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Thompson Italian's pasta ingredients // Photo: Kelli Scott

New and Notable: Anju, CUT, Modena 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

Anju
Open: August 26
Location: Dupont Circle
Lowdown: The original Mandu has been transformed into a new restaurant from the Fried Rice Collective. It’s the second new concept from the group behind CHIKO, comprised of chef Danny Lee, chef Scott Drewno and partner Drew Kim. Anju is a contemporary Korean restaurant and pub inspired by the country’s culinary and cultural traditions, from street markets to royal court cuisine. The kitchen is overseen by executive chef Angel Barreto, who worked with Danny’s mother, chef Yesoon Lee of Mandu, to develop the menu. “Mama Lee’s Classics” like bibim bap and dak jjim, appear alongside Korean pub fare (‘anju’ refers to food eaten with alcohol) and modern creations. Start a meal with a selection of panchan, from sweet lotus root and gardenia-pickled baby radish to shredded bellflower root and house-fermented kimchi. The shareable bar snacks like the tornado potato and pan-fried pork and kimchi mandu are perfect to pair with a glass of soju or a teapot of infused makgeolli sparkling rice wine. 1805 18th St. NW, DC; www.anjurestaurant.com

CUT by Wolfgang Puck
Open: August 5
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: Chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck debuted his second restaurant in DC – a mid-Atlantic iteration of CUT. The upscale steak restaurant has locations around the world, including Las Vegas and Doha. Puck wanted DC’s CUT to be rooted in the bounty of the region. That’s exactly what executive chef Andrew Skala has done, with a kitchen where vegetables and seafood shine just as brightly as the red meat. Skala has worked at Puck’s various restaurants for the last 13 years and he’s now building relationships with local farmers and fishermen to build his menu. It begins in the garden, with a coal-fired artichoke salad and charred leeks presented in a single translucent layer topped with Meyer lemon and toasted hazelnuts. The seafood bar offers bright ceviches, oysters and sashimi. The beef selection spans nose to tail, with steak tartare, oxtail bouillon, wagyu beef heart and beef cheek as well as the headlining cuts like dry-aged sirloin and a whopping porterhouse. The whole duck playfully is presented as tacos, with myriad toppings on a Lazy Susan. Don’t miss the chance to see a live cocktail show – old fashioneds are dispensed via a roving cocktail cart featuring various WhistlePig whiskies. 1050 31st St. NW, DC; www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/washington-dc/dining/Cut

Modena
Open: September 9
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: A decade after Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca opened downtown, restaurateur Ashok Bajaj decided to give his Italian restaurant a makeover. The space underwent a quick design refresh and extensive menu change before reopening as a brand-new concept. Modena is helmed by executive chef John Melfi, who previously served as the executive chef of Bajaj’s restaurant, The Oval Room. He’s worked with other big names in DC including Robert Wiedmaier, Fabio Trabocchi and Jeff Buben. In his current role, he aims to prove that fine dining can be fun, with unique touches like an antipasti trolley showcasing a rotating selection of salads, charcuterie and savory tarts on attractive vintage china. While much of the menu is seasonally driven by local products, the cuisine also spotlights imported ingredients from the restaurant’s namesake city, like balsamic vinegar, mortadella, prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano. House-made pastas are not to be missed, especially the potato gnocchi with water buffalo butter and shaved truffles. Adept at both savory and sweet techniques, Melfi also oversees the desserts, which are as aesthetic as they are delicious. 1100 New York Ave. NW, DC; www.modenadc.com

Thompson Italian
Open: August 14
Location: Falls Church
Lowdown: Katherine Thompson’s move to open a neighborhood restaurant in Falls Church felt like a homecoming for the pastry chef, who grew up in Arlington. She and her husband, chef Gabe Thompson, moved back to the area after working in high end kitchens and running Italian restaurants in New York. They wanted to be close to family and to create a place where refined fare and a kids’ menu weren’t mutually exclusive. Thompson Italian is just that, welcoming diners young and old to enjoy shareable small plates, seasonal salads, hearty entrées and of course, Gabe’s fresh pasta made from scratch. Adults will appreciate the ricotta gnocchi with lamb ragu or sweet corn ravioli, while pint-sized diners can mix and match their pasta shape and sauce. Katherine handles the dessert menu, which includes Italian staples like cannoli, budino and affogato. The clear favorite is the rich olive oil cake with crème fraiche mousse, raisin marmellata and maldon salt. 124 N. Washington St. Falls Church, VA; www.thompsonitalian.com

NOTABLE

New Kitchens on the Block 6
Date: October 20
Location: Mess Hall
Lowdown: It’s all about anticipation – New Kitchens on the Block is one of the most anticipated food events of the year because it offers a sneak peek at some of the most anticipated new restaurants of the year before they even open. The sixth edition boasts an impressive lineup, including Maialino Mare by restaurateur Danny Meyer and chef Rose Noel, Hi/Fi Taco by chef Nate Anda, Cranes by chef Pepe Moncayo, Tabla by Jonathan and Laura Nelms of Supra, Soko by chef Brad Feickert and restaurateur Chris Brown, Pearl’s Bagels by owners Allee and Oliver Cox and more. 703 Edgewood St. NE, DC; www.eventbrite.com

Snallygaster
Date: October 12
Location: Pennsylvania Avenue
Lowdown: Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s monstrous beer and food festival is back with a new and improved ticket model. This year, beer enthusiasts will pay one price for admission and unlimited beer and wine tastings. The event brings together more than 150 brewers pouring more than 400 craft brews on draft. In addition, there will be local food trucks, live music and more. As usual, proceeds from the event benefit the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture. On Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 6th Streets in NW, DC; www.snallygasterdc.com

Unite the District
Date: October 4-5
Location: Audi Field
Lowdown: For the first time, D.C. United is hosting a food, music and arts festival. Unite the District will take place over two days, highlighting the city’s culture with local chefs, brewers, musicians and artists. Tickets include unlimited tastings from more than 20 restaurants and 10 breweries and live music by Black Alley and White Ford Bronco. The event will also have interactive art installations, cooking competitions and more. 100 Potomac Ave. SW, DC; www.unitethedistrict.com

Photo: courtesy of The Study

The Study at Morrison House Brings Cocktails to Cozy Alexandria Space

It has always been said to never judge a book by its cover, at least that was always told to me as a child. This is how I felt as I approached Morrison House, a new member of the Autograph collection. As I opened the door I was greeted by a softly lit entrance with a fresh linen scent, almost as if I stepped right off King Street into a storybook, providing a quiet reprieve from the heat and chaos of the outside. I was swiftly swept into a cozy bar area, immediately made to feel at home.

The Study at Morrison House is an intimate bar located within Morrison House, a boutique hotel. Situated in a small residential street, just a block over from the hustle and bustle of King Street, they specialize in a seasonal rotation of small plates and signature house-made cocktails.

As I settled into the soft leather backed bar chairs, the bartender Cynthia immediately introduced herself and offered me the signature cocktail of the evening and the rest of the summer, the Gin Chamomile Milk Punch. The punch was incredibly refreshing, and proved to be a good choice even for those who are not fans of gin. The mixture of gin and chamomile was a lovely floral experience for the tongue, and the pre-frosted glasses were a nice added touch for the warm weather.

As the taste was something I had never encountered before, I was intrigued – so much so that I asked Cynthia how it was made. The process takes two days and involves a bottle of gin and many bags of chamomile tea, eventually combined together with milk. As the process is incredibly lengthy, she informed me she gages the necessity based on any events that are being hosted at the hotel.

As I sipped my punch, I noticed the variety of ages and faces around me, telling me that while it can feel like an old fashioned hotel from the outside, you walk in and all your expectations are immediately transformed, especially with the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff. This space is made for everyone, no matter their age or food and drink favorites. Whether you want a small bite or a glass of local Virginia rosé, The Study at Morrison House has something to offer for your particular palate.

As I finished my drink, food slowly began to be passed around, starting with “Mom’s Pimento Cheese,” a creamy pimento cheese served on the flakiest crostini I have ever encountered. As soon as I finished my bite, I was able to speak to Chef Peter McCall, the mastermind behind the spot’s food program. He told me his focus was on seasonal ingredients and plates, he rotates the menu based on the fresh vegetables and other ingredients he can get from the farmer’s market. On top of that, he wanted the emphasis to be on the cocktails, with a nice flavorful bite to go along with their signature drinks. When I mentioned how much I enjoyed the pimento cheese, he smiled and said it was actually his mother’s recipe. The small plates aspect adds to the overall experience in the sense that you can hold a nice conversation and be able to enjoy rotating varieties of fresh food as well.

If you are looking for an elegant bar where you can come relax and enjoy a refreshing cocktail for a good value, The Study is the ideal place. The concept here is that of a best-kept secret, a place where you can have a cocktail and conversation, away from everything else going on. Especially in the hot days we are bound to encounter in the DC area’s summer, it is a welcome break from the overpowering haze and humidity outside.

Photo: Courtesy of ThreeLockharts PR

BLT Steak’s Fearlessly Fresh Cocktails

As summer draws to a close and cooler months await us, it’s time to ditch the sugary, syrup-based drinks that permeate summer cocktail programs in favor of something fresher. Light enough to enjoy while the heat continues but not so summery they seem out of place, BLT Steak’s Drink Your Veggies program from beverage director James Nelson features fresh fruits and vegetables in every drink.

The result is potent and refreshing drinks without the sugar that cocktail connoisseurs know can lead to overpowering a drink’s complex flavors – or a dreaded headache the next day. And since the drinks are made on the spot with farm-to-table ingredients, you’re guaranteed vibrance in every sip.

For an elevated take on the orange juice and vodka, look no further than the What’s Up Doc. The vinegar in the  carrot shrub keeps the Orange Hangar 1 Vodka-based drink refreshingly tart, while cinnamon adds a dash of fall flavor to the vividly colored cocktail.

Most of us could use some more greens in their diet. The Don’t Forget The Fennel definitely counts – it even has slivers of nutritious beets floating in it. The bite from the fennel and lime paired with Bombay Sapphire gin and refreshing cucumber will make you forget there’s even a healthy ingredient in this drink.

But the real highlight of Nelson’s menu is a wildly creative take on a simple dish that has taken breakfast menus by storm. The Have Your Toast and Eat It Too is all the ingredients of avocado toast condensed into a cocktail – a dream for any millennial and/or avocado lover.

This isn’t just a drink that relies on recreations of the flavors in avocado toast, though. Hendricks Gin is the perfect vehicle for fresh, muddled avocado. Nelson makes a tangy and refreshing tomato soda to add some effervescence to the concoction, and it’s finished with an everything bagel rim and lemon slice. The result is a creamy, bubbly drink that would beat a Bloody Mary in a contest for the best brunch drink with flying colors.

BLT Steak: 1625 I St. NW, DC; 202-689-8999; www.bltrestaurants.com/blt-steak/washington-d-c/