January 9, 2015

A Surprising Place to Get the "It" Cuisine

Would you trust an Irish chef to dish out convincing Filipino cuisine at a white tablecloth restaurant in Alexandria? Well, you should. Restaurant Eve's Cathal Armstrong is more than fired up about his family-style tasting menu being offered this month.

“They say cook for yourself first, and I'm enjoying it all,” Cathal tells us. We snapped him putting the finishing touches on kinilaw—the Filipino version of ceviche where the acidic component is added immediately before consumption. Filipino food is making a run at being the next big thing, appearing on just about every list of 2015 food trends. What's the connection with Restaurant Eve? Cathal's wife Meshelle is Filipino. “I've seen her family cook; it's all about eating; if guests come to your home, the amount of food you put out indicates status,” he says.

If that's the case, we're all aristocrats at Restaurant Eve. In addition to Cathal's takes on Filipino classics, the menu is diversified by Thai dishes inspired by the chef's October 2014 trip to Thailand—including a seafood coconut curry. Restaurant Eve's guiding principles of seasonality and high-end products remain intact during the one-month experiment: “I'm taking peasant-style dishes and using ingredients most people don't have access to.” For example, a Filipino BBQ dish utilizes prime pork belly from a local farm, and the accompanying rice is topped adorably with a quail egg. The $60 per person dinner is offered nightly with optional drink pairings.

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2015 Trends with Johnny Spero

minibar

Animal fat! Foraging! Fermenting! If you're going to talk the future of food, your best bet is Johnny Spero—DC's uniquely badass chef who brings global culinary perspective to minibar by José Andrés. We chatted with him about the trends making headlines, like restaurants going vegetable-forward. “Noma's René Redzepi has been the spokesperson for treating vegetables with care, especially the ones you can get from within your region,” he tells us. Johnny would know: In 2011, he staged in René's kitchen, often named No. 1 in the world. On the carnivorous side, fatty meat is in. “At Minibar, we use Japanese Wagyu beef; before the word fat was associated with bad, but people are realizing that's where the flavor is,” he says.

Nate Mook

Speaking of Japan, he says it's huge right now, "from ingredients to techniques. It's so much more than raw fish—it's time to dig deeper." In DC alone, we've seen new izakayas (Japanese pub food restaurants) open in the past few years like Izakaya Seki and Daikaya. Johnny also digs the trend of chefs using rustic methods like wood-fired grills to cook food that then gets presented in modern, avant-garde ways. “It's elevating the food we do now.” Johnny's work at minibar, known as much for magic as top taste, landed the restaurant the second spot on Washingtonian's recently released “100 Very Best Restaurants.”

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Try To Keep Up with Mike

Mike Isabella has had big years, but if everything rolls out as planned, 2015 will be remarkable. The bulk of his eager expansion will be in Ballston, where Kapnos Taverna, Pepita and Yona will roll out. He'll also touch down in Maryland with Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda Row. Don't be shocked when you see your seatmate unwrap something from Mike mid-flight: Kapnos Taverna is opening at Reagan National Airport; Pepita in LAX; and a new concept, Beach Bar, will go into Pensacola Airport. Openings aren't simple cut-and-pastes for the chef. “I tweak the menu to better incorporate local products and cuisine,” he tells us. “Somewhere between 25-40% of the Graffiato Richmond menu is different because we use what's local and bring Southern flavor." Richmond's Graffiato opened in 2014.

Greg Powers
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Catch These 4 Hot Pop-Ups While You Can

Baba's Dumplings:

Get ready for piping hot bowls of hand-cut noodle soup blasted with warming spices like star anise and Szechuan peppers. EatsPlace, Petworth's food incubator, will change over to Baba's Dumplings come Jan. 10. As the name implies, there will be dumplings too. The pop-up is from EatsPlace founder Katy Chang, and is the third residency to utilize the cozy brick row home. “Baba” is what Katy calls her Chinese father. “He taught me as much about life as about food,” she tells us. The residency will be short and sweet—just a month—because Katy manages a list of applicants eager to get their turn. Try it Tues-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri 5pm-11pm; Sat 11am-11pm; and Sun 11am-10pm. Jan. 10 will have soft opening hours (6pm-9pm).

Silk Road at Water & Wall:

There's only one spot in town where beet raviolini, Vietnamese bolognese, potato perogies (we could write a whole article on how everyone spells that word) and mac'n'cheese party on the same menu: Water & Wall. The Arlington restaurant from Chef Tim Ma debuted a three-month Silk Road Noodle Pop-Up this week. Dishes range from $8-$12 and are available Mon-Fri from 11am-2pm.

In addition to dishes from Tim, Silk Road will showcase noodles from a local guest chef each month the pop-up is running. In January, you can try Chef Jonah Kim's soba noodles bathing in a mushroom dashi with a short rib meatball and bok choy. We recently reported that Jonah's gearing up to open Yona not too far away from Water & Wall this summer in Ballston. The man knows his way around a mushroom—the broth leaves you sipping straight from the bowl.

Jeff Martin

Bluebird Bakery:

Experienced pastry chefs Tom Wellings and Camila Arango believe neighborhood spots are the bread and butter of DC. That's why they're gearing up to open a boulangerie-style bakery in the Shaw/Logan Circle neighborhood. “Our hope is to have hot bread coming out of the oven at 4 or 5pm for people to pick up on their way home from work,” Tom tells us. It could be a while before the doors open at 11th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, because they're currently raising capital through EquityEats, which we've told you about. In the meantime, you can get your first taste of their sweets and savories at a pop-up on Sunday, Jan. 25, from 7:30am-11:30am inside Georgetown's After Peacock Room. Tom says if all goes well, they'll turn around and set another pop-up date for February.  

Fishnook at Fishnet:

Some “chef's tables” require binoculars to see the action, but not at Fishnet, where you couldn't be any closer. The casual seafood restaurant in Shaw launched a gussied up pop-up towards the end of 2014 that's still going strong. Monday and Tuesday nights, four guests pull up chairs in chef/owner Ferhat Yalcin's kitchen, where he prepares a six-course seafood dinner, using techniques he picked up at Corduroy under Tom Power. “I get a lot of good feedback on my soups because I learned from soup master Tom,” he tells us. Other popular dishes include lobster risotto and dorade or bronzino with garlic and eggplant puree that Ferhat's Turkish mother used to make. Dinner runs from 7:15pm-10pm and costs $55 per person, plus optional wine pairings for $25. Reservations are accepted by emailing fishnook@fishnetdc.com.

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Beef Up Your Beverage Knowledge

Vigilante Coffee

Does your list of New Year's resolutions include upping your skills? The DC area has a host of classes to help, from coffee to cocktails:

Brewing 101—Say see ya to Folgers after this coffee brewing class from Vigilante Coffee Co. Home Brewing 101 ($25) will be offered Jan. 11 & 25 from 4pm-6pm in Hyattsville, MD.

That's Amaro—In 2015, people will be talking about Amaro. Be one of those people by learning about the liquor at Urbana on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 3pm ($35). The restaurant's bartender will explain how to use Amaro in cocktails and familiarize participants with top brands. Call for reservations.

Up Your Cocktail Game for the Big Game: On Jan. 31 at 3pm, the Southern Efficiency team will walk you through how to impress people at your Super Bowl party ($47). Leave with a handful of cocktail recipes and the know-how to keg a cocktail.

Balkan Reds—The world of wine is notably expanding to include new regions. Get to know varietals hailing from Serbia, Macedonia and Slovenia at Flight Wine Bar on Feb. 2 at 6pm. A $35 ticket includes snacks, sips and small bites. Call for reservations.

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Why You Should Watch TV
Jan. 15

Tune to The Food Network on Jan. 15 to see DC's own Victor Albisu try his hand at beating Bobby Flay. In order to face off against Bobby, Victor will have to first out-cook Cleveland's Eddie Tancredi, who has a voracious appetite for competing in culinary competitions. Victor is behind Del Campo and Taco Bamba and has an untethered passion for cooking with smoke. Watch or record Beat Bobby Flay at 10pm.

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