Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beau Thai

On one of those "we're way too exhausted to cook" nights, B said he was in the mood for Thai food.  Thankfully, our friends had just mentioned that they really enjoyed Beau Thai in Mt. Pleasant.  Remembering that they also have a Shaw location, I called them to see if they'd deliver to us on the outskirts of Shaw.  They happily agreed to deliver and I happily set about ordering a random assortment of dishes.

About 30 minutes later, the delivery driver called and dinner was ready.  It was a little awkward because the driver didn't get out of his car and I had to look in the windows of three different cars in our building's driveway to see who had my food.  Most drivers wait in the lobby, so he gets a few minus points for that.  However, I'll overlook it because they were speedy and I like that they take credit cards.

The food arrived hot and in sturdy non-styrofoam packaging.  The crispy tofu wrapped in sesame seeds retained its crunch, which is no small feat for delivery food.

Two thumbs up (awww, RIP Roger Ebert) to their signature Beau Thai Chicken: lightly battered chicken tossed in a spicy garlic sauce and string beans, served with white jasmine rice.

The papaya salad was a little heavy on the Thai lime dressing but otherwise a refreshing way to end the meal.

We were happy with our first Beau Thai delivery experience. One thing to understand before you order is that it's not cheapo bulk Thai food.  You aren't going to get days of leftovers for $5.  Instead, it's high quality food served in smaller portions than we're used to for takeout.  If you want mega American-style portions, it's probably a good idea to order more dishes than you normally would.

Have you been to Beau Thai?  How is the dining-in experience?

Second Thoughts From B

Half the fun of having Thai or other Asian food delivered to your home is the next day's leftovers.  The business model of inexpensive mountains of food piled high over rice or noodles is well known.  But Beau Thai seems to be trying to break the mold.  Is there such a thing as "gourmet delivery"?

Call me old fashioned but as good as Beau Thai was, I missed the delivery experience.  I missed the enormous portions of mystery meat slathered in overly sweet or hypersalty sauces that mixed perfectly with white rice.  I missed the soggy vegetables and copious amounts of individually packaged condiments.  I missed the gluttonous waddle to the kitchen to find 47 pieces of mismatched Tupperware to store the rest of our bounty.  And most of all, I missed the soupy, mushy, deliciousness reemerging from the fridge the next day on the fast track to the microwave.  That is what delivery is in my mind.  It is not good for you and it certainly isn't gourmet, but it is familiar and wonderful.  I missed that with Beau Thai. 

Beau Thai should be commended for trying to elevate delivery.  They were effective in bringing the restaurant experience to our home.  But it seems that my little reptilian brain couldn't handle it.  So I guess we'll have to enjoy their food in their restaurant next time because as disoriented as I was, it was tasty.
Beau Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 8, 2013


Would you roll your eyes if I told you that we checked out a new cupcake place?  How about a frozen yogurt place?  Are you completely over the cupcake and fro-yo trends and ready to move on to donut mania 2013?

Before you jump head first into donutville, take a moment to consider Dupont Circle's new Yocake.  Yocake is the brainchild of siblings Ellen and Edward Quach.  Their mom is a French-trained pastry chef and her recipes inspired over 90 varieties of cupcakes in Yocake's rotating selection.  The siblings opened up a shop in Rockville and one in the Montgomery Mall (since closed due to foodcourt renovations) before setting their sights on DC. 

We had the great fortune to be invited to an opening party to see what Yocake is all about.  The Quach siblings and their super friendly staff gave us slices of about a dozen different cupcakes to sample.  I loved the banana caramel coconut, the raspberry lemonade, and the chocolate peanut butter, while B gave high marks to the almond pear and key lime pie.  The cupcakes are reasonably sized and moderately priced at $2.75 each.  They have a "buy 5 get 1 free" deal that's unlimited. So, for your next office party you can buy 50 and get 10 free. They also run a special where they'll give you a free cupcake if you check-in on your mobile device (limit 1 per customer and 50 per location per day).

If you're not in a cupcake mood, you can go straight for the frozen yogurt.  They have a rotating flavor selection ranging from tart Pinkberry-style flavors to sweet flavors like cake batter.  The toppings bar is top-notch with homemade (!) mochi in several flavors and unique toppers such as mango popping bubbles.  They also have cookie-yogurt sandwiches called Yokies that looked pretty awesome.

If you want to go all in, try the namesake creation: the Yocake.  You pick a cupcake flavor, they put it in a cup, then swirl your choice of frozen yogurt on top.  They will also top it off with your choice of toppings from the toppings bar.
B and I split a banana caramel coconut cupcake topped with cake batter yogurt, coconut mochi, and blueberry popping bubbles.  I really liked the yogurt and toppings but waited too long to dig down in the cup to get to the cupcake.  By the time I reached the cupcake, it was cold and crumbly with frozen frosting.  This was probably user error on my part, but I think I'd prefer having the cupcake served on the side.  This is coming from the kid who ate all the ice cream out of the Baskin Robbins ice cream cake and never touched the cake, so take that for what you will.
Yocake sent us home with a dozen cupcakes so we could continue our sugar coma right into the work week. Who wants cupcakes?

While cupcakes and frozen yogurt may not tickle your fancy like they did a few years ago, Yocake's unique spin makes it worth checking out.  I challenge you to find a nicer, more enthusiastic group of store owners.  You can taste the effort and enthusiasm they put into each unique cupcake recipe.  Mom should be very proud.

Second Thoughts From B

I understand your skepticism.  You must be thinking that if you butter us up with enough buttercream, we'll sing your praises throughout the blogosphere.  And I'd be naive to say that my sugar coma didn't positively affect my impression of Yocake.  So instead of waxing poetic with flowery non-descriptive adjectives, let me spell out a few of the concrete things I liked, and yes, didn't like, about Yocake.

What will make me come back:
  • The family: there is something to be said about supporting a local family-run business.  You won't meet a nicer group.
  • The prices: Outside of the generic options at Safeway, where else can you get cupcakes for under $3 these days?
  • The variety: When they said they have 90 flavors, I did a double take.  I then assumed it was made up of ridiculous novelty flavors but as they rattled off example after example, I was intrigued more than skeptical.
  • The frosting: It was more than a hit or two of sugar.  The flavors were distinct and interesting.  Maple and almond were memorable and several of the fruit-based flavors were outstanding.
  • The location: Unlike a few other notable cupcakeries, it is not in Georgetown.
  • The toppings: To me, the frozen yogurt experience has nothing to do with the yogurt.  Unless you have an off the charts fun factor, the toppings are what does it.  Bonus points for homemade toppings.  The mochi was soft and the bubbles perfectly tart.
What might send me to Baked and Wired:
  • The cake: with the notable exception of the carrot cake and some of the fruit cakes (that have real fruit chunks!), the cake was simply a vehicle to get the frosting in my mouth.  Some were on the firm and dry side but I did appreciate those that had filling.
  • The seating: unless you are lucky enough to get the only table, you'll be eating your sweets on the go.
Yocake on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 5, 2013


We tried to make a return trip to Energy Kitchen to see if we liked it apart from the free preview night, but found that it is closed on the weekends. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when restaurants in Downtown DC are not open on weekends.  I know that the area isn't as bustling as it is during the week, but there are people who live in Downtown that would like lunch options.  That's why I'm glad Boloco (just around the corner from Energy Kitchen) was open on Saturday.

Boloco is a regional chain of "globally inspired burritos."  They have a location in Bethesda and one in Downtown.  We were really impressed with the look and feel of the place.  From the reclaimed materials to the free wifi and plugs at each table, they make an effort to make you want to sit and make yourself comfortable.  They even have chargers you can borrow to juice up your e-devices.

We were also big fans of the DC-inspired art.  You can even buy it on their website.

Another cool feature is the different menus for different categories of customers: regulars, first-timers, kids, and catering.  The first-timers menu explains the concept. First, you pick a size (original, small, mini, or 2x mini bundle) and whether you want a burrito or a bowl.  Then you choose a flavor combo (from buffalo to Bangkok thai). Finally, you choose a protein (from white meat chicken to tofu).  You may also be tempted by their selection of shakes (mmmmmm nutella shake) and smoothies.  Once you've figured it out, you place your order at the register and then they'll call your name when it's ready.  If you've called in or ordered online, they've got an employee wearing a red hat that will help you out and allow you to avoid the line (cool huh?).

I tried a Memphis BBQ-style bowl: a blend of pinto beans, rice, sweet BBQ sauce, and coleslaw topped off grilled steak.  The steak was over-done (no pink at all), but the rest of the bowl was a winner.  I added some hot sauce to balance out the sweetness of the BBQ sauce and it made for a sweet and spicy bowl o' fun.  It's unusual to find BBQ flavors in a burrito bowl, and I dug it.

B tried the teriyaki-style bowl with chicken.  This is much more in line with a typical rice bowl but B was impressed with the bold flavors and healthy dose of veggies.

I'm not sure that Boloco is a go-out-of-your-way-because-it's-amazing place, but it is a very solid lunch choice if you're in Downtown.  Particularly if you're there on a Saturday and everything else is closed!

Second Thoughts from B

While those of us who live downtown might get a little miffed that certain eateries are dark outside of normal business hours, I get it.  The golden triangle is bustling at noon on a Tuesday, but is a ghost town at that time on the weekends.  It is one of those chicken/egg things that I won't attempt to solve here.

Like Energy Kitchen's hours, Boloco's cuisine and business model certainly centers around the working lunch.  It is no surprise that it is designed to be eaten quickly, over a laptop, for multiple days in a row.  The fact that the food had an impressive depth of flavor was a bonus.  That it seemed geared to the health-conscious was a revelation.

Between the very non-American serving sizes, the calorie counts, and the emphasis on fresh and natural ingredients, I can see why Boloco might build a strong following among the desk bound.  I felt like I was paying for quality rather than quantity, which is certainly rare in this type of place.  I loved that you could order online for pickup and choose from a fairly diverse selection, all while leaving the guilt of another fried mystery meat sandwich or over-salted soup at the door.  As someone who is at the mercy of a government cafeteria during his workdays, I have to admit that Boloco made me a bit jealous.
Boloco on Urbanspoon