Monday, January 31, 2011

Murphy's: The Irish Blessing

So after our horrible experience at Fireflies, we were all starving and pissed but we had not given up hope on a good meal quite yet. We decided to drive to King Street because they have a plethora of restaurants and one was bound to be open on a Tuesday night after 9:30 pm. A has an iPhone so we tried to look up some more deals for restaurant week, but we were all getting cranky and decided to park and pick the first decent looking restaurant. Well G did a great job parking, and we were literally right in front of what turned out to be our "Irish Blessing."
When we walked in there was an option to either go upstairs or through a short hallway so we picked the hallway and entered a room with a "please seat  yourself" sign. The room was bustling, but luckily we managed to get a table in the corner. A and I had to use the restroom and by the time we got back, there were menus and glasses of water at the table. 

Murphy's did have a restaurant week menu, 2 for $35, but we all thought that ordering straight from the menu was a much better deal. 

Our waitress promptly returned and took our orders. She was a vegetarian so she could not offer much advice on the menu but she let us know what the popular choices were. 

I decided to get the Hot and Hearty Irish Stew "a generous bowl of stew consisting of beef, potatoes, carrots, peas and onions." Amazing! The meat was moist and flavorful. Everything was cooked right, the seasoning and the texture of the items in the stew were perfect. It is a great deal, under $10, I would definitely order this again.(This is one of the top 3 most ordered items)
G decided to get the Corned Beef and Cabbage "thinly sliced brisket corned beef served on a hearty portion of boiled green cabbage with sauteed potatoes, celery and boiled carrots." The meat was moist and the cabbage was cooked well but it lacked in the actual corned beef seasoning. While G is not sure he would order this again, he was not unsatisfied with his meal and managed to finish most of it.
A got the Jameson's Strip Steak "charbroiled 12oz NY strip steak seasoned with spices and Jameson's Irish Whiskey served with fresh baked potato and vegetables." The waitress said that this dish was what the owners always get when they come in to eat. This was probably one of the most expensive items on the menu (approx $16) but well worth the price. The portion was hearty(12 oz of steak!) and she ended up giving some of it to R to finish, the meat was well cooked and flavored wonderfully. A let me try a piece and I though it tasted great and I would definitely order this.
R got the Irish Meat and Potato Pie "a homemade blend of beef, sausage, minced onions and mashed potatoes in a pie crust topped with gravy and served with Murphy's cottage fries." R was satisfied with his meal, he finished it all and topped it off with some of the bread from my meal. I tried a little of this and I thought it was good, but I am not a fan of meat in pie-like forms so I probably would not order this. (a top 3 most ordered!)
After being 100% satisfied with our meals we decided to have a go at the dessert menu. Desserts were $3.50 each (great deal!) and if you wanted ice cream an extra $1. I got the Baileys Cake which was rich, moist and chocolatey.I would have preferred more Bailey's flavor-there was only a slight hint, not really enough to dub this a "Baileys cake."
And R and A got the Apple Cobbler w/ a side of vanilla ice cream. They both seemed to enjoy this dish. I thought the flavors were nice but I was not too fond of the texture of the apples, I thought they should have been cooked a little longer. Overall these desserts were pretty good, but I probably would not order them again. I'd probably get a hearty beer with my meal instead.  
The atmosphere of Murphy's was amazing. It was everything an Irish Pub should be. It was crowded and noisy (but we could still converse with each other) and the service was good. The inside smelled wonderful, they had a fire lit which produced a homey, comfy smell. (pics are inside, blurry bc i did not have my flash on)
In addition to a great environment the music was awesome, performed by musician Ronan Kavanagh. He made me want to learn what he was singing-he was very interactive with the pub and they actually participated in his songs. He sang what I assumed were Irish songs, and he also threw a few modern hits in like his own version of Rihanna's Umbrella, not sure which one I like better. I tried recording him singing on my camera, but it was horrible quality so I will spare your ears.

I really want to go here with a few friends over a weekend and have a couple of beers just to chill and listen to the music. I would also come here to eat again, they have several items on the menu that I would either get again or I would like to try, and I highly recommend going here.

*the guy who brought our food out had an Irish accent, which made my night a heck of a lot better*

713 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-1717

Murphy's Grand Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fireflies and Firsts

After having a wonderful experience with L on Saturday, I decided to branch out and try Alexandria's restaurant week. Looking on the web, I thought I found a pretty good deal at this restaurant called Fireflies (they had a 3.5 on yelp so I thought they would be decent). They were offering a "Dinner for 2-35$" promotion in which you could pick any 2 starters, 2 entrees and a dessert...sounds great right? Yeah, I could not have been more wrong.

I made a reservation for 4 at 7:30, and we ended up getting there a little late due to traffic and other minor factors but I did call and let them know we would be there at 7:45.

Stepping into Fireflies, I was surprised by how small it was, but it looked like it had potential and I got really excited. We were seated promptly and received a small bowl of popcorn.

I had printed out the menu to look at it in the car (I like to be prepared), so we all knew what we were going to order in advance.

30 minutes after we order, our appetizers come out. At this point we were all cold (sitting right by the door so every time it opened we were hit with a fresh burst of cold air), cranky, and ready to eat.

What we were about to receive was not about to improve our moods.

Ally is allergic to wheat, so she ordered the french onion soup and asked them to leave out the bread-not an unreasonable request. A's soup comes out with a nice chunk of bread in the middle. Politely, she sends it back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, the exact bowl of soup comes back out with the hunk of bread simply removed, and little chunks remaining, and no cheese. She ate probably about a 4th of the soup, and without cheese to balance off the spices of the soup, left it -- pretty unappealing.
even w/o the bread it should not look like this
After A had received her appetizer with bread on it, she double checked with our waitress to see if she had made sure the creamed spinach that was suppose to come with her entry had flour in it. In an offended tone, the waitress went back to check and let A know that there was indeed flour in the dish. A had to reorder 45 minutes later (we should have already had our entrees by this point) because the waitress failed to make sure for the 2nd time that flour was not included in her food.

Randolph decided to try something new so he ordered the Deep Fried Olives "served smothered in our marinara with melted mozzarella and Parmesan cheese." Well, when the order came out, it was not recognizable. The olives were soft and chewy-not a fried consistency as the name would suggest. The sauce was overpowering and there were not enough olives. I tried it but I am not a fan of olives so I can not give the best opinion but not one of the four of us enjoyed the olives and I thought the marinara was very unsatisfactory.
Does this look appealing to you?

For my appetizer I decided to stay in my box and order the Spinach and Artichoke dip, a classic, safe and delicious pick. Wrong. When the dish came out, the top was charred and crispy. After breaking through the top layer (which is supposed to be delicious and cheesy) with a knife, I finally got to the spinach. It tasted like frozen spinach, it was bland, dry and overcooked, and there were no noticeable artichokes or cheese flavor present. A described the spinach as chopped instead of wilted, which is the proper consistency :). I did not finish the dip, but because Greg and I decided to split the app's he ended up finishing this dish due to his overwhelming hunger.
The 2nd app G and I decided to get was the Winter House Salad "romaine lettuce with dried cranberries, toasted pecans, red onions, apples and a cider vinaigrette." It was by no means a gourmet salad, but it was the best dish of the night. All of the veggies were fresh, and there was a decent amount of lettuce, dried cranberries and pecans. The apples, onions and dressing were seriously lacking. We asked for an additional side of dressing which the server brought to another table, and we had to re-request and wait an additional 10 minutes to get the extra side (keep in mind this place is very small-maybe 10-15 tables tops-and less than half of them were eating). After receiving the extra dressing the lettuce was quite tasty, and everyone enjoyed it.

Sadly this is where the fun pictures and the dining experience ends(lucky for you, you didn't have to wait over an hour to figure this out). After having our water cups empty for the majority of the night, and getting a snotty retort that our server's "friend" was coming over to refill our glasses when we asked for refills. This was the last straw. R went to the host stand to ask to speak to a manager (turns out the guys standing less than 5 ft away from us for the duration of our supposed meal was the manager) about why we had not received our dinner for over an hour, he went to go check it and told us it would be out in a few minutes and failed to apologize for the delay. After waiting 5 minutes, we just asked to leave and he said that was fine.
Just in case you were curious what it looks like, I was too angry to take a picture of the outside, photo credit from Alexandria Daily Photo

I have been to restaurants where service has been extremely slow, or some of the food has not been perfect, but there has always been some redeeming quality. We never heard a word from the waitress as to why our dinner was taking so long, or pretty much any word at all from her. They were not conscious of allergy concerns, and not once was there an apology issued. When we brought it up to the manager, he made us feel like we were doing something wrong.

Never in my life have a I completely "stiffed" a server or walked out of a restaurant. Guess there is a first for everything.

1501 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA

Fireflies on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Post, CoCo Sala and Restaurant Week

This is my first post so please excuse the length, I am learning. This week was restaurant week so my friend Lauren and I decided to go to Co Co Sala.

We planned on getting to the restaurant a little early so we could get a drink before dinner, but they didn't open their restaurant until 5pm. Luckily, Co Co Sala also makes chocolates and had an attachment next door selling their creations. L and I probably spent a good 20 minutes looking at the products and taking more than our fair share of free samples. 

The first sample we tried was a Strawberry Jammin' bar. This is a white chocolate bar infused with pop rocks and dried strawberries...AMAZING
Photo from Co Co Sala's website
I have never been a fan of white chocolate, but the combination of high quality chocolate, pop rocks and dried strawberries made it delicious. I don't know if it's just because of a childhood memory, but the popping sensation is what propelled this bar from good to amazing. The bars are a little pricey, commanding $10 a piece. For my first go around I decided not to buy it because I was going to be spending quite a bit at dinner-this is something I will def come back to purchase though. The other sample they had was some sort of milk chocolate bar that was good, but compared to the white chocolate bar not very memorable.

They do have a "some more bar"  (smores) that has dark chocolate, homemade marshmallows and graham crackers that looked absolutely amazing-something else to come back and try.

In addition to chocolate bars, they also make chocolate pieces.

They sell these pieces for $2 each; and when it comes to gourmet chocolate, this is a pretty good deal. L and I each bought 2 pieces.

I bought the "fresh raspberry" and decided to go out of the norm and get "pear caramel"
The fresh raspberry (left) was decent, the quality of the chocolate was amazing, and the raspberry was ok-but I think I am not too fond of raspberry flavored things so this was not my favorite. The Pear Caramel was amazing! There was a hint of pear with the caramel and it was delicious. I would definitely purchase this one again.

L got the "black forest" (top) and "pistachio kulfi." She relayed to me that the black forest (cherry flavored) was delicious and that the pistachio one was disgusting.
A shout out to the lady behind the counter, she was extremely helpful and patient when we asked her to describe every chocolate piece and patient while we took forever deciding what we wanted.

Finally, we get to the restaurant. We were promptly seated, and the inside was intimate and modern. Some of the tables were a little close to each other, but I didn't feel like I had to overhear anyone else’s convo or keep my voice down-plus it gave us a good look at what everyone ordered.
the min after i took this, all the tables filled up
  As soon as we sat down we quickly ordered the drink special-"Fetish Cocktail" (fresh strawberries, chocolate-infused vodka, strawberry foam and a chocolate dipped berry) -$8 on special, $13 originally. I thought it was pretty tasty, the chocolate dipped berry on top was fresh and delicious. Strawberry foam on top was good, but it is a little weird drinking foam. The chocolate-infused vodka was surprisingly well mixed with the other components of the drink. Overall it was very sweet and hard to finish, probably would not order this again.
Our first course was hot chocolate- "dark hot cocoa sip". The presentation was adorable and it was the perfect amount of chocolate. It was rich and delicious.
Next there was a decision between a "tomato and burrata salad" or a "manchego and baby arugula" salad. We both ordered the "tomato and burrata salad" (creamy burrata cheese, basil & oregano, balsamic reduction). I am not a fan of big chunks of tomatoes, but the combination was delicious, and I thought the cheese was similar to mozzarella.
Next we each got to pick 2 co co bites. We both picked the "crispy creole crabcake" (mango salsa, chipotle chocolate tomato glaze, avocado cilantro emulsion). I have only ordered seafood once in my life, but based upon that description, I had to get it. We both agreed it was the best bite. The crab was cooked well, the avocado-cilantro emulsion was amazing, it was fresh, and a dish that I would def order again.
L got the Tandoori Chicken Patty Slide (cardamom carrots & greens / cucumber raita). She let me try it, and although I thought the flavors were good, the texture of the slider threw me off. I like ground chicken, but this just tasted different, and it ruined the slider for me. I thought that the cucumber raita on the side was delicious though. She was also not very fond of the slider's texture and ended up not eating the second one
For my second dish I got the  Bacon Mac & Cheese (orechiette pasta / four cheeses / crispy applewood smoked bacon). I had mixed feelings about this dish. The crumbly topping and bacon on top of this was amazing but once you got past that top layer, I thought the mac and cheese was sort of bland, L agreed. The cheese by itself did not have a lot of flavor. They also give you a piece of dark chocolate bacon on top of the macaroni which I was glad to try. It was def an original flavor and wasn't bad. I would eat it again, but I would not order it myself. I ended up leaving half behind.
Now onto the finale...DESSERT :) We both ordered the Chocolate Onyx (dark chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brulee, salted caramel, crispy chocolate pearls, brownie, chocolate sorbet, 72% cacao bon bon)
The thing on the left-what I assume to be the chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brulee, crispy chocolate pearls and a brownie? It was AMAZING. Melt-in-your-mouth good. The chocolate pearls were a wonderful, crunchy addition. The toffee sauce on top was a perfect cap.

Can't get the picture to work
The chocolate sorbet was interesting, I am not sure how I feel about it-we both didn't finish it. It was very visually appealing, but I think I will just stick with chocolate ice cream
The service was great, everything came out quickly, and our water glasses were kept full.

We both agreed that the crab cakes would draw us back again. I would like to try some of their other items, especially the different types of hot chocolates and mixed drinks. It is a little pricey, so I would probably wait for a special occasion or wait until they have a night with some sort of special.

*Note to the wise: they keep their glass doors Windex clean, watch out! I experience this cleanliness first hand by running into the doors and providing the staff and L some entertainment to end the night*

Grade: B

Metro Center

Co Co. Sala on Urbanspoon