At last, Officina, Nicholas Stefanelli’s sprawling culinary complex, has docked at the District Wharf. When we lunched there recently, only the ground level café was open, where the all-day menu focused on mini pizzas and sandwiches. We chose pollo Milanese—organic chicken scented with sage, capers and luscious brown butter. Fried artichokes were crisp and lemony, but some outer leaves were inedible. My favorite was arancini—crunchy Sicilian rice fritters filled with veal ragu, peas and provolone. Complementing these tidbits was Stella Mosca, a crisp white wine from Sardinia.
Upstairs, Officina’s 150-seat “fine dining” area arrived a few days later, along with the stunning rooftop bar. Stefanelli’s menu kicks off with a pair of mozzarellas and 10 charcuterie variations, followed by antipasti including the afore-mentioned arancini, cannellini bean and pasta soup, and calamari. A lineup of eight pastas encompasses classics like linguine alle vongole with little neck clams and veal-stuffed ravioli. Seafoods are a medley of swordfish, prawns, calamari, octopus and whole branzino. Among carnivore options: duck breast and beef tenderloin. The biggest splurge is a 40-oz. rib eye. Dry-aged for 60 days, it’s tagged at $145.
Located at 1120 Maine Ave. SW, Officina is closed Sunday; call 202-747-5222 or visit www.officinadc.com.
Barracks Row Beat
Meanwhile, restaurants keep arriving along Barracks Row. Last month, Brick Lane opened at 517 Eighth St. SE, in the spot vacated by Las Placitas, which moved down the street to 1100 8th St. Brick Lane is a spinoff of Dupont Circle’s Brick Lane. As its moniker suggests, walls are brick, punctuated with colorful paintings. (Brick Lane is also a street in London’s West End.) The menu focuses on unpretentious fare like two-fisted burgers, hanger steak, rosemary lemon chicken and a mussel bar. Nestled in a plump bun, agave-glazed salmon was crunchy outside but moist inside, tricky to accomplish. Coconut shrimp salad—enveloped in a tempura-like coating–was napped with a tangy citrus ginger dressing. But we found the $17 dish rather skimpy. Service, rendered by Patrick, was pleasant and efficient. Brick Lane is open daily; call 202-675-2007 or visit www.bricklane-restaurant-dc.com.
Wait no More
Down the street at 717 Eighth St. SE, folks no longer have to queue up mid-afternoon to score a coveted dinner seat at Rose’s Luxury. Aaron Silverman’s the highly touted restaurant now accepts same day reservations. Call 202-580-8889 or visit www.rosesluxury.com.
Luwich Café has opened at 406 First St. SE, upstairs from Talay Thai (separate entrance). Besides breakfast, the pleasant Vietnamese newcomer dispenses steaming bowls of delicious pho and great banh mi. That crusty baguette is chock-full of pickled veggies, crushed peanuts and choice of protein (we loved the pork belly). Vietnamese-style coffee is made with New Orleans’ Café du Monde java. Luwich Café is closed Sunday; call 202-791-0456 or visit www.luwichcafedc.com.
Kevin Tien, chef at Petworth’s Himitsu, is unveiling Emilie’s at 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Part of the Penn Eleven redevelopment of the former Frager’s Hardware site, the 100-seat restaurant will be a lot bigger than its tiny original. Tien’s menu will showcase rotating carts of small plates. Look for it next spring.
Meanwhile, in the Navy Yard, Wiseguy Pizza has moved into the former Park Tavern/Il Parco space in Canal Park, 200 M St. SE, near Nationals Park. Besides pizza—sold whole or by the slice–Wiseguy will dispense salads, sides, gelato and coffee. Wiseguy’s third Washington DC location joins Navy Yard neighbors All-Purpose and Oath Craft Pizza.
H Street Happenings
Eventually, Shaw’s All Souls will introduce The Little Grand, a spinoff in the sprawling Apollo complex which also houses Whole Foods, Solid State Books, a coffee shop and the highly touted, vegan Fancy Radish. Located at the corner of Seventh and H NE, Little Grand will be next to WeWork. Management promises pizza, a “small simple bar,” quality ingredients and affordable prices.
We’ve recently lunched at Bar Elena, 414 H St. NE, where Boundary Road used to be. When it opened last year, I particularly remember the signature spaghetti sandwich. I haven’t tried that yet, but I loved the grilled adobo chicken sandwich. Fashioned with dark meat with a touch of skin–hard to find in this health conscious era–the sinful result was moist and succulent. Healthier options are the beet/chickpea burger and beet falafel sandwich. Lobster is big here: lobster Benedict, lobster mac-and-cheese, “Not a New England” Lobster Roll, plus a raw bar.
You can’t miss the bed springs chandelier dangling from the ceiling—a holdover from Boundary Road days. You’ll also find arcade games. Unfortunately, due to brick walls with little to muffle sound, Bar Elena’s decibel level is high, even at lunch. Closed Monday; call 202-450-3254 or visit www.barelenadc.com.
Farewell Dumplings and Hoagies
We were dismayed to see the “For Lease” sign at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. We’d hoped the bright red brick building was the future home of Dorjee Momo, the Tibetan pop-up at 317 Seventh St. SE above Bullfrog Bagels. Apparently the owners have shelved their plans for a permanent restaurant. Moreover, according to their Facebook page, they are taking time off from their pop-up to re-organize and go through some transitions. We will miss the yummy dumplings…..
As you’ve probably heard, the popular hoagie chain Taylor Gourmet abruptly shuttered all its shops in late September, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The closures—some in our ‘hood including the Atlas District original–reportedly happened after private-equity firm KarpReilly (the brand’s majority owner) pulled out of the company.