CAPITOL CUISINE

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At Ella Grace, hospitality manager James Mansour displays a tray of freshly baked pastries.

“This is NOT like my mother made it,” declared husband Peter as he dug into scrumptious French toast at The Ella Grace cocktail bar. The decadent brunch offering tasted like it was soaked in Amaretto and crowned with cooked berries and whipped butter. Ella Grace (named after a partner’s daughter), arrived last month at 1421 H St. NE. Appointed with handsome vintage furnishings, Ella Grace replaced Pursuit Wine Bar, which is re-opening at 1025 H.

Ella Grace’s brief menu offers meatballs with goat cheese and dried blueberries; Japanese-style rice bowl with kimchi, egg, fish sauce and cucumbers; black sesame chiffon cake. There’s also weekend brunch, which we enjoyed with our neighbors. Michael chose the galette, a small wedge of andouille sausage and onions, while Kaitlyn went for a house-baked blueberry coconut scone. Peter chose the afore-mentioned French toast. An even heartier option was my breakfast panani: Black Forest ham, Kerry Gold Dubliner cheese, avocado and egg snuggled between slices of house-made rosemary focaccia.

Among cocktails is an ambrosia spritz, a refreshing blend of Lillet Blanc (a French aperitif), sparkling brut and a lemon peel to cut the sweetness. Along with rum drinks, the evening cocktail lineup showcases the signature “Ella Grace,” a concoction of gin, Peche de Vigne, thyme syrup and sparkling rose. The bar also pours pleasant house wines, plus a list of coffee drinks.

DC native Mark Abraham has assembled a talented team for Ella Grace.  Managing partner Bryce Heyn has bartended in Shaw. Chef Jacob Heyn, Bryce’s brother, created pastries at Del Mar, Fabio Trabocchi’s dressy Spanish restaurant at the Wharf. The Ella Grace is open daily; for exact hours visit www.theellagrace.com.

Wine About it
We’ve explored The Eastern wine bar, across from Eastern Market. On a mid-week evening, our trio elbowed our way up to the busy bar and found three stools together. There we shared executive chef Walter Hernandez’s house-made pimento cheese. Then we dove into a generous charcuterie board loaded with sopressata, andouille, bresaola, duck prosciutto, a wedge of parmesano/reggiano, and a rich creamy cheese), plus condiments. Guests may compose their own boards, assembling meats, cheeses and accoutrements. We still found room for the Spanish octopus salad, a tender montage tossed with mango, pomegranate seeds and citrus beurre blanc.

The cleverly worded wine list reads, “If you like….Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, etc.,” then it names options, offered by the glass or bottle. Our pleasant bartender poured our (red) Cotes du Rhone; a Napa Valley Zinfandel blend and a beer: Devils Backbone Gold Leaf Lager. Dinner for three with plenty to drink came to $100 before tip.

Located at 360 Seventh St. SE, The Eastern is open nightly plus weekend brunch, outdoor seating. Call 202-621-7950 or visit www.easternwinebar.com.

More Noodles
Navy Yard will soon welcome two ramen shops: Hatoba, 300 Tingey St. SE  and Basebowl, 1201 Half St. SE, near Nationals Park.

New Vietnamese
Near Union Station, Pho 79 DC has opened at 201 Mass. Ave. NE, replacing the sushi eatery, Kyoto. Pho’s owner is Tuan Nguyen, who arrived in the US in 1979, hence his restaurant’s moniker. Nguyen’s family also operates a sister restaurant in Saigon. Like many Vietnamese immigrants, he prefers the “old” name to the current Ho Chi Minh City. Along with umpteen varieties of pho (rich noodle soup usually made with beef), choices run to crispy (or fresh garden) rolls, grilled pork and chicken, veggie options. Tea, Vietnamese iced coffee, no booze. Pho is open six days for lunch and dinner; closed Sunday, carryout. Call 202-544-3401.

Pho, a rich Vietnamese soup laced with beef and noodles, is the signature dish at Pho 79, near Union Station.

Caribbean Delight
Peter and I savored a divine dinner at Cane, in the Atlas District. Open since April, the cozy charmer seems like someone’s living room. No surprise, the restaurant is family owned.

The menu showcases chef Peter Prime’s fare from his native Trinidad. We started with a “doubles,” a delicious but messy island street snack. Often eaten for breakfast, doubles (always plural) is a montage of fry bread, channa (curried chickpeas), and pineapple salsa. A painting on the wall shows Barack Obama scarfing a doubles while visiting Trinidad. Fun for a group is an order of a half dozen hops—Island-style hot bread slathered with house butter. Many dishes evoke India, harking back to 19th century transplanted workers.

Melt-in-your mouth oxtails were so delicious I picked them up with my fingers and gnawed away. We also dispatched a dozen spicy jerk wings. Tamarind/mango chutney–again evoking India– complemented our choices. Among other entrees: Pepperpot is a huge platter of oxtail, brisket, beef tendon stew and lots of spices. Escoviche, an entire snapper marinated and deep fried, could probably serve two.

Most cocktails are rum-based, but there’s also wine and beer. Peter ordered a Red Stripe, brewed in Jamaica. Our pleasant and helpful server, Jade, lives on Capitol Hill.

Located at 403 H St. NE, Cane is open five nights a week, closed Sunday and Monday. Call 202-675-2011 or visit www.cane-dc.com.

Coming Soon….
Sometime this winter near Nationals Park is Gatsby Mah Z Dahr, a restaurant by the folks who brought us Succotash (downtown and National Harbor), Mi Vida (District Wharf), and The Grill (coming to District Wharf). Look for Gatsby at 1201 Half St. SE.

District Oysters and More
Nearby, we lunched at Union District Oyster Bar and Lounge, 501 Morse St. NE. At this year-old American seafood emporium, we perched at the handsome, copper-topped bar and chatted with proprietor Byron Scott. As we sipped on a zesty bloody Mary and rosé wine, we perused the abbreviated brunch menu. We settled on an appetizer of attractively presented fried oysters and sides of home fried potatoes. The kitchen was out of my choice (salmon croquettes), so I settled for a Florentine style “breakfast” pizza, a generous pie replete with pesto, spinach and mozzarella cheese, topped with an “over-easy” fried egg. Dinner options: pastas, steaks, chops, lobsters, and “seafood towers.” Comprehensive wine, beer and cocktail lists.

Union District is open daily; for hours call 202-543-1474 or visit www.uniondistrictoysterbarandlounge.com.

Gone
Bourbon Coffee, the four-year-old, fair-trade java house at 621 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, has departed. Bourbon still operates shops in the United States and Rwanda, where the buzzy business was launched in 2007.