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. 

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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.

1905: Confit Turkey Leg

1905 turkey legs

Medieval Times called. They want their turkey legs back. It must be because they’re in a different category of deliciousness. These confit gams are a no contest Best Thing on the Menu at 1905. They come with two seasonal sides and pastrami mayo. The menu says leg (singular) so when two showed up, it was like Christmas in March.

It goes without saying that the meat falls right off the bone. The leg only has to catch a GLIMPSE of a knife and fork before it slides onto your plate and into the pastrami mayo, doing all the work for you. You lazy caveman you.

Known first and foremost for its roof deck, 1905 is tucked away at 9th and T Street NW, bridging the Shaw and U Street neighborhoods. It’s perfect for a first or second date because of the favorable lighting, cozy fixtures, cheap(er) cocktails and unobtrusive service.

1905 Hush Puppies

Whether intentional or not, the menu leans a little gluten free. There are spicy quinoa-crayfish hushpuppies and a bunch of sauces involving sorghum. Vegetarians can find solace too. The seared cauliflower “steak” and warm heirloom grain entrees actually give vegetarians a choice instead of a one-dish mandate.

Confit turkey leg not your BTM? Share 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.

Mockingbird Hill: Manchego, Honey and Chocolate Covered Corn Nuts

Mockingbird Hill Manchego

Sherry and food pairing may be a new frontier for DC, but Mockingbird Hill, that Shaw Sherry bar, has you covered. This is especially impressive because Sherry has more aromatic compounds (307!) than regular old wine. You can expect to taste notes of everything from hazelnuts and lemongrass to oyster shells and hay. So our number one snack, a.k.a. The Best Thing on the Menu? Manchego cheese that you slip and slide through honey and finish off with a dip into chocolate covered corn nuts. Classy and corn nutty all at the same time.

Mockingbird Hill Pork

A close second is their pork rillette. Who doesn’t love rich, luscious spreadable meat? It’s served with buttery toast and pickled vegetables and goes great with any variety of Sherry – Amontillado (Edgar Allen Poe’s fave), Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Amoroso, Fino, etc. See, there’s way more than Manzanillo! Obviously, since it’s a Sherry AND ham bar, you can’t go wrong ordering a ham sampler, our favorite of which was the lomo.

Mockingbird Hill Sherry Flight

Probably the best way to experience Derek Brown’s Mockingbird Hill is by ordering a flight. It comes with snacks, and premium Sherry education. Sherry wizard Chantal Tseng or one of her handsome young bartenders will explain everything you need to know – like the fact that Sherry can only be called Sherry if it’s from three specific towns in Spain, or that it’s produced using a complex solera system that involves mixing of different vintages to add complexity and balance. Visit their Facebook page for special flight offerings.

Manchego, Honey and Chocolate Covered Corn Nuts not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

You might also like Cork, Boqueria, or Estadio.

Thally: Roasted Duck Breast

Thally Roasted Duck Breast

If Thally is a sample of what the unfolding Shaw restaurant boom will bring, we’re in for a fun ride. The new restaurant by Chef Ron Tanaka and his partners in crime is impossibly creative and simple at the same time.

The drink prices ($7 and $8 wine!) and entree portion sizes (not guilt-inducing, nor small plates!) weren’t the only things refreshing at Thally. The restaurant doesn’t feel the need to spell out every detail of how its dishes will be presented on the menu. Rather, they keep it simple and allow guests to be wowed with whimsy when dishes arrive at the table. The compressed watermelon and heirloom tomato salad for example, doesn’t let on that it will come out shaped like sushi with acompanying ginger and wasabi. They trust their customers will pick up on, and enjoy, the surprise.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Roasted Duck Breast with Sunchoke, Kale and Taggiasca Olive Sauce wins out on the merits of flawless execution. The perfect medium rare sear and criss-crossed rendered duck fat are executed to such a high level that we wonder whether Chef Tanaka learned these tricks during his time at Citronelle. Other standouts include the Crab Roulette, Carnitas Sope and Pan Seared Rockfish. For photos of these dishes plus the watermelon salad sushi click here.

Though modern in decor, the restaurant’s name is, in part, a throw back tribute to the Tally-Ho stables built in the neighborhood in 1883. The restaurant seats about 70 and takes reservations through OpenTable. Our post comes on the heels of a positive Tom Sietsema review. See what he had to say.

Roasted Duck Breast not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Table: Ricotta Fritters

Table's Ricotta Fritters

Shaw is becoming a more meaningful, flavorful place to dine, and Frederik de Pue’s Table is a big contributor to the trend. Everyday Washingtonians gained big time when Chef De Pue joined the commercial culinary scene after doling out delicious food in diplomatic circles for many years.

If there is one word to describe Table, it’s honest. The proteins are pristine, the vegetables fresh and local, the service knowledgeable and the menus handwritten. The flavors are not the only thing at Table that are neat and clean, the restaurant itself is recognized for its Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL). The décor makes you feel as if you’ve entered a rustic secret garden that only you, and close friends, know about.

For the first time ever, a dessert is debuting on Best Thing on the Menu. This first-ever featured sweet simply can’t be missed. Table’s Best Thing on the Menu: Ricotta Fritters with Orange Blossom Honey and Blueberry Port Compote is a stand out. Warm, gooey mini beignets are stacked high ready to be dipped in sweet and chunky blueberry preserves. No matter how full you are from appetizers and entrées, you can still make room for these. After all, some cultures say you have a second stomach reserved solely for desserts.

Table’s menu changes frequently, but we hope with all of our hearts, that they don’t touch the dessert offerings.

Other notable dishes included the scallop ceviche perched atop a sweet and succulent corn cake, the luxurious and rich duck roulade and their peculiar poultry options, which included guinea hen and squab. In need of some pretty pictures known as food porn? Table’s gallery is something special, and puts other food photography in its place (ours obviously included).

Ricotta Fritters not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.