House of Steep

House of Steep, a tea house and foot sanctuary, is a spot that has something for everyone. It is not too intimidating for those new to teas, but it also offers interest for tea aficionados. The staff is very nice and all of the teas smell and taste great.

The menu has tea on the front and “everything else” on the back. There are house blends, which I highly recommend. I almost always opt for the blend of the month since it’s always changing. They offer tea by the cup, pot, or tasting flight. You get unlimited hot water refills on your tea and it comes with a hourglass and savory lavender tea cookie.

The edible part of the menu has room for improvement, but they are keeping with the “tea time” feel. Think – fruit & nutella sammies, rice bowls, and creamy quiche from local LeoNora bakery.

There is a separate menu for foot soaks, which take place in the sanctuary towards the back of the space. The chairs are comfy and the copper basin filled with warm water, rocks, and your “steep” of choice hits the spot. Refills on water during the 20 minutes keep your feet from getting too chilly.

The staff is very friendly and the chief steeper knows all the properties and uses for the ingredients used in their teas and soaks. I stopped in for some anti-inflammatory remedy and she was full of recommendations.

House of Steep | 3800 Lee Hwy, Ste D, Arlington, VA 22207 | (703) 567-1589

Thai X-ing


This review of Thai X-ing is a good companion to my review of Little Serow. It is also the first (and so far only) BYOB I’ve been to in the District.

I had heard rave reviews about the Salmon Pumpkin Curry, so when I called 2 weeks in advance to secure a reservation I meant to ask if it was still on the menu. I left a voicemail and followed up a few times before I got a call back a few days in advance. I confirmed the curry was available and showed up to our Saturday reservation with empty stomachs and cold wine.


At first I thought we were lost, but the converted home in the middle of a residential street really does house this sought after restaurant. The interior and exterior were decorated like a well-loved Asian Mother-in-Law’s home. At first it was distracting, but it really served to transport us. I felt like I was zipped to the other side of the world, especially since most dishes were served on bright green leaves and the sunlight was pouring in through a large window. The staff shouting to each other over their walkie talkies–ahem–added to the “atmosphere.”


The menu changes seasonally so it will always be a bit different. The price and menu type also change depending on what day of the week you choose. We started with a sausage-stuffed cucumber soup, a spicy and sour chicken larb, a refreshing green papaya salad, and rice.


We were then served 3 courses in quick succession – pork in green curry, fried string beans and chicken pad see ew. 

All of the flavors were very well balanced and complementary. They had a brightness, freshness, and complexity that I find lacking in my local casual Thai restaurants. They were also easier to eat and enjoy than the extreme-ness that I experienced at Little Serow.


Our meal ended with a simple but satisfying mango sticky rice. We hadn’t finished the salmon curry and the chef was nice enough to pack up our leftovers and even gave me some extra curry sauce when I proclaimed how delicious it was.

For $45 a person, this is a unique experience that you can’t have anywhere else in DC and I highly recommend you visit there soon. It’s more fun and exotic than many of the drab downtown pre-theatre menus with the same price!


CakeLove (Updated)


Last week I met with Warren Brown via a Yelp event at the Shirlington location of his bakery empire, CakeLove, for a cupcake tasting. The catalyst for this cupcake tasting was that in the last 6 months, CakeLove had been listening to customer feedback and re-doing some of their recipes (See: My original review for CakeLove, the Tysons location). We were offered around 8 different types of cupcakes, a slice of strawberry shortcake, and a delicious sugar cookie.

I can really tell that the cupcakes have changed for the better (except the chocolate cake, which is still a bit lacking in flavor and moisture). The cakes are lighter and the frosting is more balanced. Yay for no more cold, cornbread-y cupcakes or separated frostings!

What I sampled, in order of preference:

  1. Custom sugar cookie with icing – Perfectly soft with a strong hit of citrus and vanilla while still tasting balanced
  2. Strawberry on Vanilla – *New* Vanilla cake with Strawberry buttercream. The cake and frosting were both light and moist. Some people said the buttercream was a bit oily and coated their tongue in an unpleasant way; I thought this could have been solved by putting a little less frosting on.
  3. The King – *new* banana cake, peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache. Moist and flavorful cake with a nice surprise of peanut butter under the ganache cap.
  4. Red Velvet – *New* Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Could use to be a little moister, but it had a nice crumb and the tang of the cream cheese frosting was refreshing.
  5. Toffee Crunch on Chocolate – chocolate cake, cream cheese (?) frosting, crunchy toffee topping. The frosting paired with the crunchy topping was a bit too sweet, but I enjoyed the textural contrast. Even though the chocolate cake was a bit too lack-luster, the topping saved it.
  6. Salted Caramel – *New* Vanilla cake with cream cheese (?) frosting and salted caramel drizzle. The flavor balance of this cupcake was a bit too far on the sweet site.
  7. Chocolate Chip Cheesecake – chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting, chocolate chip & graham cracker ganache. The frosting, topped with chocolate chips and dusted with graham cracker crumbs are good, but the cake lacks a deep chocolate flavor and is light brown.
  8. Chocolate Fuzzy Wuzzy – chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream, chocolate curls. The same issue as the other chocolate cakes, but the frosting is a bit too soft and reminds me of supermarket frosting. The chocolate curls on top did offer a good textural contrast.
  9. Strawberry Shortcake – layered pound cake, vanilla buttercream, fresh strawberries. The buttercream was too chemically tasting, but other than that, was just okay.

The chocolate cake hasn’t been re-worked yet, so that’s why they were at the bottom of the bracket. I also didn’t care for the frosting on the strawberry shortcake, but others loved it.

I really felt special sitting at one of the 10 spots in the Shirlington CakeLove location listening to Warren geek out over cupcake recipe and formulation changes. He seemed to really value our feedback. It was also interesting learning about the business perspective he has and how he’s grown as a business owner and baker to be able to listen to his customers and set his own ego aside a little bit.

I loved being able to share my opinions on cakes (I have a lot of them), and be in the audience with fellow cake lovers!

You also get a lot for your money. I compared the cupcakes in size to one of my green tea cupcakes, made at home in a standard muffin tin, and they’re almost double the size!

Little Serow


Our menu when we went (March 2012) $45:

  • nam prik makheua: eggplant / crispy pork skin / shrimp paste
  • ma hor: sour fruit / dried shrimp / palm sugar
  • koy pa: cobia / lemongrass / chilies
  • laap meuang: pork / shallots / sawtooth
  • nam tok tow hu: tofu / mint / rice powder
  • khao soi: chicken / fresh turmeric / fermented cabbage
  • si krong muu: pork ribs / Mekhong whiskey / dill

The line starts at about 4:45 or 5 for their 530 opening on Saturdays. I got there once a little late and was quoted a 10:15 seating time! I’ve heard it’s much easier to get seatings during the week, especially the earlier ones since a lot of people are still working.

The decor is sparse with limited lighting and bright green splashed on nearly all surface and a loud country soundtrack playing. The Modcloth-clad staff was very friendly and explained all the components of the dishes and Little Serow as a whole.

I was a little underwhelmed by the entire experience. The quality of the dishes are good, though at times a bit unbalanced, but none of the dishes were memorable enough for me to want to go back. I’m glad I went to see what the hype was about and had a delicious meal comprised of food and dishes that I’ve never had. I wish there were cocktails too—though the hibiscus tea and salted pineapple soda were refreshing (even though the hibiscus tea was too sour for me), a nice cocktail would’ve sealed the deal. After glimpsing menus from other weeks, I was hoping for some interesting ingredients and combinations, but all of our dishes had either pork or shrimp in them. No duck, which is my favorite protein!

I had the same type of experience at Komi — slowly started getting full after a few courses, then all of a sudden it seems the courses get bigger and bigger! Thankfully, just like at Komi, we were able to take leftovers (and the cucumber and thai basil made excellent pimms cups no. 13 later that night), but I just wish the meal was a tad more balanced in size and flavor. I also asked if we could take pictures since I had an awkward (& painful) experience earlier at Komi.

I have a horrible memory, so like to take pictures so I can look back and remember experiences (I’m not one of those that uses the flash or lets the food get cold while I set-up the shot; it’s purely documentation). I’m not intrusive to others at the table, let alone others in the restaurant.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

It seems that it was only a short while ago that Harry’s Tap Room, er-Market Tavern was down the street in Clarendon. In record time, a new restaurant has taken over the space and opened with a Mexican kitchen and bar. Fuego is the newest addition in the Passion Food Hospitality Group, which is the umbrella other restaurants such as Ceiba, Passionfish, and Acadiana fall under.

I don’t like tequila too much, but I do like the amount of choices they have as well as the nice red library-style tall ladder leaning against the bar for all those hard to reach places.

Our first bites consisted of: chips and salsas, Queso Fundido (cast iron baked chihuahua & oaxaca cheese, blistered peppers, fresh corn tortillas, chorizo), Al Pastor Tacos (spit roasted marinated pork, pineapple serrano salsa), Birria Tacos (jalisco style roasted goat), and Platanos Machos (tequila glazed ripe plantains, latin crema).

The house-made tortillas had a good flavor to them, but were a tad too thick. The pork tacos were great and juicy, but the goat tacos were so dry they needed a generous dip in salsa to help choke down. Both tacos came on interesting plates with three compartments on the side – we were warned not to sample the middle sauce since it was extremely spicy. We trusted our server.

The queso fundido was nothing special to write home about. It was greasy and too firm to dip into easily (unlike the delicious queso fundido at Ceiba). The sweet and warm plantains solved our urge for dessert so we’ll have to return another time to sample that portion of their menu.

Though Fuego had just opened, the staff was very knowledgable and friendly. They seemed to know every aspect of the menu and had recommendations for all sorts of palettes. This would be a good spot for a happy hour in Arlington, but there aren’t food specials and at $7 per tiny taco order, I’d have to have a few drinks before indulging too much.