Dining Notes

January 2018

161
Octopus is a tender, flavorful seafood tapa at Del Mar.

Seafood on the Wharf
On a frigid Friday night, Peter and I joined another couple for dinner at Del Mar. Located at the Wharf, this stunning seafood palace is the latest creation of Fabio and his Spanish-born wife Maria Trabocchi. First thing we noticed: no tablecloths. This absence gave the bustling restaurant a casual, bistro feel. The seafood display, circular bar and display kitchen added to the ambience. From the wine list, we ordered a bottle of Spanish red: Prado Rey La Mina Reserva ($70). It’s cost-effective to spring for a bottle instead of wines by the glass, which are priced in the high teens to mid-twenties. Bread does not appear automatically; you will need to order it.

As we sipped vino, we began with tapas: pulpo Gallega (tender octopus with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes), presented in a handsome wooden vessel. Other standout tapas are charcoal-grilled beets with sheep’s cheese, and creamy croquetas jamon (fritters swathed with Iberian ham). But paellas are the star at Del Mar. We opted for arroz calamari in su tinta—rice with squid stewed in its ink. The dish was served tableside. Some squid rings were slightly rubbery, but otherwise the dish was superb. Reservations are almost essential, and the decibel level is high. We could barely hear ourselves think, much less carry on a coherent conversation. Del Mar’s lofty prices make it a special occasion place. Dinner for four came to $250, before tip. Service was excellent, although a diner had to request bruschetta several times, but management removed the item from our tab. Located at 791 Wharf St. SW, Del Mar is open daily, including weekend brunch. Call 202-525-1402 or visit delmardc.com.

At Little Pearl, a server hoists a tray of over-stuffed sandwiches.

Little Pearl Arrives
Last month, Aaron Silverman unveiled his long-awaited Little Pearl in the Hill Center’s historic carriage house. The newcomer replaces Bayou Bakery. Located at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Silverman’s coffee house/wine bar joins his fancier sister restaurants—Pineapple and Pearls and Rose’s Luxury–on nearby Barracks Row. Heading the sandwich agenda is gravlax (cured salmon) on sourdough—honoring Silverman’s Jewish heritage and San Francisco’s famous bread. “The Touchdown” dresses corned beef with Thousand Island dressing. The menu also showcases other sandwiches, salads, house-made pastries and gelato. There’s also a lengthy coffee list, along with beer, wine and cocktails.  Pearl is open 6 days a week (closed Monday). Call 202-595-7375 or visit www.littlepearldc.com.

Indian Delight
In the Navy Yard, Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman have unveiled Rasa Indian Grill, a fast-casual eatery at 1247 First St. SE. Customers are transported to India even before they enter the 2,300-square-foot space, designed by HapstakDemetriou+. An ornate door was created by Rahman’s aunt in India and shipped here in pieces. Inside, the cavernous space emits a whimsical vibe — starting with a three-seat swing set behind the main window. Wall shelving is filled with books, plants, spices, and typewriters.

Lifelong friends, Vinod and Rahman grew up in the restaurant business. Rahul’s father is chef K.N. Vinod, co-owner of Cleveland Park’s Indique and Bombay Bistro in Rockville. Vinod’s partner Surfy Rahman, is Sahil’s dad. Rasa is open daily for lunch and dinner; call 202-804-5678 or visit www.rasagrill.com.

Lebanese in Navy Yard
Haidar Karoum, who has cooked at Proof, Estadio and Doi Moi, is launching Chloe, showcasing his Lebanese roots and extensive travels through Europe and Asia. For his eclectic menu, Karoum will tap local ingredients. The 3,200-square-foot space will include an open kitchen with a “green herb wall,” outdoor patio and light fixtures. Chloe is named after Karoum’s niece, as well as the Greek goddess of agriculture.

Beyond Pop Tarts
Move over, pop tarts. You might get replaced. Restaurateur Steve Salis, who purchased the Ted’s Bulletin chain from the Matchbox Food Group, is reportedly tapping an award-winning pastry chef to spiff up its baking. The doughy upgrade will involve more than the popular pop tarts created in the window of the original Ted’s. Salis also plans to beef up the rest of the menu. Salis also co-founded the &pizza chain, which has outlets on Barracks Row, plus the original on H street NE and elsewhere.

Eat your Veggies
Northeast is getting more healthy options, thanks to a Shouk spinoff. Operated by founder Ran Nussbacher, Shouk is unveiling its second outpost—this one near Union Market.  The original Israeli-inspired eatery, which opened last year at 613 K St. NW (Mount Vernon Triangle), dishes out vegetable and legume-filled pita bread, salads, black bean/chickpea/cauliflower burgers and other plant-based options. There’s also a small wine and beer selection, plus house-made “market drinks.” The new Shouk will be ensconced in the Edison development in the “Union Market District,” a fast-developing area that’s also getting a Politics and Prose bookstore. For updates visit www.shouk.com.

Cava Rolls into Union Station
The ever-expanding Mediterranean chain Cava plans to open two more restaurants this year, including a spinoff in Union StationThe D.C.-based company has recently added numerous offshoots, plus a new production kitchen in Laurel, a corporate office in Chinatown, and a home base to test products like its signature sauces. Recently opened: Cavas in Navy Yard and in the Atlas District (H street NE).

Speaking of Union Station: the bustling travel hub has also added a sweet option for travelers, the French confectioner LaduréeBased in Paris, Laduree operates shops in London and elsewhere, including one in Georgetown. Some say Laduree’s macarons are the best outside of France.

Bye Bye Banana
After almost a quarter century serving ropa vieja, mofongo and frosty margaritas, Barracks Row’s Cuban/Puerto Rican/Tex-Mex mainstay Banana Cafe, closed last month. “After 25 wonderful years of great memories and good times at Banana Cafe and the upstairs Piano Bar, it is time to say farewell,” said Banana Café owner Jorge Zamorano. He sold the restaurant building to White Star Investment for an undisclosed sum. Cuban-born Zamorano had joined the Long Star Cantina in 1992, and eventually transformed the space into the Banana Café.

“I’ve given this a lot of thought and decided it was time to move on,” said Zamorano, 59, who lives in Cheverly. “Twenty-five years is a long time…I’d like to go back to school, travel and get back into painting. An accomplished artist, Jorge decorated Banana Café with his colorful works. “I’ve made many friends,” he added. “They are almost like family.

Union Market’s Gorsha dishes out spicy Ethiopian fare.

Union Market Ethiopian
We’ve checked out Gorsha, the Ethiopian-inspired pop-up Kwame Onwuachi opened in Union Market with fellow chef Hiyaw Gebreyohannes. Kwame has gone on to unveil his highly touted Kith and Kin at the Wharf, but Gorsha remains. For lunch, we ordered a “big bowl,” full of braised lamb, beets, kale, cukes and other vegetables, piled atop a mound of rice and ringed with injera. The $13 portion easily fed both of us. Other protein options are short ribs, berbere chicken and yellowfin tuna, unusual for Ethiopian dishes. You can also get “injera pockets,” crammed with meats and veggies; three for $9. Union Market is closed Monday.