Water and Wall: Duck Confit

Water and Wall Duck Confit

Water & Wall, the newish Virginia Square restaurant has some really solid, crave-worthy dishes. However, we came away from our first meal there with a little confusion.  We ordered beer but got a glass of wine offered only by the bottle. We arrived with excitement about the lambchetta advertised online, but couldn’t find it on the menu. We kept looking for the rest of the cocktail list, but they only offer three vodka drinks in an era when brown booze is the best. The last bit of mystery: Why would a restaurant with water in its name shun fish dishes and opt almost entirely for the world’s fattiest cuts of meat (pork belly, short ribs, sweetbreads,..)?

The Best Thing on the Menu: Duck Confit with Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Truffle Aioli and Cider Gastrique fits squarely in the world’s fattiest cuts of meat category, but we don’t care. You’ll pick up that bone with zero to no shame to carnivorously grab every last shred of caramelized meat. There’s a glossy, sticky candy like quality to the duck, which gets offset by the creaminess covering the fried Brussels sprouts. This is the best duck confit dish in the DMV bar none.

Water and Wall Chicken Wings

Water & Wall is Chef Tim Ma’s second restaurant. The engineer-turned-chef’s first spot, Maple Ave is known for its chicken wings, among other tasty things. We’re glad to see the wings made their way onto the menu at Water & Wall too. They’re covered in crème fraiche and Korean red chili paste.

We’ll be back for brunch because that menu looks a little more inspired with its Eggs & Kimchi, Venison Omelet and Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes.

Duck confit not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

The Fainting Goat: Porchetta

Fainting Goat Porchetta

A block off the intersection of 14th and U Street sits The Fainting Goat: Middle ground between the cheaper but more blasé food of U Street and the more inventive, but sometimes overpriced, food of 14th Street. Read: Food that doesn’t know how great it is yet!

The menu categories at TFG – nibble, graze, chomp and feed – hold no more than four selections each, making the menu easy to conquer for four diners willing to share. Start with The Best Thing on the Menu: Porchetta sandwich with fennel, dill and parsley on cibatta. It blew our hoofs off.

So what the pork is porchetta? It’s been popping up on a lot of menus lately, and for good reason. Typically a whole pig is prepped (we’ll spare you the gory stuff) then lovingly layered with stuffing, meat, fat and skin. Next, it’s rolled, spitted, and roasted with a heavy hand of salt and sometimes garlic, rosemary, fennel or other herbs. Thank you Italy, we were grateful for Barolo, but this is better. At TFG, the chef spreads cibatta with a miracle paste made of fresh dill and fennel before generously applying the porchetta.

 Is it criminal that we didn’t go with goat for the BTM? Perhaps, but we gave it a good hard try – two different ways in fact. The Fainting Goat offers their namesake meat as an appetizer tartare and a juicy seared entree. Our BTM pick doesn’t so much shun the goat, as it does celebrate the best damn sandwich we’ve had in months.

The Fainting Goat Garden

Other top picks? Seared scallops that taste of vanilla, and a bowl of warm winter vegetables called “The Garden,” that’s topped with caper-sized mustard seeds. Click here for more photos of the meal.

Porchetta not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Donburi: Ebi Katsudon

Donburi

There’s nothing like a good restaurant named for the dish it serves, especially when that dish is donburi – the ultimate Japanese comfort food. Think of donburi’s soothing ways to be on par with the American grilled cheese sandwich.

On any given night at the Adams Morgan newcomer, there are about nine rice bowls to choose from ranging from raw to golden fried. The Best Thing on the Menu belongs to the latter category: Ebi Katsudon with panko coated shrimps, sliced onions and a half cooked egg with donburi and tartar sauce. Sure, they have pork  and salmon sashimi, but the humble set of four shrimp are superior and much easier to sling around with chopsticks.

The owner, Seungjoon Jang, answered the call for a quality and satisfying $15 dinner in an era of DC dining where it’s hard for a table of two to escape a small plates meal for less than $100. He does so by adding value in surprising ways, like tangy pickled jalapeños or all you can drink barley water.

Donburi Pan

The one glaring menu omission? The familial and tasty oyakudon, or “parent and child” rice bowl, featuring chicken and eggs. Here’s hoping this post inspires a menu addition, since eggs and chicken are already available. Attempts to make oyakudon at home end in failure without an adorable donburi pan. So leave it to Jang and his team of professionals.

Ebi Katsudon not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

The Red Hen: Burrata

Red Hen Burrata

There are hundreds of reasons to get yourself down Rhode Island Ave. to The Red Hen. This charming, edgy and entertaining spot has helped put Bloomingdale on the map.

We’ll stick with just a few reasons though, starting with The Best Thing on the Menu: Burrata with Broccolini Marinati, Pickled Red Chiles, Mint & Vin Cotto. Burrata, Buffalo mozzarella’s brother from another mother, is super soft and oozes cream when pierced with a knife. Instead of going the tomato/basil route, Chef Mike Friedman surprises diners with bitter broccolini and peppers that manage to be sweet, sour and spicy. You’ve been warned; once you go burrata you never go back.

There’s also something special to drink at The Red Hen. We’re willing to bet our burrata that you haven’t tried orange wine. Whether it’s a trend or just a fad remains to be seen, but it sure is luscious. There are eight different orange wines to choose from at the restaurant, hailing from Slovenia, Croatia and Italy. The taste will take your breath away. Did someone fortify your wine with Scotch? Is there actually a full bouquet of flowers from UrbanStems in there? No, in fact, orange wine is simply made by producing white wine more like red wine, where the stems, skins, seeds, etc. have a longer maceration period.

Red Hen Rabbit Sugo

Pair your first glass of orange wine with The Best Pasta on the Menu: Saffron Fettuccine with Rabbit Sugo, Cinnamon, Grilled Kale & Mustard Breadcrumbs. Let’s all admit that rabbit is the new duck. And, according to the Twittersphere, duck is the new pork belly. Rabbit, though totes adorbs in the flesh, is elegant and perfect for pasta. This brilliant bowl is a bit autumnal, so we hope to eat it come October (Read: Please keep on the menu!).

Red Hen Octopus

One last can’t miss dish is the Grilled Octopus with Shelling Beans, Frisee, Crispy Capers & Romesco Sauce. The octopus is flame kissed and super smoky and Romesco is the best sauce, it just is.

Though an appetizer, the octopus dish is the perfect size. We have a special appreciation for The Red Hen because it bridges the divide between small plate lovers and big plate purists by offering medium-size plates that can in fact be split among friends without feelings getting hurt. Click here for more photos of the meal.

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

Agua 301: Pork Belly al Pastor

Agua 301 Pork Belly Taco

If Hawaii and Mexico had a baby, a perfect baby, it would be this taco. The Best Thing on the Menu at Agua 301 is undoubtedly: Pork Belly al Pastor. Three succulent tacos filled with crispy fried pork belly, pineapple habanero salsa, al pastor aioli, salsa de arbol arrive at your table glistening with an entrancing glaze.

As if the world’s most perfect protein needed any help…Chef Antonio Burrell lightly breads and fries the belly, which has already been slow-cooked to optimal tenderness. The pineapple habanero salsa is what transports you directly to a Hawaiian luau, where the pig of the party is cooked underground to an equal level of deliciousness. Hopefully by men in ridiculous outfits.

Berry Mezcal Cocktail

If picking the right margarita has always been a problem for you, we’re here to help. The Humo en el Agua (translation Smoke on the Water) is the right choice. This pomegranate margarita made with Fidencio Classico, Pama Liqueur, pomegranate juice, and fresh squeezed lime juice. Fidencio Classico is key because it’s mezcal, and thus delivers smoke. Typically mezcal is paired with citrus fruits, but here’s hoping that the smoke and berry combination is a new trend. Mezcal is one of my favorite things right now, with its notes of beef jerky and peat. Fair warning though, mezcal is a gateway drug to scotch because once you go smoky, toasty, roasty  – you never go back.

Apple Pie Empanadas

Finish the evening at Agua 301 with Chef Burrell’s apple empanadas. They’re stuffed with his mother’s good old-fashioned apple pie recipe. You’ll undoubtedly be choosing between these and the churros. Choose these.

All and all the tacos and the guacamoles (with bacon!) steal the show at this new spot in the Navy Yard. They outshine the entrees and will be perfect before or after a Nats game come spring. Click here for more photos.

Pork Belly al Pastor not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Taan Noodles: Duck Ramen

 THIS RESTAURANT CLOSED EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2014.

Taan Noodles Duck Ramen

Pork is overplayed when it comes to the meat component in most ramen. Taan Noodles takes it to the next level by going with duck confit that falls right off the bone and into your broth. The Best Thing on the Menu: Taan Shoyu Duck Ramen also contains pickled cucumbers, dashi tomato, scallions, shiitake mushroom, spicy mustard greens, crispy shallots, taan hanjuku tamago (pink egg!) and bamboo shoots.

Think fowl are foul? No problem, there are plenty of pork belly bowls to go around inside this Adams Morgan noodle shop. Like heat? They hook you up with togarashi spice flakes and spicy sesame oil, so you blast off your taste buds if that’s your thing.

Taan Noodles Okonomiyaki

If you’re ravenous and in need of a snack before your bowl arrives, there are a handful of appetizers that pull from Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisines. The best pick here? Japanese okonomiyaki, the traditional street food of Osaka. Having downed many of these fish pancakes from street carts in Osaka, I’m a tougher critic than normal. While the sauces were nailed (Japanese mayo and savory brown sauce) the fish to cabbage ratio could have been more generous. Daikaya has a cool take on this classic.

Unlike their friends Sakuramen down the road, these folks have booze. More importantly, they have a lot of fun with their booze. We loved Second Place is not First Place (the perfect drink while watching the Olympics at the bar) made with Bulleit Bourbon, grapefruit juice, Barenjager and togarashi spice as well as There are Hippies in Asia – a tasty concoction of Nolet’s Gin, lavender vanilla simple syrup, tonic and lavender spice bitters.

Taan Shoyu Duck Ramen not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Don’t miss a bite: Keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter. You might also like Toki Underground and Zentan.

Best Thing at the Party: Sugar and Champagne

Sugar and Champagne

More than a hundred dogs sniffed each other, got gourmet treats and snuck gelato licks from their two-legged companions at the Washington Humane Society’s fundraiser Sugar and Champagne. There were 800 people  in attendance for the event at the Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center. Yes, dogs were allowed inside of one of DC’s most prestigious venues. So let’s get to it, the food that is.

Founding Farmers panna cotta

The Best Thing at the Party: Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Bacon Blueberry Sauce was made by none other than the team from Founding Farmers. They always use bacon really well and have a knack for bringing out the best in fresh produce, so it’s not a surprise that they took the cake. Well maybe not the cake…those accolades belong to Baklava Couture.

Baklava Couture Cake

Their semolina cake with hat tips to baklava’s sticky, crunchy texture was the perfect bite. They got my gold coin in the cake vote. You can find Baklava Couture products at FRESHFARM Markets (seasonal), Todd Gray’s Muse Cafe at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and The Mediterranean Way.

Bacon Candy

Finally, we’d like to call out the very best contraband at the party (those in violation shall remain nameless). The bacon candy on a stick was otherworldly. Mmmm – thick cut and covered in a syrupy, caramelized glaze. OMGet me some more. Bacon and other meat products were apparently banned, due to the stir it would create among the four leggers. Whoops.

Click here for more pictures from the event. Click here to learn about pet adoption.

Sweet Corn Panna Cotta not The Best Thing at the Party? Share your favorites in the comments section.

BLT Steak: Best Beef on the Menu

BLT Steak Wagyu

If this isn’t the sexiest slab you’ve ever seen, you’re lying. In fact, look at it in black and white:

BLT Steak B&W Wagyu

BLT Steak has five different varieties of richly marbled, drool-worthy wagyu starting with the holy grail of beef: A5 Japanese Wagyu. There’s also American Wagyu Ribeye, American Wagyu Strip Pave, American Wagyu Top Cap and American Wagyu Skirt. The Best Beef on the Menu (BBM)? Step aside A5 and make room for Top Cap. There’s something special about the spinalis dorsi that’s unique, gamey, tender and buttery. It stood out from the herd.

BLT Steak Scallop

Stopping at steak would be a crime, however. So let’s look beyond the beef. BLT Steak’s brand spanking new, uber talented executive chef, Jeremy Shelton, brings a lot of technique to DC all the way from Miami. He builds layer upon layer of flavor in his dishes and his raw scallop rivals Komi’s (sorry Johnny!). A colossal scallop is dressed in the most elegant attire – shaved truffles and green apple slivers. But, the real burst of flavor comes from the yuzu butter, which packs a punch. We’re always appreciative of Japanese influences.

BLT Steak Rabbit

Another can’t miss dish is the rabbit. Though not yet displayed on the menu, this stunner is as shiny as General Tso’s chicken and super soulful. Sometimes it saddens me to see a protein plated with its favorite foods (carrots and other shaved veggies), but I got over it quickly. After the first bite in fact. I never knew rabbit had the capability to fall apart like a good short rib.

You’re in for an impressive evening at BLT Steak regardless of whether you go for the beef or stray to other corners of the menu. Click here for more photos.

American Wagyu Top Cap not the Best Beef on the Menu? Share your favorites in the comments section.