Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ulah Bistro -- U Street

Liza and I have noticed that President Obama has been an occasional diner in the Washington, D.C., area since his arrival in our Nation's Capital last year. According to The Washington Post, our illustrious President has dined at Five Guys in Alexandria, Ray's Hellburger in Arlington and the posh Citronelle in Georgetown.

What? No pizza?

What's up, Barack?

It has also been noted that President Obama has visited Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street. Ben's is a D.C. landmark, of course, and the place seems to have a lot of character. Reminds me of a neighborhood diner where all the locals gather. There is always a lot of hustle and bustle outside Ben's Chili Bowl--a lot of people just hanging out, perhaps because it's open until 4 a.m. on weekend nights.

Ben's does not serve pizza, though.

Across the street from Ben's is Ulah Bistro, a hip bar and lounge. It is a two-story restaurant, plus it has an outdoors seating area which blocks the front door of a bank. (Not sure how the bank feels about that.)

Liza and I were guided to the upstairs and we sat at a window table, overlooking U Street and Ben's. There were some comfy-looking couches across from our table, adding to the trendiness of Ulah. Perhaps I could take a nap after my meal...

Of course, Ulah's menu is eclectic, featuring a variety of salads, seafoods, burgers and steaks. And pizza. Ulah has a wood-fired oven and the restaurant offers all of the traditional pizzas, plus a Ulah special that adds crab meat.

I wasn't that hungry on this evening, so I let Liza do the ordering. She selected a watermelon salad and a margherita pizza. (Liza always orders a margherita.) The watermelon salad was interesting--the combination of watermelon, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese had an odd flavor.

The pizza was a good size for two and it was literally dripping with cheese. The ingredients were fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

At some point, the Ulah chefs must have poured a load of salt on the pizza, because there was a definite taste of saltiness to it. I could live with it, but this upset Liza's sensitive tummy.

I thought the crust was outstanding--among the best that I've had so far in D.C. It was soft and chewy, just how I like it. I had promised myself just one slice, but I had a second slice just to confirm the quality of the crust.

I ate tooooooo much, though. The couch beckoned.

Overall, I thought the pizza was decent quality, although I agree it was very salty. Unfortunately, Liza couldn't get past the saltiness.

Gary's Rating: 3 stars
Liza's Rating: 2 stars

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nationals Pizza, Capitol Hill

Too tired to go out for dinner on Friday night, Liza and I settled for take out. Recently we received a flyer on our doorstep for Nationals Pizza, a new pizza delivery place on Bladensburg Road NE serving Capitol Hill.

The flyer and web site for Nationals Pizza suggests that it's somehow connected to the Washington Nationals baseball team. There's a baseball diamond in the logo and a photos of baseballs with a cursive "N" scribbled on it.

A closer look indicates there's really no connection between the local nine and this pizza delivery joint.

The question: Why would any business try to capitalize on the presence of the Washington Nationals? Putting it kindly, the Nationals are pathetic right now.

Wouldn't they do better by calling themselves Philly Pizza, where they could capitalize on the success of the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Philles? Wouldn't they do better by calling themselves Detroit Pizza, where they could serve Liza's favorite deep dish 'za while capitalizing on the Detroit Tigers, in first place in the AL Central?

Maybe someday the Nationals will be good and excited Capitol Hill residents will order Nationals Pizza after every win.

Back to Friday night, this may come as a shock, but Liza was not in the mood for pizza. She ordered a helping of Cheesy Bread with dipping sauce.

I wanted pizza, and I get what I want. Nationals Pizza had a pretty good selection, including the Triple Play Cheese Pizza, which consists of cheddar, feta, mozzarella and parmesan, and the Home Run Pizza, which features a host of veggies plus hot peppers. They also feature Jamaican Specialty pizzas, with such concoctions as Jerr Chicken Pizza and Cocoa Bread Pizza.

And then there's the National's Tuna Pizza. Tuna on pizza? I don't know about that. Said Liza: "Gross!"

I ordered a 12-inch medium National's Veggie Pizza, minus the black olives. It had mushrooms, green peppers, onions, tomatoes and extra cheese.

Our food arrived promptly in 30 minutes, which is better than some of the other pizza places we've ordered from around Capitol Hill.

For pizza in a box, National's Pizza looked appetizing. The toppings were generous enough, although they could have put on a few more mushrooms. And the extra cheese was golden brown, lightly melted over the toppings.

There was a little droop as I picked up the first slice, which faithful readers know is a pet peeve of mine, but it wasn't too bad.

The pizza had a good veggie taste, courtesy of the toppings. The tomatoes and onions, in particular, offered a good flavor.

The crust? Unfortunately, it needs work. The crust was hard and flavorless. It was like eating cardboard. Not good.

Maybe I have a soft spot for Nationals Pizza because they seem kind of plucky. Maybe I've had some bad D.C. pizza lately and I'm settling for mediocrity. Maybe I'm just happy in the afterglow of a Phillies world championship. But I just can't give Nationals Pizza a poor rating.

Gary's Rating: 2.5 stars

-- Liza comments on her Cheesy Bread! "This is not a Cheesy Bread blog, obviously, but I will say that the Cheesy Bread was gooey, cheesy goodness and it was satisfying."