KoChix: Hot Honey Spicy Wings

KoChix Wings

Beware BonChon, KoChix is addictive. A corner joint the size of a rich person’s walk-in closet is KILLING it at Korean-style fried chicken in Bloomingdale. Sure, the menu’s small too – but it doesn’t make the Best Thing on the Menu: Hot Honey Spicy Wings any less impressive. Hot honey spicy wasn’t even an original sauce option, but DC demanded something with a little more heat, and owners Karen and Young Park kindly obliged.

Karen Park

The wings come in orders as small as five and as ambitious as 40. As an added bonus, you can choose if you want wings, drums or a combination of both. If you’re on a diet, stop reading here. Otherwise, forge ahead to learn that the secret to these badass bones of bliss is that they’re fried twice. Your teeth cut through two layers of crackling breading before they hit any pollo, and the super sticky sauce is the kind of mess you want to find yourself in on a Saturday night.

Unable to get your wing-craving self to Bloomingdale? Fear not, KoChix is one of many sweet spots to join Caviar, a fun and reliable delivery service. If all of that gushing wasn’t enough to convince you to order a wing (or 40), here’s a ringing endorsement from one of DC’s finest food personalities.

Find KoChix at: 400 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Please nominate Best Thing on the Menu as best local food blog. Voting closes Friday. Cheers!

Hot Honey Spicy not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

GCDC: Canadian Tots

Tots

Canada. They’re questionably good to us in the US of A. Even though their hockey players play in our National Hockey League, they get to jump ship when it really matters during the Olympics. Then there’s Lululemon, but even they’ve been in hot water due to “see through pants gate.” Enter poutine: A Canadian creation of true perfection originating in Quebec that consists of fries topped with a savory gravy and cheese curds. 

GCDC, the newish grilled cheese bar on Pennsylvania Ave, advances the dish in The Best Thing on the Menu: Canadian Tots. Instead of fries, flying saucer shaped tots are coated with cheese curds, a mushroom gravy and most importantly…bacon. That hint of smoke plus the crispy, squishy tater tot texture means they’ve one-upped Canada on this one.

GCDC

Since GCDC specializes in what’s between the bread, it’s worth noting that their best grilled cheese option is none other than the Kim-Cheese-Steak. This is NOT what results when Kim Kardashian heads to Philly for a cheesesteak. Rather, the sandwich gets its name from the kimchee that commingles with cheddar cheese and Korean-style roast beef. It’s vibrant colors and even more vibrant flavor will keep you coming back to this zippy fast casual spot that’s been crushing it since they opened. 

Canadian Tots not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

You might also like Bub and Pops or Stachowski Market.

Mintwood Place: Green Gazpacho

Green Gazpacho

When life gives you soggy humidity and 90 degree days…make gazpacho. Or, at least eat gazpacho. This summery, vegetable-forward soup hailing from Spain typically presents as striking red, and can be akin to slurping salsa. But, Chef Cedric Maupillier takes a different approach at Mintwood Place, yielding The Best Thing on the Menu: Cucumber & Watercress Gazpacho with Crab & Avocado.

You still get the punch of Latin flavors thanks to the guacamole and crab-like mound peeking out from the bottom of the bowl, but the harsh tomato and onion flavor of red gazpacho is replaced with cooling cucumber and herbaceous watercress. Black tobiko (poor man’s caviar) punctuates the top of the crab concoction, adding a playful Pop Rocks texture. You’ll find the green gazpacho in the starters section; get it while it’s hot (outside).

Mintwood Place Beef Tartare

Built like a hedgehog, the potato-spiked beef tartare is also a must-order. If you’re just starting your vampirific raw meat eating career, dabble in the appetizer portion. Veterans can go big by getting the entree. Either way, the meat is minced and seasoned perfectly, threatening what we had previously dubbed the best tartare in DC (the BTDC).

Flammekueche

A final dish worth noting is the Bacon & Onion Flammekueche. This paper thin pizza is bursting with breakfasty flavor is the perfect way to start a meal with friends because they cut it into easy-to-share rectangles. We think they should offer a $1 off your flammekueche if you can pronounce it right on the first try.

Green gazpacho not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

The Source Brunch: Turnip Cakes

Turnip Cakes

When you hear the words “Dim Sum,” the encyclopedia of food in your brain probably pulls up images (and smells) of rusty carts being wheeled around by ladies who MUST be centenarians peddling chicken feet in something gelatinous along with unidentified deep fried parts. At the very least, you think of chubby dumplings.

But, there are no carts at The Source’s Dim Sum Brunch, a truly special treat available on Saturdays at the restaurant abutting the Newseum. Furthermore, The Best Thing on the Menu is not a dumpling, nor some noodles. Rather, the BTM is a set of humble turnip cakes dressed only in Szechuan sweet soy sauce and some wisps of green onion.

Asian food is as much about texture as it is about flavor, and that’s why this dish steals the show. Each LEGO-sized square is the best kind of chewy – keeping your mouth occupied long enough for your dining companion to tell a story. Those who have avoided turnips at family dinners for decades need not worry, there’s hardly a harsh radish taste. All you taste is the tangy sauce and a bit of earthiness.

Chive Dumplings

Chef Scott Drewno’s menu gives you ample opportunity to explore, and for a price that’s somewhat of a steal. Try 5 tastes for $32 or 8 for $42. Other can’t-misses include the Shanghai Noodles because they’re potpourried with fragrant chills and savory bits of oxtail; either the duck or lobster bao buns (an order comes with two baos, just like our city’s favorite panda); and the crystal chive dumplings bursting with kurobuta pork and Maryland crab. Pork and crab = the best kind of surf n’ turf.

Click here for more pictures from the meal.

Turnip cakes not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Crane and Turtle: Sautéed Maine Scallops

Scallops

The doors to Crane & Turtle just opened, giving Petworth’s Upshur Street yet another upgrade. Benches outfitted in sea-colored upholstery  line the walls of this shoebox sized French/Asian restaurant from Paul Ruppert, and an ellipse of counter seats look into the busy kitchen. Its small size may be an adorable anomaly in this city, but in Japan (where charming corner cafes dominate) Crane & Turtle would fit right in.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Sautéed Maine Scallops with Chorizo Tapioca Dumplings, Arugula and  Gingered Coconut Foam is something you’d expect to see somewhere exquisite…like CityZen. Oh wait, Chef Makoto Hamamura was a fixture in that kitchen for seven years, so it all makes sense. He’s a true talent and now has a spot to call his own.

The scallop dish may just be the best thing we’ve eaten THIS YEAR. Perfectly seared scallops sit in a bubble bath of coconut foam and bitter greens where they are joined by tapioca dumplings stuffed with single pearls of chorizo sausage. The party of textures is divine.

Fish

Other top dishes on the menu include hay smoked crudos and cherry gazpacho with clams and kakiage. If it’s possible to have one gripe though, it’s with the “drunken fish” dessert. It’s presented like the traditional Japanese festival dessert called “taiyaki” which has now autocorrected to teriyaki ten times. Ahhhh. The treat is typically a piping hot fish-shaped pancake filled with a sweet red bean paste central to most Japanese desserts. Crane & Turtle’s take is a chilled taiyaki cake that’s been soaked in booze (very fitting for the summer months). But why the fig filling instead of adzuki beans? Fig seeds are gritty and turn the dish into a Fish Newton.

Click here for more pictures from the meal.

Maine scallops not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Huong Viet: #8

Shrimp Cake

“Trust me, you don’t want that,” says a cheerful (presumptuous!) waiter inside Eden Center’s Huong Viet. Not only do we want #8, but it’s the Best Thing on the Menu. Cue Iggy Azalea because #8, or “BÁNH CỐNG,” translates to “fancy fried shrimp cake.”  Three billiards-sized balls arrive at the table with what looks like fossilized shrimp skeletons on top. Is this what he thought would freak us out? Puh-lease. One bite of fish funnel cake and we were smitten.

As with most dishes at Huong Viet, the appetizer comes with the holy trinity of Vietnamese cuisine: Mint, cilantro and fish sauce. Lettuce is also provided so you can tear off bite-sized fried fragments and wrap them up like Christmas presents you can’t wait for your significant other to open. The black bits are mung beans, which add a touch of sweetness. 

BÚN

We got no inquiries or protest upon ordering #71 or “BÚN THỊT NƯỚNG CHÃ GIÒ.”  That’s because other than PHỞ and BÁNH MÌ, BÚN is one of the most commonly consumed Vietnamese dishes by Americans on ethnic eating adventures.

Silky rice vermicelli noodles rest on lettuce and fresh herbs. On top, super smoky grilled pork dances with grated carrots, scallions, crushed peanuts and spring rolls. Obviously, the dish requires a generous drizzle of fish sauce pre-consumption. But remember, the only thing worse than spilling fish sauce on your clothes is locking your keys in your car at an amusement park while babysitting eight-year-old twin boys.

After dining at Huong Viet, or one of the many Vietnamese eateries in Eden Center (Virginia), be sure to pop into some bakeries and delis to load up on treats to take home. Just about anything with sticky rice will do.

#8 not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Dino’s Grotto: Free Form Lasagnette

Lasagnette

The Shaw reincarnation of the shuttered Dino’s in Cleveland Park, Dino’s Grotto, held on to a couple signature dishes. And thank god for that because The Best Thing on the Menu is one of them: Free Form Lasagnette with pork & veal ragu, besciamella, pomodoro, bacon, and grana. If you put bacon in lasagna you win. It’s as simple as that. You may be thinking, a $20 lasagna!? But this crock pot of Italian flavor is quite sharable, so don’t try to tackle it yourself. The “free form” part describes the fact that you won’t find perfectly arranged rectangles of pasta. Rather, this dish is more like a game of Jenga with pasta sheets strewn every which way. It’s as if a four-year-old did his or her best job and building something organized. The messiness makes the dish more fun.

Trotter Tots

A close runner up is an order of Trotter Tots filled with pork shank & hock (truck patch), potato, lioni smoked mozzarella, bread and egg. This appetizer comes with three sticks of golden fried pork goodness and  a side of pepper gravy for all your dipping needs. Dean Gold’s dish is more similar to Spanish croquettas than American tater tots. Order a few for the table and try not to diagram in your head which part of the piggy these hail from. 

DSC_5964

At Dino’s Grotto you’ll also find a souped up bar program. A series of seven signature cocktails is constantly changing because they’re doing all their infusions in house. Right now a favorite is a summery (and world cup-y) “Bitter fruit of a Brazilian Threeway,” with aqua cachaca, punt e med, and aperol grapefruit bitters. But, it could be gone tomorrow so be flexible in choosing a libation. The wine program impresses too.

Free Form Lasagnette not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

You might also like Osteria Morini, Lupo Verde or Alba Osteria.

Sushi Taro: Kaiseki Edition

Sushi Set 1

Tasting menus are all over town, whether at supper clubs, pop-ups or even grocery stores (Glen’s Garden Market!) But what about the OG (original gangster) of tasting menus? We’re talking about kaiseki, a multi-course, visually stunning display of the best Japanese cuisine has to offer.

somen noodles

Modern kaiseki, like the kind on offer at Sushi Taro, pulls from many historical and cultural references including imperial court cuisine, meals devoured by samurai warriors, the Japanese tea ceremony and healthy Buddhist temple fare. If you decide to take this adventure in the care of Chef Nobu Yamazaki, you will face a choice of four different kaiseki tasting menus: Traditional, sushi, suppon (soft shell turtle!), or wagyu beef/lobster surf and turf.

Unless you have yen to burn, the traditional or sushi kaiseki courses are your best bets. We couldn’t decide…so instead, we bring you the tale of two kaisekis. Here are their merits:

Sushi Tasting:

Sushi Set 2

+ You’ll get to try types of nigiri you’d never think to order like succulent sweet shrimp, bursting ikura or raw abalone.

+Your nigiri sushi comes with a paintbrush and premium soy sauce so you can embrace your inner artist.

Ichigo Daifuku

+ Your dessert choice includes ichigo daifuku (a fresh strawberry lovingly wrapped in mochi) which is arguably the best dessert on earth (zero hyperbole here).

Kaiseki Tasting:

Hassun

+ You are privy to the “hassun” a hodgepodge of morsels arranged to look like a landscape in miniature.

+ If you’re a big eater and it takes a lot to fill you up, take comfort knowing that the traditional kaiseki has an entrée-sized finale. In this case it was pork belly shabu-shabu. Diners whisk raw slices of thinly sliced meat through a hot pot of delectable spicy soup before drinking the broth at the end.

+ At the end you’re asked to select your final sushi course from the menu. Only the traditional kaiseki menu allows you to choose a roll, like the Best Thing on the Menu: spicy spider roll.

Verdict? Go with a friend and get both – they actually let you do that. If you ask really nicely, they’ll even give you a sharp knife to slice nigiri sushi in half. Just ignore the stares and head shakes from the Japanese embassy officers seated at the adjacent table; they’ve never seen such things.

Click here for more photos from the meal. Learn more about Sushi Taro’s kaiseki options.

Masa 14: Spicy Tuna Nachos

Tuna Nachos

Masa 14 has a bright and shiny new chef de cuisine, Felipe Milanes, and he just rolled out (literally) a whole line of new sushi like the Rainbow Tropico Roll with tuna, hamachi, salmon, avocado and a mango-papaya salsa. But the Best Thing on the Menu isn’t in roll form however…it’s far more representative of the restaurant’s Latin/Asian fusion persona: Spicy Tuna Nachos. Thick, crispy wontons are dressed in their finest sushi attire: Generous chunks of spicy  tuna tartare plus avocado, cotija cheese, and salsa picante.

Foie Jita

The menu at one of the original 14th Street spots has gotten a whole lot more creative under Milanes, who hails from Panama City. For example, he dares to serve Foie Jitas, like the fajitas you used to get at Chili’s on high school first dates but with foie gras, shallots, poblano peppers, red peppers and guava creme. It ALMOST works. The guava crema is divine, but unfortunately overpowered by the red peppers and onions. Lose those and this dish is a 10.

Other can’t misses include the Scorpion Roll and Pork Belly al Carbon. Look for new menu additions to continue to stream in and await the Twitter war that always follows when favorites are taken off the menu to make room (Just ask Taylor Gourmet). Change is hard. Click here for more photos from the meal.

Spicy Tuna nachos not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Tico: Two Texture Beef Tacos

Tico Tacos

Michael Schlow’s in town. Perhaps you saw him making the short trek from his Columbia Heights pad to his brand new 14th Street restaurant that opened last night. You might recognize him from Top Chef Masters! What’s heartwarming is that unlike some celebrity chefs who pop in to open a restaurant, Schlow’s committed to staying around for more than a hot sec…and it shows.

This is the second Tico to open its doors – the first is in Schlow’s hometown of Boston – but he’s tweaked the menu to match our tastes, like by sprinkling in some Old Bay when appropriate. Overall, the restaurant aims to serve American food with Latin/Spanish twists inspired by Schlow’s travels.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Two Texture Beef Tacos are a lot of fun. Super tender beef is juxtaposed by crispy beef that’s been dehydrated, not fried, and chili and fresh herbs kick up the flavor. Schlow says he pays just as much attention to texture as he does flavor. Look for something soft and chewy to be balanced by crunch in almost every dish.

Manchego

… Like these manchego fritters, which you dip in a sticky, fruity sauce on the side. This dish is symbolic of how vegetarians can go buck wild at Tico, because a large portion of the menu celebrates seasonal vegetables, and they’re used quite creatively. A standout is an order of edamame falafel tacos. Click here for more photos from the meal.

We couldn’t be happier about this addition to the neighborhood. They’ve thought of everything. The artwork lining the walls is the work of Schlow’s wife; Schlow himself built all the music playlists; and Schlow committed a whole lot of resources (read: cash money) to build an acoustically sound dining room to make sure you can still hear your dining partners in a lively atmosphere. The guy literally had someone poke thousands of holes in tin tiles to ensure that sound would get trapped instead of bouncing right back down to disturb diners. Cheers to that.

Two texture beef tacos not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.