As more restaurants, hotels, and gourmet food stores create proprietary garden plots for their produce needs, District diners can choose which just-picked salad or vegetable dish is freshest. This local, in-the-moment approach has taken hold at the bar, too, and clever cocktails that make use of the best juices, zests, and homemade bitters are showing up on drink menus around the city. This is your chance to explore new foodways from other cultures and experience what Daisuke Utagawa calls the “Japanese culinary art of subtraction”— letting each ingredient’s natural aromas, flavors, and textures shine rather than muddle them with elaborate ingredient lists or complicated preparations.
Patio parties are hot and one of the coolest places to hang out is 701 Restaurant. Their wines by-the-glass, cocktails, and bar snacks are $7 during happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. daily in the lounge, but the patio is the place to be after work. 701 is encouraging mingling by offering 26-ounce carafes of three of their most popular cocktails: the Moscow Mule, the Deconstructed Grapefruit, and the Palisades. To satisfy your hunger, consider one of the small plates like the fingerlings that arrive topped with chive crème fraîche and bacon, Serrano ham served with charred focaccia and mustard, or fried calamari with smoked paprika and caper aioli.
Daikaya, Penn Quarter’s exciting ramen shop and izakaya from Daisuke Utagawa, Yama Jewayni, and executive chef/partner Katsuya Fukushima, is gearing up for springtime by re-introducing two new cold ramen dishes and adding four new shōchū cocktails to their izakaya menus. Both ramen dishes are traditional Japanese summer fare, but we recommend you try the Hiyashi Chuka first. The more traditional of the two, Hiyashi Chuka is a Barnum & Bailey’s Big Top sort of ramen—meaning the chef packs the entire show into one big bowl. Hiyashi Chuka’s unique preparation makes it a challenge to serve successfully, but these ramen veterans have everything under control. Each cold ramen dish is boiled and chilled to order to ensure the noodles are perfectly supple and have absorbed the flavors of the sauce that dresses each noodle strand. Tossed with citrus soy vinaigrette, the Big Top reference becomes more apropos when you see the list of internal garnishes that includes cucumber, simmered bamboo, leeks, blanched bean sprouts, sesame oil, sesame seeds, wood ear mushrooms, shredded cabbage, cashu roasted pork, corn, cherry tomatoes, egg, nori, and carrots.
With bathing suit season right around the corner, the low cal shōchū cocktails crafted by beverage director Jamie MacBain could be Daikaya’s antidote to high calorie temptation. Unlike gin, vodka, or whiskey, which is about 64 calories per ounce, shōchū contains about 15-20 calories per ounce and in cocktails like the mothra keep things on the skinny side, even when blended with Awamori, Lillet Rose, orange bitters, and expressed orange zest. For an anti-oxidant boost, try the Haman with green tea shōchū infused with persimmon and mixed with lemon juice, honey syrup, and Lindera Farms persimmon vinegar, topped with salted cherry blossom foam. Now that deserves a heartfelt “Kanpai!”
härth at Hilton McLean Tysons
At härth, executive chef Luc Dendievel serves American fare with bright, fresh flavors and ingredients, and his spring menu includes just-picked organic fruits and vegetables from the restaurant’s garden, honey from the Hilton Hotel’s rooftop apiary, and locally sourced produce from area farms. Lunch features light soups, sandwiches, salads, and a new favorite is the flatbread topped with spiced lamb, cucumber with crème fraîche, lettuce, shallot, tomatoes, and dill yogurt sauce. In keeping with spring, luncheon guests may pair any wine by the glass for $8 or any draft for $3. Dinner is a more refined affair and offers gourmet delicacies and a more haute approach to cuisine without too much fuss. A standout dish is the tiny jewel of silken foie gras torchon from Hudson Valley Foie Gras (thank you Ariane Daguin for making Hudson Valley foie gras a staple). Served with onion marmalade, raisin and pink peppercorn brioche, mâche, and mizuna salad it’s opulent and an amuse bouche worthy of a moment of silence. Not to miss are the pork tenderloin and braised cheeks, pan-seared Pacific halibut, and vegetable casserole.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Ethereal. Life-changing. Emotionally arresting. These are all words wine-lovers use to describe the often indescribable wines of Burgundy, France. If you fall into this category of oenophile, then make sure to check out Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab from Monday, April 20, through Sunday, April 26. That’s when they are fêting their rotating wine-by-the-glass program called Joe’s Sommelier Series. The month of April, Joe’s will explore the wines of Burgundy and offer a rotating menu of exquisite wines. A votre santé mes amis!
NoPa Kitchen + Bar
It’s time to grab a bite and enjoy your lunch en plein air and when you choose NoPa’s new lunch specials you get plenty of flavor and save a pretty penny. This Penn Quarter brasserie from Ashok Bajaj is now offering two fixed price menu items that make the most of early vegetables, French-inspired meat and fish dishes, and executive chef Matt Kuhn’s twist on classics. For $17 per person, guests may choose a soup and sandwich from the special menu or enjoy a leisurely lunch for $32 that includes a soup or salad, entrée, and seasonal sorbet. Try the fried skate sandwich or go Southern and order the Nopa burger made with house made pimento cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, and fries.