Finest eating places within the D.C. space: Tom Sietsema’s favorites in August 2022

August 22, 2022

Remark

One of many nice joys of dwelling within the Washington space is a world of flavors. A diner doesn’t want a passport to expertise the Mediterranean, Ethiopia or Thailand, among the many locations I felt I bought to go to this month, due to a number of eating places.

The farthest I really traveled this month? Rehoboth Seaside, Del., the place I found lip-smacking fried rooster and seafood.

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From the seems of it, the meals faces stiff competitors from the surroundings at Gypsy Kitchen, the pan-Mediterranean restaurant whose most important eating room unfolds beneath dozens of baskets on the ceiling and whose second flooring is so inexperienced and light-filled, you swear you’re consuming within the nice outside. Two good-looking bars, one per flooring, are animated with what folks appear to be swiping for on Tinder and firm.

Then you definitely see chef Eric Milton’s handiwork land at close by tables and begin rethinking your order. How may we miss the baked-to-order, Astrodome-shaped pita, anointed with garlic oil and sprinkled with za’atar? The mere sight of the spectacle finds neighbors asking for a balloon of their very own. The rooster, brushed with a mixture of pomegranate molasses and honey and served with a bevy of accents — warm-spiced basmati rice in a bowl swiped with creamy hummus is sort of a meal in itself — catches a variety of consideration, too. (Toum, let me depend the methods I really like you.) Milton beforehand cooked for ThinkFoodGroup, the model that features Zaytinya, a element made evident in a lot of what leaves the open kitchen.

Excellent? Not all servers are created equal. Kudos to the attendant who bothered to pack up a couple of tablespoons of tomato jam, as an illustration. Requested in regards to the restaurant’s identify, one other server stated: “I’ve solely been right here a couple of months. I’ll ask a supervisor.” She forgot. (Provided that the menu embraces accents from Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco, “a nomadic culinary character” appeared becoming, says Brad Bernardo, director of operations for Southern Correct Hospitality, the restaurant’s Atlanta-based dad or mum.)

Disgrace on me for ready two years to do this vogue assertion on 14th Road. And disgrace on me for breaking a promise to a good friend who joined me final minute final go to, lured partly by my invitation to take all of the leftovers residence. “Dude, I’ve by no means seen you eat this a lot earlier than.”

If you happen to’ve tried Gypsy Kitchen’s beautiful herbed falafel or tuna crudo — a shout-out to summer season with chopped tomatoes, grilled corn and cucumber, plus shoyu French dressing — you’ll perceive the plates I cleaned.

1825 14th St. NW. 202-765-0500. gypsykitchendc.com. Open for indoor and outside eating. Small plates $9 to $27.

Returning to a favourite restaurant after an extended spell is like encountering an previous flame: Will there nonetheless be sparks?

Let’s simply say there have been some fireworks, not less than for me, when the meals began popping out of the kitchen at Afghan Bistro not too long ago. The smoky, sumac-spiced beef kebabs paired with tomato-sauced chickpeas, and shredded rooster tossed with slow-cooked greens and garlicky yogurt, signify love at first chew (once more). The epic menu forces powerful choices; this family-run storefront in Springfield helps out with a sampler plate that brings collectively 4 selection appetizers, together with minced beef dumplings dusted with cayenne and crushed mint, and gentle roasted eggplant flavored with tomato sauce and striped with yogurt sauce.

“Afghan Bistro is our first child,” says Omar Masroor, who co-owns the enterprise along with his spouse, Sofia, and as soon as wore a number of hats right here, tending the grill, ready tables — something as wanted. “There was concern to start with. We didn’t know what we have been doing.”

They positive do now. After introducing Afghan Bistro in 2015, mother and pop went on to open two extra eating places, Bistro Aracosia within the Palisades and Aracosia McLean in Northern Virginia. A 3rd institution is on its method, throughout from the 4 Seasons lodge in Georgetown. Masroor says he hopes to open Afghania, serving “frontier meals” from jap Afghanistan, inside the subsequent 4 or 5 months.

The handfuls of decisions on the menu are a throwback to pre-pandemic occasions. The homeowners say Afghan Bistro’s siblings, which supply mezze parts of, say, entire veal shank, enable for the variability. What all of the eating places share are recipes from Sofia and her mother-in-law that make you’re feeling as if you happen to’ve been invited into their properties. Higher but, the meals are sized in order that tonight’s dinner may be tomorrow’s lunch.

8081 Alban Highway, Springfield. 703-337-4722. afghanbistro.com. Open for indoor and outside eating, supply and takeout. Entrees $12.95 to $29.95.

The mural on the wall promotes Delaware’s state hen and steers you to one of many restaurant’s signatures: rooster from the pedigreed D’Artagnan that’s brined, spiked with pepper and paprika, and fried to a fetching shade of gold earlier than it departs the open kitchen on a metallic tray. All of the senses are engaged. Count on a superb crunch.

Planner that I’m, I dislike eating places that don’t take reservations. However the drill fits the seashore scene. Accepting clients as they stroll in “lightens up the construction” of the restaurant, says chef Julia Robinson, who, together with her spouse and normal supervisor, Heather Sharp, not too long ago acquired the eating vacation spot from the unique homeowners.

There’s loads to love on the trendy American menu incorporating coastal influences. Busy because the restaurant is, cubes of yellowfin tuna, charred pineapple, crisp jicama, whipped avocado and (we’re virtually there!) pickled peppers on a crisp tortilla completed with adobo sauce present an entertaining begin to dinner. Gazpacho yields liquid sunshine, courtesy of yellow tomatoes and bell peppers, and I really like the kick delivered by aji amarillo within the mix. Robinson sounds proud when she says her crab is delivered “recent off the boat” from native suppliers. The chef is aware of she doesn’t must do way more than add a bit egg and mayonnaise to type her beautiful “no filler” broiled crab desserts or sprinkle rice flour on her buttermilk-bathed gentle shell crabs earlier than frying them to a fragile crisp.

The eating room comes with excessive ceilings, clear traces, streams of sunshine and a variety of noise at prime time. The restaurant’s consistency is aided by the actual fact Robinson helped open the Blue Hen, positioned inside the Avenue Inn & Spa, 5 years in the past. Offseason, she makes use of her Italian heritage to attract locals. Come October, the Blue Hen provides pizza and pasta nights to its lineup.

On the Avenue Inn at 33 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Seaside, Del. 302-278-7842. thebluehenrehoboth.com. Open for indoor and outside eating and takeout. Dinner entrees $29 to $36.

Properly, the proprietor of the late Punjab Grill saved its lovely inside intact when he changed the Indian restaurant with Rania, whose identify in identify in Hindi and Sanskrit interprets to “queen.” The inherited marble bar and cubicles with silhouettes of a temple make for probably the most regal eating rooms in Washington.

Rania delights with among the most impressed Indian cooking in D.C.

Everybody’s first style of Rania is a present from chef Chetan Shetty: a rice flour crisp within the form of a flower, dabbed with avocado puree, set off with tamarind chutney and glinting with trout roe. The luxurious snack hints of the warmth and spice to observe on the menu.

As with so many upscale eating places now, this one forgoes a la carte. Diners choose from three or 4 programs, with a handful of choices per course.

Reside massive and go huge; the programs are sized like beneficiant appetizers. The dishes I are likely to repeat embrace the eye-catching shiso leaf chaat, herby rooster kofta cloaked in truffle cream, and brined, grilled monkfish. The final, an entree, is staged on sauteed child spinach and a pool of coconut milk pulsing with ginger and inexperienced chiles. The jewel field to the left of the doorway? That’s the 10-seat personal eating room, distinguished with mirrored partitions and a chef’s tasting menu that doesn’t repeat something on the standing record, scrumptious and authentic as it’s.

427 eleventh St. NW. 202-804-6434. raniadc.com. Open for indoor eating. Three programs $75, 4 programs $90.

They take meat significantly at this year-old Ethiopian restaurant in Silver Spring, a nook of which is dedicated to butchering beef — “4 to 5 cows per week” when clients aren’t fasting throughout non secular holidays, says co-owner Temesgen Gebeyehu. Once I enlist him for a advice, he steers me to shint tibs. A mound of juicy cubed rib-eye, candy with onions and sharp with jalapeños, ultimately makes its option to the desk, the place I deal with the entree with the assistance of items of injera, the tangy crepelike bread that doubles as a utensil.

Clouds of incense, a part of Shalla’s espresso ceremony, greeted me on my first go to to the restaurant that when housed the groovy Jackie’s and the place I splurged on an upgraded model of kitfo, Ethiopia’s steak tartare. The floor of the minced uncooked beef, glossed with butter infused with cardamom, mitmita and different spices, was sculpted into little pink ripples. Equally wavy scoops of housemade cottage cheese — one inexperienced with collards, one other orange with cayenne — helped fill out the platter. Wedges of kocho, made with the grated and fermented root of the enset plant, a member of the banana household, accompanied the uncooked beef and served as a starchy alternate to the scrolls of injera.

Beef isn’t the only real attraction. Floor tilapia jump-started with jalapeños and the eight-item vegetable mixture platter additionally draw me again. The latter is a kaleidoscope of colours: darkish inexperienced garlicky collards, sunny yellow cabbage and carrots, and pink lentils whose hidden serrano pepper creates a gradual burn in your mouth. Chef Tsega Amera involves the kitchen from the late Addis Ababa, additionally in Silver Spring.

Shalla takes its identify from Lake Shala in south-central Ethiopia, a spot Gebeyehu is aware of effectively, having labored there as a surveyor. Certainly, all three homeowners come from building backgrounds.

8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. 301-920-0082. shallarestaurant.com. Open for indoor and outside eating, supply and takeout. Entrees $13 to $19.

The household behind this recent face in Dupont Circle aspired to channel a Bangkok Chinatown. Mission achieved, due to steep stairs lined with Thai and Chinese language newspapers and an underground bar and eating room that glow pink and inexperienced, respectively.

Sura serves Thai meals, drinks — and loads of kicks

Sure, it’s loud and darkish. However Sura can be lip-smacking. Billy Thammasathiti, who final labored in a Japanese restaurant, heads up the kitchen; his brother Andy covers the small bar. (Sura interprets to “spirits” in Thai.) Collectively they’re doing atypical Thai food and drinks in an area with a pleasant previous: The brothers’ grandmother cooked right here when she left Bangkok, and the restaurant was referred to as Sala Thai.

Don’t come in search of fish desserts or tom yum soup. An order of skewered beef exhibits how the chef makes some Thai fundamentals his personal. A riff on crying tiger beef, the ropy meat is marinated in fish sauce, palm sugar and salt and sprinkled with what Billy calls “rice spice” — roasted sticky rice, lemongrass, lime leaves — earlier than hitting the grill. The textures and aromatics are riveting. The chef likes to play with fireplace, evinced by pork stomach completed with a chili sauce that races from scorching to tangy and again, a sensation (considerably) tamed by Thai basil within the jumble.

Different dishes appear designed to go together with Andy’s libations. “Chips & dip,” as an illustration, discover garlic-scented rice crackers and a bit dish of floor pork and roasted peanuts souped up with coconut milk. Munch, munch, gone, identical to the bean curd pores and skin rolls paired with what seems like honey however seems to be salted plum caramel.

The drinks, affixed with Asian accents, are as spirited because the cooking. The pause that refreshes most is a daiquiri swirled with ardour fruit liqueur and fancied up with an orchid.

2016 P St. NW. 202-450-6282. suradc.com. Open for indoor eating. Dishes to share $8 to $18.

Glad days are right here once more in Alexandria, now that the crown jewel within the Neighborhood Restaurant Group has reopened after a pandemic-induced pause. A bit facelift finds the brick-walled, gas-lamp-lit eating room wanting recent; a brand new head chef, Ben Pflaumer, delivers among the most interesting meals in Outdated City.

Vermilion is again in Alexandria, with a brand new chef and charming menu

His opening “snacks” are excellent. Crab croquettes are little balls of seafood dipped in (unsweetened) doughnut batter and fried to a wonderful golden crisp. Juicy nuggets of fried rooster keep in place on their plate with the assistance of dabs of dilly yogurt. First programs will discover you smacking your lips, too, particularly the scallop crudo organized with flippantly charred snow peas and set in a transparent snow pea broth zapped with cured seaweed, an umami-rich dish that appears as cool because it tastes.

Pflaumer’s résumé checks off quite a lot of Italian eating locations, together with the stylish Masseria in Washington and the acclaimed Vetri in Philadelphia. That’s your cue to research his pastas, perhaps risotto made with domestically grown brown Arborio rice and flavored with smoked sweet onions and black truffles, or ravioli plumped with braised pork and completed with a wash of brown butter and recent sage.

One of the crucial inventive vegetarian dishes in current reminiscence is discovered right here. Sauteed oyster mushrooms staged atop summery peaches and tender black soybeans (the mix works, deliciously) include a sherry-kissed beurre blanc that makes you glad to have ordered some house-baked milk bread to absorb all of the goodness.

1120 King St., Alexandria. 703-684-9669. vermilionrestaurant.com. Open for indoor and outside eating. Entrees $24 to $35.

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