Zentan: Fire Dragon

Zentan's Best Thing on the Menu: Fire Dragon Roll

Jiro dreams of dragons, or at least he will after just one bite of DC’s most flavorful sushi roll.

Zentan may have welcomed new star chef Jennifer Nguyen, but we are pleased to report that their sushi roll menu remains unchanged. This is the second scare we’ve had in a couple years, as The Hamilton yoinked Zentan’s head sushi chef when they opened down the street in 2011.

New chef and all, you can still sink your chopsticks into The Best Thing on the Menu:  Fire Dragon – Spicy Tuna, Barbeque Eel, Avocado and Tobiko. This vibrant, saucy, sexy roll features a perfect marriage of spicy tuna and eel. No longer do you have to fight with your dining companion about whether to get the spicy tuna roll or the eel roll. Carpe diem.

Speaking of rolls, Zentan did roll out the red carpet for their new chef in the form of a fancy new website. Check it out by clicking here.  It appears Chef Nguyen, formerly of Morimoto in Philadelphia, has brought a lot to the table including a “Miazaki Beef Hot Rock” served in the traditional cook-it-yourself style, Avocado Sashimi, Pekin Chicken with Bao Buns and so much more. So even if you don’t touch the raw stuff, you’re in for a great meal at Zentan. Plus, the newly re-designed roof deck bar is now open, just in time for another sweltering summer in DC.

Danny Bortnick, Kimpton’s DC director of restaurant operations (and Chef at Firefly), told the Washington Post his ultimate goal is for Zentan to be “one of the top five Asian restaurants in the city.” Congrats Danny, you’ve more than made it.

Fire Dragon not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

A New Way to Connect with BTM

We’re pleased to announce a new way to connect with Best Thing on the Menu. The Monthly Menu is an e-newsletter distributed once a month that captures the three top dishes we devoured that month. We’ll also share foodie news and information about exclusive opportunities.

If you didn’t receive the Monthly Menu this morning, click here to sign-up. We recognize that unclogging your inbox isn’t a chore you enjoy, so we commit to only sending one newsletter per month.

Click here to read the May Monthly Menu.

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Thanks & happy eating!

DGS Delicatessen: Holishkes

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DGS Delicatessen, a.k.a. District Grocery Store, brings a dose of originality to Dupont Circle. This reimagined Jewish deli brines, cures, smokes and pickles on premise and lots of love goes into every dish. DGS doubles as a sandwich shop and a sit-down restaurant. The only thing missing? Perfectly crafted bagels and schmear. Those with tips on where to get a good bagel inside the beltway, please share in the comments section. The quest is ongoing.

DGS is owned by third generation cousins, Nick and David Wiseman, who say DGS is a nod to the mom-and-pop grocery stores that lined DC street corners at the turn of the 20th century. They’ve seen success so far, and even got a nod in the  New York Times.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Holishkes are unique because they fuse Ashkenazic and Sephardic ingredients. DGS Chef Barry Koslow’s holishkes recipe calls for brisket stuffed cabbage, sweet and sour tomato sauce that’s as thick and sweet as ketchup, orzo and rye bread crumbs. Holishkes are a traditional dish for Sukkot, an autumn harvest festival. The stuffed cabbage leaves symbolize abundance.

What’s in a name? It’s hard to believe how many names can be given to this succulent stuffed cabbage dish. Popular terms include galuptze, praakes and bolopches. Sephardic Jews make a very similar dish but with lamb instead of beef and call the concoction sarmas or mishi malfouf. Whatever you call them, we dare to say they compete with your bubbe’s.

DGS is a great change of pace for dinner or brunch and they have an unbeatable happy hour. Mazel tov DGS, we hope you’re here to stay.

Holishkes not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Lincoln: Truffled Corn Hushpuppies

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He’s the trendiest president of the year (sorry Obama)… Old Abe appeared twice on the silver screen this year, first as a vampire slayer and later, as himself, brilliantly portrayed by actor Daniel Day Lewis. Lincoln has truly permeated pop-culture – We’ve even met a distinguished-looking dog and a couple of babies named Lincoln this year.

Looking to celebrate the legendary Lincoln, imbibe in crafty cocktails and devour inspired American cuisine? Head to Lincoln (the restaurant) located just off Thomas Circle. The floor is comprised of laminated pennies and the ceilings are adorned with glowing mason jars. You’ll feel warm, fuzzy and American upon taking your seat. Plus they have great outdoor seating to boot.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Truffled Corn Hushpuppies happened to be a special addition to the menu the evening we dined. But, not to worry, hushpuppies are always a menu staple, usually in the form of Maryland Crab Hushpuppies with Mustard Chive Aioli (also BTM worthy). These hot fried corn cakes are so good that they conjure up memories of the county fair and the best funnel cake you ever ate.

Hushpuppies are actually a food attributed to hunters and fishermen from years ago who would fry some basic cornmeal and feed it to their dogs to “hush the puppies” during meals or festivities. Typical hushpuppy ingredients include cornmeal, wheat flour, eggs, salt, baking soda, milk or buttermilk and water. They may include onion, scallion, garlic, whole kernel corn and peppers. Here’s a recipe if you want to give it a whirl. Going on vacation and want to nosh on hushpuppies? Simply ask for “festivals” in Jamaica or “sorullitos” in Puerto Rico.

We can’t say enough good things about Lincoln. It’s our go-to place when visitors come to town. Other can’t-be-missed items include the Chicken Pot Pie, Duck Sausage, Charred Grape Risotto and Braised Short Rib. Feeling adventurous? Drink in the nutrient-packed Gettysburg Address cocktail.

Hushpuppies not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Cheesetique: Gjetost and Banana

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There are a few moments in dining when the clouds part, the sun shows itself and the angels sing. Okay, maybe not that last part. But one bite of Cheestetique’s Best Thing on the Menu: Gjetost and Banana and your outlook on grilled cheese, and perhaps sandwiches in general, will be forever changed.

Cheesetique is a quaint cheese shop with an accompanying café that can be found in two Virginia locations: Shirlington and Alexandria. Their cheese-driven specialties include cheese boards, gourmet macs and grown-up grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tucked away at the bottom of the menu, the BTM gjetost and banana is a salty-sweet grilled cheese made with Norwegian Gjetost (pronounced YAY-toast) on cranberry walnut bread with bacon. This sandwich packs personality with its warm, squishy banana, thick fudgy cheese, smoky bacon and fruity grilled bread. We think that Elvis, lover of peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches, would have really dug this dish.

Gjetost is often described as a “love it or hate it” food. Perhaps this is why the Cheesetique menu reads, “It’s good, we promise!” Gjetost is a nutty, silky, caramelized cheese that is brown in appearance and fudge-like in texture. It’s made by boiling milk, cream and whey for several hours causing the water to evaporate. The heat turns the milk sugar into caramel, which gives the cheese its characteristic taste. Ski Queen is the most readily available gjetost brand in the U.S. and can be found on Amazon.com or, for Logan Circle locals, at the P Street Whole Foods. Read more about gjetost here.

Cheesetique is the perfect rainy-day hideaway and those who dine in the wine bar cafe receive 10% off any retail purchase that day. Oh and, they bring you chocolate chips with the check!

Gjetost and Banana not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

ZooFari: Redwood’s Donut Hole Fried Chicken

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Today’s entry makes a departure from the norm to detail, instead, the Best Thing at the Party. BTM had the great pleasure of attending ZooFari Thursday evening and, with elastic waistbands and empty stomachs in tow, we set off to try almost every offering from more than 100 restaurants.

There were big names in attendance, including Top Cheftestant Mike Isabella who was debuting a fish dish from his soon–to-debut Greek restaurant, Kapnos (coming to 14th and W). Also serving up bites were 1789, Central Michel Richard, Jackson 20, Masa 14, Plume at The Jefferson Hotel, Rogue24 and so many more. As usual, the Georgetown Cupcake stand had the longest line, and the greediest double-cupcake hoarding patrons.  Pork belly was featured in all imaginable incarnations, and the crowd definitely picked up on the piggy popularity.

But, it was Redwood Restaurant & Bar that created a dish worthy of luring animals out of their dens. The Best Thing at the Party: Glazed Maple Donut Hole with Fried Chicken and Arugula Salad was a hot sticky mess served as neatly as possible on a stick.

To our dismay, this flavorful concoction is not offered on Redwood’s brunch, lunch or dinner menus. However, if the morsel served at ZooFari is any indication of the chef’s ability to combine flavors and textures, Bethesda Row’s Redwood, is definitely worth a visit.  We’re excited to try their Elvis Burger and Moonshine Eggs.

Redwood not your favorite offering at ZooFari? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Ben’s Chili Bowl: Chili Half-Smoke

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Ben’s Chili Bowl is a late night cultural institution that has been handing out hotdogs since 1958. The Best Thing on the Menu: Bill Cosby’s Original Chili Half-Smoke needs very little introduction.

We asked ourselves, how does one smoke only half of a hotdog? Where does the name come from? In our research, we came across a Washington CityPaper article – The Missing Link. Though from 2007, this article comprehensively covers the culture behind processed meat here in our nation’s capital.

Another good question, who’s Ben? Ben Ali immigrated from Trinidad and studied dentistry at Howard University. He opened the restaurant in 1958 with his soon to be wife, Virginia. The restaurant played a unique role in the civil rights movement and has been the heart and soul of DC ever since.

The half-smoke for those who haven’t tried it (what’s wrong with you?) is a 1/4lb. half pork, half beef smoked sausage on a warm steamed bun and topped with mustard, onions and spicy homemade chili. Made to order, these dogs can be split or grilled on request.

Chili Bowl faithfuls rejoiced earlier this year upon learning that there will be a new location added at 1001 H Street NE!

Half-smoke not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

 

Posto: Molecche

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We headed into Posto with our minds made up, knowing that nothing could top the four-meat ravioli in sage butter sauce. However, these gamey morsels were no longer starring on the menu, perhaps because they are a bit heavy for spring. With plenty to choose from at this Italian pre-theater haunt, we weren’t worried.

After training your OpenTable trigger-finger to accurately discern Posto from Poste, make a reservation before seeing an artsy-fartsy performance at the Studio Theater right next door. Though the dining crowd is a little older than the typical 14th Street scene, the food is modern and they offer everything from pizza to branzino.

It wasn’t until trying the Best Thing on the Menu: Molecche (corn meal flour-crusted soft shell crab) that we understood that soft shell crab is also eaten in Italy. The Venetians love to eat these critters just as much as the Japanese. Every inch of the crab is edible due to the fact that they have freshly molted their exoskeletons, leaving behind a soft exterior fit for consumption. This of course makes them a seasonal delicacy and in Italy, that season is April to September.

The BTM is perfectly accompanied by fava beans, cherry tomatoes, fennel, ramps and brown butter caper sauce. Heavy and light at the same time, this spring explosion is a great way to start your meal.

Like Chef Bart Vandaele who we just chronicled, Posto’s Chef Massimo Fabbri from Monsummano Terme Italy also entered the culinary field at a young age.  At age 14, he enrolled in hotel school and within a year, Massimo landed his first job in a high-end kitchen, working at the 4-star Parma & Oriente hotel.

Molecche not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

B TOO: Bloedworst Wafel Met Appeltjes

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Belgian bistro B TOO has opened at last, bringing a touch of famous to 14th Street in the form of Top Chef Star Bart Vandaele. We’re serious when we say that this brain child of Belgian cuisine starting culinary school at age 12. Chef Vandaele was in plain sight working away in the kitchen admiring his bright, shiny and new Logan Circle locale. It’s so new, that the downstairs dining den still smells of fresh paint.

After meal one, we discerned there is no doubt B TOO will play a major role in raising the bar for neighborhood fare. The Best Thing on the Menu: Bloedworst Wafel Met Appeltjes is just one example of creativity, color and flavor. The appetizer is essentially a fried waffle stuffed with blood sausage and served with caramelized apple, green apple sauce and vincotto cream.

We also sampled the foie gras lollypop, steak tartare, venison filet and fried orange sorbet. All winners. There is one thing all of these disparate dishes had in common: dollops. B TOO appears to have an unbreakable obsession with dotting each plate with vibrant blobs of colorful sauces.

If the food isn’t reason enough to make a reservation right away, the beer menu is nothing short of a bible. Even non-beer lovers will find a good match, which we recommend since wines by the glass are steep.

Can’t get enough of Chef Vandaele? Visit his other restaurant, Belga Café.

Bloedworst Wafel Met Appeltjes not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Daikaya: Pork and Brussels Sprouts Skewer “Okonomiyaki Style”

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Daikaya is the latest addition to the growing izakaya family in Washington, DC. Izakayas, food trucks and noodle shops are advancing the culinary conversation that Japanese food is so much more than sushi. The only question is, what took so long?

For those looking for Japanese pub food with a twist, set your compass to take you to upstairs at Daikaya. Don’t be the next set of confused diners expecting steaming ramen and a boisterous atmosphere, which are only available in the first floor, no- reservations noodle shop.

Daikaya izakaya is breaming with originality. Upon entering you will be handed a Japanese magazine that houses the menu stapled to the inside pages. Settle in and take in the décor as you choose your first set of small plates. Though you may be tempted to order an onigiri rice ball right from the start, customarily, rice dishes are ordered towards the end of a Japanese meal in order to fill any remaining vacancies in the belly. But hey, rules are made to be broken.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Pork and Brussels Sprouts Skewer “Okonomiyaki Style” is the perfect balance of modern and traditional. In two years living and dining in Japan, a Brussels sprout never made an appearance.  However, after a bite of the perfectly cooked pork belly and a mouthful of okonomiyaki flavor, we’re smitten.

Okonomiyaki is the king of Osaka street food. The omelet pancake party in your mouth typically contains fish, shellfish and vegetables topped with a distinct sweet and savory brown sauce and bonito flakes. Before devouring your skewers, take a moment to appreciate the magical powers of bonito as it waves and dances atop hot food. Scare your friends by telling them it’s still alive.

Another don’t-miss item? Their gourmet take on sake bombs.

Pork and Brussels Sprouts Skewer not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.