I heard my brother’s voice as he came through the front door; my sis-in-law mentioned to me (on the phone earlier) that he was on his way to mom’s house. So as I heard him playing with Bubba the pug, I quietly came down the stairs and stuck my head into the hallway from the staircase. He happened to glance up and started to say to himself, “OH MY GOD!” Surprise #3 was a success! (Incidentally, the night before I had surprised my dad before I went out to dinner… and he was almost in tears!) I had seen my brother, and the only person left to ‘surprise’ was my niece, Alexis.
Anyway – my brother left to run an errand with my cousin, and my mom stepped away to make a cameo at a neighborhood Christmas luncheon. While they did that, I hopped in my rental, and made my way to Old Town Alexandria to grab a cup of my favorite mint mocha at Cosi. As usual, I fought traffic across the Wilson Bridge (on a Saturday, no less), and quickly found a vacant parking meter. I went to Cosi, and quickly noted some very obvious changes: it’s wasn’t as dark inside as it had been (the dimmer lighting adds to the coffee-house effect), and the people running the show were Persian. Not that Persian people running the neighborhood Cosi makes a difference, but it just wasn’t what I expected. I ordered a tall mint mocha, skim. It was just OK. It wasn’t the same, which turned to be a major disappointment. I got back in my car, mint-mocha in hand, dropped something off at the post office, then headed home. Mom and I then hopped in the car and drove to Lorton, VA to see Joie and Lexie. That was certainly fun times! As always, it was a pleasure to see my sis-in-law, and my niece was in great spirits. She hugged and kissed me, and talked me till the cows came home. It was an hour well-spent. As they readied themselves to attend a party at a friend’s, mom and I headed back home to meet dad. We attended the Simbang Gabi service at St. Columba that night, and I got to see some familiar faces in the crowd. Afterwards, I drove to Siena’s house to meet up with her and Primo. We had dinner plans looming ahead.
We didn’t exactly have a place in mind for dinner, but we decided to go some place we each haven’t been to. We ended up in Georgetown, and the familiar haunts were calling out to us: Vietnamese cuisine at Miss Saigon, Ethiopian at Zed’s, Turkish at Me In Yu, or even Italian at Philomena or Paparazzi. I was a little disappointed that Cilantro was no longer in business, but the new spot that opened in its place looked interesting. We decided to go for something we each haven’t had before – Bangkok Joe’s at Washington Harbor. The restaurant had been there for a while, even before I left the area back in ’05. I’d been for drinks before, but never for dinner, so this was an experience that the three of us would share together.
The spot was dimly lit – very appropriate for a date night or something like that. The décor was Asian-chic; not overly modern, but definitely not at all traditional. There were stainless steel fixtures all over the place, even serving as coat hangers at some of the booths. The fixtures, for some reason, reminded me of sperm on crack – for lack of a better term or description. But it was funk-a-delic and cool in its own way. The wait staff was dressed in gear that looked more like batik-printed pajamas, although I think they were going for a modern take on the traditional garb/print. It wasn’t too much of a miss. The waitress took our drink orders, and I placed one for my usual “vodka/soda.” What I got back was a hot mess: club soda and water. For some reason, she must’ve heard me say “water and soda.” NOT what I said. Still, I was willing to forgive that. I took it as a sign that I needed no alcohol that night (after the drinkfest I had at Lucky Bar the night before). We ordered a few appetizers and our main dishes, and the wait was on.
As we chatted it up, we were hardly expecting the food to arrive so quickly. But soon enough we were in the presence of fried calamari, pork ‘n crab shu mai, and a lobster roll ---all of which were decent. The best of the three was probably the lobster roll, which was a nice combination of traditional flavors and modern execution; a “sexy” spin on a somewhat traditional appetizer. Our dinners quickly followed, and we were each awed by the presentation: Rama Chicken, Ginger Beef, and Siamese Pork. Primo’s take on the pork dish was good, and he was quite happy with it. Ditto with Siena’s Ginger Beef rice bowl. I had the Rama Chicken curry bowl, which was a mélange of grilled chicken breast, wilted spinach, garlic, ginger and peanut sauce. It was a valiant attempt at something mind-boggling, but fell short by just a small margin: the sauce was a little too watery, and the sen-mee (rice vermicelli) took away from the flavor. For most of the bites, I tasted more “noodle” than sauce, and it was just OK. But I didn’t expect much. I had heard from other people that Bangkok Joe’s wasn’t the place to go for a mind-altering foodie experience. I still prefer the cheap prices, and excellent tastes, of the hole-in-the-wall spots of L.A.’s Thai Town compared to Joe’s. But if you want someplace more sceney than foodie in The District, then this is the place for you.
Perhaps if I got my vodka/soda as I had ordered, it would’ve been a different story… or not.
The experience wasn’t a complete loss. After dinner we got to walk around Georgetown. The pavement was wet, with the rain having just passed through. But the night air was chill as we walked along cobblestone paths. It was interesting to note some of the old, familiar businesses no longer in operation with new spots taking over. But the façade of the old city was still intact; where history and the present day entangle themselves in a never-ending dance.
We attempted to hit the National Christmas Tree afterwards, but the lights had already gone out. Instead, we trekked back across the river into Alexandria, and caught a late showing of Sweeny Todd. Tim Burton has his way of making me want to throw-up my dinner, but I managed to sustain myself. The movie, itself, was a dark, interesting masterpiece-of-sorts. But you wouldn’t expect any less from Burton and his muse, Johnny Depp. An interesting end to an interesting night.
(Photos from heyrog, kthread, & erniea @ flickr.com. Thank you!)---
Coming soon… Home for the Holidays (Part III): let the holiday foodfest begin!