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Thamee // Photo: Mariah Miranda

New and Notable: Blend 111, Laos in Town, Queen’s English 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

Blend 111
Open:
May 18
Location:
Vienna
Lowdown:
Tech CEO Michael Biddick has long had a passion for food, wine and coffee, so when he got out of the business of software startups, opening a restaurant was a natural next step. A Vienna resident, Biddick often wished for an upscale, modern restaurant in his neighborhood. Blend 111 was born out of that need, and soon, neighbors invested to make the restaurant a reality. The name is a nod to the many influences involved. The investing families’ connections to Venezuela, France and Spain drove the menu, Biddick’s extensive wine knowledge shaped the beverage program, and a sense of responsibility to sustainability resulted in careful sourcing, compostable to-go containers, a composting program, renewable energy and carbon offsets for imported goods. Chef Abby McManigle, whose resume boasts several respected West Coast restaurants including Chez Panisse, works to source ingredients for her seasonal menus as locally as possible – within a 200-mile radius of the building. The summer menu stars dishes like a watermelon salad that mimics watermelons on the vine in a garden, a Mediterranean grilled octopus dish with pepperonata, green garbanzo bean puree and crispy shallots, and Venezuelan arepas with manchego and cotija cheese. Biddick, a certified sommelier and author, created a wine list that shines a light on small-batch French and Spanish wines – organic or biodynamic – that lack representation in the U.S. He also roasts organic coffee in house for the espresso bar. 111 Church St. NW, Suite 101, Vienna, VA; www.blend111.com

Laos in Town
Open:
April 30
Location:
NoMa
Lowdown:
Two Bangkok natives enamored with the flavors of Laos have opened a new restaurant to share the cuisine they fell in love with. Fresh off a research and development trip to Laos, restaurateur Nick Ongsangkoon and chef Ben Tiatasin opened Laos in Town in NoMa. Ongsangkoon is also a co-owner of Thai restaurant Soi 38. Tiatasin managed the front of the house at Bangkok Golden and Thip Khao, and also worked as a chef at Esaan. Tiatasin’s menu focuses on traditional Laotian food with other Southeast Asian influences sprinkled throughout. Standbys like papaya salad and crispy rice salad are represented, as well as less familiar selections like marinated, deep-fried quail and basa fish steamed in banana leaves with curry paste and herbs. Many of the items can be made vegan, and there’s an entire menu dedicated to vegan options. The two desserts – coconut custard or fresh mango – are both accompanied by a sweet sticky rice, lightly tinted green by pandan leaves. The bar offers wines, cocktails with Southeast Asian ingredients, and Laotian and local beer. The windows at the bar open to a large sidewalk patio, and the modern, airy interior is punctuated by traditional touches like birch trees lining the walls and fishing traps hanging from the ceiling. 250 K St. NE, DC; www.laosintown.com

Queen’s English
Open:
April 10
Location:
Columbia Heights
Lowdown:
Chef Henji Cheung, who grew up in Hong Kong, has teamed up with his wife Sarah Thompson to bring the cuisine of his childhood to DC. Cheung runs the kitchen, while Thompson leads the front of the house and beverage program. The two met working in the industry in New York at Little Beet Table. Their synergy has produced a restaurant that features food Cheung is passionate about, alongside Asian-influenced cocktails, beer, cider and natural wines. The food menu is succinct but jumps all over the map with flavorful vegetables like soy-braised enoki mushrooms with a coddled egg and bok choy with XO sauce, as well as show-stopping proteins like crispy fried, salt-and-pepper blowfish with goji berry and a golden half-chicken lacquered with soy sauce and seasoned with lots of ginger and scallion. Other crowd favorites include the two-tone, hand cut noodles dyed with squid ink and the soft daikon fritters showered in pork sung. The cocktail list is topped by two barrel-aged blends: a medicinal Manhattan and a Chinese five-spice negroni. There are also lighter options like the Lilibet with mezcal, damiana flower, pineapple and ashberry. While walk-ins are welcome for the dining room, chefs counter and patio, they also offer limited reservations. 3410 11th St. NW, DC; www.queensenglishdc.com

Thamee
Open:
May 15
Location:
H Street
Lowdown:
For mother-daughter duo Jocelyn Law-Yone and Simone Jacobson, Thamee is a deeply personal restaurant. The name means daughter in Burmese, which is a word Law-Yone’s daughters knew growing up even though they didn’t speak the language. Law-Yone was born in Burma and says she comes from a family of storytellers, with food and laughter at the center of her upbringing. Jacobson was born in the U.S. and says food is what connected her to her heritage. The pair, along with a third co-owner, Eric Wang, aim to share the stories and tastes of Burma with curious diners in DC. While Burmese cuisine is influenced by bordering nations China, Thailand and India, there are many ingredients and dishes unique to the country. Specialties like pickled tea leaf salad, white flower mushroom salad, mohinga – a catfish curry typically eaten for breakfast – and butterfly pea flower negroni are rare finds, even in a city with a robust Asian dining scene. Colorful decorative touches in the space complement the food, like tabletops based on colorful Burmese tribal textiles and custom aprons made with traditional fabrics from Law-Yone and Jacobson’s personal collections. The family restaurant has a diverse team behind it made up of industry veterans, refugees and first-generation Americans speaking 10 different languages. Thamee also supports diversity in their partners with beer supplied by Sankofa Beer, the city’s only black-owned brewery, and coffee from Nguyen Coffee Supply, the first Vietnamese-American-owned importer, supplier and roaster of coffee beans from Vietnam. 1320 H St. NE, DC; www.thamee.com

Notable

New Pastry Chef at Kith & Kin
Location:
The Wharf
Lowdown:
The law of attraction is clearly at work at Kith & Kin. Chef, newly minted author and James Beard Award-winner Kwame Onwuachi recently added another rising star to his team. Pastry chef Paola Velez joined the Afro-Caribbean restaurant this spring, bringing her tropical flair to the dessert menu. Velez trained under chocolatier Jacque Torres and was recently recognized by RAMW for her work at Iron Gate. She grew up in New York and the Dominican Republic, the latter cultivating her love of tropical fruits. Highlights on her new menu include a Caribbean rum cake accented with sorrel leaves and passion fruit sorbet, and a chai soft-serve sundae topped with Nigerian puff puffs – a sweet fried dough. 801 Wharf St. SE, DC; www.kithandkindc.com

New Wine Director at Jug & Table
Location:
Adams Morgan
Lowdown:
Casual neighborhood wine bar Jug & Table is heading off the beaten path with their wine program, now helmed by sommelier Chas Jefferson. The new list of more than 30 wines by the glass and eight on tap showcases rustic table wines from small, thoughtful producers. The selections will change seasonally, but the focus remains on sustainable, natural, biodynamic and organic wines. This inaugural list introduces more obscure varietals and emerging regions, offering a chance to try grapes and producers you might have never heard of. Jefferson keeps things approachable yet stimulating, and he can expertly suggest a fascinating new pour that will appeal to a guest’s preferences while expanding their understanding of wine. First floor of 2446 18th St. NW, DC; www.jugandtable.com

Spotlight On

Dudley’s Sport & Ale
Part American sports bar and part local crafthouse, Dudley’s brings a space to Shirlington for all types of beer drinkers to enjoy. Carrying the “sports bar” moniker, the Arlington spot features countless TVs and a 20-seat, theater-style space to catch the game. Swing by for weekend brunch with $5 champagne bottles, a “Hail Mary” Bloody Mary, frosé and frozen margaritas. And don’t exclude your furry friends – the ground-level patio is dog-friendly (weather permitting). No matter your pleasure, Dudley’s has a spot at the bar for everyone. Write-up provided by venue. 2766 S. Arlington Mill Dr. Arlington, VA; www.dudleyssportsandale.com

Photo: Rey Lopez

From Mosh Pit to Peak Foodie: Outdoor Music Venues Step Up The Gourmet Goodness

Here’s a game: free associate “summer music festival.” Sunscreen, superstars, mud, Insta, #squadgoals…

Have you gotten to “gourmet mosh pit” yet? Didn’t think so. But that’s changing fast, and summer 2019 is set to be peak foodie season. The days of cardboard pizza are fading. Concertgoers are walking in with elevatexpectations, and music venues are responding with thoughtful menus that range from creatively healthy to Instagrammable decadence.

“The words extraordinary and unexpected should describe everything, including the food,” says Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director of I.M.P., the legendary DC-based group that owns 9:30 Club and took over operations for the Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2004, waving goodbye to airline service-style food options. “We would rather err on the side of ambition.”

And ambition is absolutely the defining word for festival menus this year. Sean Kenyon, a globally acclaimed bartender and cocktail master, has been refining his processes for large-scale cocktail batching and is ready to debut his libations at Jiffy Lube Live.

“Well-executed cocktails are the result of well-executed systems,” Kenyon observes.

To make it happen, he constructed a system where the event bartenders are simply executing the final step: blending a spirit and a fresh mix.

“I look at it like we are opening a new cocktail bar every night in terms of experience expectations for bartenders, prep and visible instructions,” he says.

With a few spirits – tequila, gin, vodka – and a few mixer options that are all interchangeable, the guest gets to personalize the glass.

“We can change the ingredients within the system to maximize the guest experience without disrupting the overall operation,” Kenyon adds. “We are not just creating a cocktail menu. We are creating a system that lets us be nimble.”

Systems are also front-of-mind at Merriweather. I.M.P. ditched the previous corporate foodservice distributor – which according to Schaefer tasted like airline food because it was made by the same folks – and hired local caterers.

“We wanted the tastes of a neighborhood restaurant with an ambitious menu,” she says. “We want people to arrive hungry.”

In 2017, Wolf Trap overhauled its own menus and also broke away from corporate foodservice distributors; the venue now independently runs its own concessions.

“We took a major leap and selected a small, family-owned business that focuses on local sourcing,” says T.J. Pluck, director of food and beverage at Wolf Trap.

But well-executed systems still require a fresh feed of great ideas to execute.

“I’m a guy who likes change,” Pluck says. “We spruce up the menu every year.”

This season’s inspiration comes from a range of sources including social media, according to Pluck.

“Concertgoers love Instagrammable edibles that make people say, ‘Wow.’”

And people have a lot more exposure to strong flavors now, Schaefer adds, which means that spicier and funkier flavors are in play. Dietary restrictions can complicate menu planning but Pluck notes that “we always work hard to be sensitive and incorporate those into a concession stand environment.” Nearly all concert venues in the DC area now offer gluten-free and vegan options – something almost unheard of a decade ago at all but the most granola of festivals.

“I never thought that people would eat salad at a concert,” Pluck says.

So what can fans expect on their plates this summer?

“This year, we’re focusing on funky, fun, fair food that’s spiced up with flavors like raspberry and chipotle and funnel cake sandwiches,” is how Pluck describes the new menu at Wolf Trap.

Pluck is tapping into happy memories of growing up in the Midwest and enjoying Ohio State Fair food like elephant ears: funnel cakes, rolled, pulled, and topped with cinnamon and sugar.

“We’re always asking, ‘How can we do this better?’ and ‘What sets us apart?’ We’re always looking to raise the bar [at Wolf Trap]. For example, we’ll always serve hamburgers – but ours are made with prime beef and served on a top-of-the-line French brioche bun with arugula, aged cheddar and chipotle aioli.”

Over at Merriweather, Cathal Armstrong (of the legendary Restaurant Eve, and now The Wharf’s Kaliwa) has come on board as Merriweather’s food advisor.

“Cathal lives and breathes food creativity,” Schaefer says admiringly. “People will be coming as much for the food as for the performance.”

Guests will get to explore a menu that includes everything from freshly roasted, husk-on corn topped with Cotija cheese to a house-made jumbo lump crab cake on fresh brioche.

“They’re honestly better than in some fine dining places,” Schaefer says of Merriweather’s crab cake (her personal favorite).

Over at Jiffy Lube Live, in addition to fresh craft cocktails, fans can enjoy the buzzy Impossible Burger: a plant-based patty that bleeds and sizzles when it cooks.

“We have partnered with some great brands including Art Smith’s Art Bird, Questlove’s Impossible Cheesesteak, Guy Fieri’s burgers and new hot dog concept Dog Haus,” says Matt Rogers, Jiffy Lube’s GM and SVP for music.

“My personal favorite is the Art Bird Fried Chicken,” he says. “It is off-the-charts good.”

The folks who are overhauling menus and updating concert dining experiences are riffing off their own memories and tastes to create the perfect concert experience. Pluck is a musician and self-described band geek who says his dream job is working at Wolf Trap; he channels epic memories of concerts with Genesis (the 1992 reunion tour at Cleveland Stadium), The Police and Muse. 

Rogers finds the most fulfilling part of the job to be a providing people with an escape for two hours. Kenyon is also a musician; he pursued band life before committing himself to becoming one of the greatest bartenders in America, and his ideal festival night inspires his Jiffy Lube menu.

“It’s right at dusk, your favorite band is just coming on, the day is fading, your drink is complex and you’re surrounded by friends. Perfection.”

Learn more about the elevated fare and summer lineups at these three venues below.

Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com/venues/14407/jiffy-lube-live

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Photo: Rey Lopez

New and Notable: Hot Lola’s, La Betty, Punjab Grill 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

Hot Lola’s
Open:
March 10
Location:
Ballston Quarter
Lowdown: Himitsu’s “sauce boss” Kevin Tien has entered the hot chicken game, but he’s put a Sichuan spin on Nashville’s spicy fried specialty. Hot Lola’s is one of the highlights of Ballston Quarter’s new food hall Quarter Market. The streamlined menu makes decisions easy: sandwich, tenders or “tenderdog.” Then the question is: how hot do you want it? The scale goes from zero to 10, or from not hot to too hot. The middle of the scale is perfectly manageable, but it only gets hotter from there. The pickles, slaw and sauces (like comeback sauce and secret sauce) add an extra punch of flavor to the already punchy chicken, and then you can add sides like crispy seasoned curly fries. Even if your mouth is on fire, you can feel good about eating at Hot Lola’s thanks to the 4 percent equity surcharge Tien has opted to add to every order. This goes to ensure a fair wage and health coverage for employees, both in the kitchen and at the counter. This pacesetting provision is something Tien hopes to scale and implement at all of his current and future restaurants.4238 Wilson Blvd. Level C, Suite 112, Arlington, VA; www.hotlolaschicken.com

La Betty
Open:
March 15
Location:
Mount Vernon Triangle
Lowdown:
The family behind Baked & Wired and A Baked Joint have expanded their portfolio to include a full-service restaurant. Chef and owner Teresa Velazquez saw a need for “feel-good food” in the neighborhood and decided she wanted her kitchen to be the place where people could come for a nostalgic, home-cooked meal, even if home is thousands of miles away. The space was designed to be cozy and welcoming, with warm woods and Turkish rugs. The menu is short and sweet, with less than 20 items between shareable starters, hearty main courses and family-style sides. The recipes are inspired by Velazquez’s German heritage and the food she grew up on. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother and by the age of 12, she was regularly making dinner for her five siblings. The dishes at La Betty are simple and familiar, like corn dogs, deviled eggs, breaded chicken schnitzel with arugula salad, glazed ribs, currywurst and a roasted root vegetable galette. The beverage program is similarly concise and straightforward, offering just two beers, three wines, a cider, a draft cocktail and a few of spirits. The name of the restaurant is an homage to strong women – Velazquez says everyone has a Betty in their life. If you’re still confused, she’ll refer you to the Urban Dictionary definition.420 K St. NW, DC; www.la-betty.com

Punjab Grill
Open:
March 11
Location:
Penn Quarter
Lowdown:
People love to talk about how restaurants transport them to other places, but in the case of Punjab Grill, that idea is more literal than you would expect. The space is a slice of India that journeyed across the ocean to make it to Washington. Almost all of the design elements – walls, tables, floors, ceilings – were handmade in India, from the massive tile mosaics and the brass screens to 12,000 pounds of carved sandstone and semiprecious stones laid in marble like at the Taj Mahal. Everything had to be disassembled, carefully packed and shipped, and then reassembled upon arrival. After nearly two years of construction, the restaurant now invites guests into the opulent space for fine dining. The menu showcases the heritage of Punjabi cuisine while also experimenting with modern and global interpretations. You’ll find familiar dishes like palak paneer and chicken makhani alongside more unusual selections like jackfruit biryani and chana masala hummus. There’s also the even-more-luxurious Maharaja Menu fit for royalty, with a Punjabi version of Peking duck and a caviar service with tandoori naan. Take it one step further and book the private dining room – the Sheesh Mahal – where nearly every surface is covered in mirrors and food is served on Hermés dishware. 427 11th St. NW, DC; www.punjabgrilldc.com

Stellina Pizzeria
Open:
April 2
Location:
Union Market District
Lowdown:
You probably know them from Lupo Verde, but now Antonio Matarazzo and Matteo Venini have a spot of their own. “Follow the star” to find Stellina (little star) Pizzeria, an upscale, fast-casual concept where you can get to know the Southern Italian street food and pizza they’re dubbing neo-Neapolitan. The goal of the restaurant is to take their experience in formal dining and translate it to a casual atmosphere without sacrificing flavor or quality. Venini has developed his own style of pizza with an out-of-the-box dough that uses more water and ferments for almost three days, resulting in a lighter pie that’s easier to digest. He hopes this means you’ll eat more than one. Between traditional toppings and creative combinations, you’d be hard-pressed to choose just one anyway. Highlights include the schiacciata with mozzarella, mortadella, stracciatella and pistachios, and the cacio e pepe, which is the beloved pasta in the form of a pizza. The menu also offers street food classics like paper cones of fried vegetables and seafood, oven-fired paninis like il cuzzetiello stuffed with eggplant parm, and of course, pastas. The bright, colorful space includes a full bar, a small market, and a painting of Italian comedian and actor Totò wearing Dolce & Gabbana. 399 Morse St. NE, DC; www.stellinapizzeria.com

Notable

Kazoku Sundays at O-Ku
Location:
Union Market District
Lowdown: This chic Japanese newcomer recently debuted a family-style tasting menu available on Sunday nights. Kazoku Sundays is an eight-course meal that takes diners through izakaya-style dishes, sashimi and crudo, makimono (sushi rolls), an entrée, and dessert. It’s the perfect way to explore the entire menu at a surprisingly affordable price point. The chef changes the offerings regularly, but previous dinners have included edamame, marinated squid with wakame salad, wagyu beef gyoza, crispy vegetable egg rolls, pork donburi (rice bowl) and mochi ice cream. The menu is $35 per person. Drinks are not included.. 1274 5th St. NE, DC; www.o-kusushidc.com

New Location of TTT Mexican Diner & Buena Vida
Location:
Clarendon
Lowdown: Serbian restaurateur Ivan Iricanin ventured into Mexican cuisine in May of last year by opening Tacos, Tortas & Tequila and Buena Vida in Silver Spring. Now, he’s debuted a second location of the concepts in Clarendon, this time with acclaimed Mexico City chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo at the helm. Vázquez Lugo is known for his cooking at Nicos, named one of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants. Like their Maryland sister restaurants, TTT and Buena Vida Clarendon are two levels of the same building. Downstairs, find Mexican street food – tacos and tortas – featuring house-made bread and tortillas. Upstairs, Buena Vida focuses on traditional, indigenous fare like aguachile, dry soup and shellfish pozole. Both offer beer and wine from Mexico as well as a wide range of tequilas and other agave spirits.2900 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.tttdiner.com and www.buenavidaclarendon.com

Photos: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Call Your Mother Deli’s Daniela Moreira and Andrew Dana

There’s a calmness to Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira, a laidback vibe that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a young couple running two businesses daily. The pair are the driving force behind Petworth’s Timber Pizza Company and the newly opened Call Your Mother Deli in Park View, adding to DC’s growing community of local foodie spots with a mom-and-pop, neighborhood feel. Their “Jew-ish” deli has garnered much buzz since its October opening with lines out the door every weekend, yet another new business putting Park View on the map. We sat down with Dana (founder) and Moreira (head chef and partner) to pick their brains about how they put their own spin on a Jewish deli, why their bagel shop is at the top of every local foodie’s brunch list, and what supporting the local community means to them.

On Tap: Why does Park View feel like the right fit for your second business together? How do you think the area is changing?
Andrew Dana:
I grew up in Mount Pleasant, so I’m very familiar with the neighborhoods. For a long time, I’ve said that DC has been great at opening big, fancy restaurants and hip, new restaurants. But what it’s not good at is the neighborhood staples that have been around for generations because it’s such a transient city. We were really attracted to [Park View] because there’s not a lot of other noise going on. It’s really residential. People are putting down roots. The funny thing about this building is we looked at it before we opened Timber and then we found this really cute, perfect spot up in Petworth. Then we started turning the wheels on this bagel idea and this was coming back on the market, so it seemed like it was a sign from the bagel gods that they wanted us to open [our deli here].

OT: I heard you had lines down the block and couldn’t keep up with the crowds the first week you opened, so you closed for a little bit to rework your menu. Were you surprised at the spot’s overwhelming success right out of the gate?
AD:
We truly thought this was going to be like a neighborhood bagel shop and we’d have to do a lot of wholesale and catering to make it work. The kitchen’s not really set up for there to be a 100-person line, and that’s exactly what happened the first weekend. We had to shut down for a couple of days and make the menu a little bit more manageable. We had to keep up with the demand. We had to trim the fat and just go with the best of the best.

OT: How’s the buzz been since then?
AD:
Every weekend, we’ve had a line out the door down to the alley. Now, we’re really proud of the menu. It’s much tighter and more concise.

OT: DC’s seeing a resurgence of mom-and-pop foodie spots in up-and-coming neighborhoods, and they’re wildly popular. Why do you think that is? Why does it feel important to be part of that scene?
AD:
I’m from here so what I want above all is just for DC to be awesome. I went to grad school in New York and lived in Brooklyn, and [when] you walk around there’s pizza shops that have been around for 50 years. I want my hometown to have that same vibe, so that is what it is at its core. And the food, Dani and I just do what we like. We like the staples: pizza, bagels. And if creating stuff we really like resonates with people and helps the neighborhood out, that’s awesome. There’s not some sort of bigger master plan. It’s make food that we really, really like in neighborhoods we like and be here for the people.

OT: Did you hesitate at all with the “Jew-ish” theme? How did you decide to walk the line between the authenticity of a traditional Jewish deli and putting your own spin on it?
Daniela Moreira
: I’m not even Jewish. I was like, “I don’t know anything about Jewish traditions or anything.” So I was scared.
AD: I like “Jew-ish” because I’m half Jewish. I [don’t] think that binds us to traditions. If somebody says, “Why don’t you have chopped liver or pumpernickel?” We’re like, “Oh, it’s ‘Jew-ish.”’ And I think Dani is selling herself short. I think what Dani likes the most is the creativity and reading a ton and doing trial and error, which she got to do. She didn’t have all of these preconceived notions of what a bagel had to be. She’s from Argentina. They don’t have bagels. It was fun watching her start from scratch and learn what a bagel was supposed to be. We probably went through 100 recipes – that’s no exaggeration. She became a scholar of the bagel.

OT: I read that you did lots of research, including some trips to NYC. Was iconic Jewish deli Barney Greengrass on the list?
AD:
We went to New York. We did go to Barney Greengrass, which was awesome. We ate so many bagels, it was ridiculous.

OT: You also brought in bagels from other cities, right? What motivated those choices and what areas did you draw inspiration from?
AD:
We had bagels flown in from Montreal. We actually went to South Florida because that’s where all the older Jews retire – Boca [Raton], Delray. We were sort of taking it all in. Actually, how we finalized our [bagel] recipe is every weekend, we would do a blind taste test [versus] New York bagels that we would ship in. We didn’t stop until we were consistently beating that taste test.

OT: What staples of a Jewish deli were important to you to maintain?
AD:
The Rihanna-Flex is sort of like your classic salmon bagel, which we actually didn’t have the first week. The first week we were open, we had a classic pastrami with mustard on rye bread that we were making. It was just so crazy, it was too much, so we said, “Alright, let’s do a pastrami brisket cheesesteak” [The Greenberg]. There’s nothing totally classic on there – all twists.

OT: What personal twists did you each take? Dani, can you walk us through some of the Argentinian influences?
DM:
Well, we opened with a soup. It was a South American vegetable soup. But again, we had to change the menu to make it easier for the kitchen to execute so we took it out for now. We have black and white cookies – alfajores – filled with dulce de leche. That’s super traditional.
AD: It’s one big ass cookie.
DM: There’s no bagels in Argentina, not at all.
AD: But we have a za’atar bagel, which obviously isn’t Argentinian, but that’s also not classic. And I think we arrived there because when Dani is thinking about bagel toppings, it’s not classic, classic, classic. She’s like, “I like za’atar. I like bagels. Let’s make za’atar bagels.”

OT: What has been the most popular bagel on the menu?
AD:
At the farmers market, people do love the za’atar bagels. They [usually] sell out. And in the shop, our bacon, egg and cheese or pastrami, egg and cheese with spicy honey [The Shyne].

OT: What’s your personal favorite, or the one you’re proudest of?
AD:
I love the Craig D. We made a nectarine cream cheese with fresh nectarines that we got from the farmers market. [It’s] sliced nectarines, jalapeno, bacon and potato chips, so it’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s crunchy. And now that nectarines are out of season, we use apples, so [it’s made with] apple cream cheese and sliced apples.
DM: The Amar’e. The Amar’e is a za’atar bagel with candied salmon cream cheese and then a salad of pea shoots, cucumbers and crispy shallots. It sounds healthy. It makes you feel better when you eat it [laughs].

OT: You’ve got pizza and bagels checked off the list, so what’s next? Do you have a dream spot you’d like to open, either as a team or individually?
AD:
I mean, we’re animals and we eat nachos all the time. I don’t know if that’s a full-scale concept or not. Woodfired nachos would be a real thing too. That’s going to be a ways off. [Running two businesses] is taking a lot of energy and focus. We’re hunkering down here for a little while.

OT: What do you guys like to do when you’re not working? Do you hang mostly in Park View and Petworth?
AD:
We live in Petworth. We like exercising, travel, eating of course. We go out to eat all the time. We work out a good amount. Travel – she just got back from Costa Rica [and] I just got back from New Zealand. We’re trying to pick up squash this year. She wants to take lessons.
DM: Yeah. It’s fun.
AD: I’ll start taking lessons when she can compete with me.
DM: We’re not really fun.
AD: Yeah, we’re not that fun.
DM: We just go to sleep, eat, and that’s it [laughs].

OT: What cocktail bars and restaurants are on your radar right now?
AD:
I love Indigo, the Indian restaurant in NoMa, [and] Don Juan’s in Mount Pleasant.
DM:
I love Amsterdam Falafel[shop].
AD: She’s a French fry fanatic. It’s pretty scary, actually.
DM:
Bars? No. We don’t really drink that much. I only drink once a year when I go back home and that’s enough for the whole year [laughs], so I don’t really go out to bars here.
AD: We were at Players Club yesterday, love Players Club. My two great loves in life are basketball and food, and they have pop-a-shot basketball, so I played like 25 times yesterday [and] ate some Shake Shack. Life is good.

To learn more about Call Your Mother Deli’s menu, check out www.callyourmotherdeli.com.

Call Your Mother Deli: 3301 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.callyourmotherdeli.com

[FIRST PAGE HEADER IMAGE] Photos - Trent Johnson

 

Photo: Scott Suchman

Siren Mixes Shrubs and Seafood

The evening began ascending into a regal, underwater grotto where I wanted to reach out and touch the deep, captivating shades of blues and greens, perfectly capturing the depths of the ocean in the moonlight. Brass trim sparkled, bathed in a low golden hue emanating from the ceiling. Smooth jazz beckoned me deeper into the room. The whole effect was seductive, yet soothing. I now understand the name, Siren, as the restaurant’s atmosphere mimics the effects of a siren’s song.

Michelin-starred Siren by Robert Wiedmaier – located on the ground floor of The Darcy hotel near Logan Circle – is dedicated to seafood. The menu is constantly inspired by daily catches and its strong agricultural partnerships. However, the restaurant does more for their partners than just utilize their products; it celebrates them with FarmStead Evening dinners. This series spotlights the relationships Siren has with other regional businesses, and December 12, Siren turned the spotlight on Element Shrub: a family-run agribusiness that produces “herbal elixirs” that can be drunk on their own or incorporated into food and beverages.

The word shrub comes from the Arabic word “sharāb,” which means to drink. Shrubs are age-old beverages made from using vinegar to preserve fruits, herbs and spices. Element Shrub strictly uses organic apple cider vinegar containing raw enzymes and gut-friendly bacteria known as “the mother” as a base. With this as the foundation, a variety of fruits, herbs and spices are added for a diverse range of products.

Siren Chef Brian McBride worked with Element Shrub Founder Charlie Berkinshaw to create a five-course meal with pairings highlighting nine shrubs: blood orange saffron, honeydew jalapeno, lemon mint, cranberry hibiscus, grapefruit vanilla, pineapple turmeric, blueberry rosemary, chair pear and cranberry hibiscus. Attendees were seated in Siren’s elegant private dining space, which feels like part of the main restaurant but is secluded enough for guests to enjoy dinner with a different element of presentation and raucous conversation.

Much to my delight, we were greeted with a glass of champagne, providing a sensation only truly good champagne can. No sooner than when I placed my flute on the table, my hand held a glass once more with the welcome “Shrub Down” cocktail – a concoction of blood orange saffron soda shrub with citric honey syrup and orange bitters. Every sip was robust, a marriage of all its ingredients washing across every part of my taste buds.

However, this cocktail was nothing compared to the amuse-bouche. The dish, a salty Gigamoto oyster topped with a brilliant honeydew jalapeno shrub gelée, prompted diners at my table to perform an impromptu rock-paper-scissors match for who could eat the coveted last oyster. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me; damn the scissors.

As I was getting over my angst at not having a second oyster, a delicate bowl of bay scallops with lemon mint and spruce was set. Accompanied by “Shrubbles,” a cocktail with cranberry hibiscus shrub and sparkling wine, the scallops were the true star of the course. Perfectly paced, a bowl of peekytoe crab under a sabayon sauce of grapefruit vanilla shrub soon followed. The dish proved whimsical, unusual and perfectly pleasant.

The crescendo of the meal was not a flamboyant whole-roasted fish, but a Rohan duck with blueberry rosemary shrub, Brussels sprout leaves, black trumpet, black onion soubise and master stock brittle. For this course, I have only two things to say: first, anything that resembles spittle should firmly be left off the plate; the reign of foams and airs needs to be over. Second, the concept of stock brittle was excellent, but its execution left me feeling like a three-year-old panicked about her teeth never unsticking after biting off too much caramel candy.

The crowning jewel of the evening was the caramel pear compote made with a crispy crepe, chai pear shrub apricot sauce, toasted rice ice cream and hazelnuts. Coming from someone who is not a dessert person, this dish deserved a standing ovation. Delightfully made to look like egg rolls, every bite was crispy on the outside with a warm, soft middle full of perfectly textured sweet fruits that were heightened once paired with toasted rice ice cream.

For more information about Siren and their FarmStead Evening series, visit here. For information about Elemental Shrub, visit here.

The Darcy: 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC; 202-521-7171; www.sirenbyrw.com

Photo: Courtesy of StarChefs

StarChefs Honors Rising Stars in DC’s Culinary World

Amidst the sticky heat in June of this year, a buzz was rising from restaurants around the District. StarChefs, a platform and publication for restaurant industry professionals, was searching for “the future of American cuisine” through their Rising Stars initiative – including a stop in the nation’s capital to review the talent.

In preparation for StarChefs’ visit, prominent chefs around the city poured over their menus, determining what to put on display. One of those chefs was Drew Adams of Bourbon Steak, whose approach was simple: “Let’s have fun with it.”

Adams will be honored during the Rising Stars Awards ceremony and tasting gala at Union Market next Tuesday, December 11. Himitsu’s Kevin Tien and Kith and Kin’s Kwame Onwuachi are among the 24 local chefs accepting awards. Rising Stars is a prominent mention in the world of chefs that helps to launch and strengthen careers, highlighting those with “strong, compelling culinary philosophies and are committed to fostering a culinary community by sharing their knowledge with fellow professionals.”

Those who are familiar with Adams’ work know of his extensive experience in fine dining, as well as his love for whimsy. This was captured perfectly on a plate when he presented a scallop-on-scallop crudo dish with scallop cream made from abductor muscles and scraps. The dish was topped with chive oil, caviar and a squid ink tuile for a touch of salinity. A little-known fact about Adams is his love of foraging.

“I’m obsessed with it,” he says. “It’s nice to get out of the city and outside. I started off with ramps about five or six years ago, and then just went down the rabbit hole.”

For StarChefs, Adams plated up a tartine of chargrilled sourdough with ricotta, asparagus, peas, fiddlehead ferns, Edwards ham and pickled green tomatoes – a dish that rotates seasonally on Bourbon Steak’s menu. No prominent culinary philosophy is complete without a nod to nostalgia. For Adams, it’s a simple dish that does the trick.

“My family were not cooks,” he laughs. “My grandmother would marinate steak with Wish-Bone dressing and then throw it in the broiler and, somehow, I loved that fatty steak with the acid coming through.”

Adams elevates this fond childhood memory by marinating pork with balsamic and local maple syrup, and then caramelizing it on the grill. The pork is topped with pickled mustard seeds and charred mustard greens, and served with white balsamic and beet puree.

“The fine dining part is great, but when you have a wholesome meal with a nicely composed entrée, it makes you smile. And that’s awesome for me.”

Adams saved the best for last and, luckily for Rising Star Award attendees, his olive-fed wagyu beef is on Tuesday’s menu.

“We made and clarified miso with barley and dashi,” Adams says. “We put the seared olive-fed wagyu on top of a bed of raw mushrooms with a little chive oil on top and covered them in honey truffles.”

The truffles have a sweet yet Szechuan-like taste, making your mouth tingle. The broth will be poured tableside.

“It’s over the top,” Adams admits, chuckling.

Tickets to Tuesday’s event are available here. Awards ceremony at 6:30 p.m., gala from 7-9:30 p.m. Learn more about StarChefs’ Rising Star initiative here.

Dock5 at Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Pisco y Nazca

New and Notable: Le Kon, Little Sesame, Pisco y Nazca 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

Le Kon
Open: September 1
Location: Clarendon
Lowdown: Top Chef alum Katsuji Tanabe, who has roots in Mexico and Japan, expanded his restaurant portfolio to DC with a new Mexican restaurant that draws inspiration from Asia. Springfield native Patrick Tanyag oversees the kitchen, which delivers playful and eye-catching creations with bright ingredients like watermelon radish, pickled red onions and cucumber kimchi providing splashes of color. It’s almost like the menu was made for Instagram: an entire roasted pig head is presented tableside before being broken down into carnitas for tacos, and cotton candy is piled on a Fruity Pebbles tres leches cake. Portions are generous, with massive grilled steaks and tacos served in family-style platters so guests can build their own bites. The large dining room is accented with navy wainscoting, marble tile mosaic table tops and an industrial concrete bar. A purple and red ombre corn husk wall hanging stands out above the booths and fanciful Day of the Dead scenes play out on the wallpaper. Le Kon: 3227 Washington Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.lekonrestaurant.com

Little Sesame
Open: August 28
Location: Golden Triangle
Lowdown: The original iteration of Little Sesame was an instant hit, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first standalone location opened with a line out the door that has continued to form each day during the lunch rush. Ronen Tenne, Nick Wiseman and David Wiseman are behind this wildly popular fast-casual hummus shop that serves up hummus bowls, pita sandwiches and seasonal salatim (vegetable sides). The three formed a vision for their bright and airy restaurant by traveling – both across the U.S. and in Israel, where Tenne was born – and exploring the diversity of food and design in various kitchens. Nick Wiseman says the menu pulls from the food traditions of Middle Eastern countries like Yemen, Lebanon and Iran, all of which are reflected in Israel’s cuisine. The hummus quite literally holds it all together, so its recipe was tweaked to perfection. With only a handful of ingredients, the hummus is made daily with the highest quality chickpeas and tahini. Then, it’s enhanced by additions ranging from whole roasted vegetables and fresh produce to herbs and spices. Items like the classic bowl with chickpeas, tahini and schug and the chicken shawarma with tahini, amba and smashed cucumber salad will always be on the menu, while other offerings will change with the seasons. Expect squash, celery root, broccoli, brassicas and more this fall. Little Sesame: 1828 L St. NW, DC; www.eatlittlesesame.com

Pisco y Nazca
Open: September 3
Location: Dupont Circle
Lowdown: The Miami-based Pisco y Nazca has brought a new option for modern Peruvian cuisine to DC. Like its sister restaurants, the bar at the latest location welcomes guests with a chandelier-like bottle display, and the rest of the dining room is spacious and open. The menu has an impressive array of ceviches, including a Japanese variation, a traditional preparation and a version with mushrooms. Starters include expected items like empanadas, anticucho carne and grilled octopus. The entrée selection plays on tradition as well, with arroz con mariscos, lomo saltado and a braised lamb shank with cilantro sauce. Of course, you can pair these dishes with Peruvian cocktails like a pisco sour or a Chilcano. Pisco y Nazca: 1823 L St. NW, DC; www.piscoynazca.com/dc

St. Anselm
Open: September 17
Location: NoMa
Lowdown: Joe Carroll, the man behind St. Anselm in Brooklyn, has teamed up with restaurateur Stephen Starr and Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley to bring the grill-centric restaurant to the Union Market neighborhood. While it’s often hailed as a steakhouse, St. Anselm is about more than beef. The cooking relies heavily on fire, with everything from Spanish octopus to Romano beans, a rack of lamb and a pork porterhouse hitting the grill that sits in the center of the open kitchen. When it comes to beef, the cuts are on the unusual side, like hanger steak and flat iron. The wine list also bucks convention, featuring light, high-acid red wines over heavy oaky ones. Plus, there will be a select few ciders, craft beers and cocktails. The surroundings straddle distinguished and whimsical, with snug private booths and vintage plates juxtaposed with embroidered banners from fraternal organizations and a taxidermied raccoon. There’s also a beefsteak room where the restaurant will host special events modeled after beefsteak dinners, which were political fundraising events common in the 1850s. St. Anselm: 1250 5th St. NE, DC; www.stanselmdc.com

Notable

Mr Lee’s Pop-up at Succotash
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: Chef Edward Lee is transforming the upstairs bar and lounge of his Penn Quarter restaurant into a pop-up called Mr Lee’s. The concept is inspired by Asian night markets, with bold flavors in dishes like spicy pork belly and kimchi or duck confit, snow pea and basil dumplings. The menu will change weekly but will put an emphasis on ingredients from the neighboring farmers market. Signature cocktails complement the food, like the Miss Korea made with Soju, melon syrup, yuzu and egg white. Asian beers and spirits are also available. Mr Lee’s will run through the end of 2018. Mr Lee’s: 915 F St. NW, DC; www.facebook.com/mrleesatsuccotash or www.succotashrestaurant.com


Budweiser Marks Repeal of Prohibition Anniversary with Reserve Copper Lager

To mark the 85th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, Budweiser has partnered with Jim Beam bourbon to release a specially crafted Reserve Copper Lager brew. Brewed with two-row barley and aged on barrel staves once housing Jim Beam bourbon, the special beer features a delicious nutty taste, with notes of vanilla and caramel rye. Unlike other beers that are aged in the bourbon barrels, Budweiser chose to use the staves to give a more subtle bourbon taste and a slightly sweeter finish. The collaboration between two beverage makers that survived the Prohibition era has produced a terrifically tasty beer that will be available in bars and retail locations through the holiday season. Learn more about Budweiser’s Reserve Copper Lager at Budweiser.com.


New Culinary Team at Mirabelle
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: This chic upscale restaurant recently brought on a new culinary team and reopened in August with a new menu and a new identity in the kitchen. General manager and beverage director Jennifer Knowles has returned, and she’s joined by Executive Chef Keith Bombaugh and Pastry Chef Zoe Ezrailson. The menu features dishes that evoke memories of Knowles and Bombaugh’s experiences growing up on the South Shore of Boston, along with French cuisine marked by global influences. Lunch is served a la carte, but during dinner, there is the option to order a four-, five- or 12-course prix fixe menu. Wine pairings are available upon request. Many of the offerings are as fascinating to look at as they are to eat, like the grilled abalone with green curry tapioca served in a vibrantly blue polished abalone shell. Desserts follow suit – the lemon honey beehive is an artistic dome of Meyer lemon curd surrounded by toasted honey meringue. Mirabelle: 900 16th St. NW, DC; www.mirabelledc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Brabo

New and Notable: Augie’s, The Green Zone and The Meatball Shop

New

Augie’s
Open: August 1
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: For the next several months, Alexandria has a hip new outdoor hang. Augie’s, a forthcoming restaurant from the team behind Mason Social, is temporarily serving mussels, frites, beer and more on their spacious brick patio draped with string lights. The building is undergoing renovations in preparation for a spring opening, but the team wanted to take advantage of their al fresco dining space during the favorable weather. The menu during the pop-up represents about a third of what will be offered when the full restaurant is complete. There’s a selection of small plates and entrees, but the main attraction is the various preparations of mussels in sauces ranging from a house broth with garlic-herb butter, bacon and beer to a fiery Thai green curry with purple eggplant, Thai chilis and coconut. To complement the mussels and frites, the beer selection focuses on Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews. The selection will expand to include approximately 200 bottles and 25 drafts when the restaurant officially opens. While the patio is the real draw, there’s also some indoor space upstairs with high top tables, bocce ball and board games. The pop-up will close in early winter. 1106 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.eataugies.com

The Green Zone
Open: July 26
Location: Adams Morgan
Lowdown: After four years of popping up around town, this Middle Eastern cocktail bar found a permanent home in the diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood. Owner Chris Francke says The Green Zone is, in part, an attempt to dispel the stereotype that people in the Middle East don’t drink or party. The spices and ingredients he’s showcasing in his 12 original drinks are ones commonly found in the region’s cuisine, but haven’t often been translated to cocktails. Some recipes are riffs on classic nonalcoholic beverages, like the seasonal frozen Mint Lemonade spiked with vodka or gin. I found it to be the ideal patio sipper, especially when enjoyed via the bar’s stainless steel straws. His signature creation is the Janissary Corps, made with Green Hat gin, pistachio, lemon and “silky magic.” Downstairs, the colorful tile bar is the anchor of the neighborhood hangout, while the second floor turns into a dance club with featured DJs on weekends. In addition to cocktails, sample beers and wine from Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Georgia and Turkey. The food menu consists of Lebanese and Levantine street food like falafel, hummus, spicy wings and mana’ish, a thin flatbread that envelopes za’tar, labneh and vegetables. 2226 18th St. NW, DC; www.facebook.com/thegreenzonedc

Little Havana
Open: August 10
Location: Columbia Heights
Lowdown: Restaurateur Alfredo Solis has expanded his portfolio to include more than Mexican (El Sol and Mezcalero). He teamed up with Chef Joseph Osorio to bring a splash of Cuba to Columbia Heights. At Little Havana, a painted “neon” sign emulating the Miami Vice logo ties together the murals covering the walls, featuring Cuba’s colorful streets as well as some of the country’s cultural icons like Celia Cruz, the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, revolutionary Che Guevara and Osorio’s godmother Mimi, who was the inspiration behind the restaurant. Mimi taught Osorio the art of Cuban cooking, and her recipes have come to life on the menu. Classic dishes like ropa vieja, vaca frita and empanadas are offered alongside modern interpretations like Cuban rolls – essentially a Cubano sandwich crossed with a spring roll. Of course, Osorio also makes a traditional Cubano, which he says is perfect thanks to Mimi’s lechon recipe. Flashes of Colombia are present as well, with ají picante from Osorio’s parents’ hometown. The compact bar in the back of the restaurant is stocked with all kinds of rum from the Caribbean and Latin America, plus tropical ingredients like mango, hierbabuena and guanabana. There are original creations like La Vida es un Carnaval with papaya, raspberries, ginger syrup, lime and a blend of rums, but I’ll never turn down a classic daiquiri. The spot-on rendition at Little Havana hit all the right notes. 3704 14th St. NW, DC; www.littlehavanadc.com

The Meatball Shop
Open: August
Location: 14th Street
Lowdown: New York City’s Meatball Shop has rolled into town, bringing with it a menu of build-your-own meatball meals. Start by choosing your balls – classic, spicy pork, chicken, veggie or rotating specials – and then dress them in sauces like tomato, spicy meat, gravy, Parmesan cream or pesto. Next, pick a style: naked, in a bowl, over a bed of greens or in a sandwich. The customizable menu also has a few recommended plates, including combinations like spicy pork balls with Parmesan cream sauce over broccoli and rigatoni with an added kick of hot sauce. Round out your meal with appetizers and sides like crab cake balls, veggies, polenta and pastas. In addition to the saucy food offerings, expect a selection of beers, wines and cocktails – plus plenty of ball jokes. The 14th Street location is the first shop outside of New York. 1720 14th St. NW, DC; www.themeatballshop.com
NOTABLE

Burger Board at BLT Steak
Location: BLT Steak
Lowdown: This downtown steakhouse recently added adventurous new burgers to their lunch menu, each satisfying carnivorous cravings. The Burger Board goes beyond the standard dry-aged beef burger with recipes like the Duck Double stacked with two beef and Moulard duck patties, cheddar, pickles and a zesty mayonnaise sauce. The Harissa Lamb Burger pairs a seven-spice lamb patty with tahini cucumbers, tomato and garlic labneh. The Crab Bama Burger is an amped up crab cake topped with chicken-fried smoked salmon, cabbage slaw and Alabama white barbecue sauce. The king of the board is the “American” Wagyu Burger, which blends trimmings from the restaurant’s various steak offerings into a rich patty rounded out by American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and dijonnaise. 1625 I St. NW, DC; www.bltrestaurants.com/blt-steak/washington-d-c/

Steak Frites Program at Brabo
Location: Brabo
Lowdown: Chef Sebastien Rondier has launched a new offering that is a mouthwatering study of an iconic French brasserie dish. The Steak Frites program consists of four distinctive, dry-aged butcher cuts from Creekstone Farms: ribeye, filet mignon, hanger steak and the show-stopping, 22-ounce bone-in côte de boeuf for two. Each of the steaks is served with whipped Roquefort butter or a black peppercorn sauce. And of course, every steak is accompanied by double-fried frites and dipping sauces. The menu will continue to grow with new cuts and sauces depending on market availability. 1600 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.braborestaurant.com

Photos: Jean Schindler

Finnish Simplicity Reigns at Mikko

Lately, DC’s restaurant scene has been getting high off complicated-looking plates, exotic decor and ingredients we can’t pronounce. Wolfgang Puck called, and he wants his 90s life back. Not to be contrary, but there’s nothing I crave right now more than simple, clean flavors that don’t require a hovering waiter to explain.

Enter Mikko, the first restaurant from Mikko Kosonen, once chef at the Finnish Embassy, and recently of his eponymous catering firm, and now cheerfully ensconced on P St. and serving exactly what I’m craving.

With a minimalist Scandi look courtesy of local design agency INNATE, the cheerful, intimate space seamlessly blends retail, coffee counter, sandwich case, restaurant and bar. Order a cup of fish broth laden with cod, potatoes and dill, or one of the hearty pickled herring sandwiches on hearty brown bread, balanced with fresh cucumber and dill.

The contrast between the very preserved and the very fresh represents one of the most refreshing aspects of Finnish cuisine. The pastries have lots of fruits, cardamon and butter, and there are easy-drinking aquavit cocktails on offer.

Larger plates, including a wonderful venison with lingonberry sauce, are beautifully presented without pretension. The flavors are opinionated and crisp, honest and accessible. Just like Chef Mikko and his team. Now go eat!

Mikko: 1636 R St. NW, DC; 202-413-6419; www.chefmikko.com

Salted licorice ice cream.

Salted licorice ice cream.

Venison lingonberry.

Venison lingonberry.

Finish see bread.

Finish see bread.

Finnish Vodka.

Finnish Vodka.

A fish soup cocktail with Aquavite lemon soda and cucumber dill.

A fish soup cocktail with Aquavite lemon soda and cucumber dill.

Pancake and fresh berries.

Pancake and fresh berries.

Fish soup with cod salmon, potatos, peppercorns and dill.

Fish soup with cod salmon, potatos, peppercorns and dill.

Photo: Courtesy of Sababa

New and Notable: May 2018

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

Fancy Radish (Photo - Courtesy of Fancy Radish)

Fancy Radish
Open: March 20
Location: H Street
Lowdown: Vegans and omnivores alike rejoiced when Vedge Restaurant Group out of Philadelphia planted their first restaurant in DC. While everything on the menu is completely vegan, owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby aren’t trying to push an agenda. They’re just serving vegetables. It’s the way they serve them that makes a splash. Each dish takes a humble piece of produce – like a radish – and elevates it with artful techniques and vibrant flavors. Digging in to small plates like the Chioggia beet picnic, the trumpet mushroom “fazzoletti” and the spicy dan dan noodles, I would have easily believed they were laden with butter and cheese. The menu strikes a balance between the refined cuisine at their Philly flagship, Vedge, and the edgy street food at V Street. The restaurant’s namesake fancy radishes are adapted from the menu at Vedge. At the bar, vegetables also shine in drinks like the Peridot Meteor with gin, celery and olive oil or the Raphanus Shade with rye, radish, black vin and amaro ferro-kina. There are also a variety of natural wines and a handful of draft beers. The space has an industrial vibe, which is softened by earth tones and a mural spanning the restaurant that depicts a vegetable’s life cycle from seed to sprout. 600 H St. NE, DC; www.fancyradishdc.com

Kaliwa (Photo - Courtesy of Kaliwa)

Kaliwa
Open: March 28
Location: The Wharf
Lowdown: Restaurateur power couple Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, known for Alexandria hot spots Society Fair, Hummingbird and more, opened their latest restaurant at The Wharf. The pair are serving three Asian cuisines that are near and dear to their hearts: Filipino, honoring Meshelle’s heritage; Korean, as an ode to Chef Cathal’s Taekwondo training; and Thai, because it’s their family’s food of choice. The menu is divided into sections for each country, with milder flavors in Filipino dishes like Kalderetang Cordero, slightly spicier funky notes in Korean Jae Yuk Gui and super hot spice levels in Thai Nuer Pad Prik. Most dishes are heavily sauced and meant to be eaten with rice, but there are also a few noodle dishes, hearth-roasted proteins and other classics like lumpiang. With minimal descriptions on the menu, the restaurant provides a glossary of commonly used terms (gochujang, calamansi) and servers are always available to elaborate. The pamphlet also offers some conversational phrases in Tagalog, Korean and Thai. The name Kaliwa means left, which Cathal promises is not a political statement, but rather a nod to his left-handedness and to the restaurant’s departure from the norm. Meshelle designed the space, featuring woven basket light fixtures, rope netting and bright blue hues to emulate a night street market. 751 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.kaliwadc.com

Sababa (Photo - Courtesy of Sababa)

Sababa
Open: March 15
Location: Cleveland Park
Lowdown: After a quick set change, Ashok Bajaj opened Sababa in the space formerly occupied by Ardeo. The new restaurant’s menu focuses on modern Israeli cuisine, which has roots in both Jewish and Arab traditions. Dishes display influences from the Middle East, Turkey and Greece. Meals often start with salatim – small portions of salads and spreads to share – and then progress into hummus and small plates. I couldn’t get enough of the vegetarian dishes, from charred eggplant and roasted halumi to fried cauliflower and Israeli salad. Kebabs and large plates are also available, like sumac- and onion-marinated steak, shakshuka and braised lamb shank. The restaurant’s name comes from the Hebrew slang for cool, and the design reflects this, evoking the port of Tel Aviv with Mediterranean tiles, canvas sails on the ceiling and wood paneling to represent a grape arbor adorned with string lights. The beverage program consists of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean wines, plus house cocktails that showcase Israeli spices and flavors.  3311 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.sababauptown.com

Spoken English (Photo - Courtesy of Spoken English)

Spoken English
Open: March 30
Location: Adams Morgan
Lowdown: Erik Bruner Yang’s second project within the LINE Hotel is now open for business, and it’s unlike any restaurant you’ve visited in DC. Spoken English is modeled after the Japanese Tachinomiya – a standing-room only restaurant where people stop by for snacks and drinks after work. The casual, communal concept is situated in the kitchen with two counters facing a wood-fired Grillworks oven. It can only accommodate between 12 to 16 people at a time, and the close quarters encourage guests to socialize with their dining companions and strangers. The menu provides a choice between having a few bites, like skewers and small plates, or enjoying a full meal of whole roast duck and chicken yakitori. The whole chicken yakitori consists of eight courses, each a different cut of the bird such as thighs, stuffed wings, crispy skin, bone broth, liver mousse and more. To drink, there’s a selection of sake and beer, as well as a few cocktails. Reservations are not accepted. 1770 Euclid St. NW; www.thelinehotel.com/dc

NOTABLE

Truckeroo (Photo - Courtesy of Georgetown Events)

Truckeroo
Dates: May 11, June 15, July 13, August 10, September 14
Location: The Bullpen
Lowdown: Once a month throughout the summer, a flock of food trucks converges at The Bullpen fairgrounds in Navy Yard for a massive festival. The event offers live music, cold drinks, games and a full lineup of food trucks to choose from. At the May event, guests can enjoy mac and cheese from CapMac, crêpes from Crepe Love, empanadas from DC Empanadas, frozen custard from Goodies, lobster rolls from Red Hook, and more. It’s open to all ages until 9 p.m., at which point it shifts to 21 and over. Admission is free. 1201 Half St. SE, DC; www.thebullpendc.com/truckeroo

Wines Over Washington
Dates: May 17, June 21, July 19, August 16, September 20
Location: BLT Steak
Lowdown: The rooftop of this downtown steakhouse has stunning views of the city, the Potomac River, the Washington Monument and the White House. This makes it a prime location to enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sunset. BLT Steak’s Wines Over Washington gives winos a chance to explore new wine varietals al fresco paired with classic fare by Chef de Cuisine Michael Bonk, as well as live music. The series takes place one evening per month through the summer. The first event will feature selections from Lanterna Wines. Tickets are $65 per event, or $275 for the entire series. 1625 I St. NW, DC; www.bltrestaurants.com/blt-steak/washington-d-c/winesoverwashington