Barracks Row has welcomed a lively venue for Moroccan fare: Mekki, formerly Bricklane, at 517 Eighth St. SE. Operated by Moroccan-born Mekki Karrakchou, who also owns Georgetown’s Flavio, his eponymous restaurant showcases kefta (meatballs with tomato sauce), braised lamb shanks, couscous, savory filo pies, zaalouk roasted eggplant salad). Many dishes come from his mother’s organic and halal recipes.
For a mid-week dinner, we settled into the cozy, white brick-lined space, punctuated by Moroccan artifacts and handsome light fixtures. We began with little cigar-shaped cheese briwats—cheese enveloped in flaky filo dough, similar to Greece’s tiropita. (You may also opt for shrimp or veggie fillings.) The eggplant salad, laced with garlic, red and green bell peppers and tomato, would have tasted better served at room temperature rather than chilled.
The Moroccan-style meatballs swam in a savory tomato sauce with a smattering of egg; they seemed denser and chewier than the more familiar Italian-American style. But the flavor was great. Peter’s chicken hafida tagine (there’s also lamb and fish tagine) was a fragrant stew with green olives, citron and lemon verbena. The succulent meat practically fell off the bones.
Among desserts are the feather-light filo puffs, drizzled with crème anglais, toasted pistachios and dusted with powdered sugar, providing a delightfully light dinner finale. The tab for two, including three glasses of wine, was about $85. Service was pleasant and efficient.
Mekki’s Sunday brunch includes avocado toast, eggplant Benedict, baghrir (Moroccan pancakes) with honey butter and strawberries, omelets, steak and eggs.
Wine, sourced from the Karrakchou family vineyard La Ferme Rouge, reportedly flows, as well as vintages from Italy, the Americas and other regions. We chose a Chianti and Canyon Road Sauvignon Blanc. There’s also beer and a full bar listing.
Mekki is open daily from 4 p.m. to closing, plus Sunday brunch. Call 202-525-5472 or visit www.mekkidc.com.
Gone, but Relocating?
Practically next door, at 515 Eighth St. SE, Medium Rare served its last steak, frites and salad January 1. However, according to reports, owners Tom Greg and Mark Bucher, who also operate restaurants in Cleveland Park, Arlington and Bethesda, might unveil an outpost near Nationals Park. Watch for updates….Upstairs from the shuttered Medium Rare, the venerable Szechuan House still offers carryout service. Call 202-546-5303.
Coming soon is Butter Chicken Company, at 500 H St. NE (Atlas District). Proprietor Asad Sheikh also operates the well-received Bombay Street Food at 524 Eighth St. SE (Barracks Row), and at 1413 Park Road NW. Sheikh has also unveiled a Butter Chicken Company at 818 18th St. NW, with other BCCs planned for Arlington.
Stellina Pizzeria, 399 Morse St. NE, near Union Market is a lively casual spot appointed with a gleaming marbl- topped bar, high tables and chairs. Italian-born chef Matteo Venini’s woodburning oven turns out pizzas with slightly fermented crusts. Try the Napoli (tomato sauce, anchovies, olives, capers) or the carrettiera (house-made sausage, yellow tomatoes, provolone). Or share an appetizer of Roman-style deep-fried artichokes with herbed mayo. Pastas run the gamut of chitarra di pesce (squid ink, shrimp, calamari, octopus), traditional cacao e pepe (literally cheese and pepper). There’s lots more to choose from.
Stellina is open for lunch and dinner six days a week (including weekend brunch); closed Monday. Call 202-489-7521 or visit www.stellinapizzeria.com
An Italian Pasticceria
Not content with serving awesome pizzas and pastas, the proprietors of Stellina Pizzeria have also unveiled Annare, an Italian pasticceria at Union Market. Dayron Santamaria, who previously worked with Stellina partners at Lupo Verde, designed the menu of bomboloni (doughnuts stuffed with Nutella, crema and fruit) that Venini says he enjoyed while growing up in Southern Italy. Annare also serves panna cotta, cannoli, tiramisu, and other pastries. In stylish Italian fashion, some desserts are dressed with edible flowers and gold leaf.
Just a few yards away, the Union Market stall that housed the now-defunct Trickling Springs Creamery, has been reborn with a new name: The Creamery at Union Market. Daniel Burdge, retail manager for Trickling Springs’s shops, operates the “new” creamery with his wife, Jessica Burdge. The couple scored ice cream from the last Trickling Springs production and hired two former Trickling Springs colleagues. The Creamery is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
A Roman-style trattoria, Maialino Mare, opened last month on the ground level of the Thompson Hotel in Capitol Riverfront. Located at 221 Tingey St. SE, the blue and white-checkered tablecloth restaurant is Washington’s first full-service enterprise created by Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group. The Washington newcomer is an offshoot of Maialino, the decade-old charmer ensconced in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park Hotel.
Maialino executive chef Rose Noel, also from the parent group, is creating simple seafood pastas like lemon-butter fettuccine with Argentine red shrimp. Other notable dishes are spigola (salt-baked branzino for two), tonnarelli cacio e pepe; bucatini all’Amatriciana; bombolotti in pesto; suckling pig. Like Meyer’s other establishments, Maialino Mare employs a “hospitality included” policy, meaning that servers and bartenders do not accept tips. (Menu prices are adjusted accordingly. Maialino Mare is open seven days for dinner; lunch and brunch expected to follow soon. For more information call 202-508-5249 or visit www.maialinomare.com.
Breakfast and More
Coming soon near Union Station: Junction Bistro, Bar & Bakery, 238 Mass. Ave. NE, across the street from Union Pub. Based in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, Junction is known for croissants, biscuits, muffins, French toast and other breakfast staples. The future Junction might also offer an extended menu. Stay tuned, and for more information and updates visit www.Junctionbakery.com
Ambar, credited with bringing Balkan cuisine to the nation’s capital, closed in January for an extensive, two-month renovation. Located at 523 Eighth St. SE (Barracks Row), Ambar recently celebrated its seventh anniversary.Bistro Cacao, the 11-year-old French restaurant near Union Station, has moved from 320 Mass. Ave. NE to 316, where La Loma used to be.
Ciao for Now
As always this time of year, husband Peter and I head south for the warm and sunny (we hope!) climes of Florida. Therefore, we won’t be writing a March column. See you in April!