Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Washington DC: CityZen

CityZen was supposed to be our treat for this 3-cities trip to the U.S. East Coast. So, it is with a lot of expectations that we entered the Mandarin Oriental in Washington D.C.

I knew really wanted the tasting menu so we went for it with no delay.

We were a bit disappointed. Not that anything was bad or not well rendered; I just thought it missed some layers in the flavors and, well, the ingredients could have been fresher.
The green peas were not as fresh as those I got with my Olive and Gourmando's sandwich in Montreal (for less than $10). The lamb was not not the freshest possible either (their was a lamby taste which is not present with the freshest lamb).

Mind you, I don't want to imply that it wasn't good food, it was. But with a Kir, taxes and half a bottle of red, it was around $400. Our expectations were not met for that price point.

Asparagus salad with over roasted tomatoes, baby arugula, preserved quail egg and nicoise olive vinaigrette.

Chesapeake bay soft shell crab tempura, with Path Valley Farm rhubarb gazpacho.

Steamed pacific sable fish, with artichoke tea, Jerusalem artichoke subric and toasted lemon crumble.
Herb roasted Martin Ranch spring lamb and petit pois a la Francaise.


Now, we only had one day to spend in Baltimore and no real plans but for the fact that we knew we would have had steamed crab by the end of the day.

May had read good things about Obrycki's, which was confirmed by the cab driver on our way to our hotel. http://www.obryckis.com/
May's steamed crab before the carnage. Note the mallets, the instruments of crab torture...

Crab cake
The remaining evidence of crab carnage.

My crab cake was really good. I actually never had a crab cake with so much crab in it. No meat was left after May went through her 6 crabs, which tends to indicate she appreciated them as well. ;-)

Now, something that I would like to mention to the foodies traveling to Baltimore to sample the crabs; Baltimore as one of the highest murder/crime rate in the U.S. and we were told numerous times that even the relatively short walk from Inner Harbour to Obrycki's should be avoided at night. While the cab drove us back, it became quite obvious why that was; quite a lot of shady characters were wandering around in that area.


I had not done much research about Philly but to find that it was one of the largest urban area in the United States, which was my criteria for picking it as a destination to clear all of our airlines/rail/airmiles points before our big move to Hong Kong.

May had done some research, food related, obviously...

What a nice surprise Philadelphia turned-out to be; tons of nice little places for foodies to enjoy and a very relaxed atmosphere.

Our hotel, being in the historic old Philadelphia (near Independence park), we obviously visited all the historic site and learned quite a bit about the US that we didn't know. But this area is also home to lots of nice spots for foodies. Here are a few we visited, close and not so close to our hotel.

Di Bruno Brothers at 1730 Chestnut St (above and below). Nice
Italian specialty store with good variety and friendly faces.

We could obviously not go to Philadelphia without sampling the mandatory Philly cheese steak. Which we did, where it was invented, at Campo's. 1 million calories per sandwich... guaranteed!

Smack down in the middle of downtown Philadelphia, the Reading Terminal Market is a must see for any foodie worthy of the name. You will find tons of fresh produce, restaurants, well, anything to make your stomach very happy. If you are a Montrealer an love the Jean-Talon market, you'll feel right at home at the RTM.

Ricotta and chocolate chips Cannoli from Termini in the Reading Terminal. Creamy, rich, very good.

Cuba Libre.
As its name implies, a Cuban restaurant. Very near the hotel where we were staying.
The menu is online as well as some recipes: http://www.cubalibrerestaurant.com
The food was enjoyable and there was definitely an important contingent of Latino patrons in the house.

A sampler of Cuba Libre's dish; pork, beef, beans, soup.

Torta de Chocolate, Flan de vanilla, Natilla de coco

The Franklin Fountain at 116 Market St; very rich ice cream that May liked so much we went back almost every night. The 90F degree temperature helped as well !

As I said before, Philly turned-out to be a nice surprise; it is not a destination we would have picked right away if not for the fact that our stay and flight there were mostly free. But we are glad we did because Philly is rich in history and tastes. We'd suggest you include a 2-3 days stay there if you are planning a larger U.S. East Coast trip.