Buredo: The Sofie

The Sofie

If you want to see shock on the level of someone seeing one of the Saw movies for the first time, show a classroom of Japanese students an American sushi menu. Mango! Cream cheese! Asparagus! We’ve taken a cuisine that usually consists of one or two ingredients and exotified it, sometimes even deep-frying entire rolls. Now, consider introducing them to Buredo: downtown’s buzziest lunch pit stop that supersizes sushi rolls until they reach the size of small burritos. Perhaps there will be an eye roll or two, but after one bite, anyone is bound to be smitten.

The Best Thing on the Menu: The Sofie brings together shrimp tempura, avocado, pickled cabbage, carrot, toasted sesame seeds, red tobiko and sriracha mayo for a sweet and spicy mouthful. Is it a little predictable to pick the one roll on the menu that contains both something fried and a liberal helping of mayo? Sure, but the truth’s the truth.

The Hanzo

If you want to swing a little healthier, we also love the Hanzo (yes, the samurai who was a serious badass). This hoagie-sized roll introduces pickled fennel and arugula to the sushi world. They’re joined by yellowfin tuna sashimi, avocado, cucumber, tempura crunch and a lemon aioli.

Buredo is still tinkering with their offerings and hours given the fast casual restaurant is in its infancy stage (they opened July 2). But, the concept proved to be a winner (read: long lines) so they expanded their closing time from 4pm to 7pm. Maybe they realized they planted a restaurant in a city full of workaholics who leave the office at 6pm and are eager to grab a quick dinner before going home to work some more, this time on laptops.

The Sofie not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Find Buredo at 825 14th Street NW.

Sushi Taro: Kaiseki Edition

Sushi Set 1

Tasting menus are all over town, whether at supper clubs, pop-ups or even grocery stores (Glen’s Garden Market!) But what about the OG (original gangster) of tasting menus? We’re talking about kaiseki, a multi-course, visually stunning display of the best Japanese cuisine has to offer.

somen noodles

Modern kaiseki, like the kind on offer at Sushi Taro, pulls from many historical and cultural references including imperial court cuisine, meals devoured by samurai warriors, the Japanese tea ceremony and healthy Buddhist temple fare. If you decide to take this adventure in the care of Chef Nobu Yamazaki, you will face a choice of four different kaiseki tasting menus: Traditional, sushi, suppon (soft shell turtle!), or wagyu beef/lobster surf and turf.

Unless you have yen to burn, the traditional or sushi kaiseki courses are your best bets. We couldn’t decide…so instead, we bring you the tale of two kaisekis. Here are their merits:

Sushi Tasting:

Sushi Set 2

+ You’ll get to try types of nigiri you’d never think to order like succulent sweet shrimp, bursting ikura or raw abalone.

+Your nigiri sushi comes with a paintbrush and premium soy sauce so you can embrace your inner artist.

Ichigo Daifuku

+ Your dessert choice includes ichigo daifuku (a fresh strawberry lovingly wrapped in mochi) which is arguably the best dessert on earth (zero hyperbole here).

Kaiseki Tasting:

Hassun

+ You are privy to the “hassun” a hodgepodge of morsels arranged to look like a landscape in miniature.

+ If you’re a big eater and it takes a lot to fill you up, take comfort knowing that the traditional kaiseki has an entrée-sized finale. In this case it was pork belly shabu-shabu. Diners whisk raw slices of thinly sliced meat through a hot pot of delectable spicy soup before drinking the broth at the end.

+ At the end you’re asked to select your final sushi course from the menu. Only the traditional kaiseki menu allows you to choose a roll, like the Best Thing on the Menu: spicy spider roll.

Verdict? Go with a friend and get both – they actually let you do that. If you ask really nicely, they’ll even give you a sharp knife to slice nigiri sushi in half. Just ignore the stares and head shakes from the Japanese embassy officers seated at the adjacent table; they’ve never seen such things.

Click here for more photos from the meal. Learn more about Sushi Taro’s kaiseki options.

Masa 14: Spicy Tuna Nachos

Tuna Nachos

Masa 14 has a bright and shiny new chef de cuisine, Felipe Milanes, and he just rolled out (literally) a whole line of new sushi like the Rainbow Tropico Roll with tuna, hamachi, salmon, avocado and a mango-papaya salsa. But the Best Thing on the Menu isn’t in roll form however…it’s far more representative of the restaurant’s Latin/Asian fusion persona: Spicy Tuna Nachos. Thick, crispy wontons are dressed in their finest sushi attire: Generous chunks of spicy  tuna tartare plus avocado, cotija cheese, and salsa picante.

Foie Jita

The menu at one of the original 14th Street spots has gotten a whole lot more creative under Milanes, who hails from Panama City. For example, he dares to serve Foie Jitas, like the fajitas you used to get at Chili’s on high school first dates but with foie gras, shallots, poblano peppers, red peppers and guava creme. It ALMOST works. The guava crema is divine, but unfortunately overpowered by the red peppers and onions. Lose those and this dish is a 10.

Other can’t misses include the Scorpion Roll and Pork Belly al Carbon. Look for new menu additions to continue to stream in and await the Twitter war that always follows when favorites are taken off the menu to make room (Just ask Taylor Gourmet). Change is hard. Click here for more photos from the meal.

Spicy Tuna nachos not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

The Best Thing at the Party: Chefs for Equality

DSC_0466

The scene: Chefs and mixologists in every direction in a Ritz-Carlton ballroom studded with silver and red. Cakes that could win a competition, super tall drag queens, a silent auction with killer prizes and TIM GUNN! The Human Rights Campaign’s second annual Chefs for Equality event was spirited and extravagant. After all, there’s a lot to celebrate this year with the striking down of DOMA!

But as always with Best Thing on the Menu, we care first and foremost about the food. After sampling truffled this and that (including popcorn from the Inn at Little Washington!), a couple warm soups in little cardboard cups, boozy fudgsicles and too many canapés to count, a clear winner emerged.

Pabu Happy Spoon

The Best Thing at the Party was, without a doubt, Pabu’s Happy Spoon: Beau Soleil Oyster with Uni, Ikura, Tobiko and a Ponzu Crème Fraîche. This mouthful of raw seafood tastes like someone scooped out a little slice of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. The uni flavor overwhelms but the texture and sweetness of the Pop Rocks-like tobiko and ikura complete the bite. This was by far the most delicate, complex, decadent dish of the night. We had more than our fill of spoons; we’re to blame if they ran out.

DSC_0491

We are now officially inspired to head to Baltimore to visit Executive Chef Jonah Kim and the rest of the team at Pabu. It’s so much more than sushi! They have some of our favorite Japanese dishes including okonomiyaki, miso-glazed nasu (eggplant), Nagoya-style chicken wings and more. Loved grilled food? They even have authentic robatayaki cuisine grilled over Japanese white oak. Oh, and you can get the Happy Spoon! It’s on their regular dinner menu. If you’re a first time Japanese food consumer, take the guesswork out of it and get the Satori tasting menu for under $50.

Oh, and in case you’re curious, the mini Pop-Tart from Ted’s Bulletin was The Best Thing in the Swag Bag (BTSB)!

Pabu’s Happy Spoon not the Best Thing at the Party? Share your favorites in the comments section and definitely get tickets next year.

Zentan: The Other Side of the Menu

If you haven’t visited Zentan recently, you haven’t experienced Zentan reloaded. Executive Chef Jennifer Nguyen who has experience at Pod, Buddakan and Morimoto in her back pocket has turbo-charged and transformed the menu with innovative takes on classic Japanese cuisine.

Hamachi Sashimi

Hamachi Sashimi

Two years in Japan taught us that there is so much more to Japanese food than sushi, which is why you need at least two trips to Zentan to truly get the full experience. One night, make a meal out of their spy themed sushi rolls and outside-the-box nigiri. Another night, experience the Best Side of the Menu: Cooked delicacies including robata skewers, pork belly, black cod, hamachi kama and so much more.

Zentan Miyazaki Hot Rock

Miyazaki Beef Hot Rock

One of Chef Nguyen’s smartest moves is taking advantage of the experiential dining craze. We no longer want to just eat our food. We want to learn about it, understand where it comes from, interact with it and even, cook it ourselves. If this appeals to you, order the Miyazaki Beef Hot Rock and cook beautifully marbled beef right on your tabletop. But don’t get lost in your glass of wine, these delicate slices only need three seconds per side.

Fall Preview: Uni Risotto

Fall Preview: Uni Risotto

Best Thing on the Menu had the opportunity to “spy” on some fall menu items that are set to debut soon, including uni (sea urchin) risotto that is punctuated with edamame and grilled mushrooms and sprinkled with parmesan cheese to give it salty stickiness. We are fully confident that this will be the must try DC dish for fall. Look for our @BTMenu tweets to find out when it debuts on the menu. Also coming soon, Chef Nguyen’s ramen. DC loves its ramen.

Click here for more photos. See a recent Q & A with Chef Nguyen in the Washington Business Journal. See our previous post about Zentan.

Share your favorite Zentan dishes in the comments section.

Sei: Fish and Chips

Sei Fish and Chips

Some say there’s a sixth sense. This is debatable.  What’s not debatable is that we have a fifth taste: sweet, salty, spicy, bitter and umami. Searching for umami can sometimes feel like a quest to find big foot or the abominable snowman. However, at chef-driven Sei in Penn Quarter, you don’t need to look any further than the dish in front of you. Almost every menu item has an earthy, delicious twinge to it, which can only be described as umami. For more information on this whimsical flavor, visit the Umami Information Center (we’re serious, this exists).

Our dinner at Sei was one of those meals where we felt pulled in different directions in selecting our top dish. Raw or cooked? Land or sea? Traditional or adventurous? After much debate, we arrived at the Best Thing on the Menu: Fish and Chips – Flounder, Malt Vinegar, Potato Crisps and Wasabi Tartar. This is already a critically-acclaimed roll, and we’d like to purchase two tickets aboard the fish and chips bandwagon! The Washingtonian, for one, calls this dish by world renowned Japanese Chef Noriake a must-try and CBS included it on their list of top fish and chips in DC. The freshest rare flounder we’ve ever encountered sits atop a roll of perfectly seasoned rice, complimented by all the traditional toppings you would find at a British pub.

Other notables included the S.O.S. roll, which featured the winning combination of salmon and strawberry; the miso caramelized kabocha, which tasted like Asian-inspired Thanksgiving; and the seared fatty tuna nigiri known as toro aburi. Although we didn’t have it on this Sei adventure, we’ve tried their sashimi pizza in the past and recommend it as a fun way to get the evening started.

Land and Sea Sushi at Sei

Land and Sea Sushi

Maple Miso Kabocha at Sei

Maple Miso Kabocha

Everything was plated beautifully, making it clear that they had a true artisan in the kitchen. However, the food wasn’t the only thing  that was visually stunning. The white and gold decor felt regal, elegant and cool (and maybe even a little Miami).  We’ll be back in just a few short weeks to try their new menu, and you should too.

Fish and Chips not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

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 

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.

Hashi Sushi: Cherry Blossom Roll

Cherry blossom roll
Best Thing on the Menu celebrates cherry blossom season and this week’s Sakura Matsuri festival by calling attention to a roll of perfection. The roll comes to us from Hashi Sushi, a quaint two-story sushi joint in Georgetown that blurs the lines between traditional-style sushi (think slab of fish on rice) and new American sushi (think crazy rolls). They also offer ramen, which is certainly trending in DC right now, as those of you know who have stood in long lines at Toki Underground, Daikaya and others.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Cherry Blossom Roll contains shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, kaiware and seaweed salad. It is wrapped in an appropriately-pink soybean sheet and served with sesame sauce. The roll is unique in that you’re substituting a a soybean sheet for black nori and substituting soy sauce for a sesame vinagrette. It is a welcome alternative to the offerings at the Sakura Matsuri festival, which often consist of fried noodles and chicken satay disguised as Japanese food.

Though having recently lost their Osaka-born sushi chef to another restaurant, the roll quality at Hashi Sushi remains undisturbed.

Cherry Blossom Roll not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Sushi Taro: Spicy Spider

Spicy Spider Roll

One shouldn’t shy away from the delicately crafted, uncharacteristically-fresh-for-DC sushi and sashimi at Sushi Taro, unless it’s for the Best Thing on the Menu (BTM):  the Spicy Spider Roll. Their soft shell crabs are on steroids – fat and moist and screaming straight from the sea. Other local sushi bars disguise previously-frozen, meager crustaceans with lettuce and mayo, but there is no need for such trickery at the Taro. The burst of spice and perfectly-vinegared sushi rice serve as a tasty vehicle for getting the crab to your mouth.

If you have the time and the cash, the kaiseki is also BTM worthy, but not for those on a budget, tricky food preferences or who wish to fit into their skinny jeans the next day.  To survive an evening at Sushi Taro on the cheap(er), go for happy hour at the bar Monday-Friday (5:30-7:00pm) and load on up half price sushi, including the BTM of course.

Spicy Spider not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.