This is the first in a new series that will look at various dining establishments that could make H Street, already a great dining scene, even better.
In the past few years, H Street has seen a wide variety of restaurants featuring different ethnic cuisines open up: Ethiopian, Japanese (sushi), Mexican, Lebanese, Indian, Mongolian, French, Italian, and even British. The diversity and uniqueness of H Street’s restaurants is part of what makes the area such a popular dining destination in D.C.. Despite all of this diversity, the corridor lacks one fairly common cuisine for neighborhoods throughout the area–a Thai restaurant. Ideally, such a Thai restaurant would have a fairly large dining room area, a bar (but the bar would not be the focus of the establishment), and would offer both takeout and delivery service.
Why does H Street need such a Thai restaurant? Thai cuisine is very popular for its spice and also the diversity of different ingredients and dishes that can be served. It would add to H Street’s already diverse dining scene in an area that is currently lacking. Such a restaurant would also fullfil a neighborhood demand for more carryout options and delivery service. Additionally, while the neighborhood has several restaurants and bars that serve great food, the neighborhood could use a few more places that focus more on their food instead of their alcohol service. A quality Thai restaurant would (hopefully) provide another option on the H Street strip that focused more on food and less on alcohol. Furthermore, a Thai restaurant would give the neighborhood a go to place for food that–while not standard American cuisine–is familiar to most people and could thus be good for larger group outings. Hopefully the Thai restaurant would be a good place to go out for dinner and a drink either on a weeknight or before going out to other H Street bars on the weekend.
Vendetta (1212 H Street, NE) opened earlier this week in the space that used to be the Red Palace until it closed last New Years. The restaurant had been planned for several years by H Street titan Joe Englert, and many in the neighborhood were quite excited to see it open. We stopped by the second night it was open to check it out.
Outside of Vendetta
We were very impressed with redesigned space–it was almost impossible to recognize that it used to be the Red Palace (check out a Frozen Tropics post here for more details on the space). Vendetta is an Italian restaurant with a strong focus on pasta (check out their menu here). To start, we tried Vendetta’s bread which was served with an unusual, but quite good, peach jam. Their olive appetizer was fine but only as exciting as a plate of olives can be.
For entrees, diners are encouraged to try one of the different preparations of pasta featuring a variety of proteins ranging from pancetta to pork meatballs to squid as well as several vegetarian offerings. Once you have selected a preparation, you pair it with one of their many different types of pasta (there are seven different types ranging from penne to gnocchi). We sampled two of the different pastas. We tried the squid ink with seared squid accompanied by penne pasta. While the appearance of the dish might be off-putting to some because of the squid ink sauce, the dish’s taste made up for it. Tender squid combined with a savory sauce made for quite an enjoyable evening. We also sampled the meatball and turnip ragu which featured somewhat spicy meatballs in a garlic and pepper sauce.
When Tru Orleans (400 H Street, NE) first opened in the neighborhood, we thought that it had great potential. In fact, based upon our experience on opening weekend, we gave it a glowing initial review. It had a great atmosphere, attentive service, and quality food.
Patio at Tru Orleans
Since it opened almost two years ago, something has happened. The restaurant still has a very cool set up with its large patio and open second floor that has a New Orleans-esque railing and balcony. However, it doesn’t have much else going for it anymore. Over the past two years, our experiences have ranged from mediocre to just bizarre. One time during brunch, we watched in horror as a server argued with a table full of customers for several minutes when one of them mentioned that he had messed up their order. Another time during brunch our eggs benedict came out with an alleged “special” sauce on the side: it turned out to be caesar salad dressing. Cajun food that was initially promising (if somewhat expensive) has turned into overpriced dishes that lack freshness and taste (based upon their website it appears the initial chef has departed). Continue reading