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Monday, May 12, 2014

First Look: District Doughnut

Here's a short bit for you. A few weeks ago, we ambled over to District Flea, where food vendors seem to multiply with each coming edition. Among the bits we sample is District Doughnut, the latest in what seem like a series of start-up food joints that will pop up in Southeast this summer (is there a restaurant incubator there we don't know about?).

It's unclear whether this addition, along with the arrival of GBD and Astro in recent years, signals some sort of arms race for doughnuts that will rival the similar rise of cupcakes. It's also unclear whether the size we bite into is some sort of promotional trial size - though their website seems to indicate it's not. If that's the case, then some caution is necessary: these are Munchkin-sized and seem relatively expensive as such.

Still, the flavors are nice and satisfying. We try the brown butter, the dulce de leche, and the mocha, which are certainly all sweet and tasty, but none pop out in hindsight as being more memorable than another. Fun, but we'll see how they fly when they come out.

Taste Test:
2.5 Forks (out of 5)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Daikaya: Ramen Bar

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2014 Top 100
Neighborhood: Gallery Place/Chinatown

The Setup


Needing some catch-up time, I met up with Official Co-Writer/Friend of DCWD CC at Daikaya.

The Vibe

Daikaya comes in two distinct flavors: the upstairs izakaya, which is where most of the gourmet flair happens, and a downstairs ramen bar. On this trip, while we've got a reservation for the former, the heavy and constant rain and cold outside convinces us to score some seats at the latter. While the upstairs space is a fairly straightforward dining room with polished Japanese touches, the downstairs is a stripped down joint that reflects the general Japanese ramen bar aesthetic: walls that are alternately merely brushstrokes of white paint, black chopstick-like tiling, or bold blue and yellow striping; light fixtures that are globe bulbs hanging from red wire; and an open kitchen that buzzes throughout the space. Seating is sparse: a few bar seats around the kitchen, and then short wooden communal tables; our neighbors across from us are practically in our conversation. It's fun and has the makings of a spontaneous dinner or a no-frills first date, but not somewhere you want to have a heart-to-heart.

The Food


We start with a plate of gyoza, pan fried dumplings with pork and cabbage filling, all washed down with Kirin Free. The dumplings crackle, a nice charred crust with a warm and tender filling that is exactly what the doctor ordered.

As for the ramen, it can't be reiterated enough that what Daikaya is presenting and what putative rival Toki offers is quite different. And while I personally prefer the heavier, beefier Taiwanese broth that Toki provides, there is a part of me that appreciates the light nuanced chintan stock of my shio ramen. Topped with a helping of pork belly that I add on, the bowl is pleasantly wan with light bits of bean sprout and egg noodle and ground pork only interrupted by the fattiness of my addition.

On the other hand, CC's shoyu is a little more showy, a soy-based broth that is dark and salty-sweet, helped out by the hard-boiled nitamago egg half that comes along with it. To me, it's a bit more straightforward with its flavor than my shio, and a tad more assertive, but nonetheless still enjoyable.

The Verdict


A welcome addition to the ramen world in DC. Can't wait to go back for the izakaya.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 1.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Noisy
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing
: There is perhaps no better pre-game meal than the Daikaya ramen bar before heading into the cold to see the Wizards or Caps.

Daikaya on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday Munchies: Tacos El Chilango

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup


Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD Texas and I have lived down the street from the U Street version of Tacos El Chilango since the time the space was an increasingly sketchy Italian joint. But on the verge of hangry and parking our Car2Go right in front of the shop, we just couldn't avoid the call of tacos anymore.

The Vibe

Tacos El Chilango is exactly what you'd expect the joint to be: a small, low-key shop decorated with some traditional Mexican kitsch - those vibrant tiny statues of the Virgin Mary, the ubiquitous colored flags - and very large bold cutout-style portraits of prominent Latino/as (e.g. Frida Kahlo); if you've ever been to Miss Pixie's, you'll recognize the artist. The tables are simple silver patio furniture, but the hidden surprise is the patio out back.

The Food


We ordered a full slate of tacos: cheese and avocado; cheese and green peppers; and cheese and mushrooms for Texas, and carne asada; chorizo; beef tongue; and pork with pineapple for me. Having recently eaten the underwhelming tacos at El Rey, these were exactly what we were looking for: for $2.50 a pop, we got larger, stuffed-to-the-gills tacos that burst with flavor and came with more accoutrements than we knew what to do with: a red sauce, a green sauce, cucumbers, limes, and radishes. I can't emphasize enough how much we enjoyed these tacos. Like the bites we had at Guisado's in L.A. these were rich, filling, and sharp.

The Verdict


Um, do we have a new favorite taco place? We have a new favorite taco place.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)

Tacos El Chilango on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 2, 2014

First Look: District Fishwife

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: NoMa

The other day, I caught a quick lunch at The District Fishwife, the newest addition to the Union Market scene. Despite my undying loyalties to Neopol (which intentionally remains unwritten about here, for impartiality reasons) and Rappahannock Oyster Bar, all the buzz about the new kid's fish and chips piqued my interest.

The District Fishwife occupies one of the last open spaces in the market, presenting itself as mostly fishmonger with a side of food service. To wit, the front case is stocked with a selection of delectable-looking filets ranging from the ordinary catfish to something called the wild hog snapper. All of the fish is sustainably-sourced, which is a nice fit in for the globally conscious. The one curiosity is the sparing nature of the fish display, contrasting with the stocked-to-the-brim look of most glass cases. There's a bit of seating to the side, but the Fishwife blends in well with the market.

The Food


For your $12, you receive a basket straight out of the fryer, with two long tenders of catfish in a British-style batter and a slew of handcut fries dosed with a healthy amount of salt. I'm not exaggerating when I say this is hands-down the best fish and chips that anyone has ever conceived (okay, so maybe that's a bit of hyperbole). Still, the fish is both incredibly crunchy on the outside while being borderline silky within the batter; once it cools down, the whole thing just melts into your mouth in a decadent way. The fries are dense and dark, like they've spent an extra two minutes longer in the fryer - which in this case is preferred. And the dipping sauce - I choose the tartar - is sharp and tart with a heavy hand on the dill (if you like that sort of thing, which I do). It's among one of the most enjoyable single bites I've had this year.

The Verdict


Delicious.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Cost: $ (out of 5) (less than $25 for two)

The District Fishwife on Urbanspoon