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At the Dinner Table {Grace’s Mandarin}

July 16, 2011

 

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Sunday night of our D.C. adventure brought a group dinner of a totally different kind. My dear friend, JM, joined us for the weekend from her home in Mississippi. I’ve known her longer than I’ve known B or his family. She’s known B’s brother and sister-in-law longer than she’s known me. It’s all a little confusing, but I promise it all makes sense.

In case you aren’t keeping track from the last post, our group now included me, B, B’s mom, B’s brother and sister-in-law, their 21-month old son and our friend, JM. Around the way in Maryland, the Albuquerque connection continued with two more friends, MS and SS along with their two kids. JM having also lived in D.C. for a time had two more friends join us. If you count all the little ones, we were up to 13 for dinner. Off we went to Grace’s Mandarin in National Harbor, MD. We were told it was very similar to PF Chang’s. Aside from the fact that they’re both Asian themed restaurants, they aren’t similar at all.

Perception of distance is one aspect of the D.C. area that throws me. While everything is surprisingly close (we technically visited 3 states on our visit), it takes forever to travel anywhere. This is another great selling point for their public transportation system. I know we’re spoiled in Seattle. I consider the Eastside far and it’s not even 15 miles away. In fact, I consider it so far that I need a really compelling reason to go there on a weekend. That tells you something about how small Seattle really is when you compare it to so many major metropolitan areas. I like it this way.

And so we were off to Maryland.  A long way to dinner, yet hardly any distance at all between states. The restaurant wasn’t at all what I expected. It was incredibly opulent, two parts nightclub and one part restaurant. It was also very tall. An excess of shiny, deep red and glossy black dominate the décor along with an abundance of yellow and gold. Everything is larger than life. We headed up several flights of stairs to our table for fourteen. Truthfully, it was a little over the top for my taste, but I think that may be what they were going for.

Grace's Mandarin

Our dinner out only a couple nights before seemed casual in ambiance compared to this. With three children under the age of three at the table, there was a distinctly different feeling of chaos (though as well managed as one could expect) at the table. B and I aren’t what one might call… kid people. We have several wonderful children in our lives.  One very important sweet boy was at this very dinner table. His photo is at the beginning of this post, hand in hand with his Uncle B. We just don’t spend a ton of time around kids.

As for the food at Grace’s Mandarin, it wasn’t earth shattering good, but we really enjoyed it. The menu was elaborate and this usually makes me nervous. I’d rather a place specialize in five items than dabble in fifty. I suppose that’s a good formula for life as well. While they may appear to be trying to do too much, the quality holds up pretty well.

B and I shared the Rock Shrimp Salad (baby green, frisée, pine nut, gobi, berry, carrot) to start. I’m pretty sure it didn’t say salad on the menu or I never would have asked B to share it with me. He took a small bite of the Rock Shrimp, but I pretty much finished it on my own.

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B went with his old reliable Kung Pao Chicken (Szechuan peppercorn and roasted peanut) for dinner while I chose the Seafood Medley (shrimp, scallop, calamari, mussel and Thai sweet basil). I was on a massive seafood kick this trip.

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We were both satisfied with our choices. I also appreciated that both came with a very small side of rice instead of enough to feed a small family for a week as seems to be the norm most places.

The weekend had already flown by and I hadn’t had much time to catch up with JM, so I was glad she sat across from us. We also really enjoyed getting to know the two new friends she brought along.  The whole National Harbor area was also super nice. There was a massive thunderstorm during dinner, so the weather was a little more humid than it had been ( and that’s saying something), but it was also slightly cooler. We didn’t walk around for too long since it looked like the storm would strike again any moment, but this is definitely a place I’d like to spend some time if we return. All in all, it was a very nice meal with old and new friends alike.

The rest of the visit passed quietly. JM returned to Mississippi on the afternoon of the 4th and more threats of thunderstorms kept us inside for the evening. We set off for our own long journey back to Seattle on Tuesday. It’s a very, very long trip. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 15 months before taking B’s sweet nephew out for ice cream.

 

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