Destination: Washington, D.C.
At Jaleo (the name is Spanish for “merrymaking”), the plates are small and the flavors big, bold and altogether mouthwatering. The menu contains more than sixty dishes, including both traditional Spanish tapas such as gambas al ajillo (shrimp sautéed with garlic and guindilla pepper) and more modern selections, like chistorra (chorizo wrapped in crispy potato). I particularly love the butifarra Daniel Patrick Moynihan, homemade pork sausage served with garlicky sautéed white beans (a favorite of the late senator’s), and the rossejat, thin pasta “paella” with monkfish and shrimp. Other treats: fried dates wrapped in bacon, watermelon with goat cheese and pistachios, and a charcuterie plate that includes ibérico ham, from the famous acorn-eating pigs. Because it’s open until midnight on Friday and Saturday, Jaleo is a great spot for late-night dinner or drinks. This was the first restaurant in what is now chef José Andrés’s D.C. empire: Café Atlántico (and Minibar), Zaytinya and Oyamel.
Johnny Monis, the young chef behind renowned D.C hotspot Komi, has finally opened his much-anticipated following act, Little Serow. The minimalist twenty-eight seat Thai restaurant doesn’t take reservations, doesn’t allow substitutions and doesn’t even have a sign in front, but the line out the door gives away its location. The family style, prix fixe menu changes weekly, usually listing around seven plates for $45 per person. Dishes such as “yaam makhua yao” are explained by simplistic descriptions like “eggplant/cured egg/pickled garlic”, proving that eating here is more of an experience than a meal; every course is accompanied by a story or instruction from your server.
If the tin butterflies hanging from the ceiling of this Mexican cochina don’t put you in a good mood, the signature margaritas are sure to. Run by star chef José Andrés (also of Minibar and Jaleo), Oyamel is known for its house-made seviches (tuna and jicama; yellowtail kingfish with avocado and jalapeños) and guacamole that’s prepared tableside with fresh tomatillos. Best of all are the tacos with such sublime fillings as duck confit, pineapple and cilantro or barbequed pork with pickled red onion and Mexican sour orange. The Penn Quarter location makes it a good stop for lunch after hitting the museums.
Run by chef Vikram Sunderam, Rasika is beloved for its modern Indian fare: lamb kebabs with garam masala and mint chutney, chili garlic calamari, tandoori trout with Kaffir-lime leaves, and garlic naan. Dim lighting and cozy banquettes contribute to the seductive atmosphere.
Rasika West End
Ashok Bajaj’s newest restaurant, Rasika West End, will not disappoint fans of the original location (now known as Rasika Penn Quarter). The sleek bar and floor-to ceiling windows serve as a sophisticated backdrop for the modern Indian cuisine on offer. This new venue offers more vegetarian choices then its original counterpart and features a section of items from the tawa (griddle) and sigri (open barbecue). The lounge serves cocktails infused with saffron and tamarind. Reservations are recommended.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This restaurant is now closed.
Chef Cliff Wharton presides over this buzzing downtown spot, a sister restaurant to Jeff Tunks’s DC Coast, Acadiana and Ceiba. The Asian menu offers classics like red Thai curry shrimp and Korean barbequed pork ribs, along with more exotic dishes like pan-seared ahi tuna burger with wasabi aioli and Chinese-style smoked lobster.
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