Greatest dining establishments in the D.C. space: Tom Sietsema’s favorites in August 2022

A person of the terrific joys of living in the Washington location is a environment of flavors. A diner does not have to have a passport to practical experience the Mediterranean, Ethiopia or Thailand, between the areas I felt I bought to take a look at this thirty day period, many thanks to several eating places.

The farthest I in fact traveled this month? Rehoboth Seashore, Del., exactly where I identified lip-smacking fried chicken and seafood.

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From the appears to be of it, the foodstuff faces stiff levels of competition from the landscapes at Gypsy Kitchen, the pan-Mediterranean restaurant whose principal eating home unfolds beneath dozens of baskets on the ceiling and whose 2nd flooring is so green and light-filled, you swear you’re taking in in the fantastic outdoor. Two handsome bars, one for every ground, are animated with what men and women appear to be to be swiping for on Tinder and enterprise.

Then you see chef Eric Milton’s handiwork land at nearby tables and get started rethinking your get. How could we depart out the baked-to-buy, Astrodome-shaped pita, anointed with garlic oil and sprinkled with za’atar? The mere sight of the spectacle finds neighbors inquiring for a balloon of their personal. The hen, brushed with a blend of pomegranate molasses and honey and served with a bevy of accents — heat-spiced basmati rice in a bowl swiped with creamy hummus is nearly a meal in alone — catches a lot of focus, also. (Toum, permit me depend the means I appreciate you.) Milton earlier cooked for ThinkFoodGroup, the manufacturer that contains Zaytinya, a depth manufactured evident in substantially of what leaves the open up kitchen area.

Fantastic? Not all servers are created equivalent. Kudos to the attendant who bothered to pack up a number of tablespoons of tomato jam, for instance. Requested about the restaurant’s identify, an additional server stated: “I’ve only been listed here a handful of months. I’ll inquire a manager.” She forgot. (Presented that the menu embraces accents from Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco, “a nomadic culinary personality” appeared fitting, suggests Brad Bernardo, director of functions for Southern Proper Hospitality, the restaurant’s Atlanta-centered mother or father.)

Shame on me for ready two years to consider this manner assertion on 14th Street. And disgrace on me for breaking a guarantee to a good friend who joined me final minute final stop by, lured in aspect by my invitation to just take all the leftovers home. “Dude, I’ve in no way noticed you take in this a great deal just before.”

If you have attempted Gypsy Kitchen’s wonderful herbed falafel or tuna crudo — a shout-out to summer season with chopped tomatoes, grilled corn and cucumber, furthermore shoyu vinaigrette — you are going to comprehend the plates I cleaned.

1825 14th St. NW. 202-765-0500. Open for indoor and outdoor eating. Smaller plates $9 to $27.

Returning to a most loved restaurant right after a long spell is like encountering an outdated flame: Will there continue to be sparks?

Let’s just say there have been some fireworks, at least for me, when the food stuff started coming out of the kitchen area at Afghan Bistro a short while ago. The smoky, sumac-spiced beef kebabs paired with tomato-sauced chickpeas, and shredded hen tossed with gradual-cooked greens and garlicky yogurt, characterize adore at very first bite (yet again). The epic menu forces challenging selections this family-operate storefront in Springfield aids out with a sampler plate that provides collectively 4 selection appetizers, together with minced beef dumplings dusted with cayenne and crushed mint, and gentle roasted eggplant flavored with tomato sauce and striped with yogurt sauce.

“Afghan Bistro is our 1st infant,” suggests Omar Masroor, who co-owns the business with his wife, Sofia, and the moment wore various hats listed here, tending the grill, ready tables — nearly anything as needed. “There was panic in the starting. We didn’t know what we were accomplishing.”

They absolutely sure do now. Right after introducing Afghan Bistro in 2015, mother and pop went on to open two a lot more dining places, Bistro Aracosia in the Palisades and Aracosia McLean in Northern Virginia. A third institution is on its way, throughout from the Four Seasons resort in Georgetown. Masroor states he hopes to open up Afghania, serving “frontier food” from jap Afghanistan, within just the subsequent four or five months.

The dozens of decisions on the menu are a throwback to pre-pandemic occasions. The entrepreneurs say Afghan Bistro’s siblings, which present mezze portions of, say, complete veal shank, enable for the variety. What all the eating places share are recipes from Sofia and her mother-in-law that make you truly feel as if you have been invited into their homes. Improved however, the foods are sized so that tonight’s evening meal can be tomorrow’s lunch.

8081 Alban Street, Springfield. 703-337-4722. Open for indoor and outside eating, shipping and delivery and takeout. Entrees $12.95 to $29.95.

The mural on the wall promotes Delaware’s point out fowl and steers you to a single of the restaurant’s signatures: chicken from the pedigreed D’Artagnan that’s brined, spiked with pepper and paprika, and fried to a fetching shade of gold before it departs the open up kitchen area on a metallic tray. All the senses are engaged. Count on a great crunch.

Planner that I am, I dislike dining places that don’t take reservations. But the drill satisfies the beach scene. Accepting customers as they walk in “lightens up the structure” of the cafe, says chef Julia Robinson, who, with her wife and typical manager, Heather Sharp, just lately obtained the dining place from the authentic house owners.

There’s a ton to like on the modern American menu incorporating coastal influences. Chaotic as the cafe is, cubes of yellowfin tuna, charred pineapple, crisp jicama, whipped avocado and (we’re virtually there!) pickled peppers on a crisp tortilla completed with adobo sauce present an entertaining begin to dinner. Gazpacho yields liquid sunshine, courtesy of yellow tomatoes and bell peppers, and I really like the kick delivered by aji amarillo in the blend. Robinson seems proud when she says her crab is sent “fresh off the boat” from regional suppliers. The chef is familiar with she does not have to do a lot more than increase a small egg and mayonnaise to kind her attractive “no filler” broiled crab cakes or sprinkle rice flour on her buttermilk-bathed tender shell crabs ahead of frying them to a fragile crisp.

The dining area will come with substantial ceilings, clean traces, streams of mild and a lot of sounds at prime time. The restaurant’s consistency is aided by the reality that Robinson served open up The Blue Hen, positioned inside of the Avenue Inn & Spa, 5 a long time ago. Offseason, she uses her Italian heritage to draw locals. Occur October, The Blue Hen provides pizza and pasta nights to its lineup.

At the Avenue Inn at 33 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Seashore, Del. 302-278-7842. Open up for indoor and outdoor eating and takeout. Evening meal entrees $29 to $36.

Correctly, the owner of the late Punjab Grill kept its beautiful inside intact when he changed the Indian cafe with Rania, whose identify in Hindi and Sanskrit interprets to “queen.” The inherited marble bar and booths with silhouettes of a temple make for a single of the most regal eating rooms in Washington.

Rania delights with some of the most motivated Indian cooking in D.C.

Everyone’s very first taste of Rania is a present from chef Chetan Shetty: a rice flour crisp in the form of a flower, dabbed with avocado puree, established off with tamarind chutney and glinting with trout roe. The sumptuous snack hints of the heat and spice to stick to on the menu.

As with so lots of upscale eating places now, this 1 forgoes a la carte. Diners pick from 3 or four classes, with a handful of possibilities for every training course.

Dwell massive and go significant the classes are sized like generous appetizers. The dishes I tend to repeat include the eye-catching shiso leaf chaat, herby hen kofta cloaked in truffle product, and brined, grilled monkfish. The past, an entree, is staged on sauteed infant spinach and a pool of coconut milk pulsing with ginger and green chiles. The jewel box to the still left of the entrance? That is the 10-seat personal eating room, distinguished with mirrored walls and a chef’s tasting menu that does not repeat anything on the standing record, tasty and unique as it is.

427 11th St. NW. 202-804-6434. Open up for indoor eating. Three classes $75, 4 programs $90.

They just take meat severely at this year-aged Ethiopian cafe in Silver Spring, a corner of which is devoted to butchering beef — “four to five cows a week” when customers are not fasting in the course of spiritual holidays, claims co-proprietor Temesgen Gebeyehu. When I enlist him for a suggestion, he steers me to shint tibs. A mound of juicy cubed rib-eye, sweet with onions and sharp with jalapeños, eventually will make its way to the table, exactly where I tackle the entree with the help of pieces of injera, the tangy crepelike bread that doubles as a utensil.

Clouds of incense, aspect of Shalla’s espresso ceremony, greeted me on my initial take a look at to the restaurant that as soon as housed the groovy Jackie’s and the place I splurged on an upgraded variation of kitfo, Ethiopia’s steak tartare. The surface area of the minced uncooked beef, glossed with butter infused with cardamom, mitmita and other spices, was sculpted into minimal red ripples. Equally wavy scoops of housemade cottage cheese — one environmentally friendly with collards, yet another orange with cayenne — aided fill out the platter. Wedges of kocho, created with the grated and fermented root of the enset plant, a member of the banana relatives, accompanied the raw beef and served as a starchy alternate to the scrolls of injera.

Beef isn’t the sole attraction. Ground tilapia jump-begun with jalapeños and the 8-item vegetable mixture platter also draw me back again. The latter is a kaleidoscope of hues: darkish green garlicky collards, sunny yellow cabbage and carrots, and purple lentils whose concealed serrano pepper produces a slow burn up in your mouth. Chef Tsega Amera comes to the kitchen area from the late Addis Ababa, also in Silver Spring.

Shalla will take its identify from Lake Shala in south-central Ethiopia, a place Gebeyehu understands properly, obtaining labored there as a surveyor. Indeed, all three proprietors come from design backgrounds.

8081 Ga Ave., Silver Spring. 301-920-0082. Open up for indoor and outside eating, delivery and takeout. Entrees $13 to $19.

The spouse and children behind this fresh new facial area in Dupont Circle aspired to channel a Bangkok Chinatown. Mission completed, thanks to steep stairs lined with Thai and Chinese newspapers and an underground bar and dining place that glow pink and green, respectively.

Sura serves Thai food, drinks — and a lot of kicks

Yes, it is loud and dim. But Sura is also lip-smacking. Billy Thammasathiti, who previous worked in a Japanese cafe, heads up the kitchen his brother Andy handles the smaller bar. (Sura translates to “spirits” in Thai.) Alongside one another they are doing atypical Thai foodstuff and drink in a area with a great earlier: The brothers’ grandmother cooked here when she still left Bangkok, and the restaurant was regarded as Sala Thai.

Don’t appear on the lookout for fish cakes or tom yum soup. An purchase of skewered beef displays how the chef can make some Thai principles his very own. A riff on crying tiger beef, the ropy meat is marinated in fish sauce, palm sugar and salt and sprinkled with what Billy calls “rice spice” — roasted sticky rice, lemongrass, lime leaves — before hitting the grill. The textures and aromatics are riveting. The chef likes to perform with fire, evinced by pork stomach completed with a chili sauce that races from hot to tangy and back, a feeling (relatively) tamed by Thai basil in the jumble.

Other dishes seem to be built to go with Andy’s libations. “Chips & dip,” for instance, finds garlic-scented rice crackers and a minimal dish of floor pork and roasted peanuts souped up with coconut milk. Munch, munch, absent, just like the bean curd pores and skin rolls paired with what appears like honey but turns out to be salted plum caramel.

The beverages, affixed with Asian accents, are as spirited as the cooking. The pause that refreshes most is a daiquiri swirled with passion fruit liqueur and fancied up with an orchid.

2016 P St. NW. 202-450-6282. Open up for indoor eating. Dishes to share $8 to $18.

Pleased times are right here once again in Alexandria, now that the crown jewel in the Community Cafe Team has reopened right after a pandemic-induced pause. A minimal facelift finds the brick-walled, gas-lamp-lit dining area hunting refreshing a new head chef, Ben Pflaumer, provides some of the most interesting foods in Aged Town.

Vermilion is back in Alexandria, with a new chef and charming menu

His opening “snacks” are fantastic. Crab croquettes are small balls of seafood dipped in (unsweetened) doughnut batter and fried to a wonderful golden crisp. Juicy nuggets of fried chicken remain in location on their plate with the enable of dabs of dilly yogurt. Very first programs will obtain you smacking your lips, much too, specially the scallop crudo arranged with flippantly charred snow peas and established in a apparent snow pea broth zapped with healed seaweed, an umami-wealthy dish that seems as cool as it tastes.

Pflaumer’s résumé checks off a range of Italian eating places, together with the stylish Masseria in Washington and the acclaimed Vetri in Philadelphia. That is your cue to examine his pastas, possibly risotto built with regionally grown brown Arborio rice and flavored with smoked candy onions and black truffles, or ravioli plumped with braised pork and finished with a wash of brown butter and contemporary sage.

A single of the most creative vegetarian dishes in the latest memory is located in this article. Sauteed oyster mushrooms staged atop summery peaches and tender black soybeans (the combination performs, deliciously) arrive with a sherry-kissed beurre blanc that would make you glad to have requested some residence-baked milk bread to soak up all the goodness.

1120 King St., Alexandria. 703-684-9669. Open up for indoor and out of doors dining. Entrees $24 to $35.

Trisha Anderson

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