Friday, July 8, 2011

Sprinkles Cupcakes (Washington, DC)

Ah~~ It's been a long time since I last blogged. Today I'm blogging about the cupcake shop, Sprinkles Cupcakes, the "world's first cupcake bakery".

View Larger Map


I was in Georgetown two weeks ago and I wanted Georgetown Cupcake cupcakes, but the line went out the store and the temperature outside was pretty bad, so I decided to get Sprinkles Cupcake cupcakes instead while walking back from Georgetown.

My Experience:

I went to the store a bit late, around 8pm, and most of their flavors were sold out. I had their "Black and White" cupcake in the store:

And it was so good! It was not dry at all like the Hello Cupcake cupcakes, and the frosting was done just right. They even had little wooden spoons for customers to use with which to eat the cupcakes! Very yummilicious~

I bought two home (which was a bad idea), and ate both while watching Korean Drama on my computer...

The Sprinkles staff put my two cupcakes in this adorable box and sealed it with a sticker. Appearances matter, especially in desserts!

The one on the left is the Chocolate Marshmallow cupcake, and the one on the right is the Red Velvet cupcake. I ended up eating three cupcakes in one evening... yikes~~!

Some more pictures for you to drool over...

OMG the marshmallow center!

And Irena was right - sprinkles don't have any flavor (the big dot).

Price Range: $$
$3.50 a cupcake is not cheap, especially considering that Georgetown Cupcakes sell theirs for only $2.75 each. Nonetheless, no lines and yummy cupcakes makes the purchase worthwhile.
Environment: 3.5/5 - above average
Not much sitting space - only two tables in the store. However, its location is good as it is not quite so far into Georgetown as Georgetown Cupcakes is. There also wasn't a scary line like at Georgetown Cupcakes, and the interior decor definitely beats that of Hello Cupcake. Service was okay.
Food: 4.5/5 - awesome
After having gone to three cupcake stores in DC, I think the cupcakes at Sprinkles are very yummy. I think I actually liked Sprinkles Cupcake cupcakes more than Georgetown Cupcake cupcakes. The cupcake had a texture that was not dry, but not too moist either. The sweetness was not overpowering, and the icing blended in really well with the cake portion. Very prettily dressed cupcakes, I must say. Presentation and packaging were nice too.
Overall: 4/5 - good
If the price wasn't so hefty, I would give the place a better rating. The lack of sitting areas also brought the score down a little bit. All in all, I think this place is worth going to again.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sushi Taro (Washington, DC)

Sushi Taro! I've been dreaming of going there again after first eating there some three weeks ago.

View Larger Map


I had their sushi bento box ($13.25) last time:

And it was almost too much food! And for so cheap, too~ a person can get crap sushi in DC for so much more money than this.

My Experience:

I woke up late today so I decided to just walk to Sushi Taro without eating breakfast, which took about 15 minutes. Sushi Taro is located on top of the CVS at the intersection of 17th Street NW and P St NW. Normally people would just pass by it because it is such a small sign, especially since it is on top of another store.

I was seated promptly, as there weren't that many people at the restaurant. I was asked to eat at the bar, however, because I was a single diner. I had fun staring at the Japanese sakes while waiting for the food. The waitress was friendly, and refilled my tea when I needed it (unlike some other DC restaurants that even charge for the tea! Sushi Taro tea was free ^^)

Since I had the bento box last time, I decided to get the Bara Chirashi Set ($18) since I didn't know what Chirashi was (I just wikipedia'd it), and because it was expensive I thought it had to be good.

The set came with chawanmushi (which I have eaten before, but of which I didn't know the name):

And also with miso soup:

The miso tasted kind of funny, though. Anyway, the chirashi came and I was shocked. It was huge!

Like the "jewel box" the website described it as, it really was filled with all sorts of goodies - from tuna to unagi to sponge cake to salmon roe, it had everything! Well, except for the vegetables the description mentioned.

And I took a picture of the napkin, because I am weird like that. They have really nice napkins with a really cool logo. Legitly Japanese ;)

Price Range: $$
For a sushi restaurant, the price is actually not too high. The daily special contains loads of stuff and only costs $12 including two side dishes (today's was fried shrimp curry, but I didn't feel like eating fried things). It really depends on how much one wants to spend on lunch, since all the items on the menu are enough to satisfy one's lunch cravings.
As for dinner, it gets more complicated. Sushi Taro is known for its kaiseki dinners which cost $75+ per person. I want to try it, but it's just awkward eating such a fancy dinner by myself even though I'm the type of person who would go any length for good food.
Environment: 4.5/5 - awesome
Clean, classy, nice decor. I'm giving it a "great" rating because though dress code is casual, the restaurant has that classy Japanese joint feel and is not populated by ignorant non-sushi eaters (well, the guy sitting next to me asked for a spoon for the miso... you just don't drink miso with a spoon...) and actually has Japanese people eating there, which means the stuff is legit. Waiters/tresses are courteous. Though the restaurant isn't that big, its small size makes the space feel cozy and personal, and the tempo is slowed down because of that. Overall, I like the feel of the restaurant.
Food: 5/5 - nomworthy
First time seeing me use "nomworthy," eh? Well, it's nomworthy because it's really good! The fish was really fresh (well, if I don't say anything bad about it tomorrow it means I didn't die, so wait till tomorrow), the presentation is beautiful, it came with side dishes (I love those), and the portion was really reasonable for the amount paid.
The bento box I had last time was really good, too! Lots of variety for such a small sum! I had a taiyaki for dessert last time, and it tasted good, albeit a bit dry. Finally, the tea was complimentary which is a plus because DC Asian joints are cray cray for charging money for tea!
Overall: 5/5 - nomworthy
Certainly the best Japanese restaurant I have visited since coming to DC (believe me - I've gone to at least 5 "Japanese" restaurants and this is the only authentic one with authentic Japanese people who make the food - even the front desk lady speaks Japanese!). I look forward to eating at Sushi Taro again, hopefully for a kaiseki meal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Food Corner Kabob House (Washington, DC)

Kabobs!! Yes - the famous Food Corner Kabob House of Dupont Circle. I've ordered twice from there (ordered online, picked up food to go), and they always gave so much food! I love food.

View Larger Map

The Kabob House is located at a very convenient location to me, so it's a quick grab-n-go dinner place because after I order the food online, it usually only takes 25 minutes (less, even) for the food to be ready for pick-up.

My Experience:

I don't have many pictures of the place because I'm always in a hurry when I go to get food from there. The Dupont Circle location is located on the second floor of a small building, with a setup much like that of a fast food restaurant. I haven't eaten in yet, but apparently the owners are super friendly.

Today I wasn't too hungry so I ordered the Shami Kabob Sandwich ($6.40) which was definitely enough for a meal. IT contained one piece of Shami kabob meat, and was wrapped in delicious Naan with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and sauce inside.

I got there within 20 minutes' time, and they were already ready with my food. I grabbed it and came back to the Center.

Price Range: $
They give you so much food for the amount of money you pay! The sandwich was a great deal because it was enough for a meal (well, for me at least), and it was less than $10.
Environment: 3/5
I haven't eaten in yet so I can't say for sure how nice it is to eat in, but they were able to get my order ready really quickly so that is a plus.
Food: 4/5 - good
Delicious kabobs! Last time I had a combo in which I got chicken and shami kabobs. When I ordered the kabob dinner, the order came with my choice of a side (I got spinach), kabobs, rice, a huge piece of naan, lettuce, and that green sauce you pour over the kabobs. The sandwich I had was about 3/5 that size, I believe. Anyway, the meat was seasoned well and it was really good. I wish I can have the lamb ones but sadly, due to dietary restrictions, I couldn't.
Overall: 4/5 - good
Good food, fast service, and great price. Apparently they are open till late too so I think I will be living on late-night kabobs for a while. Furthermore, their website design is user-friendly, which is always a plus. I love ordering food online, because it seems like food appeared out of thin air... alright I'm not crazy (sort of).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

hello cupcake (Washington, DC)

I've been to so many places last week but I haven't gotten to blog about any of them (including a DIY oatmeal post) because I've been kind of busy. Anyway, I visited hello cupcake, Dupont Circle location, on June 17.

View Larger Map


One day, out of the blue, a participant of the Cornell in Washington program brought in two dozen cupcakes from hello cupcake to share. They were so pretty, so I wanted to visit the store itself. I can never get enough sweets... Yelp gave the store a 3-star average rating. It is right across from the Krispy Kreme and Panera Bread walkway (which I visit... very often)

My Experience:

I walked into the store, and I realized that it was kind of small. I visited Georgetown Cupcake (DC Cupcake) a few weeks ago and their store was bigger and, in my opinion, had better display of the cupcakes.

I ended up buying three cupcakes, at $3 each.

By the way, I just want to say that I hate Blogger. WHY CAN'T I ADD CAPTIONS???! Wordpress has been doing that for years.

Anyway, the cupcakes were packed in cute boxes with a sticker to close off the box.

And inside, the cupcakes are nicely stored by a cardstock separator. The flavors I purchased were "Heart of Darkness," "Prima Donna," and "Peanut Butter Blossom".

*OKAY people I might switch back to Wordpress because it is just plain annoying having to use Blogger's outdated system. I can't even edit my photos??! Wow. Lame.*

The cupcakes do look very cute. Oh all right - all cupcakes are cute! (Above: peanut butter blossom; below: heart of darkness)

Price Range: $$
The cupcakes were all for $3. I gave this one two money signs because the store is on the more expensive side of cupcakes (well, compared to how much I would normally spend on dessert).
Environment: 3/5 - average
I didn't find the store to be very "cute". I think it was too sparsely decorated, and the seating (of which I neglected to document) was too open. The tables and seats were in plain view of the cashier's station, so I didn't feel that the setup was cozy enough. Good thing is that the store is in Dupont Circle, which is easily accessible.
Food: 3/5 - average
I don't know if it was because I went to the store in the evening (8pm), but the cupcakes I had from there were always too dry. The sides of the "muffintop" were definitely too dry and hard for my taste.
The icing was pretty good - fluffy and nice, not grainy and overly sweet. I appreciated that hello cupcake understood the aesthetics of food, because the packaging and decorations were done correctly.
I liked the cupcakes, but they weren't all that special.
Overall: 3/5 - average
Why average? Well, for one, the cupcakes weren't amazing. I had cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake (DC Cupcake) that were better than the ones here, and the ones at Georgetown Cupcakes were cheaper ($2.75), too!
To get the most bang out of your buck, go to Georgetown Cupcake where the atmosphere, display, price, and taste of the cupcakes were much better than hello cupcake. I guess DC Cupcake had its own show for a reason.
I would visit hello cupcake if I have an intense craving for cupcakes. Otherwise, I would much prefer to get cupcakes from Georgetown.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Teaism (Washington, DC)

I went to the Washington National Cathedral today and on the way back to Dupont Circle I decided to make a detour and stop at Teaism on R street.

View Larger Map


I have read of some good Yelp reviews of this Teaism location, so I've wanted check it out since coming to DC. It's apparently good for breakfast and lunch, and it's pretty close to Dupont Circle.

My experience:

As soon as I walked in, I was taken aback. It wasn't quite the atmosphere I expected - instead of sitting down and ordering, customers have to order at the cashier and bring the food to wherever they will be sitting, even if the food is an entree and not just tea. I was a bit disappointed at this because I had expected the place to be more classy than that.

So, I went up to the counter to place my order after perusing the menus. The place is known for its tea and Asian fusion cuisine. Since I wasn't too hungry at 3:30pm, I decided to go for dessert and tea.

I ordered the Keemun Tea ($2.75) and the Hungarian Tea Cake ($4.00)

I wish that they had made the order prettier. Some higher-end cafes would maybe dust their desserts in some powdered sugar with a stencil, presenting the food in a fashionable manner. Anyway, I took the food upstairs...

And there was a cozy corner that is right by a window! I was happy that the setting is serene. However, the noise level wasn't the best for working - it seemed more of a social tea parlor than a "alone time" one.

Price range: $
It's a good place for lunch, because the prices are pretty reasonable. I don't know about the taste of the food, though. Yelp says their food is good; I can only try it myself next time I come here. The teas weren't cheap, though - some of them were as much as $12 per 2 ounce bag!
Environment: 4/5 - good
Cozy, close to Dupont Circle, and relatively peaceful. I have to check it out during lunchtime rush hour to see how the traffic goes. Cashiers weren't the most welcoming, but whatever. They can fix up the cushions a bit, though - they are pretty worn. 2nd floor is very cozy; 1st floor seemed more of a cafe setup. Be warned, though: they don't have many seats!
Food: 3.5/5 - above average
I only ordered tea and dessert here,so I wouldn't know how good the rest of their stuff is. The tea was okay - no "wow" factor for me. Tea cake was good, but nothing spetacular. I would like to try their entrees sometime.
Overall: 4/5 - good
I wouldn't come specifically for the food, but I would for some me-time and for some sit-down relaxation. The atmosphere is good, and I would come again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tono Sushi (Washington, DC)

First destination of this blog: Tono Sushi of Washington, DC!

View Larger Map


Ever since arriving in Washington, DC for my Summer in Washington program conducted by Cornell, I've been looking everywhere for places to eat. Since I live in a two-person studio apartment, I have to 1) cook, 2) starve, 3) eat out, or 4) buy delivery. I chose to do (3) today - that is, eat out!

After searching on Yelp for good Japanese places, I stumbled upon Tono Sushi which has a 3.5-star rating on the website. Since it's a short distance away, I chose to go with it and eat there right after work today.

My experience:

After sitting down and looking at the menu for just a few seconds, I can tell you I was disappointed.

Why, you ask? The menu didn't have a single Japanese word on it! Be it hiragana or kanji, the least that a "Japanese" restaurant could offer is some authentic Japanese!

Anyway, after my initial disappointment, I spotted the Salmon Oyakodon, which I have had at this awesome place in New York City (more on that in a future post). I decided to give it a go instead of ordering separate sushi items (Happy Hour apparently had a $1 per piece of sushi deal. I didn't feel like sushi today, though).

This is what the Salmon Oyakodon looked like. I was actually a bit shocked when the waitress was bringing me my food because I had expected it to arrive in a bowl, nicely garnished. I guess I didn't read the menu category heading that said "Sushi-Dinner," which should have provided enough of a hint that it would be raw salmon (the awesome salmon oyakodon I had in NYC had cooked salmon with roe, and it was delicious in a warm bowl of seasoned rice). Sadly, the rice wasn't hot, and it didn't look sparkly white like regular sushi rice. The dish came with wasabi, ginger, rice, sesame and nori pieces over the rice, 10 slices of salmon sashimi, salmon roe sprinkled on either side of the plate, radish shavings for garnish, and lemon and cucumber slices for garnish. The entree came with miso soup and one side dish.

Price Range: $$
Entrees were in the $10-$20 range, mostly. Happy Hour sushi deal. They charged me $2 for green tea, which is ridiculous. Most Asian places I have gone to do not charge for tea!
Environment: 3/5 - average
The decor was pretty average. Still had the Americanized feel to the joint. Waiters/tresses weren't authentic Japanese, either. Served miso soup with a spoon (uggh).
Food: 3.5/5 - above average
Nothing spectacular. For the price, it's nothing spectacular. Fish was fresh, presentation was nice, but that is all. No "wow" factor.
Overall: 3/5 - average
I don't think I'll go to Tono Sushi again. The environment and food aren't so captivating that I'd opt to eat in than to order delivery. If I need a quick meal, I might just order it. I've been to five Washington sushi/Japanese joints so far and this one would rank number two, because the Japanese places in Washington are less than average. The only place worth recommending is Sushi Taro, which had a very reasonably priced yet delicious lunch.