WASH July 2013 : Page 78
the 50 Finest! Culinary capital, indeed! From star-powered brasseries and elegant neighborhood bistros to extraordinary fare from the Balkans to Belgium and points beyond, introducing 50 of our favorite reasons to celebrate the almighty dish in DC. Consider yourself served. By DaviD HageDorn, nevin Martell, Kelly Magyarics anD MicHael MccartHy | PHotograPHy By greg Powers super nopa Chef Greg McCarty leads the culinary charge at penn Quarter’s nopa Kitchen + Bar, across from the national portrait Gallery.
The 50 Finest!
Culinary capital, indeed! From star-powered brasseries and elegant neighborhood bistros to extraordinary fare from the Balkans to Belgium and points beyond, introducing 50 of our favorite reasons to celebrate the almighty dish in DC. Consider yourself served.<br /> <br /> 1. NOPA KITCHEN + BAR Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj makes a stellar addition to his stable of winners, tapping Jean-Georges Vongerichten acolyte Greg McCarty to helm the kitchen of this American brasserie across from the National Portrait Gallery. Rice-floured soft-shell crab with avocado puree is heavenly, as is hamachi tartare with wasabi pea puree and pork and beef meatballs. Th e bright, refreshing radish salad with pineapple mint and feta is a summer’s dream. 800 F St. NW, 202.347.4667<br /> <br /> 2. LE DIPLOMATE Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr enters the DC market with a stunning French brasserie that looks, feels and tastes like it magically appeared from a Parisian sidewalk. Outsiders rarely get it right in DC, but Starr did. Not to miss: the divine bread, lush foie gras parfait, bay leaf-infused mussels and grand plateau seafood platter—arguably the best in town. 1601 14th St. NW, 202.332.3333<br /> <br /> 3. THE RED HEN Chef Mike Friedman, wine maven Sebastian Zutant from Proof and buddy Michael O’Malley teamed up to open this charming, quintessential neighborhood eatery in Bloomingdale. Th e place is richly casual, and Friedman’s take on provincial Italian food is subtly sophisticated. You’ll love the clams casino update, Tuscan chicken liver crostini and black linguine with clams. Take note of Zutant’s lovingly curated wine list. 1822 First St. NW, 202.525.3021<br /> <br /> 4. RANGE Bryan Voltaggio’s showstopping 14,000-square-foot restaurant/market/confiserie opened last winter to a town full of skeptics who wondered how the chef could fill an enormous space so far from downtown. Well, guess what? He’s doing it—successfully. Owen Thomson cocktails and solid cooking keeps patrons coming back. 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202.803.8020<br /> <br /> 5. AMBAR Owner Ivan Iricanin and chef Bojan Bocvarov make a splendid team at this contemporary Capitol Hill restaurant that presents foods of the Balkan Peninsula. Washingtonians instantly found this style of cooking to be a refreshing change of pace, willingly giving up mussels and charcuterie—at least for one night—for white veal soup, pork roulade, cevapi (beef and pork kebab) and pickled cabbage-stuffed sarma, and finishing their meals with rakia, a fermented fruit spirit that packs a wallop. 523 Eighth St. SE, 202.813.3039<br /> <br /> 6. DAIKAYA People line up in the rain to await a coveted seat in this tiny Penn Quarter space owned by Daisuke Utagawa. Chef Katsuya Fukushima and his crew ladle up four kinds of Sapporo-style ramen in flavorful broth (the aged noodles are imported from Japan): shio, shoyu, mugi miso and vegetarian shio (salt, soy, barley miso). Upstairs, visit the izakaya, where the dishes are revelatory. Grilled avocado with ponzu and fresh wasabi thrills, and cucumber salad with fried garlic chips and rayu is an ode to the brilliance of restraint. 705 Sixth St. NW, 202.589.1600<br /> <br /> 7. B TOO Top Chef contestant Bart Vandaele’s 14th Street eatery—a sibling of Belga Café on Capitol Hill—features contemporary Belgian cooking in a sleek, modern setting. The downstairs is cozy and sexy, while the main floor is bright and bustling. Belgian specialties reign: moulesfrites, Flemish beef stew with red cabbage and braised rabbit with prunes. Waffle options include savory (mussel, celery, green herb) and sweet (chocolate waffle with ice cream). 1324 14th St. NW, 202.627.2800<br /> <br /> 8. DGS Chef Barry Koslow, and owners Nick and David Wiseman flip the delicatessen concept on its head by reimagining it as a bona fide restaurant with a top-notch beverage program (curated by Brian Zipin) and knee-weakening pastrami (cured by Koslow). 1317 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202.293.4400 <br /> <br /> 9. ETTO Welcome to the Little Serow of 14th Street—tiny, fabulous and sometimes impossible to get into. The culinary team mills the flour they use for the bread and pasta in the back of the restaurant. Shouldn’t that just say it all? You’ll adore the wood-burning pizza oven, delightful small plates and a buzzworthy Negroni. You can you tell that creator Tad Curtz used to work for Peter Pastan—his touches abound on this sparkler of a menu. 1541 14th St. NW, 202.232.0920<br /> <br /> 10. GHIBELLINA It’s challenging not to be single-mindedly obsessed with the brilliant Fiorentina steak by chef Jonathan Copeland, but don’t overlook other menu standouts, including roasted veal top round and cacciucco—fish and shellfish stew with white beans, escarole, saffron, tomato and red wine. Molto deliziosa! 1610 14th St. NW, 202.803.2389<br /> <br /> 5 Dishes To Savor<br /> <br /> 1. DAIKAYA IZAKAYA Pork and Brussels sprouts skewer, Okonomiyaki style This is a clever take on the Japanese street food, with cabbage pancake, slathered with okonomi sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. Wonder if chef Katsuya Fukushima would ever think of adding one of those dreamy soymarinated eggs from the ramen shop downstairs to those skewers? 705 Sixth St. NW, 202.589.1600 <br /> <br /> 2. RIPPLE Spice roasted beets, smoked egg, frozen yogurt and radish Smoked egg yolk puree and labneh lend elegance to a refined Mediterranean dish of small quartered beets and shaved radishes. None of the bright yellow yolk will be visible by the time you wipe the plate clean. 3417 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202.244.7995 <br /> <br /> 3. THE RED HEN Mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu and pecorino romano Large, tubular elbows of perfectly al dente homemade pasta are just the right size to harbor nice meaty bits of housemade pork sausage (made with fennel pollen, fennel seed and a touch of vinegar) and allow their luscious, buttery, cheesy (Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano- Reggiano) ragu to cling to them. 1822 First St. NW, 202.525.3021 <br /> <br /> 4. RANGE Whole rabbit roulade This dish should be shared, but it’s so irresistible you may well polish it off yourself. A whole rabbit is stuffed with mushrooms, shallots and rabbit farce (chopped and seasoned stuffing), wrapped in pancetta, and slow cooked in a wood-burning oven. 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202.803.8020<br /> <br /> 5. FIOLA BURRATA of buffalo mozzarella with shaved violet artichokes, heirloom tomato and basil puree Chef Fabio Trabocchi takes two ubiquitous (and usually very poorly executed) menu items—house made burrata and Caprese salad—and turns them into a creamy, flavor-intense first course that whispers summer in your ear with every bite. 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202.628.2888<br /> <br /> 5 MIXOLOGISTS & DRINKS WE LOVE<br /> <br /> Taha Ismail, GRAFFIATO <br /> <br /> The can’t-miss Dear Rosemary mingles Tito’s Handmade Vodka, honey, yellow and lavender bitters with sprigs of the fragrant herb. Also delicious and smart: Taha Ismail’s drink dubbed Tony Star 3. 0 (named for the chef de cuisine at Bandolero). He adds Vida mezcal, cucumber, blood orange and lime to a shaker and spices it up with house made ginger beer. 707 Sixth St. NW,202. 289.3600<br /> <br /> JON ARROYO, FOUNDING FARMERS <br /> <br /> John arroyo and his cocktail magicians have introduced swizzle sticks to create well-blended sips, and we love the ingredients inside their bag of tricks, especially for the Queen’s Park Swizzle. Arroyo tells us they put lots of love into their house made falernum—two types of over proof rum, lime zest, fresh ginger and baking spices—which marinates for a few days before bottling. From there, the spicy liqueur makes the Queen sing. 1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202.822.8783 <br /> <br /> Chantal Tseng, MOCKINGBIRD HILL <br /> <br /> It is the summer of sherry, and the new hot spot in Shaw stocks 50 types of the ever versatile fortified Spanish wine that became Chantal Tseng’s obsession after several trips to Jerez. Her Bamboo cocktail stirs fino sherry with Dolin dry vermouth, orange bitters and lemon peel. It’s a “magically complex cocktail with great simplicity,” says Tseng. 1843 Seventh St. NW, 202.316.9396<br /> <br /> Eddie Kim, DAIKAYA The sip pays homage to the city Eddie Kim once called home. For the Empress of Stockholm, he shakes up Right gin, Dimmi Liquore di Milano, brown rice vinegar syrup and Swedish herb bitters, and tops it with a smack of Thai basil. Don’t forget to try the Japanese whiskey ceremony. 705 Sixth Street NW, 202.589.1600 <br /> <br /> Jon Harris, FIREFLY Jon Harris recently added a riff to his Gentry Cove Punch: gin, fresh strawberry juice, Earl Grey tea and violet essence. For his Sunday Afternoon Picnic Special, he adds hot milk to a mixture of cucumber- and kaffir lime-infused vodka, lime juice, cucumber juice and sugar, which curdles and is then strained. 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW, 202.861.1310<br /> <br /> 5 AMAZING DESSERTS<br /> <br /> 1. THE INN AT LITTLE WASHINGTON Bitter chocolate marquise Chef-proprietor Patrick O’Connell created this as a tribute to a dessert he enjoyed at Paris’ Taillevent restaurant more than three decades ago. A terrine of 72 percent dark chocolate is paired with pistachio ice cream, vanilla-accented creme anglaise and raspberries dressed with mint slivers. “It doesn’t register as sweet,” he says. “It’s the chocolate dessert that no child would like!” 309 Middle St., Washington, Va., 540.675.3800<br /> <br /> 2. RANGE Meyer lemon curd tartlet Sitting atop a cardamom sugared shortbread, this sweetly tangy confection comes with blood orange sorbet and a smooth passion fruit semifreddo rolled in desiccated coconut. White chocolate petals, passion fruit pearls and a swipe of slightly singed meringue complete this celebration of citrus from Pastry Chef Johnny Miele. 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202.803.8020 <br /> <br /> 3. RASIKA WEST END Coconut bebinca Mango panna cotta and 30 layers of nutmeg-spiced coconut crepes form this towering tribute to the classic Goan dessert. A zigzag of chocolate-chili sauce adds sweet heat, while housemade coconut ice cream brings creamy cool. It’s the perfect partnership between Pastry Chef Barry Bowser’s classic European techniques and Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam’s forward-thinking approach to Indian cuisine. 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW, 202.466.2500<br /> <br /> 4. ROGUE 24 Coconut and cucumber “Desserts are edible art,” says Pastry Chef Giane Cavaliere. That would make this fantastical finale a Dali. A shard of cucumber meringue juts from a sea of coconut tapioca, complemented by vibrant pineapple sorbet, carmine-hued sorrel flowers and compressed cakes. It creates a smooth transition between the savory and sweet courses at this modernist hangout. 922 N St. NW, 202.408.9724 <br /> <br /> 5. WOODWARD TABLE Pear tart You’ve had pears and blue cheese before, but not like this. Pastry Chef Beverly Bates offers a circle of sweet, tender Bartlett slices sprinkled with cinnamon sugar sit at the center of a buttery crust with a scoop of rich Gorgonzola ice cream. 1426 H St. NW, 202.347.5353<br /> <br /> MINIBAR + BARMINI <br /> <br /> This José Andrés gastro playground is a fantastical trip down the culinary and mixology rabbit hole. With more than 20 courses ($225), you’ll enjoy edible wizardry galore—spheres, smokes and snowballs. Order the Celebration pairing ($125) to enjoy your modernist meal with a stellar selection of sparkling sips. 855 E St. NW, 202.393.0812<br /> <br /> 5 OVER-THE-TOP EXPERIENCES<br /> <br /> CITYZEN <br /> <br /> Made from single-vineyard pinot noir grapes, the 1995 Clos d’Ambonnay is one of the rarest and most expensive Champagnes in the world. This blanc de noirs sparkler boasts complex fruit notes and a price tag of $5,600. 1300 Maryland Ave. SW, 202. 787.6006<br /> <br /> BLACKSALT <br /> <br /> Nothing compares to the pop of ultrapremium caviar on the tongue. The briny, buttery Kaluga runs $250 an ounce, but it’s worth every penny. Eat it unadorned, or spoon it on a warm blini dressed with micro-chopped onion, a dab of creme fraiche and a little chopped egg. Truly divine. 4883 MacArthur Blvd. NW, 202.342.9101<br /> <br /> BOURBON STEAK <br /> <br /> The Hanyu distillery went out of business in 2000, but a few casks of their highly prized whiskey survived. These Japanese single malts were released as Ichiro Akuto’s limited-edition card series. For $175, you can try a trio of them and enjoy a taste of history. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202.944.2026<br /> <br /> PLUME <br /> <br /> Celebrate a little independence by ordering the 1776 Food and Wine Experience at The Jefferson’s four-star restaurant. Wine Director Michael Scaffidi pairs the seven course extravaganza with exquisite vintages sourced from regions where the hotel’s presidential namesake once traveled. The meal culminates with a glass of Madeira from 1790. The cost? $1,776, of course. 1200 16th St. NW, 202.448.2300<br /> <br /> 5 CHEFS OF THE MOMENT<br /> <br /> 1. MARJORIE MEEKBRADLEY, RIPPLE <br /> <br /> People took notice of this Mike Isabella protege at Graffiato, but now Marjorie Meek-Bradley is deservedly making a name for herself as the new chef at Ripple in Cleveland Park, serving up clever, unpretentious American dishes with Mediterranean flavors. 3417 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202.244.7995<br /> <br /> 2. VICTOR ALBISU, DEL CAMPO When he was at BLT Steak, Victor Albisu managed to overcome the constraints of a steakhouse menu and sneak in Latin flavors. At his flagship restaurant, Del Campo, Albisu brings a fresh, clean concept to the DC market: a South American asado-style menu that fully embraces grill culture of Argentina and Uruguay. 777 I St. NW, 202.289.7377 <br /> <br /> 3. ERIK BRUNER YANG, TOKI UNDERGROUND Night after night, this wunderkind proves he’s no flash in the pan, with dishes (ramen to remember) that are both daring and skilled beyond his years. Maketto is the next project for the former musician from the band Pash, and the eatery will be no less ambitious—or savory. 1234 H St. NW, 202.388.3086<br /> <br /> 4. JOHNNY MONIS, KOMI AND LITTLE SEROW Notoriously press-shy Johnny Monis won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic this spring for his unwavering commitment to the two superlative Dupont Circle restaurants (one above the other), where seats remain impossibly difficult to snag. 1509 17th St. NW, 202.332.9200<br /> <br /> 5. AUSTIN FAUSETT, TRUMMER’S ON MAIN He’s the new kid in town—with a pedigree that includes a stint as sous chef at the estimable The Inn at Little Washington. This Wisconsin native delivers a revamped menu worth the drive to Clifton to discover. Standouts include Chesapeake Bay rockfish, prosciutto-wrapped pork loin and Muscovy duck breast. 7134 Main St., Clifton, Va., 703.266.1623<br /> <br /> 5 GREAT CHEF’S TABLES<br /> <br /> AL DENTE <br /> <br /> Dubbed Roberto’s 4, this quartet of kitchen counter seats allows chef Roberto Donna to recreate the magic of his award-winning Galileo. During 15 to 20 courses, he’s your personal chef, offering everything from offbeat offal to hearty pastas and classically prepared seafood. 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW, 202. 244.2223<br /> <br /> BRASSERIE BECK VIPs have a front-row view of the open kitchen at Robert Wiedmaier’s bustling Belgian brew house. We recommend the five-course dinner paired with hand selected beers, like the restaurant’s exclusive Antigoon blonde ale. 1101 K St. NW, 202.408.1717<br /> <br /> VOLT You sit at the center of the culinary action when booking Table 21 at bryan Voltaggio’s Frederick flagship. The Top Chef contender recently revised the experience, so now diners enjoy a dozen small courses complemented by nine little bites. This summer, dishes will showcase freshly harvested ingredients from the courtyard garden, like pears, strawberries, chamomile and wood sorrel. 228 N. Market St., Frederick, Md., 301. 696.8658<br /> <br /> Blue Duck Tavern <br /> <br /> You get a private dining room when reserving the 18-seat chef’s table at this impeccably executed New American restaurant. Executive Chef Sebastien Archambault serves the season’s bounty family style, which might include green tomatoes topped with fresh burrata, and Maryland soft-shell blue crabs dressed with a refreshing cucumber sauce. 1201 24th St. NW, 202.419.6755<br /> <br /> RASIKA WEST END <br /> <br /> Visit the lower-level kitchen, where Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam prepares a modernist Indian meal right in front of you and seven of your closest friends. The menu might include new starters, such as flash-seared tuna on a bed of sun-dried mango or crispy spheres of lamb coronated with quail’s eggs. 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW, 202.466.2500<br /> <br /> 5 RESTAURANTS TO SEE AND BE SEEN<br /> <br /> 1. LE DIPLOMATE The small bar of this Logan Circle brasserie fills up quickly because it’s the perfect place to eye the center of the main room and the front door. Also a prime location—and owner Stephen Starr’s perch of choice—is table 112, a small booth to the right of the front door. 1601 14th St. NW, 202.332.3333<br /> <br /> 2. THE SOURCE Nancy Pelosi, the Obamas, John Legend, Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court justices... you get the idea. Close to the Hill, sleek, modern and discreet, The Source attracts all the luminaries, who can’t get enough of chef Scott Drewno’s exciting renditions of Chinese food. 575 Pennsylvania<br /> Ave. NW, 202.637.6100<br /> <br /> 3. UNION MARKET On the weekends, DC’s trendsetters converge at this chic market to slurp down Rappahannock oysters, drink Champagne and shop at Amanda McClements Salt & Sundry. Local chefs meet at Buffalo & Bergen and trade stories over knishes and cocktails. 1309 Fifth St. NE, 301.652.7400<br /> <br /> 4. FIOLA Senators, congressmen and Supreme Court justices regularly dine here, while staffers, lobbyists and lawyers do business all around them. The extra bonus comes from cozying up to mixologist Jeff Faile’s bar for knockout cocktails. 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202.628.2888 <br /> <br /> 5. CHARLIE PALMER STEAK Sure, the porterhouse for two and culotte steak draw the crowds, but look beyond the exceptional hand-cut fries in your hand and spot Hill power brokers and professional athletes in the elegant space. Well executed dishes and warm service keep the buzz as relevant as ever here. 101 Constitution Ave. NW, 202.547.8100<br /> <br /> TO LEARN AND DINE<br /> <br /> Homage to Fromage<br /> <br /> LaVonia Carter, the maitre d’fromage at Old Hickory Steakhouse, is an unassuming woman with a quick smile who often lets her parade of artisanal cheeses—set under glass in a cheese cart—do the talking. Known to convert cheese-haters into disciples, Carter says she adores introducing people to cheeses they never thought they’d enjoy. “I believe in trying the right cheese at the right time. Bloomy rind, washed rind and pungent bleus can be intimidating. But when cheese has been aged properly—and served at its peak ripeness—it can be a truly incredible experience,” she says. To be sure, patrons can pick up educational tidbits from Carter during dining experiences, but now the cheese diva packs her lessons of sweet pungency into a 90-minute crash course. Each Saturday afternoon, Carter and Executive Chef Matthew Sheppard masterfully pair three excellent cheeses with three wines and then discuss cheese history, production, proper aging (affinage) and how to successfully marry wines and cheeses. Old Hickory Steakhouse, 201 Waterfront St., Oxon Hill, Md., 301.965.4000<br /> <br /> 5 TRENDS DEFINING DC<br /> <br /> TASTEMAKERS<br /> <br /> 1. FIRED UP Where there’s smoke, there’s a wood-fired grill. Peer into kitchens, past the stacks of hickory, and you’ll find customized sizzler systems adding a hit of haze. The Red Hen’s chef Michael Friedman uses his to smoke ricotta and grill chicken, while chef-owner Victor Albisu uses his sweeping setup at Del Campo to char pretty much everything— including cocktails and ceviches.<br /> <br /> 2. OUI, OUI! Parlez-vous français? You can practice the new language of love at Le Diplomate, Frederik de Pue’s Table and Ashok Bajaj’s NoPa, which brings a Parisian sensibility to bistro fare.<br /> <br /> 3. THROUGH THE DRINKING GLASS Simple highball glasses are out. Barmini uses an array of antique barware, including a coupe glass supposedly modeled on Marie Antoinette’s curves. The focus is on vintage-vibed tiki gear at Farmers Fishers Bakers, where the mixologists enjoy setting volcano bowls ablaze.<br /> <br /> 4. GAME ON Hunting for a taste of the wild side? You can dig your claws into outback-inspired sausages— including alligator andouille, rattlesnake links and wild boar brats—at Fat Shorty’s in Arlington, while Executive Chef Michael Hartzer has ostrich and bison in his sights at Teddy & the Bully Bar.<br /> <br /> 5. BOTTLE TALES You might need a bottle opener the next time you order a cocktail. Bar Pilar’s Beverage Director Jonathan Fain offers a tequila sunset slushy served in a miniature Patron ewer; mixologists at Range and the Coupe have both bottled boozy beverages; and Mike Isabella will offer capped-off cocktails at Kapnos when it opens later this summer.