With the holidays in mind, I’ve compiled a few meal suggestions, based on frequently asked questions from readers, to pamper yourself or take care of others in your life. Think of them as good deeds doubled. Restaurants, after all, need our attention like never before.
Open the box containing the main event in order of Oyster makes me dizzy, like it’s a gift from chef Rob Rubba. Here is his burnt orange squash surrounded by spiky greens! I lift the lid of the roasted vegetable to find more to like: a steaming and soothing stuffing of sorghum, sticky rice, oat berries and mushrooms.
Oyster Oyster comes with an attractive mission statement. Rubba, formerly with Hazel, says he wants to make ‘vegetables the star’ of his screenplay and do whatever he can to support sustainability in his kitchen. Squash juice, for example, is used by bartender Adam Bernbach to riff on an ancient, one of the few cocktails Oyster Oyster sells in small glass bottles that Rubba hopes customers will reuse.
Winter presents challenges for a plant-centric restaurant. You can only eat so many root vegetables, says Rubba, whose “home” dinners for two typically feature four courses and can be made vegan. Some rely on ingredients he kept from previous seasons – the green fennel seeds could be turned into brackish fennel “capers” – and some deploy techniques typically associated with meat. Eggplant comes in the form of a schnitzel supplemented with a fruity, brown butter sauce with fermented shell cherries. Celeriac can be cut into thin layers, rolled into a cylinder, roasted and drizzled like a steak with thyme, garlic and butter.
Are you looking for a (small) party space? Oyster Oyster’s semi-open alcove “garage” seats six for meatless pizzas, raw oysters, pitchers of wine or beer, and an “all you can eat” pinball machine.
One of the downsides to al fresco dining is how quickly your meal can cool down. To our relief: fondue Stable, Washington’s unique and special Swiss restaurant. A small burner keeps the jar of melted cheese warm and moist until the last piece of bread is coated. Better yet if you’ve preceded the Swiss classic with one of the restaurant’s hot cocktails, including hot spicy red wine or bourbon-enriched apple cider. My favorite fondue is powered with pear schnapps and eaten with crispy slices of green apple – salad and main course in one.
I indulged in the meal in front of the restaurant, where Stable had 24 seats protected from traffic by a fence. The passage of trams allows you to pretend to send dinner to Zurich. Any pinch in the air is kept away by radiators and woolen blankets, the latter of which can be found in Stable’s indoor market, where Swiss wines, homemade breads and spirits are also on display. A cool find: cocktails wrapped in thin plastic sleeves.
I try to avoid eating inside, even though the inside of Stable is a tempting prospect. Owners Silvan Kraemer and David Fritsche have built five beautiful little chalets at the back, each accommodating between two and six guests and dressed to evoke the Alps. Chef Fritsche’s menu, comprising raclette, landjager ropy sausage and veal in cream sauce with grated potatoes, is the antidote to ribs in winter. Homebodies have the option of renting fondue and raclette equipment for a refundable deposit of $ 75.
Kraemer offers three tips for outdoor eaters. “Make sure your feet are warm,” he says. “Drink hot cocktails.” And to avoid gusts of cold, he says, “tuck your undershirt into your pants.” Duly noted, sir.
1324 H St. NE. 202-733-4604. stabledc.com. Dinner entrees, $ 20 to $ 30.
Many high-end restaurants have stopped offering lunch during the pandemic. A notable holdout is Modena, the contemporary Italian restaurant in the city center, open Tuesday to Friday afternoon. “We wanted to stay in people’s minds,” says Chef John Melfi, whose cooking is hard to forget. At the same time, “we wanted to do everything possible.”
One of its most dramatic dishes is the tortellini stuffed with braised pheasant and ricotta with sheep’s milk, a pretty bowl of pasta accompanied by a Japanese coffee siphon filled with consomme. A small burner heats the broth, forcing it through a handful of aromatics, including dried porcini mushrooms and rosemary. The consomme, flavored with Parmesan, is then poured around the tortellini. “Do you mind if I drink the rest of the bowl?” asked a companion, finishing the pasta. I could only shake my head with envy. Surprisingly long Modena lunch selections include puffed golden veal Milanese draped over cheesy polenta and sautéed greens, with a charred lemon wedge for an added sparkle. Melfi previously worked at Fiola and Fiola Mare, a gastronomic experience that manifests itself in its refined cuisine and presentation.
The chef knew he would be competing with Chipotle and the nearby sandwich shops for daytime appetites. Wisely, he added a burger and pizza to the lunch list. The first, made with dry aged beef and a homemade bun, nods to Italy with prosciutto and arugula; the pizza crust gets its flavor from southern maryland durum white winter wheat that the chef grinds himself and ferments twice. Go for the diavola, sprinkled with spicy salami.
The beautiful dining room is open, but most guests request outdoor seating. A large clear plastic tent on the sidewalk allows lunches to have a “window” view and streams of sunshine.
The desserts are as chic as everything else. Let me suggest the seasonal fruit tart made with citrus poached seckle pears, white wine and a hint of lavender as well as crunchy Asian pears. The confectionery, which includes lemon curd over hazelnut praline, has a special occasion written all over it. Notice the white chocolate piece, announcing “Modena”, on the plate, a designer mark you can count on.
1100 New York Ave. NW. 202-216-9550. modenadc.com. Lunch dishes $ 21 to $ 29; pizza $ 14 to $ 16.
The young La Famosa tries her best to get you to San Juan. Outdoor seating includes pastel-hued gliders and chairs, rum runs down the beverage list, and mofongo – mashed fried green plantains – envelops diners in a haze of garlic.
The all-day restaurant, by Puerto Rican native Joancarlo Parkhurst, refers to itself as ‘fast-fine’ (instead of ‘fast-casual’) meaning you order at the counter and wait for the finesse to follow. Pretty fluted pastelillos open up to reveal a juicy beef picadillo cooked in cayenne pepper, the pork chop ejects the juice with the touch of a knife and the passion fruit mousse provides the right tangy finish to any. what a feast. Parkhurst is both owner and cook, drawing on his grandmother’s recipes for inspiration (don’t skip the chicken fricassee) and a former family-owned canning company in Puerto Rico for the name of its sunny spot. at Navy Yard.
It’s humble food with high quality touches. Hearts of palm are a welcome sight in the house salad, its punchy lemon mustard vinaigrette. The good taste extends to the dining room, where leather pads dress the black benches.
In a city filled with great sandwiches, La Famosa weighs in on the mighty and mouth-watering Tripleta: marinated rib-eye, pork butt, deli ham and Swiss cheese captured in a long roll called pan de agua, imported from Miami. Parkhurst calls the handful, littered with potato sticks, “Puerto Rico’s answer to cheesesteak.” Philly, meet your partner.
1300 Fourth St. SE (entrance on Tingey). 202-921-9882. eatlafamosa.com. Entrances $ 14 to $ 29.