Sfoglina: Pasta Pasta Pasta House

Sfoglina Pasta HouseRESTAURANT:  Sfoglina Pasta House

ADDRESS: 4455 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

GENRE: Italian

AFFORDABILITY: Most entrees are in the mid-20s or more and the portion sizes are filling, but not huge.

PARKING: Paid street parking available and they will validate up to 2 hours in the nearby Colonial Parking Garage (4445 Connecticut Ave). Also a very short walk from the Van Ness metro station (Red Line).

VENUE: The restaurant has a very nice, cozy, upscale wooden interior that provides a nice intimate setting. However, it’s not too formal that it could serve as a great restaurant for a fancy meal or a nice lunch to catch up with friends.

GENERAL: We did not come in with a reservation but were seated quickly. Offered complimentary bread and our waters were refilled often. The food came out quickly as well – overall good service!

THE FOOD:  It’s a pasta house so a majority of the items are (shockingly) pasta, but there are some non-pasta items as well. Everything on the menu looked absolutely delicious. While portion sizes are not huge, it seemed that each entrée would be filling which was great. I was torn between ordering a couple of pastas, but I finally decided on the Neopolitan Macheroni (Pesto Genovese, Artichokes, witih Pine Nut Crumble).

I really did not know what kind of pasta to expect (I saw Macheroni and thought Kraft Mac’n’Cheese pasta size) and ended up with these large looped pieces that were great. The pieces might have almost been too large, but that also could have been me still recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction. The pasta was cooked the perfect amount and the pesto was delicious. The artichokes were nice and soft (but still had a firmness to maintain its shape) and did not have an overpowering flavor. The pine nut crumble added a nice crunch, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Part of that could have been due to my dental procedure, but the change in texture was still much appreciated from the overall softness of the dish.

I definitely would recommend it, and I hope to try some of the other pastas and seafood pastas they offer soon!

ACCOMODATIONS: A large array of vegetarian options available. Like surprisingly large array.

OVERALL: I was satisfied! It’s a fancy restaurant so definitely on the pricier side, and the portions won’t stuff you, but you won’t leave hungry. The quality is really high and it was a good meal. Everything look delicious on the menu that I really wish I could order it all. It’s definitely a cool restaurant with great vibes to try out and bring friends to.

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Nick’s Riverside Grill: Dining on the Georgetown Waterfront

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RESTAURANT:  Nick’s Riverside Grill

ADDRESS: 3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007 (On the Georgetown Waterfront next to the fountain)

GENRE: American – Seafood

AFFORDABILITY: More on the expensive side for the quality and quantity of food you receive, but that’s probably to be expected given that you are eating on the water in Georgetown. You are paying for the view.

PARKING: Limited street parking available not too far away, but there are plenty of parking garages. A little less than a mile from the closest metro station (Foggy Bottom – GWU).

VENUE: The main reason to eat at Nick’s is the Georgetown view that can’t be beat. Right on the Potomac River with views of the Kennedy Center and the Georgetown Fountain. There is quite a bit of outdoor seating and an outdoor bar. For those who don’t want to deal with the heat, there is also indoor seating and an indoor bar.

GENERAL: I came here for lunch and drinks with coworkers on a sunny June day, ready for a good time with great company. We had a group of over a dozen and did not come in with a reservation. Arriving in the early afternoon on a Friday, we did not expect to have too much trouble finding an outdoor table. There were plenty of open tables but it seemed to be a bit of a struggle for them to combine multiple tables to accommodate our group (we definitely needed to add another table to accommodate everyone and it came to the point where we were going to ask if we could move the table ourselves…) The Hostess and our Server, however, were both kind and service was good – no complaints there.

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View from the outdoor bar

After the meal, we moved to the outdoor bar area and the bartenders were great – social, conversational, and they made some quality drinks. The outdoor bar itself is a little bit closer to the fountain; you still get a great view of the water but it’s a little bit cooler with some shadier spots.

THE FOOD:  As far as appetizers go, we ordered the Chicken Wings, Charcuterie Board, Crispy Calamari, and the Chicken Nachos. The wings were a solid choice – crispy and flavorful and a decent portion. The Crispy Calamari was standard, fulfilling your deep-fried cravings. The Charcuterie Board was kind of disappointing. It just felt lacking in quantity for the price and tasted pretty average. The Chicken Nachos was this colossal dish of nachos with a ton of toppings. Honestly, it could have been a person’s meal. It was definitely delicious and a worthwhile appetizer.

There were several intriguing options to order from for my entrée. I was so tempted to try one of the Indian or Asian dishes; but I realized they would probably be subpar. I ended up ordering the Crab Cake Sandwich (I was by the water, the seafood had to be great, right?) I didn’t come in with high expectations, and was pleasantly surprised with how good the crab meat was. The sandwich itself was pretty great. I’m not a huge fan of coleslaw and the slaw that came with the sandwich did not convince me otherwise. The fries were super disappointing; among the worst I’ve had at a restaurant. Definitely frozen and they gave so many and they were just not tasty or filling. Another thing that disappointed me was that I think seven people at my table ordered the Crab Cake Sandwich and only about half of them came with the white dip/spread for the sandwich.  But overall, the crab meat was absolutely delicious, and I highly recommend ordering the crab cake sandwich or something with crab meat.

For drinks during the meal, I ordered a Ketel Crush and a Dark’n’Stormy. Both were solid cocktail choices. Later on at the bar, the bartenders did a great job of making a variety of drinks

ACCOMODATIONS: They have vegetarian options available.

OVERALL: To quote my coworkers paraphrasing me, “The view was good. The service was pretty good. And eh, the food was pretty good.” Jokes aside, I really did love the crab cake and the venue/bar facilitated a great time with a large group. And of course, the view was phenomenal. It definitely wasn’t the best meal overall, but for the view and experience with friends, Nick’s is definitely worth coming to!

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American Tandoor: The Indian-American Fusion Restaurant That Was Better Than I Expected

American TandoorRESTAURANT: American Tandoor

I want to preface this review by saying I am an extremely harsh critic of Indian restaurants given the fact that I can get any authentic Indian food made amazingly well at home and I’m often eating at these restaurants with those very chefs.

ADDRESS: Tysons Corner Center 1961 Chain Bridge Rd, Tysons, VA 22102 (2nd Floor next to entrance near Chipotle, McDonalds, Shilla, etc… They have some pretty heavy advertising in that section of the mall so you can’t miss it! Just don’t get it confused with the Indian Street Kitchen right outside of it)

GENRE: Indian (though I would say it’s an Indian and American fusion restaurant)

American Tandoor Venue

VENUE: The venue was very nice, with lots of traditional Indian décor and ample indoor and outdoor seating. Clearly a lot of effort went into it and it was elegant but not too formal. There was a view into the kitchen, which was also cool. The AC was blasting, but the warm Indian food quickly solved that problem!

GENERAL: Seating was quick and service was phenomenal. If you get a chance, definitely ask for Aly as your server, she was fantastic and my family very much enjoyed her energy and thoughtfulness. It was pretty busy for a late Sunday afternoon, which is always a good sign.

AFFORDABILITY: Although we ate at the same time as the Sunday brunch buffet, we opted not to go with the buffet option. $25 per person was a ridiculously high price for an Indian buffet (sorry, but Tysons Corner is not DC and I wasn’t willing to risk paying those prices), especially for an Indian restaurant that we had never tried before.

The entrees aren’t too expensive – mid-teens to $20. The quantity of food is appropriate. It’s pretty comparable to other Indian restaurants in Northern Virginia

American Tandoor Food

Food Spread

THE FOOD: We ordered the Chicken Tikka Naanwich, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Chops, and two orders of Traditional Naan. Our server implied that many guests order Naans as breads to be eaten before the meal, but we made sure to request it to be brought out with the meal to eat with the Chicken dish. Kudos to the server for checking with us as to when we wanted it.

American Tandoor Chicken Naanwich

Chicken Tikka Naanwich

The Chicken Tikka Naanwich (clever name!) was essentially a marinated chicken wrap in naan with masala aioli. It was honestly really good and I think it is probably one of their more popular dishes. It was simple, and really not too difficult to recreate at home. I will admit the masala aioli was kind of flavorless and very much overpowered by the marinated chicken, but it added a nice moistness to the naan. The fries that came with out were above-average as far as restaurant fries go. It came with an “Indian Ketchup” which was a tamarind-based ketchup that was very sweet with a spicy after taste. Tasted good and was especially useful as a dip for the Naanwich (again, the aioli didn’t really add much flavor and the chicken wasn’t with a curry in the naan so it was a bit on the dry side). It was a simple Indian-American fusion item (almost to the point that I almost wish I ordered something I bit more complex), but it was filling and delicious. Definitely something I would recommend!

American Tandoor Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

The Chicken Tikka Masala… was good. But it was most certainly not an authentic Chicken Tikka Masala. Just a curry chicken. It was a good quantity to share between multiple people and tasted decent. The chicken were breast pieces that were a great size and not overcooked – being a chicken thigh fan myself, it was great to find an Indian restaurant that cooks breasts the right amount and cuts them to the right size. I don’t think there were any major complaints from my family – a good chicken curry dish, just not an authentic Chicken Tikka Masala… (which is a common problem with many Indian restaurants in the area).

American Tandoor Lamb Chops

Lamb Chops

We ordered the Lamb Chops well done. They were good and had a really nice Dijon sauce with it. The quantity was a bit small, but it came with two sides so we ordered Cumin Potatoes and Dal Makhani. The Dal Makhani was really nice (soupy with a great lentil flavor). The Cumin Potatoes, as our server suggested it would, tasted like home-style fries. It was not spicy which was exactly what we were looking for. Overall happy with this dish.

American Tandoor Dal Makhani and Cumin Potatoes

Dal (Lentil) Makhani left and Cumin Potatoes right

ACCOMODATIONS: They have vegetarian options available. They are also able to control spice levels for many of their dishes.

American Tandoor Fries

Fries with Sweet-Spicy Indian Tamarind Ketchup

OVERALL: Honestly we were satisfied. The three entrees we ordered were filling for four people. I’m a pretty harsh critic of Indian restaurants, but the venue was really nice, the service was phenomenal (ask for Aly!), and it was reasonably priced with good food. I also appreciated the amount of effort they put into presentation – some of the food items seemed to have some more traditional presentations that take more effort, and I definitely noticed that. This is definitely one of the few Indian restaurants I would feel comfortable bringing back my friends to (both Indian and non-Indian).

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Girlfriend: The Feel-good Musical “I’ve Been Waiting” For

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MUSICAL: Girlfriend

WHERE: Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA)

Girlfriend is a summer love story set in 1993 Nebraska in which the high-school jock takes an interest in the school’s gay kid in the final days of high school and the summer after graduation. A two-man show, the musical takes us back to our high-school days of nervously talking to our crushes, the awkwardness from the first (and second and third…) date, and all the emotions that go along with falling in love.

In a time with movies like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon and plays like Angels in America, The Boys in the Band, and Afterglow on-and-off-Broadway, Girlfriend plays an important role in showcasing the LGBTQ+ experience. Topics such as homophobia and coming out are referenced and acted out throughout the musical. However, none of the complexity of the topics are thoroughly discussed. I was initially confused as to why this is – there were multiple moments in the show to really drive home a deep topic through emotional conversation. However, I soon realized that just by alluding to and showcasing the characters’ reactions to the homophobia they face and the complexity of the coming out process, there is a beauty in the lack of complication in the show.

Given all of this, the show is extremely relatable for all audience members, regardless of their sexual orientation. And that’s another reason the show is powerful. We have all had crushes. We have all felt like we have not belonged. We all have experienced lows after feeling great highs. There is really something for everyone in this show to grab onto and connect to.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: Jimmy Mavrikes stars as the fabulously awkward Will – a boy constantly bullied for being queer who is still trying to figure out what he is going to do with his life. Lukas James Miller stars as Mike, the handsome high-school jock going to college in the Fall who faces pressure from his Dad to follow a certain career and spend time with his girlfriend.

The chemistry between Mavrikes and Miller is amazing. During the musical numbers, their energy was infectious. During the relatable date scenes, the two expertly created awkwardness that was palpable. Mavrikes provided excellent comic relief throughout the show while updating the audience of Will’s thoguhts and expertly shows the roller coaster of emotions Will rides throughout the show. Miller does a great job showing the progression of Mike becoming more and more comfortable with his sexuality and gracefully balanced being both the humorous pursuer of Will and the strong-alpha that his friends and family expect him to be.

THE MUSIC:   The show features 10 songs from musician Matthew Sweet’s 1991 album Girlfriend. The arrangements for the songs are genius – they are fun and lively and the harmonies between Mavrikes and Miller are spectacular. The friend I saw the show with put it best when she said that “each successive song became my new favorite one” and I couldn’t agree more. “I’ve Been Waiting” and “Looking at the Sun” were the two songs that stood out to me, but all of the tunes were super catchy. I went home that night wishing there was a recording of Mavrikes and Miller singing so I could jam out to those awesome harmonies again and again (fortunately I could still listen to Sweet’s version of those songs on his original album!)

A cool dimension of the show was that the four-person all-female band played behind an orange glass behind the stage, visible to the audience the entire time. It felt like they were in a recording studio, providing the music and backup vocals to complement Mavrikes and Miller. The band sounded amazing, and it was great to not only see them rock out during the songs, but also react to what was occurring on stage. They were just as invested in the story as the audience was.

OVERALL: Girlfriend wasn’t the show I thought I was going to watch. It wasn’t the heavy 90s rock musical I expected, but there was so much beauty in its straight-forward message. It was insanely relatable and although not a complicated story, there was much to process, think about, and discuss after the show – this all just added to the power of the story. The music was a real jam and actors were extremely talented. My only regret is that I wish I saw it before its closing weekend so I could bring more friends to watch it again!

P.S. Shows at the Signature Theatre in Arlington are great – awesome venue in a great location (Shirlington) and there are $25 student tickets.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Review: Corporate Life Here I Come!

MUSICAL: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Tickets available on the Kennedy Center website and discounted tickets may be available on TodayTix

WHERE: Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center (as part of Broadway Center Stage)

Being a business student myself on the job hunt, no show could be more aptly timed than this one. And I will say, it definitely has prepared me to climb the corporate ladder (and taught me that advertising may not be the best route for me, unless of course, I want to do some trying).

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical that first opened in 1961 winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical. It’s been on tours since and has had two revivals, most recently in 2011 starring Danielle Radcliffe in the lead role.

For me, watching this show was especially exciting because it was the first professional production I have seen of show that was not written in the 21st century. And I was definitely glad I bought tickets. The show was hilarious and what was fascinating to me was how relevant the themes in the show still are today. Director Marc Bruni put it best when he discussed in the playbill how usually there is difficulty in revivals from that age of musical comedy because “contemporary sensibilities clash with worldviews from a times of different sexual politics”. The show “both identifies sexual harassment as a common workplace occurrence and offers real consequences for transgressors: ‘they fired him like a shot/The day the fellow forgot/A secretary is not a toy.’ Even now, in a world with daily #MeToo revelations, it’s still clear not everyone is subject to the same rule.” Moreover, the show explores climbing the ladder in many different ways (from a businessman’s point of view to a secretary’s point of view), which I think makes the story especially powerful for the audience.

Even more interesting were the audience responses to the lines about the inefficiency of congress or how the President of the US should watch out for his job. While not necessarily meant to be as funny in the mid-20th century, given our current political climate (and a likely more politically conscious DC audience), there were large uproars of cheers and applause after the lines.

THE MUSIC:  The music was insanely catchy and had harmonies and memorable tunes that you would expect from a Tony-winning 20th century musical. Equally exciting was the 17-piece orchestra, which is uncommon even on Broadway. Personally, my favorite songs from the show were “Paris Original”, “Coffee Break”, and “Been a Long Day” – filled with humor and catchy beats that I’ve been humming over and over again. The other songs, however, were all really good and the “Brotherhood of Man” was especially spectacular – an amazing high-energy way to (almost) end the show.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: The cast was spectacular! For me, Michael Urie as the villain Bud Frump stole the show. The voice he chose and the mannerisms he used were hysterical, entertaining, and extremely effective in portraying the character. His mic stopped working for a few minutes and he improvised with finesse, holding a physical/traditional mic for a scene of the show. After the show, Becki Newton was telling us how this was her first stage performance and how she had never done anything like this before – no one could even tell, she was wonderful as Hedy LaRue. John Michael Higgins was hilarious as J.B. Biggley. Skylar Austin played the part of the corporate-ladder-climbing protagonist J. Pierrepont Finch extremely well and Betsy Wolfe was phenomenal as Rosemary (funny and killing the vocals). Sean Bell also stood out to me as extremely funny in his character.

The standout vocalist to me was Nova Y. Payton who absolutely brought the house down in “Brotherhood of Man”.

Watching this show was also a col experience for me because this was the first show in which I had seen some of the performers in other shows – It was awesome to see Kaitlyn Davidson (Bright Star Tour) and Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day) again!

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THE SET and COSTUMES: I really appreciated a few things about the set. First was the screen in the background, the created a really cool effect when the characters went up and down the elevator. The executive washroom in “I Believe in You” was staged extremely well and it was a very cool setup in how the bathroom mirrors were created on stage. Also, I especially appreciated how the orchestra was visible to the audience and how the actors had the opportunity to interact with the orchestra at certain times.

The set and costume choices made me feel like I was in the 1960s, but it wasn’t drab or boring at all.

STAGE-DOORING: It was crazy to me how much more popular stage dooring at DC shows has become in recent years. The Eisenhower Stage Door is on the right side of the building (when facing the main entrance) on the side closest to the Watergate Hotel. There were really no organized lines and it became more of a mob around the actors, which was probably a bit crazy and overwhelming (for both actors and fans alike).

The cast was incredibly gracious and kind – they had to have been exhausted from rehearsals and long recent days in tech. But they were conversing with fans and extremely friendly and that was very kind of them. I had several great conversations with the performers that were all much appreciated.

OVERALL: Going through the job hunt, this show was a funny way to think about how I may “climb the corporate ladder” myself. I think every student who is on the job hunt or may be soon can definitely appreciate the show. How to Succeed is funny and the cast is extremely talented. The songs are super catchy. And of course, it’s always great to see some of your favorite Broadway and Television stars on the stage. If you’re in the DC area over the next few days, I could not recommend watching this interpretation of a musical classic enough. It’s at the Kennedy Center through June 10th!

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View from Kennedy Center Plaza the night of the show

Four Sisters Grill: Best Pork I’ve Had

Four Sisters Grill

RESTAURANT:  Four Sisters Grill

DATE OF VISIT: 6/3/17

ADDRESS: 3035 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201 (right outside the Clarendon Metro Station, WMATA Orange/Blue/Silver line)

GENRE: Vietnamese Food

AFFORDABILITY: Entrees are under $10 and are filling!

PARKING: Limited paid street parking available on streets nearby.

VENUE: The restaurant itself is really nice. Great for casual lunch or something a little bit more formal. The interiors are well-done and there is outdoor eating space as well. You walk in and order your food, similar to a deli, and then have the option to take a seat at the table and have a server wait on you or just leave with your food.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: Overall very impressed with the restaurant! When I ordered my Banh Mi, it was very nice of the cashier to double-check if I wanted jalapenos in my Banh Mi (as I bet a lot of people probably don’t want that spice). Although my friends all ordered our food to-go, we decided to sit outside. A server brought our “smoothies” outside which was really nice. There was a mishap with an order – accidentally brought out coconut water instead of a coconut smoothie with bubbles but they took care of it and resolved the problem super professionally and quickly. And a server came by and brought us sauces even though we weren’t officially “dining-in” which was very awesome.

THE FOOD: I ate the Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng (Grilled Pork Sandwhich) and a Large “Mango Smoothie with Bubbles”.

When I opened the Pork Banh Mi, it was so much larger than I expected and I appreciated that. It was by far the BEST BANH MI I have ever had. The pork had such a delectable flavor, I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. It. Was. So. Good. The onions were very fresh and the bread was moist. It was a great amalgamation of textures and flavors, I strongly recommend.

The “Mango Smoothie with Bubbles” was comparable to a Mango Slush bubble tea you could order elsewhere EXCEPT it was clear how fresh the mangos were. I like to think of myself as a bit of a mango aficionado and I could really tell the freshness and the quality of the mango used and I appreciated that. I ordered a large, which was 24 ounces for a really great price. Super refreshing. I only wished there were more bubbles.

I honestly feel like every time I go I would order the same thing, but maybe ask for more bubbles in the “smoothie”.

ACCOMODATIONS: Had Vegetarian and Gluten-Free options.

OVERALL: Wonderful experience. Parking nearby. Fresh and scrumptious food. Filling portions. Really well-kept venue. I plan on coming back and 100% recommend!