Photo: courtesy of Junction

New and Notable: Bandoola Bowl, Cane, Chop Shop Taco and More

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

New

Bandoola Bowl
Open: April 23
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: The team behind Mandalay in Silver Spring has moved into the fast-casual game with a new Burmese salad shop named after two national heroes: General Maha Bandoola (or Bandula) and his namesake elephant. Bandoola Bowl takes the most popular recipes from the restaurant and gives them the bowl treatment. A staple of Burmese cuisine, the salads are all about texture. They start with a base of shredded cabbage and thinly sliced vegetables like carrots, peppers and onions. Each salad is customized with a star vegetable, fruit or protein like green beans, tomato, ginger, papaya, mango, fried tofu, steamed shrimp, grilled chicken or roasted pork. To finish it off, they are dressed in a mix of citrus and fish sauce and topped with toss-ins like fried garlic and shallots, crispy yellow split peas, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds. The menu offers a curated selection of bowls, but you can also make each your own by adding protein or veggies. The salads can be made to order, or you can grab a ready-made one if you’re in a hurry. You can pair the bowls with naan-style breads plus seasonal soups and specials. End on a sweet note with a shweji: a Burmese semolina cake. 1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bandoolabowl.com

Cane
Open: April 22
Location: H Street
Lowdown: After rave reviews of his jerk wings and smoked meats at Spark at Engine Company 12, chef Peter Prime now has his own restaurant where he can share his family recipes and the flavors of his heritage. The Trinidadian chef opened Cane with his sister Jeanine Prime, and the two are serving Caribbean street food paired with tropical cocktails. There is some overlap from the menu at Spark, but there are plenty of new things to try like cow heel souse and spicy oxtail stew. The most fun way to dine is with the paratha tiffin box, a stack of stainless-steel tins filled with curries – either veggie (potato, channa and butternut squash) or meat and poultry (beef and chicken) – and Indian flatbread. Street food classics like doubles topped with cumin-spiced chickpeas are represented as well. The bar is stocked with the Prime family’s favorite rums, which can be enjoyed with fresh juices made in-house or in Caribbean cocktails like the Carnival with two kinds of rum, coconut orgeat syrup, pineapple shrub and angostura bitters and the Purple Poison with white rum, sorrel-basil syrup and lime.403 H St. NE, DC; www.cane-dc.com

Chop Shop Taco
Open: May 1
Location: Alexandria
Lowdown: An old chop shop in Alexandria has gone from garage to taco joint. The original garage door and floor remain, the old lift is being used for table legs, the banquettes look like the seating in a classic car, the dining chairs resemble old-fashioned sports car bucket seats, and the plateware is reminiscent of hubcaps and mirrors. The rest of the mechanical operation has been replaced by knives and gadgets for a different kind of chopping. The menu mixes and matches various cuisines, fusing them into one. Choose from tacos like pork roasted in banana leaves topped with cilantro, radish, salsa and pickled red cabbage or quirky small plates like “fried rice” – cheese croquettes with huitlacoche and porcini mushrooms – and smashed avocado with pomegranate and za’atar. The casual spot invites you to order food at the counter and seat yourself. Beverage director Jon Schott designed the seasonal cocktail menu, using only homemade ingredients and citrus juiced daily. His current menu features variations on margaritas like a mezcal version with orange juice, agave and Tajín or the Garden Grove with jalapeño, mint, lime and cucumber bubbles. There are also twists on classic cocktails like the Corpse Reviver with mezcal, plus wine and beer including a house Mexican-style golden lager by Founders Brewing Company. 1008 Madison St. Alexandria, VA; www.chopshoptaco.com

Nicoletta Italian Kitchen & Brew’d
Open: April 19
Location: Mount Vernon Triangle
Lowdown: James Beard Award-winning chef Michael White has expanded his restaurant empire in DC. White’s Altamarea Group is behind Osteria Morini in Navy Yard, and now he’s brought Midwestern-style pizza and Italian “lunchables” to Mount Vernon Triangle. Nicoletta Italian Kitchen is an evolved version of the Nicoletta Pizzeria concept, adding house-made pastas, fried snacks like arancini and veggie fritto misto, three types of meatballs, and rotating parms to the menu. Pizza is still front and center, and the thick crust (made with dough fermented for three days) is sturdy enough to stand up to heaps of toppings like fried eggplant and mozzarella or thick-cut pepperoni and fennel sausage. The cooking is classic and comforting, evocative of the spirit of the Italian piazza that White aimed to bring to life. Next door to the neighborhood restaurant, you’ll find Brew’d coffee shop. An oval coffee bar is the heart of the compact space, serving espresso drinks, fior di latte soft-serve affogatos, cold brew soft-serve floats, DC-made snacks, and to-go boxes of Italian meats, cheeses and olives. Pastries and breads are made fresh daily, ranging from biscotti, muffins and scones to Sicilian pizza bread and ciabatta breakfast panini. 901 4th St. NW,DC; www.nicolettakitchen.com & www.drinkbrewd.com

Notable

The Conservatory at Gravitas
Location:
Ivy City
Lowdown: Chef Matt Baker already goes to great lengths to keep things Gravitas, but he’s taking it one step further with the opening of  The Conservatory, a garden café on the restaurant’s roof. The space includes 16 open-air seats surrounded by a functioning garden brimming with edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs in raised garden beds and hydroponic planters. Curation and maintenance of the garden is a joint effort between Gravitas and Up Top Acres. There are also 32 seats in a glass-enclosed bar and lounge designed to resemble a greenhouse. The rooftop will be open Thursday through Sunday for evening cocktails and bites, as well as brunchtime weekend service. The menu offers tartines, raw bar standards, cheese, charcuterie, cocktails, house-made pastries, coffee and tea. Of course, the food and drink menus feature seasonal produce, herbs and microgreens, much of it from the roof itself. 1401 Okie St. NE, DC; www.gravitasdc.com

Dinner Service at Junction Bakery & Bistro
Location:
Del Ray
Lowdown: Soon after chef James Duke joined pastry chef Jonni Scott and the team at Junction, they launched a dinner menu that extends the daytime coffee shop and bakery into a family- and wallet-friendly evening gathering space. Duke changes the menu often, but many of the offerings are Asian-inspired and there are several simple but quality family-style dishes designed to feed a crowd on a budget. Highlights include the Thai street noodle bowl with vermicelli, shredded chicken and red curry, the General Tso’s cauliflower, and the Memphis-ish slow smoked pork ribs with spiced honey glaze. Don’t skip dessert because Scott’s pastry selection is divine, from pistachio red fruit mousse to butterscotch eclairs. 1508 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.junctionbakery.com

Lani Furbank

Lani Furbank is a freelance food, drinks, and lifestyle writer based in the D.C. area. She was born and raised in Northern Virginia, but stays true to her Welsh-Taiwanese heritage by exploring new places and experimenting with recipes from around the world. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @lanifurbank or read her work at www.LanisCupOfTea.com.