Category Archives: Food

Revenge is a Dish Best Served on H

H Street DC sign
H Street – it’s not just for boobs and vaudeville anymore. Rising from the ashes of the recently vacated Red Palace space is…..drum-roll…..long-planned Italian eatery Vendetta, which was originally slated for the 1300 block. Observant Sherlock-types may have seen small ads for it whilst frequenting RnR or the Biergarten.

Vendetta will boast two bocce courts upstairs (think H Street Country Club) and will feature a Vespa themed bar, with several of the popular motor scooters hanging from the ceiling. Let’s hope they’re well secured.

Vendetta will serve casual Italian cuisine, with a wide selection of pastas and pretentious sides, including something called vanilla Chianti polenta. Sigh. It’s only a matter of time until some enterprising chef unveils an artisan sea urchin ceviche accented with violets and pine nuts.

In terms of ambiance, partner Jimmy Silk says he’s going for a rustic feel, probably akin to distant neighbor Boundary Road but with more of a focus on wood. The space will have 120 seats over both floors.

The 5,000 sq ft space at 1210 H is better suited as a restaurant. When Palace of Wonders and the Red and the Black merged a few years ago, it lacked cohesion, although the renovated performance stage upstairs will be sorely missed, not to mention the sword-swallowing strippers.

As for the Vendetta plan, the ink hasn’t dried yet, but the partners are fast-tracking this for a Spring opening. Pretty exciting!

And the transformation of H Street continues…

Written by Joel Church.

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Restaurant Review: Ambar on Barrack’s Row

pic courtesy K Street Magazine

pic courtesy K Street Magazine

I must admit that I was skeptical. Despite the fact that Ambar, the new Balkan cuisine restaurant occupying the space that was once Jordan’s 8 on Barrack’s Row, is the newest culinary project of Ivan Iricanin, who has made me salivate at Maza 14 and El Centro. This guy is good, I knew, but even a great artist can be limited by his raw materials. And my previous experience with Balkan food gave me pause.

In December 2010, I took a last-minute trip to the beautiful country of Croatia with my mother.  We traveled to Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split and were delighted by the people, places and things we encountered, with one significant exception: the food. Croats may have invented cravats, boast gorgeous, ancient cities, produced incredible artists and done many other exceptional things, but the culinary culture there left my spoiled Washington palate with something to be desired… namely, flavor and variety.  So, I approached Ambar with some reservation. My two friends who had lived in Bulgaria, however, could not contain their enthusiasm. Was it possible I was just on the wrong side of the Balkan kitchen?

We started at the bar. The set up is the same as Jordan’s, with some welcome improvements in color and lighting. The outdoor bar will undoubtedly be a destination after the winter. After discussing the differences between plum brandy and hazelnut liquor with the nice people at the bar, I indulged in the Belgrade, a delightfully sour cocktail with plum brandy, ginger beer and lime. The signature cocktails are named for the capitals of the countries in the Balkans. So far, so good.

Soon, our meal began with crispy bacon wrapped-plums stuffed with cheese, hearty sourdough and corn breads and a warm stuffed pepper. Our kind waiter indulged all our questions and you would have never known that it was only the second night a new restaurant was open. You could tell an experienced hand was running the show. The food continued to offer all the flavor and variety I could ask for and missed in beautiful Hrvaška. Crisp salads with colorful peppers and feta, a ricotta cheese pastry, veal-stuffed cabbage, parmesan- encrusted sirloin cooked exactly right, walnut-encrusted chicken that was moist and flavorful, delightfully salty potatoes, and salmon served with an enticing sweet eggplant purée. Everything we ordered (and it was a lot) was delicious and well-presented. I paired my steak with a red Macedonian wine that nicely rounded out the meal.

I will be back to Ambar, and I will never underestimate Ivan Iricanin again.

Written by Marie Francis.

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Monthly Wine Tasting at Le Grenier

pic courtesy of District Cuisine

pic courtesy of District Cuisine

New local favorite Le Grenier, at 5th and H Streets NE, knows how to keep the local crowd happy.  Every month the French restaurant will feature new wines by the glass, introduced at a free [read: FREE] tasting the first Tuesday of every month.  I sat down at the beautiful and dimly lit bar to try six new wines for myself.  Verdict?  I’m sold.

Le Grenier means “attic” in French, and has been decorated completely by the wife of the husband-and-wife team who owns the new spot, in addition to long-standing favorite Le Chat Noir in Georgetown.  The small upstairs (available for private parties) is decorated with antique skis, headboards, and my favorite, a marching band drum with stuffed animals inside. The effect is charming.

Back to the tasting!  Six wines were being poured, in addition to gorgeous crostini on offer, of cured meats, paté, and lemon and herb mousse.  The following are some of my notes and thoughts, in case you wish to stop in for a happy hour (wine half off every day from 5-7, even weekends).

Whites

  • 2011 Francois Chidaine Sauvignon D’Alsace Touraine:
    From the Loire valley, mellow and light, very easy to drink.
  • 2010 Castle Rock Chardonnay, California:
    To make the list in a French restaurant, this California wine must be pretty great, and it is.   Softer, with an apple and pear profile, rounder bodied.
  • 2010 Jean Baptiste Adam Pinot Gris D’Alsace Reserve:
    This one was my personal favorite.  Brighter, sweeter, lively, fun to drink.

Reds

  • 2009 Chateau Pavillon Boyrein Graves Rouge, Bordeaux
    Poor Merlot, left out in the cold after Sideways.  But really, the only reason people (myself included) generally don’t care for Merlot is we’ve been drinking bad/cheap Merlot.  This wine was dry yet fruity, with a tang on the palette after a sip.  Flavors of berries.
  • 2009 Chateau Lascaux Rouge, from the Languedoc
    Full-bodied, fruity, dry and tangy.
  • 2010 Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone, Rhone Valley
    I really love this maker’s name, but the wine was excellent too.  My notes read “full, full, full.”  Acidic once tasted, this was in energetic, the perfect companion to a steak.  The acidity in this wine stands up to food, as opposed to some of the others, which are just fun to drink alone.

If you miss the monthly wine tasting, which is planned for the first Tuesday of every month, you can still catch an amazing deal every Tuesday: half-price wine, cheese, and charcuterie at the bar.  Sitting at the bar tasting wine lets all the hurry of the world outside melt away.  Treat yourself next month.

Written by Haley Fults

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Hip Hip Hikari!

pic courtesy Thrillist

pic courtesy Thrillist

New Japanese restaurant Hikari Sushi opened this week at 644 H St NE, adding another exciting cuisine option to the burgeoning corridor. According to Thrillist, it’s named after the fastest bullet train in Japan. The polished decor includes samurai swords and red lanterns, and there’s an impressive skylight lining the entire staircase. The first floor seems to cater more to the drinking crowd, while the 2nd floor has booths for peeps looking to dine-in or check out the exciting goings-on at the sushi bar. A wood-lined patio is slated to open in March on the second floor, which will be a great spot for outdoor seating in the warmer months.

Onto the offerings. Hikari offers an wide array of nearly 30 sakes, and the food menu offers an impressive list of Japanese “tapas”, including a lot of tasty-looking options for those who prefer small plates. The ever-growing ramen crowd has no need to fear – there are several options, but none that look as creative as the ones offered at Toki Underground.
There’s a range of Pan Asian dishes, including several styles of noodles, Korean bulgogi, as well as Hibachi grilled meats of your choice – chicken, steak, and lobster.  The fancy sushi rolls are on the expensive side (priced quite a bit higher than similar items found at Sticky Rice) but are quite delicious – from what we could tell, Hikari appears to get very good fish.

They offer happy hour specials on Tuesday, and hopefully this will be extended to the rest of the week as well. We’re glad to have Hikari as another great option on the western end of H Street.
Written by Joel Church.

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Quick Byte: Celebrity on H!

dr_horrible

Stop the presses, everyone. Dr. Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris, was spotted at hot ramen spot Toki Underground last night before going to help light the White House Xmas tree. Contrary to rumors from a tipster calling himself “Kumar”, NPH was not on ‘shrooms and ecstasy, but had ‘shrooms in his bowl of ramen and left feeling rather ecstatic. No word on whether local hero Captain Hammer was also in attendance.

As if this place could get any more exclusive — reservations are extremely hard to come by–walk-ins should expect a wait of at least an hour, even if you show up at 5pm on a weekday. All this commotion begs the question: is Toki Underground the Dorsia of H Street?

Written by Joel Church

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Taste of Myanmar

pic courtesy of Scene Squid

Come feast on 15 delicious dishes of Burmese food for just $10!  

On Thursday the 15th, EventStir and RuninOut will host a family style meal of typical Burmese fare at [aptly named] Burma in Chinatown.  Think Groupon-meets-Square: you join the event, pay $10, then get to eat your heart out with your new group of friends.

Starting at 6:30 at Burma (located a few doors down from Chinatown Express on 6th Street), you can explore the “only authentic Burmese food in DC” and lots of it.  15 dishes will be served family style, so get ready to experience the freshness of green mango salad and the bite of spicy fish curry.

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Not That You’d Forget, But H Street Festival Is Tomorrow

pic courtesy of Going Out Guide, Washington Post

The allure and fun of the H Street Corridor has runneth over these past few years, with developments and restaurants popping up all the way from 4th Street to 15th, NE.  Not only is this a standard night-time locale, but the daytime businesses (eateries, shops, yoga studios) have been thriving as well.

Explore all the news on H Street tomorrow during the always-wonderful H Street Festival.  And with nothing but sun in the forecast (unlike last year’s), the party is sure to rock and ramble from noon til dusk.  Restaurants run specials all day long, several music stages will have acts running all day long, and several more fashion and dance stages will wow visitors with bellydancing, child and adult fashion shows and, my personal favorite, the tattoo competition (that is, showing off tattoos you already have…not who can get a new tattoo the quickest, though could that be the next thing?).

New restaurants like Cusbah and mainstays like The Pug will be open, as will future H Street restaurants (through some break in the time-space continuum) like Ben’s Chili Bowl and Impala Cantina and Taqueria.

So, H Street Festival: Food, Drink, Music, Dance, Arts.  The Future.  What more could you ask for?  Oh, and it’s free.

Written by Haley Fults.

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