Saturday, November 30, 2013

Taqueria Jasmine in Bealeton, VA

My wife and I visited Taqueria Jasmine after reading other positive reviews & ratings on Yelp - so I just wanted to add to the positive hype of this amazing Triple-D-worthy Mexican food eatery. Taqueria Jasmine touts "Authentic Mexican Food", and this is nothing short of 100% accurate. It reminded me of the food I had in Mexico, unlike the over cumin & chili-fied food you find here in the States.

Ambiance: Taqueria Jasmine has a great Mom-&-Pop feel to it, I love that it has that "foodie" green painted on the walls - it gives it a shabby/sheik edge. Kinda cool, kinda divey. 

Service: The staff are 100% focused on making sure that guests feel like they are at home. My wife and I have visited TJ twice, and the staff are very attentive, and kind - even with a slight language barrier. It was awesome, because as I tried to conjure up my broken Spanish, they tried to do the same with English. All of this is happening while we are feeling quite at home with a really great cup of coffee.

Cuisine: The food at TJ's is traditional, some of it with a modern spin, and a few American dishes for the kids. In our 2 visits, my wife and I loved everything, and we wound up taking home leftovers because of the generous portions. We have tried:
  • Gordita Frita de Carnitas y Queso
  • Huechares con Carnitas
  • Huevos Rancheros
  • Huevos Con Chorizo
The thing that was great about these diverse dishes was that all of them had well balanced flavor profiles - perfect spice, not too much heat, savory and slightly sweet when appropriate. Also key - these dishes are not oversaturated with oils. I'm literally looking forward to trying the whole menu over the next couple of years (just an FYI, so no one thinks I'm gonna try to take out the menu in a week! ;)

I will update this review with new faves - might become a pretty long review! ;)

Cost-effective: The price is as generous as the portions - low price for generous servings. Awesome!

Overall Score: 5/5. Taqueria Jasmine is one of Fauquier County's best kept secrets. My only hope is if they continue to get reviews like this, that we'll still be able to find a seat at lunch or dinner.

Return Visit: It's awesome, and it's only 5 mins away.

Excellence. Amazing, creative standards to cuisine, and service with a personal touch. Visit Taqueria as soon as you can!

Food Muser

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thai Peppers in Bristow, VA

Thai Peppers in Bristow, VA is a favorite restaurant that my wife and I frequent. We try to make it at least once per week, sometimes two if budget allows. This is a restaurant that qualifies as a "foodie favorite", not only because the food is incredible, but because you can see that they strive for a combination of high quality, creativity, and tradition in every area of their cuisine and business.

Ambiance: TP's has a very intentional combination of modern style and hints of tradition. The decor is very welcoming, relaxing and the mood is very low-key, even when the place is packed. We like to sit in a booth, because their booths are extremely comfortable, but we'd never turn down a 4-top with chairs.

Service: The staff are 100% focused on making sure that guests feel like they are at home. We have been frequenting Thai Pepper for over a year since they opened, and we are always taken care of. Orders are taken quickly, beverages arrive quickly and are refilled before glasses are empty. The food arrives quickly, and is always hot and freshly prepared.

Cuisine: The food at Thai Peppers ranges from traditional Thai food to Asian fusion, offering a few dishes for those who might be new to Thai Food and need something familiar to dip their toe in the water. TP's offers an extensive menu of appetizers and entrees, Thai salads, Chef's Specialties, and Desserts. They also offer limited-run specials that are literally get-em'-while-you-can.

My wife and I have our faves at TP's, but we have also branched out and tried new things. Some of our appetizer faves include Steamed Dumplings and Curry Puffs (a must-have.) Entree faves include their variety of amazing curry, noodles, rice. Pad Thai is probably the most well-known signature dish of Thai restaurants - Thai Pepper's is the best I've ever had.

A recent Chef's Specialty that I've really enjoyed is the Triple Flavor Filet, which is a fresh Tilapia, batter-fried with an authentic Triple Flavor sauce, sort of a sweet-sour-spicy sauce with a nice heat to it, served with jasmine rice. Also notable is the stunning and unique Clay Pot Shrimp, which is fresh jumbo shrimp sauteed with crystal noodles, vegetables, roasted garlic in an savory brown soy sauce. The flavor profile on these 2 dishes are multi-layered, complex, and delicious.

Cost-effective: Thai Pepper is reasonably priced and worth every penny, but I do hope to visit during the week sometime to enjoy a lower-priced lunch menu!

Overall Score: 5/5. I didn't even get to describe everything my wife and I have tried at Thai Pepper, but every aspect of the service and cuisine is based on consistent excellence. For example: A couple weeks ago, we visited on an evening where they were experiencing technical difficulties in the kitchen, and were unable to offer any deep-fried items. The staff let the guests know as soon as they were seated. By the taste of the food we ordered, you would have never known there was anything wrong. At a table close by, I watched an irate customer berate one of the wait staff - I know, inappropriate! Did the waitress break a sweat? Not a chance! She offered the guests what was available, with a smile. Everything continued to flow out of the kitchen without fail.

Return Visit: As much as humanly possible.

Excellence. Amazing standards. Creative approach to cuisine with time-tested standards. Visit Thai Peppers as soon as you can.

Food Muser

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mojitos & Tapas Bar & Grill

Today, my wife, sister and I went to visit Mojitos & Tapas Restaurant & Bar in Warrenton, VA. We were looking for a "foodie" kind of place, and after a search on my phone, I came across it on, who had great things to say about it.

Ambiance: Mood and decor were great, it had an "outdoor seating in Cuba" kind of vibe. The music was pretty cool, traditional Latin folk and jazz, interspersed with the occasional Mariah Carey-esque balladry.

Service: We were seated quickly, and drink orders taken promptly. My sister ordered a mojito, and my wife and I ordered Cuban coffee. The mojito came out within 5 minutes, but it took about 25 minutes to get the Cuban coffees. Ordering a soda or water would have been a better idea.

Cuisine: The food is available on a standard menu of items, or on a tapas menu. We wanted to go the tapas route, so my wife ordered meat-filled potato croquettes, and a couple of empanadas, chicken & beef. I ordered a crab cake and steak sliders. My sister got the Cuban sandwich, or "The Cubano" from the standard menu.

The food came out in a reasonable amount of time, it was hot, and cooked to order. On a 5/5, I would give the food a 4/5, it was very tasty, with a lot of great flavors and spice. Although, my wife is not a fan of cilantro, and felt that there was a little too much of it used as garnish. The steak sliders were ok, but didn't blow me away, although the crab cake was nicely done. The empanadas were good and had a good flavor profile, but it was slightly overwhelmed by the deep-fried shell.

Cost-effective: Not really - it was kind of expensive for a lunch - $60 for 3, not including tip.

Overall Score: I'm giving an overall score of 4/5. We were hoping for that "foodie" restaurant where culinary artists are pushing out the best in taste and innovative cuisine. What we found was a decent place to eat - no crime in that. Also, the Cuban Coffee that took 25 mins to serve was disappointing, especially because no alternatives were offered during the wait. I am hopeful that Mojitos will continue to develop their best culinary and business potential. This place could be the major culinary draw of Warrenton, and I'd love to see that happen.

Return Visit: We would like to try it again.

Food Muser

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Smokehouse

We saw the Smokehouse while driving by it one weekend through Old Town Culpeper, VA, so we made plans to visit soon. And so we did. BBQ places always interest me, not only because I love BBQ, but because BBQ artisans are so adamant about making a mark on the world with their special twists on seasoning and preparation.

Ambiance: The Smokehouse is tame by day, but has the looks of a wild evening hang-out, with the makings of a modernized country sports bar. The walls were lined with flatscreens, each with a different sporting event. Not really my thing, but if the food rocks, who cares about an over-saturation of sports?

The friendly wait staff greeted us and sat us quickly, and gave us menus. Oh, what's this? Fried pickles - a fav of ours, so we ordered some, and a salad. For my meal, I ordered the Chicken Salad Sandwich, and my wife ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich, and it was to be offered Carolina style, with a vinagar based sauce. I'm more of a St. Louis or Texas guy, so I wasn't psyched, but my wife loves Carolina style.

Cuisine: The food was delivered hot and promptly, and the salad was really fresh. I was happy about the salad being fresh, because as of late I've been noticing restaurants including past-date/browned leaves into their salads. Is it a sign of the times? I hope not! Definitely not at The Smokehouse, kudos on fresh salads!

Anyway, back to the food;) The fried pickles and mayonaisse-based dipping sauce were amazing. To the skeptics, definitely try fried pickles, you won't be disappointed. My wife loved them too, as well as her pulled-pork sandwich. I have to admit though, I wasn't really into my Chicken Salad sandwich.

Normally I wouldn't criticize a dish, but I feel like this might only help. Firstly, they hyped up a "secret recipe" for their Chicken Salad in the menu, so I was hoping for something with an amazing, complex flavor profile, something that would compliment their BBQ menu. There are some amazing chicken salads out there! Unfortunately, the chicken was very dry, and I am pretty sure the "secret" is seasoning salt and way too much celery seed. Definitely a bummer.

Although, on the upside, good chicken salad isn't rocket science, so I'm sure at some point the recipe will improve to something that will better compliment their menu of BBQ items.

Cost-effective: Not really - it was kind of expensive for a lunch. However, my wife was happy with her food, so it wasn't a complete wash.

Return Visit: Yes, I want to try something else on their menu, based on the merit of other successful menu items!

Food Muser

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Copper Fish

My wife and I visited The Copper Fish today for lunch. We were intrigued when we saw the small restaurant in Old Town Culpeper, VA on a previous day visit.

Ambiance - Amazing, Mediterranean fisherman-meets-historic Culpeper feel. Excellent, warm lighting. Lots of daylight from the plate glass windows in the restaurant front.

Cuisine - The food was fresh, flavorful, and the servings were generous. The attentive wait staff will bring you a fresh in-house made corn muffin, incredible. My wife and I ordered the Fresh Corn & Bacon Hush puppies (because who wouldn't?!). These come in a set of 4, and they are slightly smaller than a tennis ball. The slightly savory/slightly sweet taste lended back to the corn muffin, but had the added smokiness, courtesy of the chunks of bacon.

I ordered the Fish Tacos, which come with the fish of the day - Tuna. These are served as a set of 2, on flour tortillas, with pico de gallo, avocado, lettuce, and a tzaziki-like sauce. As a side that comes with, I ordered the Potatoes Gratin with fennel. The tacos were good, I left one tortilla behind, so as to muscle down the remaining tuna and avocado. The potatoes were the star though...a delicate taste, a slight sweetness brought on by the fennel, with a very silky cheese sauce baked with scalloped potatoes, slightly al dente - very nice.

Overall, I'm definitely a fan. My wife was too, after her Jerk Chicken Sandwich with Pineapple and Mango Chutney.

If I were to offer any criticism, it would be to reduce the amount of oil and deep frying used in the preparation and cooking. I was a little surprised that the tuna on the taco was deep fried, when I'd assumed it would be grilled. The hush puppies, while amazing, needed significant blotting. The flavor profile of amazing food should always be the star.

Cost-Effectiveness - A little pricey for lunch, but definitely well-worth it, especially for an adventurous day of spoiling my wife. We'll be back:)

Food Muser