Saturday, January 5, 2008

Restaurant Hoppers

I grew up in College Park where the main strip is Edgewater Drive. My Best Bud Megan too has spent most of her life living near this strip. Edgewater seems to have an endless stream of shops and restaurants opening and closing, though over the past couple of years the movements seems to have settled.



It recently dawned on Megan and I that we haven't eaten at most of the places along the strip in our own 'hood. As our Christmas gifts to each other, Megan and I decided to do somthing new. We went Restaurant Hopping down the strip.



We started around 7pm with the plan to have a four or five course meal, stopping at a new restaurant for each course. Groovy idea huh? We originally joked about pretending to be food critics in order to lessen the blow to the servers that we weren't ordering much. We went so far as to joke about bringing pens and paper and creating alter egos for ourselves. In the end however we went as our boring old selves. The funny part is tha in the end, we didn't need to falsify the facts to get great service and have a blast.



All prices are after tax and tip. Total spent each on the night, $41.



First Course - Appetizers
Location - Taste
Server - Lisa
Ordered - Herbed Goat Cheese Spread with Crackers & Ahi Tuna Tartar
History - Taste has been in College Park for years so we were both really looking forward to trying it out. The interior was nice, but while we weren't shunned, we weren't made to feel especially welcomed. Taste serves tappas (mini dishes) so we figured it would be the perfect place for appetizers and because the menu is set up for it we decided not to tell the server about our plans to hop around.
Menu - After looking over the menu we weren't overly impressed with their creativity. We felt like most of the combinations offered were typical and actually had trouble finding things we really wanted to try. In the end we settled on two dishes.
Food - Both dishes lived up to the restaurant's name and were tastey, but we felt they didn't live up to our expectations. The goat cheese was creamy but a bit bland and there wasn't enough to go around to the small handful of crackers we received. The Tartar was decent but again, not a very large portion and rather bland. In the end we did tell the server about our hopping and she mentioned Julianna's down the street had nice cooks...hmmm, we were hoping for good food but we'll see.
Total Cost - $19
Conclusion - 2.5 Stars



Second Course - Salad
Location - Harmoni Bistro
Server - Kelly
Ordered - Spring Mix Salad with almonds, goat cheese, manderine oranges topped with tahini, honey and orange juice dressing
History - Harmoni is a bit controversial around College Park. You see it sits on the ground level of a new condoplex that was recently built right on the main strip in the small quaint College Park district. The condos are large, imposing and required the destruction of some neat old buildings. For this reason the locals have been a bit hesitant to explore. Meg and I decided to check it out and were extremely imperssed. Ther is a market adjacent that provides and ecclectic and fun selection of food and affordable wines. The Bistro had a really nice vibe with a high ceiling and gorgeous stained wood beams exposed. The somehow managed to keep in intimate and not too loud though. In trying to decribe the atmosphere we could only come up with 'The new College Park' which should be taken as a huge compliment.
Menu - The menu was full of delectible choices. In fact we had to remind ourselves that we were there for salad and even then we had to really work to narrow it down to one. We told the server up front that we were hopping and she was very excited for us and even offered to split our dish in two.
Food - The salad was perfect. The goat cheese nice and fresh, the salad dressing really made the whole thing work though. So creamy and sweet. We found ourselves developing a whole menu around the salad dressing alone, pizza, ahi tuna, yogurt popsicles...yum! We told our sever of our addiction to the dressing and inquired about buying a supply to take home. She returned with the news that it's not currently for sale but as a consolation prize she had two take home tubs of the dressing all bagged up for us - free of charge. I was able to make five more salads with my dressing alone!
Total Cost - $10
Conclusion - 5 Stars

Third Course - Entree
Location - Julianna's
Server - Mike
Ordered - Shrimp, spinach and three cheese tortellini in a portofino sauce
History - Julianna's used to be a tea room and neither of us had paid it much attention until it was commended at both Taste and Harmoni. The atmosphere was cozy though our server was awkward and lacked personality.
Menu -We struggled with our choice to have our entree at Julianna's because of their lack of vegetarian friendly dishes. We found a few options though and narrowed it down to one. We told the server of our evening of hopping and while he seemed a bit miffed he did split our dish into two plates without our asking.
Food - While they made our pasta we received compimentary bread and hummus which suprised us. The hummus was tastey though we agreed probably best in small portions due to the heavy garlic. We're sad to say that we really weren't impressed with our main dish. For starters the portion was very small for an $18 dish. We each received three shrimp and less than ten small tortellini. We agreed that the tortellini tasted like it could easily have been the kind you can get frozen in bulk at Costco. The saving grace was that the owner came out as we finished our dish to ask how his place compared to the rest of our hops. We were honest and told him that the salad was the best so far. He proclaimed "ahh, that is because you didn't have my salad dressing! I will bring you a sample of my home made dressing." And he did. I tried it later and again, wasn't too impressed - sorry :( We do want to give this one another chance though.
Total Cost - $22
Conclusion - 2 Stars

Fourth Course - Dessert and Drinks
Location - K
Server - TJ
Ordered - Apple Pi a'la mode, Lava Cake & Alliance Australian Shiraz '05
History - Megan had heard of K before and had tried their sister restaurant, Nonna before. There have been many eateries located on the corner where K now sits, all of which I had found to be over priced and unimpressive so I was a hard sell from the start. We knew though going in that K was going to be pricey, Nonna is a bit cheaper and seems to be where the owner experiements on ideas for K.
Menu - The dessert selection was actually very tempting. A nice mix of fruit, excellent chocolates and other various sweets. We followed the servers recommendation though and went with a classic and of course chocolate. We briefly browsed the rest of the menu and both saw several things we would like to be able to afford to try.
Food - The applie pit was yummy, not too many apple chunks, lots of gooeyness. Though we agreed the chef was a bit heavy on the crust to filling ratio. The lava cake was the real gem though. Chocolate cake with a gooey hot sauce center, served with raspberries and mint it was irresistable. We agreed it was a close contender with my Mom's brownie pudding. We also ordered a glass of Shiraz (what girl can have chocolate without some red wine!?)
Total Cost - $31
Conclusion - 4 Stars

Megan and I always have a good time, no matter what we're doing. But this night was an especially memorable event, at least for me. I'd love to go back and try all of the places again to see how they rate the second time around. We've already discussed making a habit out of Restaurant Hopping - if we do I'll be sure to let you know. Thanks for the great gift Meg!

2 comments:

Mini Mama said...

Partly because of this review by Sara and Meg, John and I went to Harmoni for dinner one night. I got the 6 oz sirloin, it could have easily passed for a fillet mignon, tasty and tender. My sides were OK, the mashed sweet potatoes had been over-sweetened even for me and the veggies (squash and egg plant) were overcooked. John liked the turnip casserole a lot. His chicken (which I tasted as well) was tender but could have used more seasoning to make it more interesting. Service was great.

ButterflySunshine said...

I'm so glad you two are branching out! I'm glad you each liked a piece of your meal, though I'm sorry you didn't like the whole deal. Thanks for sharing your experience with us though!