Dining Notes

May 2018

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A stunning entrance greets customers at Mi Vida, at the District Wharf.

Braving spring’s blustery chill, Peter and I recently visited Mi Vida Restaurante at the District Wharf. The creation of Roberto Santibañez, Mexican-born chef/founder of the Fonda (New York) restaurant family, Mi Vida (“My Life”) opened about two months ago at 98 District Square.

Emerging from Roberto’s kitchen are authentic yet innovative dishes. Still thinking winter, we ordered queso fundido—which was nothing like cheese fondue we’ve encountered. Instead a rectangular cast iron dish held wonderfully gooey, stringy cheese which we scooped into warm tortillas. We topped it with lip-tingling salsa verde. Peter went for a pair of tacos–pork carnitas and pescado. They were out of chicken mole tacos, but our friendly table neighbors gave us a bite of their flavorful chocolate-infused mole. Crowned with micro-cilantro, my moist, pumpkin seed-crusted salmon rested on a bed of sweet potato/pineapple and more incendiary salsa. Mi Vida’s drink list encompasses a zillion kinds of tequila, plus mescal, agave, beer and wine. Dinner for two (before tip for excellent service) was $100.

Queso fundido is a Latino twist on cheese fondue at the Mexican-themed Mi Vida.

Mi Vida’s handsome, multi-level space provides patio seating, private dining and a covered balcony. Mi Vida is open from daily, dinner only, but lunch and brunch are coming soon. Call 202-516-4656 or visit www.mividamexico.com.

More Wharf Openings
Kaliwa—showcasing a trio of Asian cuisines– arrived earlier this spring at 751 Wharf St. SW. Eat Good Food Group co-founders Meshelle Armstrong and Cathal Armstrong and chef de cuisine Paolo Dungca have perfected their custom-made wood-burning oven. Their menu is divided into Filipino, Thai, and Korean dishes. Kaliwa is open daily (dinner only). Call 202-516-4739 or visit www.kaliwadc.com.

At Ambars weekday Express lunch colorful beet salad is a favorite small plate.

Balkan Lunch Break
On Barracks Row (and in Clarendon), Ambar has rolled out its Express Lunch. Tagged at $19.99 per person, the mid-day deal goes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday. Ordering from the special menu, customers choose from a variety of “small plates.”

Our savvy server started us with a traditional Balkan appetizer: cured meats, salami and dips, escorted by delicious warm bread. Then we ordered house wine (refreshing Moldovan Sauvignon Blanc), beet salad, shrimp skewers, chicken kebabs, stuffed cabbage and cheese pie. Seems like a lot of food for two, but portions are small, enabling diners to try many different, delicious dishes. Located at 523 Eighth St. SE, Ambar is open daily. Call 202-813-3039 or visit www.ambarrestaurant.com.

At Nationals Park, Jamie Leeds (Hank’s) and celeb chef Carla Hall showcase shrimp po’boy’s at Grace’s Kitchen.

Baseball, Booze and Vittles
Food options at Nationals Park are improving. The Chew co-host Carla Hall and Hank’s Oyster Bar founder Jamie Leeds are cooking for Grace’s Kitchen, a new stadium arrival. You’ll find it in Section 136 along the Main Concourse. Menu: Nashville hot chicken sandwiches (Carla hails from Nashville) and shrimp po’boys—a Hank’s specialty at Leeds’ restaurant fleet.

When we visited Grace the stand was out of shrimp and they had to get more from their warehouse. The hefty—if messy—po’boy was worth the brief wait. A half-dozen crunchy shrimp were nestled in a roll and drizzled with cayenne remoulade. By the way, Grace’s Kitchen is named after first lady Grace Coolidge, an ardent baseball fan.

Pizza and Baseball
Meanwhile, near Nationals Park, All-Purpose pizza is slated to debut soon, if not already. Located at 79 Potomac Ave. SE, the newcomer is the offshoot of the same-named pizzeria in Shaw. “I want to revisit the true Italian-American pizzerias and trattorias of the 1950s and ‘60s,” chef/co-owner Mike Friedman told DC Eater. “We are trying to recreate the red checkered-cloth, red sauce joints back in the day.”

The beer list includes many D.C. breweries represented on two tap lines. Wine is under the Scarpetta label, plus frozen cocktails. Victuals are similar to Shaw’s, with baked clams, marinated vegetables, ricotta crostini; marinated beets with basil vinaigrette, pasta salad. Plus lotsa pizzas.  Homegrown chain Dolcezza is handling dessert: espresso sorbet and chocolate chip cookies a la mode. Décor showcases a marble bar; this summer, a rooftop bar.

Crabby Pizza for Charity
More pizza near the ballpark: Oath Pizza has unveiled its second local offshoot at 110 M St. SE. The New England-based group operates another Oath in the Mosaic District in Merrifield. Heading the lineup of eight kinds of pies is “Crabby Old Baystard” ($13.50 for a full serving; $8.25 for a half). Available until July, the seasonal concoction contains lump crab meat, Old Bay seasoning, ricotta, aioli, scallions and lemon. To accompany your pizza: house salad with lettuce, grape tomatoes, and oregano vinaigrette, peas, roasted asparagus, and white beans. Management plans to donate 10 percent from crab pizza sales to DC Central Kitchen.

Beer and Baseball
Nearby, Herndon-based Aslin Beer Company has opened a beer garden at 1299 First St. SE. The yeasty pop-up will pour rotating brewskies all summer when the Nats are in town. Aslin will open two hours before game time and will close two hours after the last out.

Hill Prince Patio
In the Atlas District, Hill Prince has unveiled its outdoor bar. Nestled in a restored century-old carriage house, Hill Prince comes from the team behind Navy Yard’s Whaley’s and soon-to-reopen Little Sesame (Dupont Circle). Adorned with ferns, lanterns and overhead string lights, Hill Prince’s whitewashed patio bar accommodates about 30. Located at 1337 H St. NE, Hill Prince is named after a stallion that won the Preakness in 1950. Hill Prince will host racing festivities summer cookouts and DJs. Hill Prince is closed Monday; call 202-399-1337.

State of the Union
Things are also happening at Union Station, and not just Amtrak and Metro arrivals and departures. Sugarfina, the ritzy candy company, has unveiled a pop-up at the mezzanine level. The sugary newcomer is the third area location for the upscale brand. Colorful treats are wrapped in turquoise candy bento boxes designed to mimic packaging used by Tiffany & Co. Prices run about $8.50 apiece for the small squares.

Market Watch
Paik Produce, the marvelous Korean grocery tucked inside Eastern Market, is now selling yummy Korean dumplings. A 7-piece ready-to-eat order is $5, and $6.99 for a frozen pack of about 20 dumplings.

Happy Anniversary
…to Hill’s Kitchen, Leah Daniels’ nifty cookware shop at 713 D St. SE, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this month. Not only does Hill’s Kitchen carry everything “kitchen” you didn’t know you needed, Leah also has an impressive collection of Nat’s memorabilia. Closed Monday; call 202-543-1994.