi Truck’s at GW still,” Rachael exclaimed. “Wanna get dinner?” I asked. It was a done deal. We left my apartment in a rush with the determination to catch the pizza mobile before it left for the weekend (the trucks tend to stay until 2 pm and it was already 3:30). As we walked towards the designated location, we saw an empty space. This didn’t look good. Where could it be?

Then, out of no where, like a peak from heaven above a cloudy sky, the Pi Truck rolled past us and continued down 22nd street. I began to run. I managed to catch up with the truck as it stopped to look for a parking spot outside of our library. I frantically approached the window and the driver rolled it down. I asked how much longer they would be around and the friendly man said to wait until they parked and that I would be the first in line for a hot, gooey, deep dish pizza pie. Is your mouth watering yet? Because mine is.

Rachael caught up to me and managed to take a picture of my epic attempt to flag down a food truck (see left, Hi Cap Mac!). We debated for a while over which pie to get- they all seemed so unbelievably tasty! We went with the favorite of the driver- the Western Addition- and shared a small piece before returning to my apartment and refrigerating it for dinner. The Western Addition contains (along with the usual mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce) spinach, creamy feta and ricotta cheeses, hearty mushrooms, onions and garlic, all enclosed by the best cornmeal crust I have ever tasted. This crust is just meant for deep dish pizza. It is thick yet delicate, and chewy with just the right crunch. It hugs, rather than overpowers the fillings, like the perfect spoon to sop up the flavors of tomato, cheese and veggies. I couldn’t wait to finish this pie for dinner.

About four hours, $12 and six slices of sweet, cheesy, crunchy goodness later, Rachael and I were happy campers. No, the $12 was not a typo- we did, in fact, get an entire deep dish pizza pie for twelve dollars. No tax, no tip, no delivery charge- for one of the best pizzas I have ever sunk my teeth into. Since the moment I took my last bite I have been anxious to return to my beloved truck of Pi. I am determined to become a loyal customer and maybe have a pie named after me one day. Until then, one can only dream. I love you, Pi Truck!!

¡Bienvenidos a Sabor’a Street!

As my love of food trucks continues to blossom, I want to share with you how Sabor’a Street has contributed to my relationship with the four-wheeled miracle kitchens, my taste buds, and the streets of D.C.

It was a sunny Thursday in the district and I was waiting for my food truck partner in crime, Rachael, to get out of class. Sabor’a street had tweeted about how the line for lunch was down the block and that they weren’t going to be around for much longer. Panicked, I grabbed my coat and began to power walk towards their designated location, telling Rachael that I’d get in line so we didn’t risk the items selling out by the time she was done with class. By the time I reached the truck, the line had calmed down but people were anxiously awaiting their Latin-inspired lunches. I approached the woman working the cash register and introduced myself as my twitter handle, LOLKatz41, as I had tweeted the week before begging for the truck to grace the GW campus with its presence. Then I began to look over the menu.

While seemingly small, the Sabor’a Street menu is chock full of flavor, variety and excitement. The two options are the angus beef hamburger and the Arepas- “cornmeal cakes with choice of pulled beef brisket, pulled chicken or chili-glazed tofu.” The woman in the truck recommended me the chicken arepas, as she said they were her favorite. All of the dishes are served with fried yuccas and tostones, and a decadent, creamy and refreshing lime aioli and salsa verde.

Rachael and I have a ritual when we eat from food trucks of each getting something different and sharing. When she finally arrived after what seemed like hours, I told her I knew exactly what we were going to get- chicken arepas, a burger and hot, sugary, crunchy fried churros with home made dulce de leche dipping sauce.

As I approached the woman to take my order, she broke news so terrible you’d think I was going to cry. They were out. of. churros. How could such a tragedy occur?! “Tweet at us and we’ll save you an order next time,” the woman replied. My mouth was already watering for the fried cinnamon sugar coated dough. How was I supposed to wait for next time?!?!

Despite our tragic dessert mishap, lunch was spectacular. The minute I bit into the chicken arepas I began to “ooh” and “ahh” in amazement. The crispy cornmeal cake held the delicate flavors of lime and cilantro and spicy chicken so well. It was a fiesta in my mouth. The chicken was tender and juicy and the slaw on top was crisp and refreshing. The burger was equally as flavorful, had a meaty texture and spicy seasoning. The lime aioli was the perfect compliment to both, and the perfect dipping sauce for the well-seasoned, well-fried yuccas and plantains.

As our lunch came to an end, I was beyond satisfied, but still craved something sweet, per usual. Luckily, Cap Mac was closing up and offered Rachael and me our own caramelized banana Nutella rice puddings… for free! My sweet tooth was satisfied sans churros.

The story continues the following week when Sabor’a Street tweeted about being a few blocks away from campus. I had been in an ongoing twitter conversation with them all day and was just dying to make my way for the long awaited churros. I gave myself a nice studying break and power walked six blocks to the truck. As I approached and re-introduced myself, the man working in the “kitchen” exclaimed, “I have to get a record of this.” Apparently, my longing for churros was known between all of the workers and tweeters. I was so thrilled to finally be getting my churro fix I didn’t care who recorded me doing what. The owners were gracious enough to give me the churros- free of charge- as they knew how big of a fan I was, and how much I enjoy promoting them on Twitter. As promised, I let the chef film me taking my first bite. I dipped the piping hot churro (they are small, about the size of your thumb, so eating more than one is acceptable) into the creamy, caramely dulce de leche sauce and sunk my teeth into it. I was in cinnamon sugar heaven. Crunchy on the outside but cakey and chewy on the inside; generously coated in the perfect ratio of cinnamon to sugar; and the dulce de leche was the icing on the cake (no pun intended?). Just like the refreshing lime aioli, the dulce sauce dressed the churro so beautifully without overpowering it. I couldn’t wait to get the rest of the churros back to the library to share with Rachael (you know, the kind of sharing where its one for me, one for her; two for me, one for her? Just kidding…)

So now that you have read my short story on my amazing experience with Sabor’a Street, I hope all you D.C. locals will venture over to wherever Sabor’a Street may be. Just writing this entry was difficult to do without my mouth watering (seriously, I had to stop a few times because I got so hungry thinking about the food), and I am anxiously awaiting the truck’s next appearance at GW. Although, as proven, I am willing to travel for these delectable Latin delicacies- willing to travel all the way to Sabor’a Street, America, wherever that may be!