First Bite News – Thursday, January 24, 2013

24 Jan

All the new restaurant news that’s fit to capsulize:

  • Yelp Helps! I have some misgivings about Yelp, but they have a handy feature–new or just new to me–that shows you ratings for every restaurant they identify as New. Its one stop Yelping for new spots.
  • Hilltop is opening this summer at Girard and Sherman Avenue, NW (Columbia Heights). According to Popville, the restaurant is owned by two partners associated with The Saloon, “[a]nd like Saloon, The Hilltop Restaurant and Bar will focus on German beer and other imports. But in addition to the focus on beer the duo also plan to offer a solid dining option. Nothing fancy but comfortable “American fare.”
  • Mi Cuba Cafe, at 1424 Park Rd. NW, has opened in Columbia Heights. See Popville for more.
  • Russian emporium/spectacle Mari Vanna is open and the Best Bites blog has an early look/taste. I’ve heard good things but haven’t been. From Best Bites:  “Classics like borscht, beef stroganoff, and blinis with caviar fill the menu, as well as lesser-known delicacies like a salo plate (salt-cured pork fatback with rye toast and mustard) and “herring under a fur coat,” which is a place you’d never want to actually find herring. Hungry guests can tuck into dinner in the dining room, while those looking to knock back vodka and chilled oysters can head to the festive third-floor cocktail lounge—and with 70 varieties of infused vodkas, it will be festive—which hosts deejays and partiers getting down under the disco ball on certain nights.”
  • Yo! Sushi is opening a Penn Quarter location (at 801 7th St NW) around the end of March. They already have one sushi-on-a-conveyer-belt spot near the Verizon Center. Eater DC says this one will feature new dishes, like “yellowtail sashimi with diced jalapeno and citrus ponzu, shrimp glazed with creamy miso sauce, or a spicy tuna tartare with a rice cake.” There will also be plenty of Yuzu, an Asian citrus the chef mixes with mayo or soy sauce.
  • Thaaja Indian Cuisine, with a Chipotle-type, make-your-own setup and Indian flavors, has opened at 1335 2nd St. NE (next to the NY Ave. Metro). They also serve wine and cocktails, and offer a happy hour. Details and menu options here.
  • Carving Room is opening at 4th and H St NW in early February (see Popville). Their website describes the restaurant as:  “A neighborhood kitchen specializing in house cured and hand carved meats, homemade sides and pickled vegetables. Full bar features 10 draft beers and signature libations.”
  • “Modern Serbian” restaurant Ambar is finally open on Barracks Row (523 8th St SE), and the reviews have started to come in. The Post has an article out that’s more backstory than review, but it does include some bits about the menu. I’ll have my full take on Ambar up soon, but in short, I thought the space was terrific, cocktails were less so, and the food was somewhere in between. Nothing on the menu made me particularly excited, but everything was solid and I only tried a quarter of the options. I’ll come back for more. One bad sign: they already have a Valentines Day menu online. (The background and formatting make it unreadable, which I approve of). Try the regular menu instead.


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18 Jan
Photo by S. Bala

Photo by S. Bala

As a rule, we don’t write about new restaurants outside of DC. This isn’t FirstBiteDaBurbs, after all. But every once in a while, you discover something so different and delicious, you just have to share. Geography be damned!

RusUz is a new Russian-Uzbek (as in Uzbekistan) restaurant operated by an Uzbek family and located in Arlington (just two blocks from the Ballston Metro). While you can get Russian food in DC, both at the veteran Russia House and the just-opened Mari Varna, Uzbek is another matter. In fact, I couldn’t even guess before going what the food would be like. The answer, it turns out, is “like Russian, but different.” RusUz offers the best of both worlds, and the best was quite good. We started with three appetizers: Olivier Salad (Russian potato salad), Vinaigrette Salad (a variety of diced vegetables, pickled and not, with olive oil), and the amusingly named “Fish Under A Fur Coat,” which is Herring covered with potatoes, carrots, beets, eggs, and mayonnaise. How do those toppings add up to a Fur Coat, and why would anyone think fish covered in fur would sound appetizing? I can’t answer, but my Russian and Uzbek friends swore the dish is traditional and much-loved, and the RusUz version was quite tasty. The Olivier Salad was hearty but less exciting, while the Vinaigrette Salad was delicious and more interesting than its description. I’d try any of the appetizers again.

The main courses, which we shared family style, were all (1) huge and (2) very good. I could add (3) meat-centric, as virtually every main has meat, and often quite a lot of it. We tried the Manti (large steamed dumplings stuffed with lamb), the Plov (traditional rice and vegetable dish with a nice crisp crust), the Goluptsi, which are cabbage leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice, and a dish I can’t find on their website, which was fried pasta with chunks of beef. All of the above were worth trying, and the Manti and Plov were particularly good. (The description of the Manti also made me laugh, and seemed perfectly Soviet: “Dumplings with your choice of Lamb.”) My favorite though was the Mystery Pasta dish, which is apparently an Uzbek standard, even if it seems more at home in Sicily than Tashkent. Perhaps the difference lies in the preparation; the noodles seem to be boiled, seasoned, then fried until semi-crisp, and are covered in a slightly spicy sauce I couldn’t identify but really loved. As with most of RusUz’s offerings, it was a bit heavy but addictive to the point where I had to hide my fork to stop eating. (That saved me until the next morning, when I inhaled the leftovers in two minutes flat).

The RusUz menu isn’t cutting edge, but it offers a unique (in this area) insight into a different culture and cuisine. The restaurant is also nicely, if simply, decorated, and the wait staff could not be more friendly or happy to discuss their homeland and menu. RusUz is also shockingly affordable; five of us tried most of the menu for $90, with food to spare. One more note: although RusUz has a bar, they have no liquor license yet, so they’re BYOB. Not great if you want cocktails (although you could shake your own!), but perfect for wine and beer lovers who want to save some money.


Rus Uz102 reviews powered by Yelp


  • Site
  • Menu
  • Address: 1000 N. Randolph St., Arlington VA
  • Metro: Ballston (Orange Line), about 2 blocks away
  • Phone: 202-468-8472
  • Hours: Not clear, you should call first

Have you eaten at RusUz? Help us rate it!

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2 votes, 5.00 avg. rating (94% score)

Daily First – Wednesday, January 9, 2013

9 Jan

The new year is hear, and we’ve resolved to actually report (or re-report) the new restaurant news on a more consistent basis (instead of, say, whenever we get the urge). For your consideration:

  • EaterDC offers its list of the 12 Most Anticipated Openings ofJanuary 2013. Of course, this only covers the first month of the year; we can’t even guess what marvels will open 9 months from now.
  • The Red Hen will open in Bloomingdale (1822 1st St. NW) this spring.  EaterDC says it will offer “Italian-influenced American food with a local bent.” (I think that means Italian recipes with local ingredients).  Menu items will include Virginia clams casino, potato and sauerkraut ravioli and local oysters. The owner thinks a dish of wood grilled hen, celery root , Za’atar butter and toasted barley will be a signature.
  • Kinkead’s has closed, but it looks like Bob Kinkead will be cooking again in DC soon. Tom Sietsema says Kinkead is opening an Italian seafood place, Ancora, which will replace Rivers at the Watergate at 600 New Hampshire Ave.
  • Borderstan has the scoop on B Too (1324 14th Street ), by Belga Café owner Bart Vandaele:  “Vandaele says B Too will share some similarities with Belga Café, such as its traditional Belgian fare, but it will also differ in many ways. The 4,800 square foot space will have two floors and three different bars, one of which will be specifically devoted to Belgian waffles and fries. Vandaele says B Too will also have an open kitchen with a kitchen bar for chef’s tastings, and a basement that will be set-up like a lounge, but won’t be “too clubby.” . . . Vandaele will also bring a Josper to B Too, a traditional Spanish oven that uses charcoal to create a smoky flavor – the first in the District.”
  • First look at Ambar @ Brightest Young Things (which loves it, of course, even though it isn’t open yet. BYT loves every restaurant it reviews, much like The Onion AV Club hates every movie ever released).
  • Beuchert’s Sal0on has opened is opening January 28th at 623 Pennsylvania Ave SE. Oh happy day – more interesting drinks and food in Capitol Hill! GirlMeetsFood writes up the space and design (but hasn’t tried the food), and the place certainly sounds intriguing. On the food front, GMF says:  “Executive Chef Andrew Markert’s ‘farm-to-‘Merican’ menu adds whimsical tweaks to all-American fare, with most produce and meats sourced from co-owner Brendan McMahon’s East Oaks Organics Farm. Look for roasted East Oaks organic chicken ($24) with bacon butter, gravy and roasted Brussels sprouts; roasted lobster on Anson Mills golden rice with carrots and breakfast radishes ($16); housemade charcuterie, paté and cheeses served on refurbished floorboards (don’t worry–they’re clean!); Rosetta Farms bone marrow with pickled pistachios and parsley salad ($12); and Bananas Foster Twankies. . . . The vegetarian-friendly Markert’s Market menu focuses on locally sourced vegetables, with 6 options rotating weekly depending on availability. Reserve a seat at the Chef’s Table Thursday through Saturday, with 5- and 7-course tasting menus for up to 6 guests.”  The full menu is here.


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New & Opening – The Big List

9 Jan

by Patrick

{Updated January 9, 2013. Latest updates in Blue}

This is the list that inspired FirstBiteDC. For better or worse–and I expect some of both–D.C. is experiencing an explosion in new eating options. Our goal is to try every one of these restaurants at least once and report back. If you’d like to join our team, please contact us at And if you have suggestions for the site, additions to this list, or more information about any of these places, leave us a comment. Thanks and eat on!


Links go to current reviews
* = review coming

A Bar (Cocktails + upscale small plates and flatbreads)
2500 Pennsylvania Avenue (Foggy Bottom)

Bandolero (Mexican – new place from Mika Isabella of Graffioto)
3241 M St. NW (G’town)

Farmers Fishers Bakers (American/seafood)
3000 K St NW (G’Town)

Mayfair & Pine (British)
2218 Wisconsin Ave. NW (Glover Park)

Boloco (“Globally inspired burritos”)
1028 19th St., NW. (Downtown)
[Opens Noon Thursday, November 29th with FREE BURRITOS! Read more]

Del Frisco’s Grille (American)
1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (Downtown)

*Maddy’s Tap Room (“Texican”)
1100 13th St NW (Downtown)

District Taco (Mexican)
1309 F St NW (Downtown)

Suna (“inventive, seasonal cuisine”; 4 or 8 course tasting menus only)
214 7th St SE (Capitol Hill)
[Chef Johnny Spero of Komi, Town House, and Copenhagen’s Noma]

Pacifico Cantina (Mexican)
518 8th St SE (Capitol Hill)

Park Tavern (Beer/flatbreads/steaks/fish/wood-fired oven)
200 M St SE (Navy Yard/Waterfront)

Menomale (Neapolitan-style pizza)
2711 12th St. NE (H St. NE)

Chicken & Rice (Indian takeout/delivery)
813 H St NE (H St NE)
No Website

Le Grenier (French bistro)
502 H Street, NE (H ST NE)
Cusbah (Indian/Pakistani)
1128 H St. NE (H ST NE)

H & Pizza (Pizza)
1118 H St NE (H St NE)

Taylor Charles Steak & Ice
1320 H St. NE (H St. NE)
Philly cheesesteaks and ices, by the Taylor Gourmet crew

Hikari Sushi & Sake Bar
644 H St. NE (H St. NE)
(Yelp reviews: mixed)

El Chucho Cocina Superior (Mexican)
3313 11th St NW (Petworth)

*Maple (“Modern American menu with Italian influences”)
3418 11th St. NW (Petworth)

Kangaroo Boxing Company (BBQ)
3410 11th St. NW (Petworth)

The Coupe (Diner/small plates/coffee/cocktails – by the Tryst/Diner group)
3415 11th St NW (Petworth)

The Pinch (Sandwiches/burgers/brunch)
3548 14th St NW (Columbia Heights)

Tanad Thai (Thai)
4912 Wisconsin Ave. NW

*Izakaya Seki (Japanese)
1117 V ST NW (U St.)

Aroi (Thai/Japanese/sushi)
1832 1st St NW (Bloomingdale)

Little Ricky’s (Cuban-American)
3522 12th St, NE (Brookland)
[Prix Fixe for November - see]

Hank’s Oyster Bar/Edy Bar (Seafood/Cocktails)
633 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Capitol Hill)

Slate Wine Bar + Bistro (American)
2404 Wisconsin Ave NW (Glover Park)

Hanoi House Vietnamese Restaurant and Pho House
2005 14th St. NW (U St. NW – Formerly Blackbyrd)
Menu (from POP)

*Tacos El Chilango (Tacos)
1119 V St. NW (U Street)

*Satellite Room (Diner food/bar/boozy milkshakes)
2047 9th St NW (U Street)

Cause: The Philanthropub (American/bar food)
1926 9th st NW (U Street/Shaw)

Sakuramen (Ramen)
2441 18th Street Northwest (Adams Morgan)

Taand (Ramen)
1817 Columbia Rd. NW (Adams Morgan)

Doner Bistro (Turkish/German – Falafel, Doner, Brats, Bier)
1654 Columbia Rd NW (Adams Morgan)

Chercher (Ethiopian)
9th & O, NW (Shaw)

DGS Delicatessen (Deli + cocktails)
1317 Connecticut Ave. NW (Dupont) 

Sweet Diablo (Cakes, Paninis, Salads)
1200 19th St NW (Dupont)

Crios (“Modern Mexican”)
2120 P St. NW (DuPont)

La Kazbah (formerly Marrakesh, soon to be renamed)
2147 P Street NW (Dupont Circle)
Traditional Morrocan cuisine
Read More

*Drafting Tabe (Gastropub)
1529 14th St NW (Logan Cirlce)

Woodward Table (Regional)
1430 H St NW (Downtown)

Edgar Bar & Grill
Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave, NW (Downtown)
Casual American
(Yelp reviews: Highly mixed)


Kraze Burgers
415 8th St, SE (Capitol Hill)

Nooshi Sushi
524 8th Street, SE, 2nd Floor (Capitol Hill)

Tash (Kebabs?)
524 8th Street, SE, 1st Floor (Capitol Hill)

523 8th Street SE (Capitol Hill)
Modern Serbian
(Opening Mon., January 14th. Preview)

313 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Capitol Hill)
French? – Spike Mendelsohn’s sit down place

Beuchert’s Saloon
Eastern Market
“The menu will have five separate sections focusing on locally sourced vegetables; snacks (charcuterie and cheese, grilled country paté); main courses called “Whole Meals” including individually portioned dishes and shareable plates; side dishes like corn grits with local goat cheddar; and a dessert selection focusing on “playful retro” treats such as banana Foster Twinkies.” Via Washingtonian.
Opening January 28, 2013.

Po Boy Jim
709 H St NE (H St NE)
New Orleans sandwiches

Costa Brava
1837 1st St. NW (Bloomingdale)

Union Market
Contemporary American, focused on “seasonal ingredients, sustainable cooking and hydroponic gardening.”
Read more

903 N NW (Shaw)
European – “fresh seasonal fare”

9th and P NW (Shaw/Mount Vernon Square)
Burmese – offshoot of Silver Spring place

Baby Wale
1124 9th St. NW (Shaw/Mount Vernon Square)
“A casual restaurant serving roast chicken and lobster sandwiches to local residents with a seating capacity for 150 people” By Corduroy chef/owner Tom Powers. Read more

The Greenhouse Bistro (Italian Bistro)
2030 M St NW (West End – taking over Hudson space)

Birch & Barley offshoot (No name, Chicken & Donut shop)
South of Dupont Circle, in the old Yola space

Bari Bari
1401 R St. NW (Logan Circle)
European-style restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; sidewalk seating

Le Diplomate (French Bistro)
14th and Q St NW (Logan Circle)
DC outpost of Philly’s popular Parc bistro. Check out Parc’s menu.

Black Whiskey
1410 14th St. NW (Logan Circle)
Japanese whiskey, “contemporary bar food” – by Kushi owner

1909 K St. NW (Downtown – formerly Teatro Goldoni)
Icelandic restaurant (!)

Newton’s  Noodles
1129 20th St. NW (Downtown/Foggy Bottom)
“Asian Chipotle”
Opening May 1, 2013. Read More

Fiola Mare
3050 K St. NW (Georgetown)
Seafood offshoot of Fiola at Washington Harbour
Read More

Sprig & Sprout
2317 Wisconsin Ave, NW (Glover Park)
Opening December 2012. More details

705 6th Street NW (Chinatown)
Noodles and Japanese pub food


405 8th St. NW (Penn Quarter)
“European classics with contemporary flavors.” Focused on sustainable seafood.
Read more a

5335 Wisconsin Avenue (Chevy Chase)
Meats, coffee bar, wine bar – by Brian Voltaggio of Volt

Thaaja Indian Food Bar
1335 2nd Street NE (NoMa)

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0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score)

New Restaurant News – December 18, 2012

18 Dec

All the new restaurant news that’s fit to reprint:

  • EaterDC does our job for us, scoping out the “most anticipated” restaurant openings in DC. I’m not so sure about their list – granted, Mari Vanna sounds like a spectacle, but is DC really holding its collective breath for a three-story Russian restaurant that “gets more exclusive the higher you go”? (What does that even mean? You can’t have ze duck?)

  • I may be geographically biased, but Harold Black is one opening I’m extremely excited about. Yes, it’s a speakeasy (with seats by reservation only, a la The Gibson, before it expanded), but it’s offering classy bar snacks from Suna’s kitchen, so we’ll plug it here. [via EaterDC and Young & Hungry]
  • As long as we’re talking high end booze, Black Whiskey was once on my most-anticipated list, but the concept seems to have changed quite a bit, from a Japanese whiskey bar to the American version, with a similar continental shift in the food (although more Anglo, less American). But I do like Kushi, and the Kushi team is behind this place too, so I have high hopes. As for the food, Young & Hungry has this description:  “The fare, which Norris refers to as ’19th century Scottish bar food,’ is inspired by the United Kingdom’s carvery pubs, where bartenders shave slices of large roasts and serve them alongside traditional sides like Yorkshire pudding. Here you’ll find the likes of roasted leg of lamb, baby pig, or other cuts of local meat, which are carved to order and served with a variety of sauces and seasonal vegetables.” Hmmmm. We’ll see about it.
  • Ann Limpert, the Washingtonian’s food critic, has her list of “Top Ten Restaurant Openings of 2012,” and it includes some of our favorites, such as El Chucho and Izakaya Seki. (We would have added Le Grenier and Tacos El Chilangro, which continue to impress).
  • Washingtonian also has the scoop on Thally, a new casual restaurant coming to Shaw (1316 9th St. NW):  “The idea is to create a neighborhood restaurant—like a bistro, but not with French food—that also has a great bar scene with a constantly changing selection of wines and beers on tap and in bottles.”

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Matchbox (14th Street NW)

17 Dec

by Lori (beenthereeatenthat)

’tis the season for new restaurant openings.  In the last few weeks, DGS Delicatessen, Wildwood Kitchen, Hanoi House, Suna, and Woodward Table have all opened their doors. Joining this group is a new Matchbox on 14th Street.  This is the fourth area location for Matchbox.  And while this may put it into the category of a local chain, it has a very un-chain like feel, particularly when it comes to the interior design.  (Here are some photos from EaterDC.)

The newest Matchbox is in a former auto showroom/bowling alley/nightclub.  The space covers three floors and has a rustic feel, with lots of wood and exposed brick.  That could describe any number of DC restaurants, but how many of them can say they have two tables floating in mid-air?  I envy the diners that get to sit here.

I am a guest for a media preview, and my main objective is to experience menu items that are unique to the new location, particularly since I am a fairly frequent patron of Matchbox Rockville. Our server is eager to point out what’s new and different.

We begin with pizza, because when it comes down to it Matchbox brands is a “vintage pizza bistro.”  My go-to at Matchbox Rockville is “Fire and Smoke.”  I end up with a pizza that’s not new to Matchbox or unique to this location but it’s new to me.  Veggie pizza with roasted garlic, pesto, oven-dried tomato, and artichokes appeals to me because well….  I love artichokes. Throw in a thin, crispy pizza crust and I’m a happy diner.

Matchbox veggie pizza

I stick with my original plan and select an entree that’s making it’s debut on 14th street.  Braised beef short ribs with turmeric vegetables, fingerling potatoes, and coconut curry sauce catches my eye immediately. It’s a delightful dish! The meat is perfectly tender, and the creamy curry sauce is full of flavor.  While I can’t finish every bite of the plentiful portion of beef, I do manage to eat all of my vegetables.  The roasted vegetables coated with just a touch of the sauce are too good to leave behind.  My Matchbox visits usually tend to more casual fare, so this dish really is a pleasant surprise.


Matchbox Shortribs

My husband has chosen fish and chips.  The panko crusted haddock is light and crunchy and the tartar relish, dotted with capers, is a creative touch.  He finds the fries a bit too oily, but overall says the dish is quite tasty.

Butternut squash cheesecake with candied butternut squash and whipped cream is a lovely autumn dessert, and less guilt-inducing than a standard cheesecake. It’s the kind of dessert that can be enjoyed after more than a couple of bites, because it’s not overly sweet.  I eagerly devour my half.


Matchbox is a nice addition to the burgeoning dining scene on the U Street Corridor.  With a 25-foot bar, wine on tap, two pizza ovens, and eventual outdoor seating with a fire pit, I imagine that 14th Street will be a happening spot, matching the popularity of its other locations.  As a suburbanite, I’m much more likely to stick to the Rockville location if I’m in a Matchbox mood.  But then again, sitting at one of those floating tables could certainly provide an elevating experience.


  • Site
  • Menu
  • Address: 1901 14th St. NW
  • Metro: U Street (Green/Yellow), about 2 blocks away
  • Phone: 202-328-0369
  • Hours: Open weekdays at 5 PM (last seating 10:30 Mon-Thurs, 11:30 PM Fri-Sat); Brunch on weekends at 10 AM

Have you eaten at Matchbox on 14th? Help us rate it!

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Daily First – Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Dec

All the new restaurant news that’s fit to reprint:

  • The owners of Absolute Thai are opening Absolute Noodles in Chinatown (on 5th St. NW). The42bus has a menu and says the place is close to opening.
  • Washingtonian has the scoop on Table, a new European-style restaurant focusing on fresh produce and flavors. Photos + menu included. Something in the menu did not translate over to HTML, but this sounds interesting: “Monkfish bacon-wrapped anise broth.” (Although I’m not sure what food item is actually “bacon-wrapped.” But I’ll eat bacon-wrapped anything).
  • Tom Brown, owner of The Passenger, is opening Hogo, an island-themed bar and restaurant at 1017 7th St. NW. On the food, Young & Hungry says: “There will also be Hawaiian diner food for the first month, after which point the kitchen will be turned over to a rotating cast of guest chefs. . . The kitchen of Hogo will change hands every two weeks or so. Tom says the idea is to be a “restaurant accelerator” where chefs can test out food for new restaurant ventures, or take a vacation from their kitchens to cook something different. Ed Witt, who recently left 701 Restaurant, has already signed on to cook his version of American diner food at Hogo, and Yuji Haraguchi of YUJI Ramen in Brooklyn will also guest chef.”
  • Ambar, a “Modern Serbian Restaurant” is getting closer to opening in Barracks Row, and EaterDC has some menu and drink details. All of these dishes look…interesting: “Though the restaurant is Serbian, Iricanin said there will be a heavy Mediterranean influence found in the cooking. Here are a few dishes you’ll see on the menu: stuffed turkey fillet with ajvar and homemade cheese with bacon and mashed potato, goose liver pate with apple jelly and other accents, slow-cooked pork neck with horseradish ice cream, grilled goat cheese with duck cracklings salsa, and cheese pie with tzaziki salad. Iricanin had said before that Rakija, a fruit brandy, would be a main focus of the beverage program. He is now looking at the possibility of making his own in-house.”

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0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score)

Daily First – December 10, 2012

10 Dec

Catching up after a weekend of feasting, here’s all the new restaurant news that’s fit to reprint:

  • Borderstan says Taqueria Nacional is opening a new and much larger outpost in Logan/U Street (14th and T, NW):  “The 2,600 sq-ft fast-casual restaurant, Taqueria Nacional, will serve-up a variety of tacos (think beef tacos, fish tacos, chicken tacos, chorizo tacos and lamb tacos) made with organic ingredients. Fulchino also plans on adding a variety of quesadillas and salads to the 14th Street menu, as well as margaritas, beer and agua frescas. The ambiance of the new restaurant is important to Fulchino. His goal is to create a space inspired by traditional Mexican and Cuban colors and designs.”  [via Borderstan]  The original taco shop has gotten solid reviews, and the new space should be a good addition to 14th street (especially the Mexican breakfasts).
  • Momos is opening at 3605 14th St. NW (at Spring Road in C-Heights) on December 11th. Blog New Columbia Heights has covered the restaurant’s development, and describes it as “Southern-style American food with some Asian influences.”  In addition to the signature Momos–Indian dumplings–the restaurant will serve bottomless brunch and a variety of beers in a large patio space. Sounds like an interesting, unusual menu and space. Check it out. [Read more]

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0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score)

Hanoi House

8 Dec

by Maya B.

Photo: Hanoi House

Upon entering Hanoi House, DC’s newest Vietnamese spot, one is instantly ensconced in a thick, intriguing ambience, somewhat of a luxury Vietnamese speakeasy.  The long rectangular dining area is dark, steamy, and bathed in a red glow.  Soft whispers of crispy fried dough, fresh cilantro, and inviting chili peppers caress us as we are led to our booth, which is raised slightly off the wooden floor.

Our waitress instantly pops over to the table.  She is extremely friendly and offers up a few suggestions of a few of her favorite dishes as we peruse the menu.  The menu, itself, offers plenty of options without appearing overwhelming: a few classic Vietnamese appetizers, such as spring rolls stuffed with shrimp or tofu and green papaya salad, banh mi sandwiches, fried rice, and of course, pho.  The drink menu is more exotic, witch cocktails comprised of specialty liquors, tropical fruits, and a variety of spices and herbs.

Everything looks great and we decide to over-order.  Goi Cuon Chay (vegetarian garden roll with crispy tofu and a plum dipping sauce) for starters, followed by banh mi two ways (Thit Ga with chicken and Thit Chay with fried tofu for the two of us veggies).  For the main course we opt for chicken Com Chien (fried rice, green peas, garlic, onion, carrots, fish sauce, and cilantro) and the vegetarian Pho Chay (Vietnamese noodle soup).  I can’t help but try the Gold Star cocktail, packed with mango, nutmeg, pineapple, lemon, and pisco.

Siting in the steamy room (yes, my glasses actually fogged up), we chat about how beautiful and relaxing the restaurant is.  It is sexy while demure, pulling off the ever sought after allure many restaurants (and women) can only dream of.  I happily sip my mango pisco, which has the perfect balance of sweet and savory (I’m not a huge fan of sweet cocktails and was a little nervous about this one before I tried it), and anticipate the food.

The meal arrives quickly, with all the plates coming out at once.  We soon realize we have ordered a mountain of food for just three people.  We dig in.  The spring rolls are a nice start, filled with fresh aromatic veggies and herbs and wrapped in a light rice paper shell.  We move on to the banh mi.  The sandwich itself is rather large and the baguette crunchy, but it is lacking character.  The fried tofu filling is alright, as is the chicken according our resident meat eater, but the filling is missing the spice, acidity, and crunch I tend to associate with a great banh mi.  In other words, while the banh mi is definitely edible, it pales in comparison to some other local offerings (I suggest making the trip out to Eden Center in Falls Church and popping into Song Que Deli, where you can get a killer banh mi–meat or veg–for under $5).  The fried rice is also large and tasty, but nothing special.  The vegetarian pho is interesting, incorporating flavors I don’t typically associate with pho (it has mushrooms and bamboo and the broth is semi-sweet, reminiscent of a ramen or udon).  It lacks cilantro and is not accompanied by a chili sauce nor a plum sauce, which is somewhat of a disappointment.  That said, it has a nice subtle flavor.

We pack up some leftovers and fork over for the bill–the damage is a mere $55 the whole meal (four main dishes, an appetizer, and one cocktail).  On our way out we discuss the pros and cons.  We all agree that the best thing Hanoi House has going for it is atmosphere–it’s the kind of place you just want to lounge around and drink cocktails in for hours.  The food is good, but it’s not great, and you can definitely find better Vietnamese in DC or in the suburbs.  However, the portions are all ample, which translates into value.  The conclusion?  While Hanoi House is perhaps a better spot for pre or post dinner drinks than for actual dinner itself, especially considering nearby competition, it still manages to offer an enjoyable experience at a reasonable price.


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Daily First – Friday

7 Dec

All the new restaurant news that’s fit to reprint:

  • Brightest Young Things has a first look at A&D, the new Shaw venture (1314 9th St. NW) by the owners of Seasonal Pantry and SUNdeVICH [via BYT]. You’ll find the highly eclectic menu (pickled eggs?) here.
  • Blog Beenthereeatenthat reviews the new Matchbox on 14th Street. I haven’t eaten there, but the space is impressive.
  • According to Tom Sietsema, PS7 is dead and Del Campo is born:  “Expected to open in spring 2013, Del Campo will focus on the social and edible pleasures of the South American asado, or barbecue.  A changing menu of grilled meats — short ribs, chorizo, skirt steak, blood sausage — will be rounded out by Peruvian-style crudos and ceviches.  Fittingly, the drinks will include pisco sours and mate tea.”  Having spent many a day sipping pisco sours and devouring ceviche (in Panama and Belize, but still), I can’t wait for this.
  • Friendship Heights is getting a new Texican-Mexican place – Mi Cocina at 5471 Wisconsin Avenue. Prince of Petworth says this is a Texas chain, and their menu is here. One plus, they’re serving Chilaquiles and Huevos at brunch.
  • Young & Hungry has news on Ghibellina, the Italian gastropub coming to 1610 14th St. NW from the owners of Acqua al 2: “Former Society Fair baker and Palena alum Jonathan Copeland will lead the kitchen.” I guess that’s sort of news, even though I don’t know Mr. Copeland from Adam.

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