Barcelona Wine Bar: Pulpo Gallega

BWB Pulpo Gallego

A meal this weekend may have tipped the balance to the amorous side of my love/hate relationship with Barcelona Wine Bar. Trying to score a seat at this place had all but transported me back to those tough high school days of desperately trying to snag an invite to the after prom party. Hence, the hate.

Barcelona Wine Bar

It took FOUR tries (spread out over many months) to accomplish the impossible:  An actual table. With seats. With my name on it. It wasn’t on the patio or anything though; we’re not THAT cool.

What made me forgive being turned down so many times was the food. The tapas weren’t half bad, and were a fraction of the cost of Estadio’s renditions. The Best Thing on the Menu tapas title goes to: Pulpo Gallego with octopus, chorizo, fingerling potatoes and pimenton. There’s nothing worse than a rubbery cephalopod in your mouth. BWB’s 8-legger is cooked to perfection.

Traditionally this simple Galician dish is comprised of boiled octopus, potatoes, olive oil and paprika. Fortunately, BWB ups the ante with ground chorizo, adding heat and nuttiness. Slippery onions lend sweetness, too. Click here for more photos from the meal.

BWB Grilled Spring Onions

For those keeping score, here’s how BWB stacks up compared to its competition on certain dishes, in our humble tapas opinion (an opinion garnered from a 7-month study abroad experience in Spain that involved an ogre of a host mother who only cooked hot dogs).

  • Grilled Spring Onions: Estadio > BWB
  • Albóndigas: Boqueria > BWB
  • Croquetas: BWB > Estadio
  • Boquerones: Estadio > BWB
  • Charcuterie: BWB > Estadio & Boqueria

Disagree? Let us hear it in the comments section.

Doi Moi: Bun Bo Xao

Bun Bo Xao

Doi Moi is transformative in that it takes you to a different land. This land has exotic herbs, undiscovered textures and the commingling of sweet, spicy, salty and sour flavors. The Best Thing on the Menu: Bun Bo Xao Stir Fried Lemongrass Beef on Vermicelli Noodles, served with cucumbers, pickled carrot, daikon, fragrant herbs, fried garlic, nouc cham and scallion oil, features all of these far-off-land characteristics. We recommend ordering two of this dish if you are dining in a party of three or four. Bun Bo Xao carries the “phet” label, which means spicy, not to be confused with the word “phat” that still haunts us from the late 90s. So, if you like heat, look for the “phet” and “mak phet” menu icons.

There are two ways to do it up at Mark Kuller and Haidar Karoum’s Doi Moi. To determine which option best suits you, we invite you to take Best Thing on the Menu’s very first personality quiz.

DC Diner A: Are you a planner? Do you get patted on the back during performance reviews for being super organized? Do you schedule your haircuts for an entire year at once? Do you always get your oil changed on time?

or

DC Diner B:  Do you like surprises? Do you live on the edge? Do you consider waiting in line at Little Serow all a part of the experience? Do you set out for an unplanned evening of exploring neighborhood bars? Do you buy lunch every day because you can’t be bothered to plan ahead?

If you identify more with DC Diner A, we recommend using OpenTable to make a Doi Moi reservation. They take reservations at 5:30pm and 6:00pm, much like their sister restaurant Estadio has done for years. You’ll feel great committing, and a table will be waiting for you. Alternatively, if you identify more closely with Diner B, live dangerously and arrive at Doi Moi at a time of your choosing. Sure, it’ll be a zoo (for good reason, the food is fantastic) but you’ll have all the time in the world to sip tropical cocktails and admire the decor. Anticipation will continue to build as you wait and wait for a table.

In addition to the BTM, we recommend other standouts including the Charred Eggplant with Poached Shrimp (Yum Makuah), Crispy Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls (Por Pia Tod) and absolutely, without question, the must-order fried bananas dessert (Gluoy Kak). Those who are hungry and aren’t on board with the small plates scene would be best served by ordering the LTOM (Largest Thing on the Menu): Lemongrass and Spice Roasted Half Chicken. Click here for more photos of Doi Moi dishes.

One last tip, Doi Moi finally added their menu to their website so you can take a gander before you dine. Plus check out their vegan and gluten free menu!

Bun Bo Xao not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

If you liked this, you may also like: Rice, Little Serow or Estadio.

Chez Billy: Saucisse Merguez

Chez Billy Saucisse Merguez

Stop what you’re doing and skip the 14th Street small plates scene and hop on Bus 52 or 54 instead. Get off in Petworth (home of our favorite prince) and visit Chez Billy for an impressive meal full of small miracles:

  • The portions were the right size.
  • The cocktails were inventive and worth their value.
  • The mackerel was fresh, not fishy.
  • The harissa wasn’t too spicy.
  • The beef bourguignon wasn’t too wintery.
  • The dessert wasn’t too sweet.
  • The service was so friendly we could have stayed all night.

We came away enjoying every last bite and will be back to try more dishes. Heck, we’ll even dry more dishes if they feed us in blueberry panna cotta.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Saucisse Merguez – Grilled Spicy Lamb sausages, White beans, Charred Scallions and Harissa was a standout. Why anyone makes sausage with meat other than lamb, we’ll never know after trying these rich, gamey links. The scallions were a special treat, reminding us of our very first post from Estadio and the warm heat of the harissa brought everything together.

Other notables included the boudin noir (warm blood sausage terrine), chilled corn soup with pickled cantaloupe, the confit de canard (confit duck) and the special of the day, short rib beef bourguignon. The Chef had just returned from honeymooning in France, and boy were we the beneficiaries. While this was a BTM contender, we try to stay away from recommending specials in case they do a disappearing act before you get to the restaurant.

Chez Billy Boudin Noir

Boudin Noir

Chez Billy Chilled Corn Soup

Chilled Corn Soup

The atmosphere is charming, which should come as no surprise since the building is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Its rich African American history, having originally housed Billy Simpson’s House of Seafood and Steaks, saw the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Martin Luther King Jr.

So, in sum, step away from the small plates and step into Chez Billy for some modern French fare that is sure to impress (and at prices, that again, are a small miracle).

Saucisse Merguez not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section. 

If you liked this, you may also like Le Diplomate, Le Pain Quotidien or Poste.

Solutions to Your Dining Dilemmas

BTMegan's That Moment When ...

Best Thing on the Menu answers your Washington, DC dining dilemmas every Thursday on Twitter.  Find yourself in a comida conundrum? Want some ideas on where to dine? Look no further than some of our top tweets below. Don’t forget to follow @BTMenu. Enjoy!

#Thatmomentwhen … Evening plans call for sushi but you don’t touch the raw stuff. http://ow.ly/nK1d8

#Thatmomentwhen … You want 2 convert your man into a Brussels sprouts eater so you can cook them more at home. http://ow.ly/nK13g

#Thatmomentwhen … You have a mixed bag of vegetarian & meat-eating friends and want 2 try something trendy. http://bit.ly/14gcokX

#Thatmomentwhen … You just want to wear shorts and have a casual evening without sacrificing flavor. http://ow.ly/nK0IQ

#Thatmomentwhen … It’s 2:00 a.m. You’ve been on U Street since 7:00 p.m. You wanna be bad and eat something naughty. http://ow.ly/nxjO4

#Thatmomentwhen … You haven’t had a really good date in a long time. http://ow.ly/nxjsc

#Thatmomentwhen … You need really cool gifts for bridal/baby shower guests or a rehearsal dinner. http://bit.ly/10TwqKQ

#Thatmomentwhen … You visit Union Market for the first time and you’re overwhelmed with choices. http://ow.ly/nxiO8 

#Thatmomentwhen … You realize its the last full month of summer and you want some burger ideas for your next BBQ. http://ow.ly/nxiry

#Thatmomentwhen … You’re craving smoke and spice and everything nice. Even the cocktails are smokey. http://bit.ly/1aVnJbC

#Thatmomentwhen … You can’t look at another turkey sandwich & want something that will BLOW YOUR MIND. http://ow.ly/njxRc 

#Thatmomentwhen … Try as you might, you just can’t get a reservation at Estadio but crave high-quality tapas. http://ow.ly/njxvM

#Thatmomentwhen … You need a post-yoga lunch and don’t want to undo your sun salutation calories. http://ow.ly/njwVN 

#Thatmomentwhen … You have the urge to have an Anthony Bourdain-inspired evening without leaving the District. http://ow.ly/njwyi  

#ThatMomentWhen … You want that thing that everyone’s talking about and can’t believe you haven’t tried.  http://bit.ly/12Uob4M

#ThatMomentWhen … You want to expand your Japanese food vocabulary past sushi & dive into pub-style snacks. http://bit.ly/13cUPPf

#ThatMomentWhen … You forgot Bubbe and Zayde were coming to visit and have yet to make a reservation. http://ow.ly/n4dRL

#ThatMomentWhen … You are headed to Le Diplomate for dinner and as a pescatarian, can’t get the steak frites. http://ow.ly/n4dzQ

#ThatMomentWhen … Your sweet tooth outranks all of your other teeth and you need. dessert. right. now. http://ow.ly/n4dpt

#ThatMomentWhen … You’re in need of providing guests with a patriotic DC meal, yet want something new. http://bit.ly/125rbs9

#ThatMomentWhen … You just want something greasy to soak up your sorrow/hangover/happiness. http://bit.ly/1ajsf0H

#ThatMomentWhen … Tears run down your cheeks because it’s summer and you don’t have a grill in your condo. http://bit.ly/1aVnJbC 

Estadio: Grilled Scallions

Grilled Scallions, Romesco & Idiazabal

Estadio, a spanish tapas eatery famous for its creative slushitos (boozy slurpees) and authentic fare, is located in Logan Circle. Some have a love/hate relationship with the joint because while it is the best tapas restaurant in DC, bar none, their reservations are limited. Unless you are willing to eat pre-theatre early, you’re not getting a reservation. At least according to try after try on OpenTable.

If you are lucky enough to get a seat at your own table, the communal table or at the bar, you shouldn’t leave before you get the Best Thing on the Menu (BTM): Grilled Scallions, Romesco & Idiazabal.

These grilled to perfection leeks are located in the “Verduras” section of the menu and appear unassuming. Perhaps the “maybe we should order something green” item. However, they are not to be missed. In one of the better episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Anthony travels to Spain and participates in Catalan’s Calçotada – a festival celebrating the harvest of calçots, known to us as scallions or leeks.

In Spain, the calçots are grilled over a flaming barbecue wrapped in newspaper, rendering them smoky and tender.  Festival goers peel away the really burnt layers, revealing tender bulbs to be dipped in Romesco sauce. Those who have seen the episode may recall him washing down the onions with copious amounts of red wine poured directly from a Porron wine pitcher.

Estadio gets so close to recreating the Calçotada all year round with the BTM. Their romesco sauce is smoky and sweet and you won’t even leave with onion breath.

Just for fun, here’s a recent article describing how to recreate Calçotada in your own backyard (even though most of us in DC don’t have a yard). We can dream.

Grilled Scallions not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.