Dining Notes – January 2017

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Capitol Hill’s eagerly awaited Spanish restaurant, Joselito: Casa de Comidas, is set to open any day at 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Created by Javier Chandon and wife Christiana Campos (who also operate SER in Arlington), Joselito is named after Javier’s late father, Jose Chandon Perez. Headed by executive chef David Sierra, the kitchen will turn out traditional Spanish fare – with some innovative twists – for lunch and dinner. At press time, Sierra and Chandon were fine-tuning Joselito’s menu, which will probably comprise 10 hot and 10 cold selections: a three-course, prix fixe “menu del dia” plus daily specials. Like many restaurants in Spain, Joselito’s dishes will come in three sizes: tapas (appetizer), media racion (entree), and racion (larger, family style).

Born in Madrid 36 years ago, Sierra discovered his passion for cooking alongside his mother. He studied culinary arts and spent 10 years working in Spain with renowned chefs before arriving in the United States in 2009. Most recently Sierra worked with Javier at SER. Previously he wielded his whisk at Georgetown’s toney Fiola Mare and the equally upscale Taberna del Alabardero, downtown. 

Fondue Returns
We of a certain age (ahem) remember the fondue craze of the 1970s. As wedding presents, Peter and I received several fondue pots in bilious yellow and ghastly avocado green. Well, they’re back (the cheese pots, not those awful colors). As temperatures plummet, Garrison chef/owner Rob Weland has implemented his fondue menu, which he launched last winter. Available daily in the bar and patio area (weather permitting), the Garrison Fondue winter popup showcases “traditional Alpine” fondue for $18 per person. The savory melted cheese arrives with bread cubes. Seasonal add-ons are extra: heirloom apples, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, boiled potatoes, hanger steak tips, and Weland’s popular gougeres. Add-ons are $4 to $10 per serving. Since seating is limited, reservations are strongly recommended. Garrison is located at 524 Eighth St. SE (Barracks Row). Call 202-506-2445 or visit www.garrisondc.com.

Gone
As you probably know, Sapore Oil and Vinegar departed on Dec. 31 after five years at 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (next door to Joselito). The lease was up and overhead was high, so co-owner Renee Shields Farr decided to close the shop and sell the gourmet oils, vinegars, pastas, and spice blends – kept in a Maryland warehouse – online. “We’re not going out of business,” She emphasized. “We just made a business decision to switch to e-commerce. But what I’ll miss, however, is visiting in-person with my customers.” Also, look for Sapore products at popup markets and festivals. For more information or to make a purchase visit www.saporeoilandvinegar.com.

Market Watch
Here’s something you don’t see often, at least not in Washington. District Fishwife, in Union Market, now carries live black ($18 per pound) and green ($16 per pound) sea urchins. The spiny critters are harvested in California and Maine waters. An acquired taste (at least for me), sea urchin roe (uni) is a popular sushi item. But first you have to remove the spines. A better idea: let the fishmonger do this. You can eat the roe raw with a squirt of lemon juice or soy sauce, or saute in oil or butter and toss with pasta, or spread on toast. You might want to check on sea urchin availability; call 202-543-2592 or visit www.thedistrictfishwife.com. Located at 1309 Fifth St. NE, Union Market is closed Monday.

Warming Up
Now that winter has settled in, Pitango Gelato, 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Seventh Street entrance), is serving lots of warming affogato – Italian-style hot chocolate crowned with a scoop of gelato in seasonal flavors. A good-size cup is $4.50. Pitango, with sister shops all over town, is open daily; call 202-701-6222.

More Warmth
Sweetgreen, 221 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, has unveiled a tummy-warming winter dish: the Maketto Dinner Bowl. Tagged at $10.60, the generous helping contains organic wild rice, roasted chicken, sesame-roasted tofu, cabbage slaw, herbs, cucumbers, cashews, chili-tamari dressing, and a squirt of lime. Whew! Sweetgreen is open daily from 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m.; call 202-547-9338.

Here ‘n There
Beuchert’s Saloon, 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, is now serving lunch. Hours are 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Happy hour goes from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the bar. Call 202-733-1384. Up the street at 215, Hunan Dynasty was set to reopen sometime this month after the Nov. 17 fire shut down the entire block.

Here’s a practical suggestion for weekend Arena Stage matinee theatergoers: Masala Art, 1101 Fourth St. SW, offers a $19.95 bountiful Indian buffet brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Downtown, Tadich Grill, 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (near Metro Center), now serves Saturday brunch. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fare includes smoked salmon Benedict, eggs Florentine, hangtown fry (oyster/bacon frittata), $6 Bloody Marys and mimosas. Call 202-638-1849 or visit www.tadichgrill.com.

More Brunch
Speaking of brunch, on a recent Sunday, we decided on Barracks Row’s newly rebranded and renamed Ophelia’s Fish House, formerly Chesapeake Room. We admired the beautifully redone dining room in nautical shades of blue with fish murals and the aquarium over the bar, but decided on the enclosed patio. There we were attended by Bulgarian-born Desi. Besides the pleasant ambience and Desi’s excellent service, we also appreciated that we were not limited to eggs, eggs, and more eggs. Several brunch items also appear on the regular menu like Savannah shrimp and grits, a very rich montage of plump shrimp, lip-tingling andouille sausage, and a chunky lobster cream sauce.

Other crossover choices are bison burgers and crab cakes. Peter opted for the more brunch-like crab cakes with “over easy” eggs perched atop fried green tomatoes, a Southern take on the classic dish. Horseradish-laced Bloody Marys are spicy and generous, garnished with a pair of green olives. Brunch for two with a drink apiece came to $49.50 before tip. Located at 501 Eighth St. SE, Ophelia’s Fish house is open Tuesday-Friday for lunch and dinner, and also for weekend brunch, and closed for Monday lunch. Call 202-543-1445.

Chilled Fish
On a frigid evening after participating in an art show at Velocity (near Nats Park), we had dinner nearby at Whaley’s. High ceilings, mirrors, and monumental fish murals make the small restaurant seem larger. Positioned over the raw bar is a vintage-looking sign that could have come from New York’s century-old Grand Central Oyster Bar. Just under a year old, Whaley’s specializes in raw shellfish, including seafood towers in three sizes. But since it was 20 degrees outside and we were still thawing out, Peter opted for pan-roasted Icelandic cod with mushrooms and sunchokes. I made the mistake of ordering duck breast with parsnips, Cipollini onions, and farro. Alas, the duck was overcooked, the farro overly chewy. A better choice was seasonal greens sautéed with garlic and pickled sesame seeds.

Service was pleasant and efficient, but the kitchen was slow. Dinner for two with wine came to $96.80, before tip. Open daily, Whaley’s is at 301 Water St. SE; call 202-484-8800 or visit www.whaleysdc.com.

Restaurant Week
Coming up on Jan. 30-Feb. 5 is Washington’s popular Restaurant Week. More than 250 restaurants – many located on or near the Hill – will participate, offering three-course lunches for $22 and three-course dinners for $35. For more information go to www.ramw.org/restaurantweek.