Monday, September 17, 2007

La Tasca - Restaurant Review

La Tasca is a Spanish tapas restaurant with a half dozen locations in the Washington, D.C. area. A friend of the Mrs. was in town attending a medical conference. We met up with the friend after the first day of the conference and headed out to Jaleo originally. But the wait was close to a half hour for a table. So we headed over to La Tasca.

Spanish tapas is similar to Cantonese dim sum. You order a series of small plates and share. We ordered nine dishes in all. Most were good or very good. I liked the calamares a la Andaluza (lightly fried calamari), costillas de cerdo (pork spare ribs) and the paella de verduras (vegetable rice).

My biggest disappointment was not with the food itself, but the small portions. For example, the asparagus dish came with four shoots - which worked out to $1.24 per shoot. That's ridiculous. When La Tasca first opened, the portions where much larger and the prices were lower. Granted, expenses have gone up. But throwing in a few more shrimp or asparagus shoots into a dish won't break the restaurant revenue stream.

The DC location is situated a couple of blocks south of the Convention Center. It appears the DC location has become a tourist trap - charging high prices and offering small portions. I just hope the other locations offer better portions for the prices charged.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Restaurant Review - Qdoba Grill

Not being sure what to expect, I tried Qdoba Grill the other night. The restaurant turned out to be a poor imitation of Chipotle's.

Chipotle uses an assembly line to make your burrito (or salad) fresh. First, they use a hot steam press to heat your flour tortilla. Then you have the option of adding rice, pork, beef, chicken and a host of other toppings and salsas. At the end of the production, you have one very big burrito.

Qdoba attempts to mimic the process. Unfortunately the restaurant fails in two areas. First, the ingredients have no flavor. It seems like the cooks have never heard of salt or pepper or any other spices. And second, the servers offer tiny portions of each ingredient. I felt like I was in the orphanage in the novel Oliver Twist, being served measly portions and humbly asking for more.

Bottom line: Head to Chipotle's if you want a decent burrito. Qdoba isn't worth your time or money.

Restaurant Review - Vapiano's

Vapiano's is new to the U.S. Originally from Germany, the Italian-style eatery offers several unique spins. First, you are given smart cards to use. Next, you order at various stations - pizza, pasta, salad, beverages, dessert. Each order is added to the smart card with a quick swipe. At the end of your meal, you go to the cashier, hand over the smart card and pay your tab.

The pizzas are hand tossed, thin crust and made to order. They are slightly larger than California Pizza Kitchen pizzas. The thin crust and fresh toppings really help to bring out all the great flavors. I ordered the capriccioca - ham, mushrooms, artichokes, olives and tomato sauce. It was good to the last bite!

Friends who have tried the other items generally agree the pizzas are the best items, while the the pastas (in-store, handmade) are hit or miss. Happy Hour runs from 5-8 PM daily, featuring $3.00 beers and a few discounted food items. The restaurant attracts a large lunch and Happy Hour crowd.

Try Vapiano's out and let me know what you think.