Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews
I have great friends.
So long story short, I had a really shitty day at work yesterday. There was a lot of needless drama over partial information about important events. I don’t want to turn this into a venting blog, but the whole thing was just stupid and easily avoidable. It left me in a funk. But luckily for me, when I’m in a funk, my friends roll in to save the day.
This afternoon, my friend Tony and his partner, Ryan, took me to The Palace, a really nice Korean restaurant located at 7131 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, Virginia, to cheer me up and eat some Korean comfort food. Over the years, Annandale has become a little Korea of sorts, with tons of neato Korean restaurants tucked in all over the place, and the Palace is no disappointment.
As you walk in, the décor is very clean and modern, with black tables and beautiful wood working on the walls. Against on of the wall are hung several Korean masks—I have no idea if they’re from statues, or battle masks, or just something to be worn at a party, but regardless, the artwork is beautiful. It is everything you would expect from a higher end Asian restaurant.
I love Korean food. I was heavy in taekwondo a few years ago, and our sparring team regularly devoured bulgogi, kimchi, and bi bim bop after our grueling training sessions. I always ordered the same thing—nahk ji bogum, a meal of stir fried octopus with vegetables in this spicy sauce of…something red. It was like getting kicked in the face with a chili pepper. The spice would spread throughout your mouth like a tidal wave, make your eyes water and your ears burn.
I loved it.
Tony ordered a Korean version of chicken and rice soup—chicken poached in broth, stuffed with rice, with vegetables. He offered me some chicken, and it was absolutely delicious. I’m going to do some more research and come up with my own version. The menu said it had ginseng in the broth, which is great for those nasty winter (and summer) colds that always knock me flat.
Ryan had something called mool neng myun, a cold soup with buckwheat noodles, vegetables, and beef in a cold beef broth. I found that intriguing, actually. I’m normally not a cold soup fan, but he downed his before Tony or I were half way through our soups, so I think I’m missing something.
Scanning the menu, I saw something similar to my old standby. After listening to Ryan gush about his favorite Korean meals, I decided to branch out a bit and try something new. I ended up deciding on something called kal bi tang, which is basically short rib soup. And I loved it. The ribs were tender, succulent, and easy to bite though, once I got them off the rib itself. After watching me struggle with the bone, Ryan informed me that in Korea, it’s ok to just pick up the bone and bite the meat that way. Sadly, I have A Thing about eating with utensils at restaurants (you will NEVER find me a rib joint. Ribs are meant to be barbecued at home, with tons of napkins and people who won’t judge you for having sauce on your face. I can’t be a messy eater in public. I just can’t!) so I just managed as best I could.
The soup was perfect. I don’t know about you, but when I’m emotionally exhausted and unsure of the future, I want something warm and comforting. I want something filling that won’t leave me in a food coma an hour later. And this was it for me.
Service wise, I think it was acceptable. Ryan did have to call the waiter over at the end to take the check, but other than that, it was a wonderful, uplifting, and enjoyable lunch. We were there just over an hour and a half, and spent the time laughing, eating, and getting to know each other.
Ryan is actually the owner of Kim Chi Travel, a US-based travel agency specializing in group tours to Asia. I loved his stories about traveling through China and his native Korea—did you know there are Sizzlers in Korea? Apparently they’re high end restaurants, too. And not just high end because your only other restaurant option is a Jack in the Box. Are you surprised, because I am! I didn’t even know Sizzlers still existed!
Am I going back to the Palace? Absolutely.
So as per my earlier blog, Sunday’s food adventure was a bittersweet foray into mediocrity. The company was awesome, of course, as I had a ton of fun catching up with Becky. However, ambivalency ruled the wineries. I considered the day a culinary wash.
That is, until, I had dinner.
I had heard about Barefoot B&G Seafood from a friend of mine. She lives in the area, and told me the food was great. Becky and I were hungry and somewhat near Fredericksburg, so I whipped out the trusty iPhone and GPS’d it to 1017 Sophia St, Fredericksburg, VA.
An hour or so later, we pulled into the back parking lot of a very bright building. For some reason, I had been expecting an unassuming storefront in a strip mall or something. No, this was a pretty loud, stand alone building just off Sophia Street, around the corner and down the way from whatever college is down there. (I think it’s Mary Washington but it’s too late at night to fact check.)
As you walk into Barefoot, the first thing that meets you is a fish monger. Turns out, the place is a combo restaurant and fish counter! You can either pick up a filet to take home or chill out at one of the six or so tables in the room to the left, which ever floats your boat. (Ha! Boat! And I was at a seafood restaurant! It’s funny.) Becky and I saddled up to the bar and immediately the bartender, Diana, set us up with our drink orders and menus.
I loved the small town, unassuming atmosphere of the restaurant. Again, I had been expecting something with cloth table linens, maybe a candle or two—something more along the lines of what I’m used to living so close to DC. Around here it seems only the good seafood places are expensive as hell and with a dress code. Barefoot is the type of restaurant you can imagine members of the local VFW spending lazy afternoons, talking about the good ol’ days.
The prices were neither super cheap nor exorbitant. I mean, grilled salmon is going to be more expensive than a basic burger, so, duh. Becky had never had alligator before, and I love the stuff, so I ordered an appetizer of fried alligator and andouille sausage.
Oh sweet Jesus. These things were amazing. I can not for the life of me tell you the exact recipe with all the herbs and spices, but basically the gator and the sausage had been mixed together, formed into a small nugget-like thing, then fried. Add in the remoulade sauce on the side, and I was in deep fried Creole heaven!
For an entrée, I splurged and got the fried oysters. I know, I know, that’s a lot of fried food for one day. But I justify it by saying that I’d barely lunch at all, and it was just so damn good. The oysters came out with a side of steak fries, hush puppies, and something they called ‘crabby corn,’ which turned out to be tender steamed corn on the cob with a light dusting of Old Bay seasoning. The oysters were absolutely to die for. Even a day later, when I reheated the leftovers, they were excellent. You know when you take a bite of something so good that you don’t want to brush your teeth afterwards so you can keep the taste in your mouth for as long as possible? Yeah. it was like that.
We mentioned to Diana that we had been on a wine tour that day. She immediately brought forth several bottles of local Virginia wine, and offered suggestions for what to try in the future. Even though we definitely weren’t drinking anymore, she continued to talk to us and made us feel incredibly welcome during the whole meal. I had no problem balancing my conversation with Becky and Diana—as a waitress/bartender, she was neither standoffish nor over involved in our conversation. As a one time waitress, I know that’s a tricky balance to hit, so kudos to her!
Becky ordered a grilled salmon filet with the same sides. I didn’t get a chance to taste it, but it looked absolutely beautiful. She ended up taking most of hers home with her as well. The portions were huge!
The dessert menu looked fabulous, but after all that wine and fried food, I was spent. I paid the bill and drove home a very satisfied customer.
And then sunk into a food coma the minute I opened the studio door.
End verdict: I’m now a huge fan and would totally go there again. Two big thumbs up!
So apparently, my days of bar food diets are over. Does this mean I’m growing up?
When I was in college, I could go out at night, close down a bar, collapse into bed circa 3am, get up at 7, be at my desk by 8, and work a full day. Now if I’m not in bed by 1030 (assuming I can fall asleep), my mornings don’t happen. After graduation, my life revolved around happy hours. Hot wings became a food group.
But now I am 27, and apparently gastronomically old.
Tonight was a going away happy hour for two of my dear friends and coworkers. Both are moving on to greener office pastures…one 20 minutes away and the other, 350 miles. And so there was celebrating and well wishing to be done. Ever the party planner, I sent out the meeting invites and rallied the troups at Gordon Biersch in Tysons Mall, our typical happy hour hang out.
I ordered an Asian sampler platter, with fried shrimp, Southwest eggrolls (how those got on an Asian sampler platter I’ll never know) and pot stickers in an absolutely horrific sweet chili sauce. David (previously mentioned when he sent me a link for cooking classes) bought the ‘house chips,’ a heart stopping combination of homemade potato chips, topped with blue cheese and bacon. I ate most (ok probably all) of the eggrolls, which I don’t feel bad about. They were two, cut in half, and no one else touched them. I love them and it’s a sin to waste, so I didn’t. I noshed on a few chips and shrimp, and washed it all down with mai thais.
The food was passable bar food and the mai thais were fantastic. However, it is now 11pm and my stomach is not happy with me. Not one bit. So I’m lying in bed, blogging, and watching Anthony Bourdain explore Paris by way of his stomach. I’m uncharacteristically jealous.
Maybe I should marry rich, quit my job to be a trophy wife, and spend my days traveling to fabulous, far off places while blogging about the food I eat.
Right. I’d be bored in a week.