Alba Osteria: Mezzeluna

Alba Osteria

No, we did not upload the wrong picture. This is in fact an adorable little bamboo steamer at an Italian restaurant – Alba Osteria. This newcomer, albeit located amidst endless construction (at 4th and I Street NW), is worth a visit. They win at pasta made with love, Neapolitan pizza with perfect crust, charcuterie, and adventurous proteins. How about a chestnut pasta that incorporates veal brains right into the dough for example?

You can find the Best Thing on the Menu: Mezzeluna nestled inside the aforementioned bamboo steamer. These (you guessed it) half moon-shaped morsels are delicately filled with a blend of cheeses and served with spinach. The kicker? They’re boiled in water that has been infused with hay. Don’t see this dish on the online menu? Don’t fret;  it just happens to be brand new and you can order two different portion sizes – dainty European or generous American.

Chef Roberto Donna, who was named “Chef of the Year 2012” by Esquire magazine, hails from the Piedmont region of Italy. There, a traditional dish incorporates ricotta cheese that has been aged with hay, making Alba Osteria’s take on the dish a shout out to the chef’s home cuisine.

Alba Osteria Rabbit

Another winner? The crispy rabbit Milanese. Under a golden crust, tender rabbit is lovingly wrapped with pungent fontina and salty prosciutto. Our one question: Where did they find a rabbit so big? We’re hoping it wasn’t a Flemish Giant. This is actually the second of two rabbit dishes available. The other involves thinly sliced shaved rabbit incorporated into a refreshing salad.

Save room for dessert and try their unique take on crème brûlée. It’s actually “Snow White” polenta that has been caramelized just like the traditional French dessert. Click here for more photos from Alba Osteria.

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

Barmini: Foieffel

Barmini cocktail

For a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory meets Jose Andres kind of night, book some seats at Barmini. You’ll work your way through custom cocktails that incorporate everything from smoke, pumpkin and egg whites to cotton candy and edible flowers. The food at this Latin inspired drink den/speakeasy packs just as much creativity and whimsy.

Barmini Foiewaffle

Though it is nearly impossible to choose, the Best Thing on the Menu is the FoieffelA palm-sized waffle stuffed with the silkiest foie gras we’ve ever experienced. It oozes out at the perfect temperature upon the first bite. Then throw in the fact that it’s topped with chocolate and peanut butter. You’ll wish you came with someone who hates (or is morally opposed) to foie gras, because sharing this bad boy is as painful as a flight cancellation, or baby shower.

Barmini Chicken Skin

A very close second is the fried chicken skin that you dip into a Buffalo-Tzatziki lagoon. It’ll make you forget crackers ever had a purpose. The skin is dotted with rotisserie salt and spices, making it delicious all on its own. But with that sauce. OMGet yourself to Barmini. Special thanks to our bar tendress and cocktail wizard Carlie for making sure we didn’t miss out on this dish. Oh and for the ridic cocktails, especially the sherry-based Adonis.

Click here for more photos.

If our evening at Barmini is any indication of what life is like on the other side of the glass at Minibar, we’re going to start saving up.

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

DCity Smokehouse: Meat Platter

DCity Smokehouse

DC’s gearing up for a sweaty, smoky, artery-busting Meat Week 2014. One of the featured meat magicians is none other than BBQ newcomer DCity Smokehouse. This four-seat cubbyhole of heaven can be found right around where Florida Ave meets North Capitol Street NW. Use your nose to guide you the rest of the way.

As far as the Best Thing on the Menu, go all out and get the Smokehouse Meat Platter: 1/2lb of any sliced or chopped meat or combination of 2 meat with one side, house made pickles, & Texas toast. Select the hush puppies as your side if you know good food when it stares you in the face. We went with brisket and pulled pork, but there’s pork belly and turkey too.

You can trust Pit Mater Rob Sonderman with all your BBQ needs; he took the reigns at DCity Smokehouse after leaving Hill Country BBQ in Penn Quarter, and has really injected new life into the neighborhood.

Fried Chicken and Red Velvet Waffles

Those who prefer poultry also have a killer option: Crispy fried boneless chicken & red velvet waffle with bourbon syrup. A definite BTM runner up. This dish was a Revive Catering and Events original.

If you’re lazy when it comes to BBQ, not to worry. Rather than cruising down Florida Ave, just use your mouse to navigate to Seamless for delivery. Keep them in mind for Super Bowl orders!

Smokehouse Meat Platter not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Toki Underground: Kimchi Ramen

Toki Underground

Korea and Japan play nice inside of this bowl… real nice. Traditional ramen is elevated and enhanced by the distinct flavor of kimichi in Toki Underground’s Best Thing on the Menu: Kimchi Ramen. Their other flavors are top of the line too, especially the homey and comforting red miso or the subtly sweet (never spicy) curry. But those who like heat, and a little bit of funk, should go with our pick for BTM.

Each piping hot bowl at Toki Underground is adorned with a crisp sheet of nori, breath-busting green onion, incredibly tender pulled pork and our favorite: an egg softer than a Ritz Carlton pillow. Brave customers (who have already braved a heck of a long line) can invite even more guests to their party bowl, like deep fried shrimp heads, pork cheek or “Toki Endorphin Sauce.”

All of Chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s ramen dishes are inspired by a Hakata Ramen shop in Taipei. In a fun coincidence, I spent two years living in Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan) and can say with confidence that I prefer Chef Yang’s piping hot, flavorful bowls to even the most secretive train station ramen shops.

On a final note, it’s nice that Americans haven’t adopted the slurping system of cooling noodles. Let’s keep it that way. That sound still haunts my dreams.

Kimchi Ramen not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Eat The Rich: Swordfish to the Face

Eat The Rich

You don’t have to love oysters to like Shaw (somewhat newcomer) Eat The Rich. Sure, there are oyster cage chandeliers above prison bench seating and briny sections of the menu. But there is so much more you don’t have to slurp. If a Mainer and a nice German lad birthed a dish it would be The Best Thing on the Menu: Swordfish to the Face featuring grilled swordfish, smoked pork-sausage, sauerkraut and North Carolina head-on shrimp. Oktoberfest on a yacht. A fisherman wearing lederhosen.

This top dish is rich and creamy and provides a completely original marriage of swordfish and sauerkraut. The head-on shrimp are a nice touch, especially since the noggins are already nice and loose for you to pop off. We’re not surprised by this level of attention to detail coming out of one of Derek Brown’s spots.

ETR Cocktail Pitcher

So, what is one to eat to cut the cream and amplify the flavors of this land-sea compilation of sorts? You can be boring and order a Sauvignon Blanc that has that just-filled-my-mouth-with-wet-rocks taste or, you can be bold and get the Buck Hunter: A pitcher of Belle Meade Bourbon, House Ginger Syrup, Lemon, Sarsaparilla Bitters. At $32 it will serve four friends and then some.

Our visit to Eat The Rich was the culmination of our Shrawl – a self-made Shaw bar crawl. These Facebook photos are proof of the fun to be had. Our order of operations was to start at Southern Efficiency, due to it being the newest and therefore the spot likely to be the most crowded since this city is horny for anything new. Then, a visit to BTM favorite Mockingbird Hill didn’t disappoint (here’s what to get). Other spots to visit include All Souls and Right Proper.

Swordfish to the Face not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Birch and Barley Brunch: Freshly Fried Donuts

Birch & Barley Donuts

Despite the brunch mammoth Le Diplomate setting up shop two blocks over, you still have to bang down the doors to brunch at Birch & Barley, and for good reason! If you score a scrumptious table, immediately look to the menu’s sidebar under “sweets.” It’s there that you will find the Best Thing on the Menu: Freshly Fried Donuts. You get three per order (two biggies and a donut hole). The flavors?  Toffee-Bacon, Lemon-Poppy Glazed and Bittersweet Chocolate.

Making Donuts

Let’s hone in on the toffee-bacon delight. It’s savory/sweet and sticky enough that your fingers will feel like you were doing arts and crafts with toddlers all day. But you weren’t, you were indulging on a serious donut that will change the way you feel about this humble pastry forever.

Other brunch menu standouts at Birch & Barley include the corned beef hash, whiskey French toast and a side of PA-style scrapple (mmmmm pork mush).

If you really dig the donuts at Birch & Barley, there’s no excuse for failing to try GBD. There, you’ll find donuts from the same mastermind, Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac, AND fried chicken. They have a maple bourbon glazed donut also topped with bacon, plus a PB&J donut that revolutionizes the elementary school lunch original.

Freshly fried donuts not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Burger, Tap and Shake: Southern Comfort Burger

DSC_1725

We’re not ashamed to say that we were blown away by a burger bar. Burger, Tap & Shake slays it when it comes to friendly service, perfectly cooked patties (better be some pink!), clever toppings and boozy milkshakes (shaketails) that hit the spot, even on the coldest day in recent DC history. Polar vortex schmortex.

You better be having the trifecta, which shouldn’t be hard to figure out – a burger, a beer AND a shaketail. Buttons were meant to be unbuttoned. So which burger? Which shake? The Best Thing on the Menu is undoubtedly the Southern Comfort Burger with Pimento Cheese, Fried Green Tomato, Vidalia Onions and Bread & Butter Pickles.

Shaketails

Get the Best Thing on the Menu with the Apocalypto shake, a frozen treat made with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Homemade Marshmallows and Chocolate Ice Cream. Chocolate haters like myself (dirty little secret) can have it made with vanilla. Their milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard, and DAMN right they’re better than yours. They’re better than anyone’s.

You see that world homemade? You better get used to it. The team behind Burger, Tap and Shake (and District Commons next door) are gluttons for hard work. They make EVERYTHING from scratch in house. So savor every bite because blood, sweat and tears went into it. Well, hopefully not directly into it.

We’ll definitely be back – preferably on the first Monday of every month when they do a $3 keg killer from 6:00pm until they run dry. And they will run dry. One final tip? Ask for Alvin, the guy oozes supreme customer service and beer/burger/shake knowledge.

Southern Comfort not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

If you liked this, you might also like Ted’s Bulletin or Stoney’s.