Mulvaney’s has been on my “to do” list for some time. After hearing much about it, I knew it was a place I had to get to at some point. Up until recently, the only experience I had had was for a lovely wedding that included some truly delicious food. So I was thrilled when I was surprised with dinner there. Located at 19th and L, the front door is a single door that barely registers there’s a restaurant in the building. But once you walk through, the sounds and smells of a busy restaurant let you know you’ve gotten to the right place! A heavy curtain separates the hostess area from the dining room, keeping the hot air out in the summer, and the cold air at bay during the winter.

I ended up there on St. Patty’s Day. The room was mildly festooned with garlands of green shamrocks. To me, it kind of looked like a half ass way to decorate, but whatever. It’s not like it’s De Vere’s. At any rate, we were immediately seated near the window and next to a table with a very fussy infant. But, because of the ambient noise, I didn’t even notice the poor baby who was crying like there was no tomorrow. She was also ridiculously cute, which never hurts. Nor did her very thoughtful parents and grandparents, who took stabs at calming her down by walking around outside and out of diners’ earshot.

They modified some aspects of their menu to celebrate the holiday. We started with some sparkling wine and the Irish cheese platter. There was Cashel blue, Porter cheddar, Kilbeggan whiskey, and gubbeen. On the side were a tangerine marmalade and roasted nuts. All the cheeses were great, but the stand outs were the Kilbeggan whiskey and the gubbeen.

And there was an amuse bouche. Boiled Yukon gold (I think) potato with Irish cheddar and a bit of corned beef (I think).

As a second course, we got a great pasta: Pappardelle with yellow foot, maitake, and king trumpet mushrooms, made with leeks and asparagus and topped with Fiscalini aged white cheddar. They split it for us and the portion was very hearty. After this, I was no longer hungry for the main course! I definitely enjoyed this, but it doesn’t quite stand up to the pappardelle at Ella.

While I really would have liked to indulge in the special corned beef and cabbage special they had that night, that was, obviously, off the table. So the two fish dishes were it. This is grilled Hawaiian walu with asparagus from the Delta. It included beans from Galt, and made with lemon and tarragon. There was also some kind of mousse, but the menu didn’t say. It tasted like it was probably also asparagus, or possibly even avocado. For me, there was too much of it. The asparagus was perfectly done, and the fish expertly grilled. The beans were an odd addition, in my mind. Although I can see adding it for a textural balance to the crunchy asparagus, the mushiness of beans, which I love, didn’t pair all that well with the fish. From a taste perspective, this dish lacked overall flavor. It definitely needed more seasoning.

The other fish on the table was Canary rock fish on a bed of wild rice from Sutter Rice Co., fennel, sea beans, and saffron, all with a lemon verbena coconut sauce. This was rather bland. The fried plantains, which, like the mouse in the above, weren’t listed on the menu. Luckily there were no aversions to them! Luckily so, because these were delicious and the best part of the dish. The sauce was boring and lacked punch, while the pilaf was meh.

Dessert was at another location, so I can’t speak to that. There was a panna cotta that sounded yummy, but gelato at Devine was on the docket.

Overall, this was a disappointment. The fish dishes lacked flavor, interest, and needed more seasoning. I really hate having to reach for the salt or pepper at any fancier place, but especially a restaurant that calls themselves “culinary specialists.” I expected more, particularly after the great food I had had at the wedding, and the recommendations from friends. Were said expectations too high? Perhaps, but it’s not like this was built up like Episode I of Star Wars, or something. Well, nor was it George Lucas, but that’s an entirely different subject, more fit for my Rants, Raves, and Various Sundries… blog!

It was rather noisy, as mentioned earlier, but it also was somehow not difficult to carry on a conversation. If you’re like me, you also will need to know where the restroom is. You have to walk to the rear of the restaurant and down a hallway to find the single-person ladies’ room. No, not “single person” as in “If you like it, you better put a ring on it.” Haha. And if you’re wearing the wrong shoes, you might end up slipping. The heels I wore slipped on the slick floor and I nearly had an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment in the middle of the restaurant.

While I wan’t bowled over this time, I would like to give it another try and see what happens.

Overall: 3/5 stars
Food: 2.5/5 stars
Ambience: 4/5 stars
Price: $$$.5/5
Service: 4.5/5 stars The service was excellent.



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Restaurant Thir13en – Brunch

The long and short of it? Go to Thir13en for brunch!

With a ridiculously fresh menu that changes daily, Thir13en isn’t just a great place for dinner… now you can have your brunch and eat it, too! It was a beautiful day and the patio was open for business! Meeting up with a couple of friends, we grabbed some bloody marys, which were a veritable salad onto themselves, and blood orange/prosecco mimosas and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

While Chef/owner Adam Pechal is still trying out some new things for the menu, he’s got some wonderful dishes like Chicken Little, his take on the classic comfort food of chicken and waffles. But this is no fake syrup with cardboard waffles, nope! His are buttermilk fried young chicken with goat cheese-herb waffles and a bacon-maple syrup. Also are staples like Steak and Eggs, and another twist on a classic dish: Eggs Benedict, Tuscan style (I kind if felt like the narrator on the original Iron Chef there for a second!) Also is the more unusual chilaquiles – tortilla chips with salsa, eggs, grilled chicken, cotija cheese, avocado, and sour cream. Adorning the table today: Tuscan Benedict and Joe Pruner’s Special.

The Tuscan Benedict was made with prosciutto, peperonata, and poached eggs atop an English muffin with a meyer lemon hollandaise sauce smothering the entire creation. The prosciutto is more like a ham than the thinly sliced prosciutto you might be accustomed to seeing. Because of this, it’s heartier and stands up well to the peperonata. Speaking of which, the peperonata was fabulous. Its sweet and tangy flavors mixed well with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the hollandaise sauce.

At first glance, the menu does not appear to be veghead friendly. However, Adam is more than happy to accommodate any substitutions to make something vegetarian. In this case, he suggested making the scramble with a multitude of mushrooms in place of the usual beef. This was fabulous. It was 3 scrambled eggs and thrown together with delicious carmelized onions, bloomsdale spinach and just the right amount of white cheddar to hold it all together in cheesy goodness. I think the standout in this dish was the onions. There were just enough to bring out the flavor of the onions, while also bringing out the best in the other ingredients. But my favorite thing? The potatoes! It was a serving of the most perfectly fried potatoes I’d ever had. Cubed and with a sublime crunch, gently seasoned with rosemary from their herb garden, and perfectly salted with large grains of sea salt, I’ve found my perfect potato! A friend of mine put it well: There really is nothing like something simple done right. This is just such an example… few ingredients done absolutely perfectly.

I admit it, I’m a total sucker for biscuits and gravy, and macaroni and cheese. Well, 13 does both… really well. I mean, seriously. It’s a little bit ridiculous. There was some miscommunication about my scramble, so to appease me (because I’m such a raging bitch, or something, haha), Adam brought out some of his heavenly biscuits and gravy. These were cheddar, chive and smothered in Sawmill gravy. (I don’t know what recipe he uses, but whatever it is, it’s delicious.) I couldn’t really eat much of this, since it had large chunks of sausage, but did taste it. Warning: The large is big enough to feed a Mormon family, or my office mate’s 16 year old son! It did reheat well, however, so your mouth can go for a delectable dip in Sawmill gravy for a few days after your visit.

Adam is still tweaking the menu a bit, so don’t be surprised if you see some new, fun stuff! And he’s willing to hear what you’ve got to say… suggestions are most definitely welcome! Adam flits from table to table, doing his chef shmoozing only like he can. During my visit, the co-owner of Tuli was on the patio enjoying brunch, as was server from Tuli. Clearly they believe in these two restaurants as much as anyone, which speaks volumes to me. So, get thee to Restaurant 13’s Sunday brunch with all speed!

1300 H Street
Reservations available through Open Table or their website.

This says it all!

This says it all!

Inside dining area

Inside dining area

Community table and bar

Community table and bar

Herb garden out front

Herb garden out front

He'll bop you on the head with his wing if you're a jerk

He'll bop you on the head with his wing if you're a jerk

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The Red Rabbit Kitchen + Bar

In a building with several other restaurants, you really have to distinguish yourself from the other guys. Red Rabbit is the newest kid on the block along J Street between 27th and 28th Streets. A veritable stripmall of restaurants and night life, with spots like Harlow’s, Blue Cue, and Bar West, The Red Rabbit Kitchen + Bar fits right in. Located in the spot vacated by Red Lotus, the new owners haven’t had to make very many changes to update the look or feel of the place. If you didn’t make it to Red Lotus, the main focal point of the entire restaurant is its huge semi-circle bar, where the bartenders of Red Rabbit mix up hand crafted libations to clamoring guests. They’ve also removed the low tables to the right of the bar and replaced them with hi-tops. The space also boasts a fabulous patio out back with a bar to serve folks out there.

On this particular visit, it was a snap decision to go there. We had made plans to attend their grand opening the week before, but that fell through and I was anxious to give it a go.

When we arrived at about 7:45 (this was a Friday night), the wait was only about 20 minutes, which made my grumbling stomach delighted to hear. We decided to grab a drink and sit at the bar. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of room there; apparently everyone else had the exact same idea. It took a while to get anyone’s attention, and when we finally did get to order a drink, we were being seated. This, however, was no big deal for me. They were extremely busy and I think the bartenders were still getting used to some of the drink recipes (I saw mine stealing glances to his cheat sheet). They’ve separated the drinks into four categories: Bright and Tart, Juicy, Bitter, and Rich. The two drinks at the table tonight were the Army Navy: gin, lemon, and orgeat. The other was the Chappelle Cocktail: gin, sweet vermouth, falernum, pineapple, and lime. They fit very well into their respective categories of bright and tart, and juicy.

For appetizers, the Portobello Frites and Vegetarian Spring Rolls. The frites weren’t quite what I was expecting. They were crunchy and not too oily, but there was an excess of flour. It almost tasted mealy. I would have preferred a panko crust. I also thought that the portobellos kind of got lost in the dish… like a five year old in her mom’s dress. Maybe shiitakes would be better? But that might also be a little too meaty. What the breading did do was add a really pleasant textural contrast. They were perfectly seasoned and served atop an arugula base, which was really yummy.

The spring rolls were a tad bland on their own, so the ponzu sauce was just what the doctor ordered. It was a little light on the quantity, so I definitely would have liked more of it.

For the main dishes: Beer and Onion Soup Cheese Melt with fries, and The Ramen. The melt is a sandwich, so don’t think it’s some kind of soup and sandwich combo, even though the description on the menu says, “beer braised onion soup.” This is a portable version of onion soup. Carmelized onions and melted gruyere cheese are between two slices of toasted sourdough. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a disappointment. The onions completely overpowered any other flavors that may have been present and there was a deficiency of cheese. The french fries that accompanied the sandwich were only slightly better than In ‘n Out’s in their crispy factor.

The Ramen was very good. With vegan noodles made from Sacramento’s “Pasta” Dave Brochier, they were excellent. He is the main reason I ordered this! The first time I met him, he crafted a fabulous dish just for me and I fell in love with his pasta. The Ramen also included a good amount of shrimp and shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and just the right amount of ginger. The portion size was generous, the broth really tasty and savory, though a teeny bit on the salty side, although I’ve never complained about that in a dish! I definitely liked this the best of the four dishes I’d tried.

Overall, there is room for improvement, but I will definitely be back to see how it progresses. Expect more blog posts about Red Rabbit from me!

The most expensive thing on the menu is $18 and from what I understand, it’s enough to make a couple meals. The idea is to be a comfortable, affordable spot for locals to frequently enjoy without breaking the bank.

2718 J Street

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