Dining Notes

February 2018

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The bar at Kirwan's is a lively place. It should be, as the Irish-born owner owner honed his skills at Guinness.

Irish on the Wharf
You can’t get more Irish than a pub founded by a former Guinness employee. With more than nine years of experience, Irish-born Mark Kirwan unveiled his eponymous Kirwan’s on the District Wharf last fall.  Kirwan’s ambience is warm and cozy with real Gaelic flair.

For brunch, our group of four was seated at a comfy booth, where we began with zesty, horseradish-laced bloody Marys. Corned beef hash was crowned with poached egg; guests may order their eggs any style. Fish and chips involved feather-light, delicately breaded cod, almost like tempura. Pub fries were properly crisp, but the mushy peas—which we encountered and liked in London—were bland and unappealing. Potato/leek soup—normally welcoming on a cold winter afternoon—seemed a bit watery. Other brunch options run the usual gamut of eggs Benedict, eggs with crab meat,

Standouts on the regular menu are classic Caesar salad, grilled salmon, steak sauced with Jameson whiskey, shepherd’s pie and lamb stew. Open daily for lunch and dinner, Kirwan’s is at 749 Wharf St. SW. Call 202-554-3818.

Valentine’s Day–Spanish Style
Joselito Casa de Comidas, 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, will present a Valentine’s Chef’s Tasting Menu Feb. 14. Priced at $80 per person ($130 with wine pairings), the six-course repast will include such Iberian classics as tuna crudo with avocado mousse; potato leek soup; shrimp and scallop pasta; grilled venison; passion fruit panna cotta. For more information and reservations (almost a must), call 202-930-6955 or visit www.joselitoDC.com.

Cava Still Expanding
Like the Energizer Bunny, Cava keeps going and going. The Mediterranean fast-casual chain is unveiling its eighth Washington outpost, this one in the Atlas District, 523 H Street NE. Known for spicy lamb sliders, hummus and tongue-tingling “crazy” feta, other nearby Cavas are located at Union Station, Capitol Riverfront, and on Barracks Row. The 1,358-square-foot H Street Cava is the ever-expanding chain’s 44th nationwide location.

Founded in 2005 in Rockville by Ted Xenohristos, Dimitri Moshovitis, and Ike Grigoropoulos, this highly successful restaurant group is the result of inspiration and hard work of these childhood chums who decided to open a traditional Greek/Mediterranean restaurant incorporating family dishes and values. CEO is Brett Schulman.

The name “Cava?” In Greece they used to store wine in caves. “Cava” also means special, reserve vintages and it’s Spanish for sparkling wine. Some Cava eateries are Mezze—full service restaurants with small plates similar to Spanish tapas. In contrast, Cava Grills are quick service, where customers move along a line and select their dishes. For updates visit www.cava.com.

Lunch at Little Pearl
On a frigid weekday, we ambled over to Little Pearl, ensconced in the carriage house at the Hill Center. The modest offshoot to Aaron Silverman’s fancy,  pricier Pineapple and Pearls and Rose’s Luxury, Little Pearl opened late last year.

Décor is rather plain; gone are the warm New Orleans motifs of the departed Bayou Bakery. Pipes and exposed brick are painted stark white. However, purple tulips brightened up tables on a dreary winter day. We found seats and sipped tea (teabags are made in house, and the kitchen sliced lemons especially for us). Customers order at the counter out front where some items are displayed, take their beverages and await their food. Complaint: While potential lunchtime customers were waiting, communal tables were partially occupied by folks tapping away on their laptops while nursing their drinks.

Service was slow, but our hearty sandwiches were worth the wait. “The Touchdown” was stacked with house-cured corned beef (which tasted more like regular roast beef), with provolone and Thousand Island dressing. Messy but delicious. Peter’s Japanese-style fried chicken was enlivened with bonita flakes and a sweet-and-sour sauce. Lunch for two came to $31.

And…
Come nightfall: Little Pearl morphs into a wine bar. Snazzy snacks—tagged at $1.50 to $11–include smoked onion dip with chips, anchovy toast; a “crispy” potato with cod roe hollandaise;  spring rolls made with savory Japanese pancakes (okonomiyaki);, “angeled” eggs.

Wine lovers may choose from individual pours, including three rose wines, four sparkling selections (two are non-alcoholic), six whites and nine reds. Among imports are Garnatxa (Spain), Sauvignon Blanc from France, Chenin Blanc from Australia, and an organic “orange” wine from Italy. You may also purchase a whole bottle ($25 to $32), including Gamay and a Müller-Thurgau from Switzerland. Located at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Little Pearl is open Tuesday-Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, closed Monday. Call 202-595-7375 or visit www.littlepearldc.com.

Brunch Bunch
All four locations of Hank’s Oyster Bar–including outposts at the Wharf and on Capitol Hill–have climbed aboard the brunch wagon. Among crowd-pleasers: the “hangtown fry,” a frittata with fried oysters and bacon (or pork belly), and crabcakes topped with poached eggs and crowned with zesty hollandaise. Boasting a waterfront patio (weather permitting), the Wharf’s Hank’s is at 701 Wharf St. SW; on Capitol Hill you’ll find Hank’s at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

Coffee Coming
Coming soon to 12th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. SE: Hype-Café. To accompany your cup of java, this Ethiopian-style coffee house will also dispense homemade pastries, according to Mahmoud Abd-alla who owns the building. If the address sounds familiar, the structure once housed Frager’s Paint Store, which has moved nearby. Current occupants include the homey Anh-Dao Vietnamese Restaurant and Pizza-Iole Pizza by the Slice. Asked when the Ethiopian café would arrive, Abd-alla responded: “When you smell the coffee, you will know it is open.”

Juicy Bits
JRINK, a healthy, trendy juice joint, has opened at 750 C St. SE, part of the ever-growing Hine Project. JRINK is open daily; call 202-751-8984.  JRINK is also operating a pop-up at Whole Foods Market H Street through March 31. Both JRINK stores offer cold-pressed juices, nut milks, and booster shots. H Street also concocts a “Gut Shot,” made with superfood chlorophyll, pineapple, lemon, ginger and liquid cayenne. Customers may return glass bottles for a juice credit. The Whole Foods/JRINK pop-up is also open daily.

Tidbits
In the Navy Yard, Ana at District Winery has launched weekday lunch. From 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Executive chef Michael Gordon and chef de cuisine Benjamin Lambert will ladle out vegetable bisque, along with duck wings, a smoked turkey club and more. Ana is located at 385 Water St. SE; call 202-484-9210….Mixologist  Todd Thrasher is opening a rum distillery and Tiki bar, Potomac Distilling Co., at the Wharf….On Barracks Row, Senart’s Oyster & Grille Room, 420 Eighth St. SE, has “temporarily closed.” The restaurant is scheduled to reopen February 26…Driftwood Kitchen, the Atlas District watering hole at 400 H St. NE—known for its festive happy hours—closed its doors last month.

Adios ‘til Spring
As we do every winter, we snowbirds are heading south to the sunny (we hope!) climes of Siesta Key, Florida. So, Dining Notes bids you ‘bye ‘til April.