The Source Brunch: Turnip Cakes

Turnip Cakes

When you hear the words “Dim Sum,” the encyclopedia of food in your brain probably pulls up images (and smells) of rusty carts being wheeled around by ladies who MUST be centenarians peddling chicken feet in something gelatinous along with unidentified deep fried parts. At the very least, you think of chubby dumplings.

But, there are no carts at The Source’s Dim Sum Brunch, a truly special treat available on Saturdays at the restaurant abutting the Newseum. Furthermore, The Best Thing on the Menu is not a dumpling, nor some noodles. Rather, the BTM is a set of humble turnip cakes dressed only in Szechuan sweet soy sauce and some wisps of green onion.

Asian food is as much about texture as it is about flavor, and that’s why this dish steals the show. Each LEGO-sized square is the best kind of chewy – keeping your mouth occupied long enough for your dining companion to tell a story. Those who have avoided turnips at family dinners for decades need not worry, there’s hardly a harsh radish taste. All you taste is the tangy sauce and a bit of earthiness.

Chive Dumplings

Chef Scott Drewno’s menu gives you ample opportunity to explore, and for a price that’s somewhat of a steal. Try 5 tastes for $32 or 8 for $42. Other can’t-misses include the Shanghai Noodles because they’re potpourried with fragrant chills and savory bits of oxtail; either the duck or lobster bao buns (an order comes with two baos, just like our city’s favorite panda); and the crystal chive dumplings bursting with kurobuta pork and Maryland crab. Pork and crab = the best kind of surf n’ turf.

Click here for more pictures from the meal.

Turnip cakes not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Out of Town Edition – State Bird Provisions (San Fran)

State Bird Provisions' Pickled Anchovy-Sesame Pancake
Guest Post: Eric & Ashely

With the well-known dearth of quality food in DC (PSYCH!), longtime FoBTM (friends of BTM) escaped to the food mecca of San Francisco to see firsthand what this first class food city is all about. In between copious helpings of sourdough and avocados, we had a chance to dine at some of SF’s most delicious eateries, including a stop at State Bird Provisions – the 2012 James Beard award winner for Best New Restaurant.

The unique menu and dining style at SBP is split into “commandables” and “provisions.” The standing menu of commandables has long-time favorites like their namesake, the CA State Bird, an amazingly crispy, juicy and tender quail with lemony onions, and a helping of savory pancakes. Meanwhile, dim sum carts meander through the crowded restaurant, offering diners a peek at the daily specials or “provisions.”

You may be thinking, “oh no, not another gimmicky small plates agenda,” which we FoBTM are totally out on. Instead, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly servers describe each dish in detail, allowing diners to conjure what their meal might look like (and taste like) before making difficult choices. With plates coming out of the kitchen every few minutes, you can pace your meal however you’d like, not end up with too much food and save lunch money for the rest of your trip. The best of both worlds.

Lucky for you, the Best Thing on the Menu: Pickled Anchovy-Sesame Pancake with Crème Fraîche and Basil is on the reliable list of commandables, upping the likelihood that you can try the dish on your next trip to San Fran. Gently pickled anchovies and just-picked radish sit atop a thick, brioche-y sesame pancake. A touch of sour cream and you’re eating the best version of latkes and herring you’ve ever tasted. Even one anchovy-hating FoBTM needed a second bite. With most dishes priced around $10, you can eat stacks on stacks of pancakes, instead of spending stacks on stacks on stacks.

Not a fan of anchovies? Try the Charred Octopus in Tomato-Chickpea Salsa or Garlic Bread with Buratta. Or, you could follow the advice of this four-year old.

It won’t be long before other restaurants mimic SBP’s distinctive dining style, and as long as they can come close to matching the quality of the food at State Bird Provisions, we are looking forward to what the future brings.

Pickled Anchovy-Sesame Pancake not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Ping Pong Dim Sum: Spicy Basil Dumplings

dumplings

Ping Pong markets itself as brandishing “little steamed parcels of deliciousness,” and they’re not far off.  However, if you came looking for little Chinese grandmothers pushing carts of delicately-wrapped mystery meat, you’re in for a surprise. Ping Pong Dim Sum is a more modern take on the Chinese cuisine, which is actually most often served for breakfast. In Hong Kong,  restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning.

Also unlike traditional dim sum, vegetarians can leave Ping Pong Dim Sum well fed. Especially if they sample the Best Thing on the Menu (BTM): Spicy Basil Dumplings. They fall under the “fried and griddled” category on the extensive dumpling menu with the description of “basil & chili with rice noodles in wheat flour pastry, with vinegar dipping sauce.”  Who doesn’t love a carb stuffed with a carb? Doesn’t every country have a version of this winning combination, such as potato pierogies? Another tip: See if you can trick the server into letting you keep the tasty vinegar sauce for the rest of the meal.

Other favorites at Ping Pong include the honey roasted chicken puff and the char sui bun. But, chances are, you would have found your way to these items on your own.

Spicy Basil Dumplings not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.