You all may or may not remember this, but I've stated it before - due to my fear of being away from the Ang-cave when the zombie apocalypse starts (and our epic laziness), it's pretty rare that we venture outside the District for dinner. However, there are a handful of people who can actually motivate us to leave our "safe" zone to enter the wilds of Virginia. The other evening we headed into South Arlington to meet two of these people, our very good friends Stephanie and Adam (who also happen to be the people who introduced us) for dinner at Matuba and dessert across the street at Lost Dog. While Matuba (which has an outpost in Bethesda) wasn't spectacular, it offered pretty solid food, nice service, and a pleasant laid-back atmopshere in which to visit with friends. And I kind of fell in love with Lost Dog, with its colorful and cute decor, massive food and beer menus, and tasty desserts. This trip added to my growing belief that Virginia isn't the barbarous wasteland I'd initially imagined - there's fun stuff and good food to be had across the river, after all!
We started the night at Matuba, on Columbia Pike in Arlington (I can't be more specific than that - I don't drive and have no actual idea of where we were). Steph and Adam took us into an alley behind the main strip, and I whispered a nervous aside to Mark ("you know, they have been acting weird lately") until I saw a small sign above a doorway reading "Matuba." Relieved that one of my favorite couples was not planning on murdering us, I followed their lead through the back entrance into the bright, sparsely (but cozily) decorated restaurant.
Mark, not being the sushi fiend that I am, opted to start with a couple of small plates, sweet pototo tempura (below, left), and chicken gyoza (below, right). He liked his starters, but nothing really blew him away. Mark wasn't too upset about it, though. At this point in the meal, either Adam or Stephanie mentioned grabbing dessert across the street - Mark's eyes lit up, and he announced that he would be saving up space in his stomach for the after dinner trip. Stephanie also got an order of sweet potato tempura, and the four of us demolished a bowl of edamame.
I got the Super Deluxe Sushi combo, which came with a bowl of the miso soup (not pictured). The combo included a tuna roll, as well as several pieces of nigiri (pictured next to the tuna roll is the salmon roe and sea urchin, and I also got tuna, salmon, toro, shrimp, white fish, and eel). I was pretty pleased - the rice was nicely seasoned, with the perfect texture (tender but not mushy), the fish was surprisingly fresh, and I got a good variety of stuff.
Mark did end up getting a roll off the specials menu, the spicy toro with avocado roll (below, left). He liked it okay, but didn't think it was all that spicy. Stephanie got a vegetarian roll combo (below, right), which she seemed to enjoy.
Adam got a variety of rolls and seemed more than satisfied with his selections - the really nice thing about Matuba is that the food is good for a decent price (generally about $3-$6 dollars per roll), so you can definitely leave satisfied without spending a fortune.
After sitting and chatting for a few more minutes, we finally indulged a twitchier-by-the-minute Mark by heading across the street to Lost Dog Cafe for dessert and after dinner drinks. When we walked into the cafe, my vision was immediately assaulted by the massive variety of beer they have available for takeout. Once my beer-fogged sight had cleared, I was able to appreciate the decor - the walls were covered with brightly painted murals of dogs in various highly unlikely situations (hanging out with giant roosters, smoking pipes, dressed as firemen, etc.).
We were quickly seated and handed the humongous menu, featuring 31 gourmet pizzas, 13 types of salads, 52 specialty sandwiches, 19 classic sandwiches and subs, and 10 pasta dishes (and I'm not even including the appetizers and side dishes!). And while it was hard for me to believe, given the size of that menu, Stephanie and Adam assured me that the food was pretty good.
But we hadn't gone there for the savory items. Stephanie and Adam, respectively, got the banana-fudge and mint chocolate chip milkshakes. While both of them liked their choices a lot, after trying Stephanie's, Adam wished he would have follwed her lead. Mark and I decided to go with two dessert dishes, the Blonde Dog ala Mode (below, left), and the Reese's Peanut Butter Pie (below, right). I really liked my blondie, which was topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, caramel and whipped cream - the cookie bar, with its warm, crusty exterior and soft center, somehow managed to not be overwhelmingly sweet. Mark enjoyed his peanut butter pie, but admitted that it was a very, very rich dish. I couldn't deal with more than a bite or two.
As we were walking out, Adam informed us that "Lost Dog" is more than a cute theme - the owners have been rescuing, sponsoring, and placing abandoned and unwanted dogs for over 13 years, and in 2001, started their foundation to facilitate that work. Being a dog lover, I immediately let out a little "aw!" I'd go back for that reason alone, although the great desserts and beer list (by my count, their bottled beer menu lists 122 US, 25 English/Scottish, 14 German, and 53 other varieties from Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Jamaica, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Mexico and Thailand) are great draws as well.
While I still think I prefer living and eating in the District, I'm starting to realize that the sprawling suburbs are home to probably hundreds of very good, low-to-mid-priced places to eat, drink, and meet up with friends, and that Mark and I should be willing to overcome our fear (and laziness) to explore those options. It might just be time to expand my zombie emergency plan...