Restaurant Review: La Tasca, Washington D.C.

9 06 2008

I recently ate lunch at La Tasca in Washington D.C. with about 12 coworkers. We took advantage of the Wednesday lunch special, which offered unlimited tapas for $20 per person. The tapas menu available had a good selection of about 30 choices.

My overall experience was fair–it is a chain restaurant and the food that we got reflected that, except that it was tapas instead of more typical American chain fare. This was something I am not used to, as in Philadelphia, the tapas restaurants are all very upscale and expensive. La Tasca served mediocre food compared to what I am used to eating when I dine out, but the overall flavors and dishes tasted like good, down-home tapas.

The service was extremely slow, even for a party of 12, as it took us 40 minutes to be served and two hours to get through the meal. Towards the end of the lunch, someone spotted a cockroach on the wall and it put me off of the entire restaurant.

As for the food, I tasted the following:

Atun a la Plancha en Costra de Hierbas con Piquillos y Salsa Verde (Herb-crusted grilled tuna loin and “piquillos” sweet peppers)
The tuna in this dish was dry, but it worked well with the peppers, which were soft, roasted, and smoky.

Patatas Bravas con Ali-Ali (deep fried potatoes in a spicy sauce and garlic mayonnaise)
These were delicious and rich. The potatoes were soft and caramely, and the garlic mayonnaise was smooth, light, and tangy.

Champiñones al Ajillo (Mushrooms lightly sautéed in garlic and olive oil)
The mushrooms were the perfect consistency for my very picky mushroom palate—not too raw but not too mushy! They were the perfect side dish for all of the other tapas, as they were simple and the flavors were light and refreshing.

Buey al Jerez (Grilled marinated flank steak with sherry and mushroom sauce)
The mushrooms in this dish tasted exactly like the mushrooms in the previous dish. I love flank steak, and this version did not disappoint me.

Albondigas a la Jardinera (Our famous Spanish meatballs, served in a vegetable and tomato sauce)
This was the most delicious and unique dish of all. The meat was well done but moist, and the sauce was rich and filled with a variety of spices.

I would give La Tasca a second chance, as most of the food I was served was delicious, but I’d keep a close eye on the service and the cockroaches.

Review: Washington D.C. Public Transportation

31 05 2008

I spent the week in Washington D.C. and felt compelled to write about their public transportation system. On the weekend, I stayed in Reston, VA with a friend, and we took the Metro into the city every day/night. I had pre-purchased a SmartCard online before I went and it cost $5 for the card. I got it in the mail in 2 business days. Once I got to Union Station, I was able to put a pre-set amount of money on it using cash, debit, or credit. So easy. At each station, the turnstiles have a scanner for your card so it automatically deducts the cost of the trip when you exit the station. If you get to your station and you don’t have enough money left on your card, there are machines that let you add money so you can exit.

The Metro is clean, efficient, safe. It’s very extensive and well marked from the street. The cost is low–within the city, a one-way ride usually doesn’t cost more than $2. From the suburbs, a ride costs around $3.

The buses are also wonderful and easy to use. The “loop” buses that run through the city only cost $1 per ride, and you can use your Smart Card for those as well. Those buses will take you virtually anywhere you need to go around the city.

I never got lost, never felt unsafe, and was always helped by very friendly staff. Take that, SEPTA!
Of course, the metro and buses do stop running at a certain time of night, and at that point you are stuck with taxis that don’t use meters (until June 1) and charge you $10 for a 4-block ride.