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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: March ::
Recommended Eating Places in Washington, DC
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0135  Wednesday, 25 March 2009

From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Subject:    Recommended Eating Places in Washington, DC

What follows is a highly selected list of some of my favorite eating 
places in Washington, D.C.

I moved to the Washington area in 1965 to begin my freshman year at the 
University of Maryland. After three degrees, except for a brief hiatus, 
I have been a local resident ever since. During these more than forty 
years, I have tasted my way as the area grew to become a place for great 
ethnic dining.

I grew up in Baltimore during the 1950s. Adventurous eating, at least 
for my family (father from Brooklyn and mother from South Carolina), was 
going to get carry out from one of the handful of Chinese restaurants 
and dining on Egg Foo Young and Chop Suey.

When I arrived in D.C., in addition to being served beer, I had my first 
taste of Greek food and other cuisines. I experienced nothing like a 
Greek restaurant in Baltimore, not to mention one that had belly dancers 
on weekends, even though my kid sister had a friend whose grandmother 
came for either Grease or Oil.

I shall never forget my first taste of fiery Szechuan dishes and hot and 
sour soup and later Thai and Burmese. And Indian and Ethiopian.

I raised my daughters to devour cultures, being only partially 
disappointed when their taste buds matured beyond the blander dishes to 
embrace the spicier and more complex (after all that would means less 
for me and more for them as we shared almost everything at my table.

Perhaps the most exotic dining experience in the 1970s was when my late 
wife and I were introduced to Sushi by a visiting Japanese scientist who 
was working at the FDA with Kathy and who employed me, the then 
out-of-work, former graduate student, to help her with her English. I 
tutored her and in return I had the most profound cross-cultural 
exchanges of my life. Sitting cross-legged and shoeless in that sparely 
furnished apartment in SW and sipping green tea, I became committed to 
multiculturalism decades before it was fashionable.

During those years, on very special occasions, we splurged and dined at 
those remarkably expensive French restaurants. And wine! I shall not 
even recount those adventures when decent grands crus were affordable to 
struggling married couples, Leoville-Las-Cases, Haut-Brion, 
Mouton-Rothschild, Margaux, and on and on. And the dinner sponsored by 
our Les Amis du Vin chapter that included eight different wines, 
including a young but memorable 1970 Chateau Latour and ending with a 
delightful Yquem. But those are memories of things past. Back to the 
matter at hand.

The SAA is being held in the Renaissance Washington in Penn Quarter, the 
new dining capital of the Capitol City. Penn Quarter is home to the 
Shakespeare Theatre as well as some of my favorite dining places in the 
city. The Shakespeare Theatre is one of Washington's great treasures, 
but it is a far second behind Chief Jose Andres.

I am an unabashed Jose Andres groupie. This man has an amazing 
imagination for food and drink. Jose Andres trained under Ferran Adria 
at the El Bulli in Catalonia, Spain. After a failed attempt at opening a 
restaurant in Manhattan, he moved to DC fifteen years ago and opened 
Jaleo, which now has several branches in the area and which was later 
joined by Cafe Atlantico, Zaytinya, Oyamel, and Mini Bar. I have eaten 
countless times at all but Mini Bar, the reasons for which should become 
evident as you read further. My first love and the place I dine at 
dozens and dozens of times a year is Jaleo.

Jaleo
480 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel (202) 628-7949
http://www.jaleo.com/

Traditional Spanish tapas as conceived by Jose Andres.

In addition, to his restaurants, Jose Andes has hosted two Spanish 
cooking television shows, first in Spain and now on PBS. He is also the 
author of two award winning cookbooks (Tapas: A Taste of Spain in 
America and Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen).

Zaytinya
701 9th Street NW
(Corner of 9th & G Streets)
Washington DC 20004
(202) 638 0800

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http://www.zaytinya.com/

Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East cuisine, serving Mezze (meze, 
maza, mezethes) small plates of classical and contemporary Greek, 
Turkish, and Lebanese cuisine all as filtered through the amazingly 
creative mind of Jose Andres.

As with Jaleo, the wine list is remarkable. When I drank, some of the 
most pleasing wines I ever tasted were at Jaleo, some of the most 
remarkable from Zaytinya.

I regularly read in the Post that this or that visiting chief was seen 
dining at Zaytinya.


Cafe Atlantico
405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812
http://www.cafeatlantico.com/

Nuevo Latino-style cuisine from Central and South America as 
reconstructed by Jose Andres. Cafe Atlantico is further well-known for 
its cocktails (as is Oyamel). Cocktails were not to my taste, but I will 
never forget some of the drinks I had here, try anything made with lime 
foam. Many area natives are regulars at Saturday brunch, but the Sunday 
Latino Dim Sum is NOT to be missed.

Oyamel
401 7th Street NW.
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-1005
http://www.oyamel.com/

Oyamel has relocated to Penn Quarter from its original location in 
Crystal City. I liked the Crystal City location which I found to be a 
warm space with soothing orange walls and a towering ceiling that simply 
did not catch on). Oyamel serves antojitos, traditional Mexican snacks 
or small plates.

Drawing on pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern traditions, Oyamel's menu 
reflects rich culinary heritage combined with current urban fare of 
Mexico City (from the FAQ at website). Oyamel is the only place I have 
ever had grasshopper tacos, and it boasts a selection of tequilas 
unsurpassed outside of Mexico.


Rasika (Modern Indian-Pakistani)
633 D Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 637-1222
www.rasikarestaurant.com

I thought that I should include at least one Penn Quarter restaurant 
that is not owned by Jose Andres. Although my preference is for 
traditional Southern Indian vegetarian dishes, Rasika is a darling of 
the area food critics.

Ethiopian Restaurants: For the adventurous who wish to dine outside of 
Penn Quarter, DC contains more Ethiopian Restaurants in every corner of 
the city and suburbs.


Adams Morgan (the former ethnic restaurant center before Penn Quarter)
Meskerem Restaurant
2434 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 462-4100
http://www.meskeremonline.com/


Little Ethiopia (9th and U Streets NW)
Etete Restaurant
1942 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 232-7600 www.eteterestaurant.com

There are several interesting Ethiopian restaurants in Silver Spring for 
anyone planning a trip to the AFI Theater to take in a film. Contact me 
for further information.

FINALLY (Drum-roll, please!)

Mini-Bar
405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812

Perhaps the most sought-after restaurant seating in Washington, DC, ca 
be found at Jose Andres' Minibar, a six-seat restaurant located on the 
second floor of Cafe Atlantico, 405 8th Street NW.

The following is all from the website:

The innovative tasting menu features 25-30 of Jose and his culinary 
team's most imaginative creations. This is food that owes as much to art 
and science as it does to gastronomy, food that is as much about the 
brain and eye as it is about the tongue and stomach, food that forces 
the diner to rethink food and its presentation.

How far in advance can I book minibar?
Reservations for minibar are taken a month in advance. That is to say, 
if you want a seat for the 15th of March, you would need to start 
calling on February 15. Please be advised that the demand for minibar by 
jose andres is very high and seats are often booked up the day they are 
opened for reservation.

How do I make a reservation.
To reserve, please call Cafe Atlantico and minibar at (202) 393-0812. 
The reservation phone lines open at 10 am. Reservations are accepted on 
a first come, first serve basis. Please be advised that the demand for 
minibar by jose andres is very high and seats are often booked up the 
day they are opened for reservation, often within the first fifteen 
minutes. For the greatest chance of success, we recommend calling as 
close to 10 am as possible. If you are unable to get through, or the 
date or time you are attempting to reserve is no longer available, we do 
keep a wait list and often are able to fill seats from off that list.

What are the hours for minibar?
minibar is only open Tuesday through Saturday. Sorry! We are closed 
Sunday and Monday.

What are the seatings for minibar?
We offer two seatings per night, one at 6 pm and one at 8:30 pm.

How many people at each seating?
A total of six diners per seating.

There are more than six of us that want to eat at minibar together. 
Can't you just add another chair?
Sorry. Space is rather limited and minibar can only accommodate six 
guests at a time.

How much is minibar? Does the price include wine?
The price for minibar is $120 per person. Wine, tax and tip are not 
included.

Enjoy!!

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