The ever-evolving Washington, DC restaurant scene can be exhausting. With all the new openings, it can be a full-time job keeping up with the city’s culinary offerings. Never fear. For everyone looking for that next gastronomic fix (and lamenting the end of Winter Restaurant Week), here are a few of the best new gems in the Washington, DC area.
Tulips (1207 19th Street, NW)
The gritty industrial charm of the Irish Whiskey Public House has been elegantly reimagined with the creation of Tulips, Dupont Circle’s new restaurant and champagne lounge. The creation of restauranteur Reese Gardner, owner of both Virginia-based Copperwood Taverns, Tulips is actually offers a trifecta of options. Spread over all three levels of the historic townhouse, each floor at Tulips offers a distinctly unique vibe. The main floor is still occupied by a linger-worthy bar, serving up a catalogue of exquisite cocktails developed by bar manager Megan Shaff, like the Ladylike, crafted from Clyde May Whiskey, Copper & Kings aged apple brandy, lemon, Aperol, rose apple syrup, and egg white. Small bite options at the bar include an assortment of sophisticated toasts, with topping likes beer tartare, pork belly, and foie gras. Below the bar, in the dining room brightly decorated with splashes of floral fabric and hanging chandeliers, Chef James Duke serves elaborate dishes like salt spring mussels in a delicate, house-made kimchi base, vanilla infused poached lobster served with roasted potato veloute, and mushroom bisque embellished with dry sherry and black truffle shavings. Second course selections include pan seared sea scallops served atop caramelized fennel with decadent uni butter, and the lamb duo, served with caramelized apples, foie gras, and topped with onion cracklin. Plus, for dessert there are decadent chocolates and airy macaroons. After dinner, guests can retire to the third floor champagne lounge for an ambiance-infused night cap (or two).
Arroz (901 Massachusetts Avenue, NW)
Joining the family of highly-esteemed Mike Isabella eateries dotting the capital area, Arroz celebrates the flavors of Portugal, Morocco, and southern Spain. But, this is no run-of-the-mill tapas joint. Located in the Marriot Marquis, Arroz delivers plates like country fried quail, chermoula lamb ribs, and hot smoked bone marrow offered with ‘pan con tomate’ and oxtail marmalade, all served in an stylishly minimalist dining room, accented with splashes of indigo and cobalt blue. Large plates includes options like Arctic char, served with Portuguese tomato rice, crispy octopus and baby fennel. Then, there are the namesake bomba rice dishes, intended to be shared between three to four diners. Options include selections like Berkshire pig bomba, garnished with chorizo, coco beans, padron peppers, pickled fresno, and grainy mustard crema. The libation list is equally inspired, fusing Spanish, Portuguese, and Moroccan traditions into a series of creative cocktails. The trio of sangria selections includes offerings like the rosé, a sangria concocted with rosé tempranillo, vodka, elderflower, lychee, grapefruit and agave. For teetotalers, there are also imaginative non-alcoholic selections, like the Mediterranean lemonade, crafted with lemon, orange, orange blossom, and rosemary.
The Block (4221 John Marr Drive, Annandale)
Food halls are having a moment. Not to be confused with the soggy-pizza-slinging, subterranean food courts of old, which were usually ensconced in the bowels of a suburban shopping mall, the modern food hall is inventive and international. The Block, in Annandale, is the poster-child for this new iteration of the conventional food court. The 5,000 sq. foot, Asian-inspired food hall – a space that buzzes like a bar at happy hour, and feels like a chicly reimagined high school cafeteria – is currently populated with six different vendors, slinging everything from poke bowls to cocktails to Taiwanese shaved ice. Spearheaded by Arturo Mei, owner of the SnoCream Company, for now, the young food hall features six different vendors, including Mei’s shaved ice joint. Diners can choose from vendors like Pokéworks, purveyor of made-to-order poké bowls; Roots Thai Street Food, serving up staples like beefy boat noodle soup; and Balo Kitchen, dishing up Asian-inspired recreations comfort food classics, like perfectly crisped wings doused in fish sauce, palate-cleansing pickles, and the pig frites, served with deep fried, sous vide bacon. For barflies, The Block also features an in-house watering hole, with happy hour specials on beer and wine, and a bar bites menu offering choices like fries with uni cream. Don’t forget to save room for dessert. First, there’s Mei’s Taiwanese shaved ice stand — SnoCream Company — which serves up flavors like taro and pandon, with toppings ranging from vanilla wafers to lychee jellies. While for ice cream traditionalists, Munch dips a diversity of flavors, like Vietnamese coffee, matcha Oreo, and Fruity Pebbles.
Bresca (1906 14th Street, NW)
Named for the Spanish word for honeycomb, hexagons are part of the earthy décor at Bresca. Helmed by Chef Ryan Ratino, the eatery offers a laidback version of avant-garde fine dining. The menu includes snacks like leek velouté and buckwheat pancakes paired with parsley root ice cream and trout roe, garnished with herbs and flowers from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. Options for medium plates include imaginative selections like smoked paprika pappardelle served with goat ragu and smoked gouda, or the foie gras ‘PB & J,’ a concoction involving real Concord grape jelly delicately applied to bites of cured duck liver. For a larger spread, there are also equally inventive sharing plates, like the honey lacquered duck. Plus, the cocktails are as intriguing as the food. Toast the eatery’s winged inspiration with drinks like the Pollination, consisting of vodka, bee nectar, citrus, chamomile cordial, and gentian, or the aptly named Bee’s Knees, a concoction containing bee’s wax gin, truffle honey, and citrus.
Kith & Kin (801 Wharf Street SW)
Still just one of a handful of Afro-Caribbean inspired restaurants in the capital area, Kith & Kin is one of the eateries adding culinary cred to the new District Wharf, spread along the Southwest waterfront. The most recent creation of Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi, Kith & Kin is not only a celebration of the flavors of West Africa and the Caribbean, but also of family. Menu items are inspired by dishes prepared by Onwuachi’s parents and grandmother. For smaller portions, there are snacks like the beef patties in Calypso sauce and the Nigerian-inspired dry-aged beef Suya skewers, and small plates like red lentils spiced with shiro and served with marinated tomatoes and baby kale, or the torched mackerel served with jollof rice. There are also intriguing dishes meant to be eaten sans silverware, like goat roti and the Nigerian red stew with chicken and fufu. The large plates are equally worldly, inspired by Chef Onwuachi’s roots and upbringing, with selections like whole fried red snapper, stewed oxtails served with jasmine rice, and gumbo hewn from grilled quail, smoked andouille sausage, and long-grain rice.
Cover image by Malee Oot.