Currently H Street’s restaurant scene is divided into two sections: the Western end and the Eastern end without almost any restaurants in the middle. The Western end runs from Ethiopic in the 400th block to Hikari Sushi in the 600th block. The Eastern end starts with the Atlas Room in the 1000th block and runs to the 1400th block. In between there are not really any restaurants (the new Chupacabra being the exception). There is a lot of development planned for that section (including three apartment buildings and a Whole Foods) but not much has materialized so far. Continue reading
Our first trip to TD Burger in NoMa (250 K Street, NE) almost didn’t warrant a return trip. It was very disappointing as the restaurant has a great outdoor seating area and a Top Chef contestant as the chef (Timothy Dean). Yet, the fast casual burger restaurant had a weird set up, confused service, and unimpressive food. Since that, our most recent return trip saw some improvement. However, we hope that this trend continues and accelerates as the restaurant still needs help.
Customers order their food at the counter and then go sit down with a number card for food to have their food delivered to them. But there’s a catch: you can’t order any alcoholic drinks at the counter and instead have to go to the bar or get the attention of the cocktail waiter/waitress (only one or two employees had the ability to serve alcohol even though there were close to ten employees serving customers). It took us around seven minutes to order drinks once we sat down even though the restaurant was empty and we’d already asked a different server for help. This was after waiting several minutes to order food (there was no one in line in front of us) due to a combination of the server being completely confused and the computer system being down. Additionally, this set up is not ideal as it requires customers to open a second tab for alcohol even if they only want to order a beer.
The food did not improve the night. The “Sonia from the Bronx” burger sounded intriguing: avocado, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, and grilled romaine. The burger probably would have been great if it had been served as a salad without the bun. The grilled romaine was tasty and the burger had promising flavor. Unfortunately, all of this was overshadowed by a soggy bun that fell apart and could not hold the burger properly. We were a little confused at how the bun was so soggy as it had clearly been thrown on the grill for a few seconds and had light grill marks. Regardless, it ruined the burger. The allegedly “beer battered” onion rings tasted like onion rings we could have picked up in the frozen section of the grocery store.
Tomorrow evening Indigo (243 K Street, NE) will open for its first dinner service and will bring authentic Indian cuisine to the corner of K and 3rd Street, NE. The restaurant will be open for dinner service Monday-Friday and will be open from breakfast through dinner on the weekends. They will also offer takeout and delivery service in the region. There will not be a set menu, but instead there will be a rotating menu of Indian dishes that will change every 3-4 days. Diners will enter the restaurant and order food at the main counter and pick up their meal when it is ready at the counter. Initially, Indigo (a name derived from “Indian food on the go”) will also have a limited alcohol menu of beer and wine, but they hope to expand their selections in the coming months and have a freestanding bar in the restaurant. However, authentic Indian street food that highlights the spices and flavors of the region and uses the freshest available ingredients will always be the focus of Indigo.
Indigo is the culmination of many years of work in the restaurant industry for husband and wife owners Dinesh and Nidhi Tandon. The Tandons owned a restaurant in India for several years prior to moving to the United States in 2003. While they took a few years off from the culinary industry when they first moved to this country, they began operating a food truck in 2010 that served Indian dishes right outside of Union Station. As Dinesh explained, they had a very strong response to their food and soon they had a large enough fan base that they expanded their operation to a stall at Eastern Market that has been operating for the past two years. They also began to do a strong catering business and last year began operating a stand once a week at Georgetown University’s market. During this time of expansion, they rented an industrial kitchen in Virginia and were having to work incredibly long hours (many times waking up at 3am) to go from market to market picking up ingredients, bringing them back to their rented kitchen, cooking the dishes, and then transporting them to Eastern Market (or the Georgetown University market) to sell. Throughout this time, they dreamed of finding a place where they could establish a brick and mortar restaurant.
Their search for the ideal location took a while. Dinesh looked at several places on H Street and entered serious negotiations, but none of them worked out. He kept searching everyday for potential places. The Tandons have a house near Trinidad in NE, and Dinesh would frequently pass by the Franklin Carryout located at 3rd and K Street, NE. While the market was fairly rundown, Dinesh believed that it would be a great location to establish a restaurant. One day the owner of Franklin Carryout put the place on the market; Dinesh responded within hours of the listing. Continue reading
This week’s grand opening of Doi Moi (1800 14th Street NW) was one of the most anticipated new restaurant openings this year in any part of the District. Owner Mark Kuller is responsible for two of the best restaurants in the city (Proof and Estadio) and had spent a significant amount of time traveling with his head chef to embed themselves in countries throughout Southeast Asia to research and prepare for their new restaurant that would feature tastes and spices from around the region. The result is an experience that lets diners savor the richness and spiciness of Vietnamese and Thai dishes without having to travel farther than 14th Street.
When you first walk into Doi Moi and turn to the left, you will immediately realize that the substantial open kitchen is in the middle of the first (of two) dining rooms, giving you a view of the action and allowing you to soak in the aroma of the dishes you are about to enjoy. Throughout the restaurant is authentic art that the owner brought back from his travels in the region to decorate the restaurant. If you are unable to get a table due to high demand, try to grab one of the ample bar stools which give you a front row seat to the live cooking show unfolding before your eyes.
Like its sister restaurant Estadio, the menu is largely composed of small dishes; however, the rice and noodle dishes are more of an entree size than the rest of the menu. The dishes are broken up into starters, skewers, salads, soup, curries, “share,” noodles and rice dishes, and vegetables. Our waiter suggested that each person should order 2-3 dishes. A starter and two of the larger dishes will certainly not leave you hungry. Continue reading
A new Ethiopian restaurant called “Addis Ethiopian Restaurant” recently received a construction permit for 707 H Street, NE, as first reported by ANC Commissioner Tony Goodman on Twitter. A peek inside the window at 707 revealed that they have already made significant progress in gutting the inside of the building. Until recently, this location had been occupied by Casual Corner, a popup clothing retailer. In 2011 it had been announced that a nightclub called Xclusive was planning on moving into this space; however, that nightclub faced significant resistance from neighbors and eventually pulled out.
We’ll add more once we learn details from the owner.
TD Burger, the specialty burger restaurant by Top Chef Alum Thomas Dean, is looks like it is getting fairly close to opening in NoMa. The signage is up and we have seen a lot of activity there recently. You can read more about TD Burger here.
After significant permitting and zoning delays with the D.C. Government, RedRocks (1348 H Street, NE) has moved into the final phase of zoning permits and hopes to open prior to Labor Day. The restaurant has been ready to open for the past several weeks but was held up by the District Government. Earlier this week, they received good news on the zoning front and should be able to open up all three levels for dinner when they open in the coming weeks. RedRocks features Italian food and pizzas and has three other locations in Columbia Heights, Old Town Alexandria, and Arlington.
Newton’s Noodles (1129 20th Street NW), the fast casual noodles concept from chef Dennis Friedman (Newton’s Table in Bethesda), is set to open in the coming days. Friedman tells us that they are putting the final touches on the interior of the restaurant and plan to begin training their staff this week or the beginning of next week. Friedman says that they should be open within the “next week or two,” but he does not want to rush to open until they are 100% ready to go. Bethesda Magazine reported last year that Newton’s Noodles will feature “Fuzu” noodles, a unique “comforting rice noodle dish similar to Pad Thai” that Friedman created at Newton’s Table.
We stopped by Bardo (1200 Bladensburg Road, NE) on Tuesday to check out their second night of being open. While the bar was sparsely attending during the traditional happy hour timeframe, it does have great potential to become a nice neighborhood spot in the months ahead. Bardo eventually will be a large outdoor brewpub that will brew several of its own beers onsite and will have many more on tap. They already have picnic tables and cornhole and plan on showing outdoor movies and serving food in the future. A concept similar to Bardo was previously operated in Arlington by the same owners. Check out The Washington City Paper’s excellent profile of Bardo from several months ago to learn more about its background.
Bardo is a definite work in progress as one of the owners explained to us they simply wanted to get open as quickly as possible. The District government would only issue them one permit at a time, so for right now they have not built their onsite brewery and are only serving a few beers on tap. The next immediate step for Bardo is installing a canopy-like roof that will drape over the area in front of the bar to protect customers when it rains. The owners anticipate this canopy being up in the coming days (currently there is no cover if it rains). The owners already have much of the brewing equipment on site and plan on applying for the brewery building permit as soon as possible. One of the owners said that they planned to have the brewery part of Bardo open in three months. Continue reading
We had the pleasure of stopping by opening night of Mike Isabella’s Kapnos (2201 14th Street, NW) on opening night, July 5th. Even ten days later, we are still savoring the taste of perhaps the best dinner we have had all year. While Isabella’s first restaurant, Graffiato, may have been a more anticipated opening in the media, Kapnos is already giving Graffiato a run for its money (and this is coming from huge fans of Graffiato).
Kapnos is located on the corner of 14th and W Streets, a block north of U Street on the first floor of a new apartment complex. The restaurant features a beautiful open kitchen that enables the diner to enjoy a full view of the show that goes into the preparation of their dinner. On opening night, Isabella himself helmed the kitchen and inspected every dish prior to it being sent out to the table.
We started dinner with one of Isabella’s kegged lemonades, a specialty of the house according to our waiter. While the second round had more fizz than the first round, both were a refreshing break from the hot and humid D.C. night that we had just come in from outside. In addition to the three versions of kegged lemonade, Kapnos has an extensive wine list and an in house sommelier (something our waiter pointed out several times) as well as many different cocktails.
Like his other two restaurants, the menu at Kapnos is divided up into categories of tapas. To sample the menu fully, we tried at least one from each category (a tasting menu is also available for a reasonable $65 a person). To begin our feast, we started with two of the spreads: a standard tzatziki and the melitzanosalata. The tzatziki was good, but the melitzanosalata, a smokey combination of eggplant, feta, and red peppers stole the show. Next we moved on to the “barely raw mezze” where we chose the bronzino. The Mediterranean fish was cured in a cucumber dill sauce and topped with two small slivers of the fish’s skin that had been lightly fried and tasted almost like slightly crunchier popcorn.
To pretend to be healthy, we tripled up on the vegetable section by ordering the asparagus, the beets, and the potatoes (the greek fries “vegetable” dish was not available opening night). In this section, the asparagus, lightly grilled with lemon rind and served with a generous helping of sundried tomatoes and feta, was transformed from a good but sometimes overused and forgettable summer vegetable into a stellar dish that we hope to replicate at home sometime soon. The smoky beets featured an interesting contrast between the spice of the green peppercorn crisp and the citrusy yogurt they were served with. While beets may be over featured on menus across town currently, you definitely don’t want to miss out on this delicious and unique preparation at Kapnos. Continue reading