New Tokyo Japanese Restaurant ~ Gaithersburg, MD

Guest contributor ~ Samantha Lee

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New Tokyo is an authentic Japanese restaurant in the Potomac Valley shopping center.  Despite its less than prominent location, the restaurant manages to attract devoted customers seeking unique Japanese cuisine.  Among the wide variety of unique small plate offerings, I particularly enjoyed Roasted Nigiri, Takoyaki, Fried Japanese Tofu, Octopus in Honey Vinegar, Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura.

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The restaurant is owned by Chef Eizi “Jackie” Nakazima, who studied at the Culinary Institute of Tokyo Busashi School.  Nakazima, an award winning chef, has over 28 years of culinary experience.  In 2004, he opened his restaurant specializing in kaiseki (multi-course meals).  He also serves sashimi, sushi, grilled fish, teriyaki marinated grilled meats, sukiyaki, ramen and many more delicious dishes.

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The restaurant is small and homey and can accommodate 45 diners.  It reminded me of a small café in Japan, but with nicer décor.  I was particularly intrigued by the faux crustaceans – lobsters, crabs, crayfish, and fugu – dangling from the ceiling and hanging from the walls.   There is also a vast array of unique Japanese artifacts – Daruma dolls, shoji screens, paper lanterns, and framed artwork.

I believe New Tokyo is the only restaurant in the area that prepares nigiri in the Aburi style, in which the top side of the fish is partially grilled or seared, while the bottom side of the fish is partially raw.  After the seared fish is placed on the oval shaped cooked rice, it is drizzled with a sweet mayonnaise, making each bite of the Roasted Nigiri both sweet and savory.  My favorite part about this dish was the strong char-grilled flavor.  Among the Roasted Nigiri, I’d recommend the Scallop, Salmon, or Fatty Tuna.

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Miso Soup

Takoyaki is a small dish consisting of three fried wheat balls, filled with diced octopus and tempura scraps, topped with bonita flakes, and drizzled with a special mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce tasting like sweet, thick Worcestershire.  I liked the crispy outside and soft inside.

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The Fried Japanese Tofu comes in 5 pieces, each tempura-battered and deep fried, then topped with bonita flakes. The dish is served in a sweet dashi broth – one made from boiled hot water, kelp, and preserved fermented skipjack tuna.  The tofu is silky and smooth inside.

Among the Makis on the menu, I favored the Lava Roll with spicy sauces on the side. It comes to the table in ten rolls consisting of a raw seafood medley of scallop, smoked salmon, shrimp, crabmeat, white tuna, and avocado rolled in dried seaweed then sticky rice and sesame seeds. The rolls are baked or deep fried and drizzled with mayonnaise, spicy mayonnaise and Rooster sauce. My favorite experience about the Lava Roll is that it is served warm and deliciously crunchy.

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As compared to other local Japanese restaurants in Montgomery County, MD, I’ve found that the sashimi/sushi at New Tokyo are very fresh. The sashimi entree is served with lemon, wasabi and pickled ginger on an ice boat, which adds a delightful visual effect.

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The ramen at New Tokyo is absolutely delicious too. It consists of freshly made wheat noodles, imitation crabmeat, scallion, miso-marinated sliced pork, and fried wheat gluten in salty miso, fish or pork broth.  It is served with shrimp and vegetable tempura that includes two shrimp, sweet potato, zucchini and kabocha squash served with tempura sauce, a nice blend of dashi stock, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.  I liked the ramen because it was cooked perfectly – not salty or heavy.

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The Grilled Striped Bass is one of the featured items on the menu and is a whole striped bass with head and tail intact, marinated with seasoning, coated with flour, grilled over high heat.  It is served over lettuce with a lemon wedge and seasoned sticky rice topped with sesame seeds. The rice was a nice complement to the fish which was fresh, crispy and not greasy.

Beverages include assorted Japanese beer, Ramune (Japanese carbonated beverage), sake and freshly brewed hot green tea that tastes like roasted rice tea (Genmaicha).  The green tea is served in a cup made of earthenware with Japanese characters engraved on it; the hot or cold sake is served in sake cups with sushi patterns.

To finish off a meal at New Tokyo, you can order rice pudding or green tea ice cream. Overall, New Tokyo Restaurant offers a great variety of delicious Japanese food at a reasonable cost.  The atmosphere is relaxing and comfortable.  Drop by for an authentic Japanese meal when you are in the area.  12115 Darnestown Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878 www.newtokyorestaurant.com  

Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee

Raaga Restaurant for Northern Indian Cuisine

Raaga Restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia
Guest contributor ~ Samantha Lee

Raaga Restaurant, whose name means “sweet melody”, is an authentic Indian restaurant serving Northern Indian cuisine in Falls Church, Virginia. Its Chef/Owner, Paddy Rawal, who also owns Om Fine Indian Restaurant in Rockville, MD, once cooked in Bombay, India and more recently the Bombay Club in DC.

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The restaurant’s décor feels like an exotic temple – yellow walls, white columns, an Indian Buddha, musical instruments, wooden elephant statues, Aladdin’s lamps and paintings of Indian musicians that grace the walls of this cozy outpost.  The menu has moderately priced items – breads, meat and seafood, as well as vegetarian offerings.  Dinner entrées typically range between $14 – $22.  And each dish is colorful, rich, and intricately flavored.

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Try a Mango lassi, a refreshing blend of yogurt, water, sugar and mango pulp.  It is thick, rich, smooth and creamy – a cross between a fruit smoothie and a milkshake – a perfect complement to spicy dishes.

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Rather than sharing appetizers, I’d recommend an assortment of breads.  The plain naan, onion kulcha, and garlic naan are made freshly here and are served piping hot from the tandoori oven.  I liked the herbaceous aroma, combination of flavors, and taste of this bubbly dough.  It is served with raita, a yogurt cucumber dipping sauce made with mint and cilantro that also goes well with the Chicken Tikka Masala.

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Also known as butter chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular dish at Raaga.  It consists of charbroiled chunks of tender chicken prepared in a sauce of tomato paste, yogurt, butter, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and garam masala.  Garam masala can be made in as many ways as there are cooks, but typically consists of a blend of various spices – black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, black and green cardamom pods, bay leaf, cumin, and fenugreek.  It is known to warm the body, mind, and soul of the diner.  Ask for a spicier version if you like.  Many Indian restaurants now ask you to choose your preferred heat from an index of one through five.

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Shrimp Masala is made with butterflied shrimp prepared in a sauce of coconut milk, seafood stock, curry powder, garlic, stewed tomatoes and sugar.  The coconut milk is what renders the sauce thicker and sweeter.

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Each entrée is served with spiced basmati rice topped with green peas.

Raaga Restaurant was named the “Best Indian restaurant in the DMV” the Washington Post.  So if you happen to be in the Bailey’s Crossroads area, be sure to drop in and give it a try.

Raaga Restaurant is located at 5872 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041.  For reservations and information visit www.raagarestaurant.com

Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee

Peach Brandy Debuts at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery

Jordan Wright
November 25, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Peach Brandy launch - Photo credit DISCUS

Peach Brandy launch – Photo credit DISCUS

Eight hundred eagerly-anticipated bottles of George Washington’s limited edition Peach Brandy Eau de Vie (translation: “water of life”) went onto the shelves of the Mount Vernon Estate gift shop just in time for Christmas.  Produced at the restored distillery this huge undertaking dwarfed Washington’s eight gallons in sales recorded back in 1798, reflecting a more than two-century price increase from $1.00 a gallon to a considerably adjusted $150.00 per 375ml bottle.

It’s an elegant pour, meant to be sipped, and one Washington didn’t expect to be chug-a-lugged.  Not exactly a teetotaler himself, he wrote a letter to an employee, whom he both chastised and cautioned for drinking excessively.

When it first opened in 1798, the distillery was run by a canny Scotsman, James Anderson, and his son John.  James had convinced Washington to produce whiskey later introducing the eau de vie, which are made today according to the early recipes.  Producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in its heyday, it became the largest distillery in America, providing two distinct grades of whiskey, which became available throughout the country, including in Alexandria’s many taverns.

Thanks to the efforts of archaeologists who discovered the foundations in 1997 and working off a grant from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the distillery was restored in March of 2007 after being destroyed by fire in 1814.  Following ten years of research and construction, the distillery now produces one hundred gallons of rye whiskey in small batches twice a year.  Brandy is made every other year.

Both are made the old-fashioned way using 18th century distilling techniques.  Workers hand-cut up to 51 cords of wood per month to stoke the direct wood fires beneath the still, and giant wooden paddles are used to stir the mash, which then is transferred to a series of hogsheads.  “Manning the paddles is like steering a cement canoe down the river,” says Mount Vernon’s Master Distiller Steven Bashore.

Mount Vernon Master Distiller Steven Bashore - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Mount Vernon Master Distiller Steven Bashore – Photo credit Jordan Wright

To achieve 300 gallons of whiskey, 8,000 pounds of rye, corn and malted barley from grains are sourced from Virginia farms.  Locally grown Virginia peaches become the base for the Peach Brandy Eau de Vie that George and Martha served at the mansion.  Ledger entries from 1798 show sales of eight gallons to the public. But by 1799 with production in full swing, the First Couple were graciously serving 60 gallons of the precious peach elixir to their many guests.

Adding the grains to the make the mash - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Adding the grains to the make the mash – Photo credit Jordan Wright

To recreate this “new” product two of America’s leading brandy distillers were brought in, Ted Huber of Starlight Distillery in Indiana who procured five 55-gallon drums of very fine peach juice, and Thomas McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling in New York.  Both men assisted Bashore in the production and bottling of the historic brandy, which has been described as having tasting notes of candied peaches and peach cobbler with a hint of cinnamon and which I can personally attest to.

Dedicated in 2007 by Britain’s Prince Andrew, the reconstructed distillery featuring the distilling process “from seed to still” is open to the public 365 days of the year.  Located at 5513 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309, the distillery is three miles south of Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.  For hours of operation go to www.MountVernon.org

To get you in the holiday spirit, or spirits as the case may be, here is a recipe for Martha Washington’s Rum Punch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha Washington’s Rum Punch

Makes 6 -10 servings

  • 3 oz. of White Rum
  • 3 oz. of Dark Rum
  • 3 oz. of Orange Curaçao
 [or Peach Brandy Eau de Vie]
  • 4 oz. of Simple Syrup
 [equal parts sugar to water, warmed till sugar is dissolved]
  • 4 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 4 oz. of Fresh Orange Juice
  • 3 Lemons quartered
  • 1 Orange quartered
  • ½ Tsp. Grated nutmeg
  • 3 Cinnamon sticks (broken)
  • 6 Cloves
  • 12 oz. Boiling water

In a container, mash the orange, lemons, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg.  Add the syrup, lemon, and orange juices.  Pour the boiling water over the mixture in the container and let cool for a few minutes.

When cool, add the White Rum, Dark Rum, and Orange Curaçao [You may substitute for Peach Brandy].  Strain well into a pitcher or punch bowl (to remove all of the spice marinade) and serve over ice in goblets and decorate with wheels of lemon and orange.

Dust with a little nutmeg and cinnamon and enjoy a sip of American history.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop Opens in Rosslyn on Aug 25th – Complimentary “Bobbie” Subs for First 100 Customers

Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
August 17, 2014

The first Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop opened in Wilmington, Delaware in 1976.  Lois Margolet and her brother Alan started their business in Wilmington’s Little Italy section, but it was turkey that put them on the map. Building their menu around the freshly roasted bird set them apart from the many sandwich shops in the area, and soon they were beating the stuffing out of the competition. Today there are more than 105 company-owned and franchise locations in 14 states across the country. Their unique menus feature subs in three sizes, as well as sandwiches and salads comprised of various meats, cheeses and vegetables. Highlights among their offerings include three types of spicy peppers and vegetarian options with soy-based meat substitutes.

"Bobbie" sub sandwitch

“Bobbie” Sub sandwich

Capriotti’s second location in the Washington Metro area (in addition to the shop at 18th and M Streets, NW in the District) opens on August 25th at 11:00 am at 1500 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn. The first 100 patrons in line will receive a free “Bobbie” sandwich, with the first 50 of those also receiving certificates for “Bobbies” for a year. This “Thanksgiving on a Roll” sub sandwich is the most popular item on the menu and consists of slow-roasted turkey, their special recipe cranberry sauce and an herbed dressing (Northerners know it as stuffing), and mayo.  This comfort food combo is known as Vice President Joe Biden‘s favorite sandwich, and has earned “Best Of” awards in Las Vegas, San Diego, Delaware, Dallas and other cities around the country.

L to R : Joe Combs, Director of Operations.  Paul Rothenburg, Rosslyn BID. George Vincent, Jr.,the owner.  Jordan Schneider, Director of Catering

L to R : Joe Combs, Director of Operations.
Paul Rothenburg, Rosslyn BID. George Vincent, Jr.,the owner.
Jordan Schneider, Director of Catering

George Vincent, Jr. is the 33 year-old local businessman who introduced Capriotti’s to the DC area, and he plans to open a dozen outlets in the next two years. Mr. Vincent is off to a good start and clearly intends to earn our thanks, giving us some of the best and most interesting sandwiches available in the metro area. For more info visit www.capriottis.com.

Photo credit to Cary Pollak

The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show Pleases The Palate Once Again

December 6, 2013
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill

Held at DC’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show has seen an annual increase in attendance since Denise Medved first introduced the event in 2001.  Featuring a vast selection of products related to both the food and entertainment industries, the show’s success has recently allowed Medved and her Tiny Kitchen, Inc. production company to expand into the Houston and Dallas markets.

Throughout the two-day run attendees enjoy face time with more than 200 local and national vendors, attend “Tasting and Entertaining” workshops, talk to cookbook authors at book signing stations, wander through countless aisles to sample tasty tidbits from some of the finest local restaurants at the “Grand Tasting Pavilion”, shop for gifts at the “Holiday Bazaar” and watch cooking demos on the “Food Lion Cooking Stage”.  This year some of the country’s leading chefs gave demonstrations featuring recipes from the National Beef Cook-off Recipe Contest.  All these activities were included in the day’s admission charge.  Additional ticketed events showcase live culinary performances by celebrity chefs.

A colorful display of smoked seafood products from the Neopole Smokery of Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC

A colorful display of smoked seafood products from the Neopole Smokery of Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC

A local luminary who has previously demonstrated at the show is Francois Dionot whose L‘Academie de Cuisine has distinguished itself over the past thirty years as the premier training ground in our area for avocational and professional chefs.  Listening to the celebrated chef’s stories about his experiences at well-known restaurants in Europe and the U.S. and about developing the distinguished cooking school, was worth the trip.

L’Academie de Cuisine founder Francois Dionot, with wife Patrice and daughter Claudine

L’Academie de Cuisine founder Francois Dionot, with wife Patrice and daughter Claudine

The ever-charming Hugh Acheson, whose easy and friendly manner seemed almost incongruent with the entrepreneurial and culinary skills that have brought him to the top of his profession, was one of the chef demonstrators. Acheson is Chef/Co-owner of the former Five & Ten and The National restaurants in Athens, GA, along with Empire State South restaurant in Atlanta.  He is also an occasional judge on Bravo’s Top Chef and holds the honor of being nominated six times for a James Beard Foundation Award.  In the past he won “Best Chef Southeast” for his work at Five & Ten.  He is the author of the James Beard Foundation Award winning cookbook, “A New Turn in The South”.  At this year’s show he dazzled the audience with his version of Frogmore Stew.

Television chef and restaurant owner Hugh Acheson

Television chef and restaurant owner Hugh Acheson

Joe Yonan, Food and Travel editor at the Washington Post, was also on board.  Yonan, who has led his paper’s food writers to two awards by the James Beard Foundation for the nation’s best food section, put his professional chef’s diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and journalism degree from the University of Texas to good use by demonstrating a Kale and Mango Nicoise Salad recipe from his recent cookbook, Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook.  He showed us how to massage raw kale leaves so as to soften them for a salad. He pointed out that this technique avoids other harsh methods of softening, such as drenching them in oil and acidic liquids until they wilt.

Washington Post Food and Travel editor Joe Yonan

Washington Post Food and Travel editor Joe YonanWashington Post Food and Travel editor Joe Yonan

Whether you run into Chef Luigi Diotaiuti at a cooking demo or at his acclaimed DuPont Circle restaurant, Al Tiramisu, you know you will be in for good food and good fun.  The affable Italian teamed up with food historian, culinary anthropologist, cookbook author and television personality, Amy Riolo, to make pistachio nut baklava.  Off stage onlookers were so close they were asked to participate.  We all helped to pile on layers of phyllo dough and watched as the chef drenched the dessert in lemon-infused sugar syrup.

Food Writer Cary Pollak makes baklava with Chefs Amy Riolo and Luigi Diotaiuti

Food Writer Cary Pollak makes baklava with Chefs Amy Riolo and Luigi Diotaiuti

Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, the husband and wife team who star on the cooking show, Extra Virgin, on The Cooking Channel, were also at the show.  Debi is an American actress who counts the iconic movie Goodfellas among her credits, and Gabriele is a musician from Tuscany.  They are both consummate entertainers who love to cook.  Together with their young daughter, Giulia, they put on a lively demonstration of Tuscan cooking, preparing seared grouper over Israeli couscous.  At one point things got a bit racy when Debi admitted that they argue when they cook.  Gabriele agreed that they resolve their disagreements by drinking wine … or by “making kids”.  Realizing that the discussion was getting off topic, seven-year old Giulia drew laughs from the audience by asking, “You guys know I’m here, don’t you?”

Debi Mazar, Gabriele Corcos and daughter Giulia on the Celebrity Stage

Debi Mazar, Gabriele Corcos and daughter Giulia on the Celebrity Stage

The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show is great family fun for those who enjoy learning more about food and entertaining.  There are culinary delights of all types from chatting with vendors and sampling their wares, to meeting cookbook authors, to enjoying cooking demonstrations by notable American-based chefs.  Plan on visiting this exciting open-to-the-public show when it returns in the fall of 2014.

Chef Diotaiuti and his partner Amy Riolo are planning a culinary tour beginning in Istanbul and continuing to Athens and the Greek Isles next October 2014.  They have graciously consented to share their recipe for Pistachio Baklava with Whisk and Quill’s readers.

Baklava is enjoyed throughout much of the Mediterranean and Middle East thanks to the influence of the expansive Ottoman Empire that ruled much of the region for centuries. This version is most popular in Turkey. During our upcoming culinary cruise from Istanbul to Athens, we’ll experience hands-on phyllo making at Istanbul’s most legendary confectionary shop.

Pistachio baklava

Pistachio baklava

 

Pistachio Baklava/Fistik Baklava
Recipe by Amy Riolo and Luigi Diotaiuti.

Makes approximately 24 pieces
Ingredients

For the syrup:
3 cups granulated sugar
2 large strips of lemon peel
Juice of 1 small lemon

For the baklava
1 (1 pound) box phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions
1 cup clarified butter
1 pound shelled unsalted pistachios, finely ground
¼ cup granulated sugar 

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter a 13×9-inch baking pan.
  2. Make the syrup by combining sugar, 3 cups water, peel, and juice in a medium saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Discontinue stirring and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.
  4. To assemble the baklava, remove phyllo dough from package. Trim it with a sharp knife to fit the pan you are using, if necessary.   Wrap excess dough in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.  Cover bottom of baking pan with 1 sheet of phyllo dough.  Brush clarified butter evenly over the top.  Stack another sheet over the top. Brush with more clarified butter.  Continue stacking and brushing with butter until half of the phyllo dough is used.
  5. Combine pistachios with sugar in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine.
  6. Sprinkle ground pistachio mixture evenly across the top, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish.  Continue layering remaining phyllo dough and brushing with clarified butter.  Brush top layer with clarified butter.
  7. Position the pan as if it were a rectangle.  With a long, sharp knife, cut phyllo into 6 strips vertical strips across the wide side of the pan(three-quarters of the way down).
  8. Cut 4 equally spaced vertical lines over the strips (three quarters of the way down) to create 24 squares.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes total, or until golden.  Rotate pan every 20 minutes to ensure even browning.
  9. Remove from oven and drizzle with one ladleful of syrup at a time – allowing syrup to absorb in between ladlefuls. Once baklava has a glistening top and has absorbed syrup, discontinue adding more. Reserve additional syrup for a garnish if serving baklava at a later date. Syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  10. Once cooled, sprinkle tops of baklava pieces with a few ground pistachios. Baklava can be covered and stored at room temperature for a day, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Always drizzle with additional syrup before serving.

To find out more about Amy and Luigi’s upcoming tour visit – http://www.yourcruisesource.com/two_chefs_culinary_cruise_-_istanbul_to_athens_greek_isles_cruise.htm.

Photo credits: Cary Pollak