2014 has been a big year, both professionally and personally, but one of the most unforgettable things about the past year has certainly been the food! Below are a a quick couple of foodie highlights (taken from the trusty Instagram feed, of course) from 2014.
Looking forward to sharing more delicious adventures here in 2015. Cheers!
It's no secret that DC isn't really a sushi city, especially when compared to the rarefied heights of the Japanese food scene in New York or Los Angeles, where omakase is a household vocabulary word and you have several Japanese restaurants in regular contention for multiple Michelin stars. Unfortunately the most the nation's capital is typically able to offer involves creatively-named rolls drenched in some kind of teriyaki/mayonnaise horror sauce.
As I was becoming increasingly frustrated with one mediocre Japanese restaurant after another, little did I know that chef Minoru Ogawa had quietly opened Sushi Capitol, cozy, narrow restaurant a few blocks from Capitol South Metro station. After a visit two weeks ago for their omakase (chef's choice) selection at the sushi bar, I'm pleased to report that I am reasonably (as in 99.9%) certain that this is the best sushi in the District.
I'm fully aware, of course, of the giant, posh Dupont Circle elephant in the room - Sushi Taro. For what Taro charges, you certainly get the pomp and circumstance of a big, elegantly decorated restaurant, a larger sake selection and "exotic" "wow-factor" type preparations like lobster sashimi and so on. The last time I went, the fish itself was unremarkable and the price tag in the end was equivalent to what I could have spent for a much more satisfying experience next door at Komi.
Sushi Capitol doesn't seem like much from the outside but once you squeeze yourself past fellow diners and get seated at the sushi bar, the attention to detail is there right from the start. For example, here are a few of their appetizers - small portions designed to get your appetite going but huge in flavor.
Your appetizer dishes are cleared by incredibly friendly servers and then - at long last - the first nigiri begin to arrive in front of you, all prepared by the sushi master minutes before they hit your plate (or in my case, are devoured immediately.)
What's great is that because you're sitting so close to other fellow sushi bar diners and because the restaurant groups their omakase seatings, everyone at the bar is getting the same nigiri around the same time you're being served your "course", if you will. This makes for kind of a communal dining experience where you can see (and hear) others enjoying the same pieces of delectable fish as you are.
For the second assortment, what I'd been waiting for finally arrived - the uber fatty o-toro slice of tuna belly. For those who haven't had the joy of tasting this, it literally dissolves in the mouth like butter.
Just as I was wondering whether I was going to get to taste any mackerel (my favorite kind of sashimi, totally underrated) or have more of that ridiculous sea urchin from Maine, this arrived:
Sushi Capitol is clearly my kind of restaurant in that it doesn't even bother serving dessert (it's not available #sorrynotsorry). Rather, the chef rounds off your meal with their version of dessert - chopped toro and scallion, served with sushi rice as a hand roll.
I really can't say enough good things about this place. Maybe it's my sushi-starved brain talking but I absolutely cannot wait to come back for a second round. Perhaps the best thing I can possibly say is that their omakase selection - which includes everything you see above - costs $50 per person, which is a complete steal compared to other places in town, or certainly to similar formats in different cities.
Run, don't walk (but don't tell anyone.)
Food: 4.5/5. The nigiri quality is absolutely fantastic. Would be a full 5 if there was a wider variety of fish and more consistency with the rice but beggars can't be choosers.
Drinks: 3/5. Decent sake and beer selection but you didn't come here for the drinks, did you?
Ambiance: Cozy and unpretentious - easy to walk straight by if you're not paying attention. Reservations recommended, especially if you want to sit at the bar.
Jasmine says: Your hunt for decent, actually discernible sushi is over. Five chomps.
Sushi Capitol is located at:
325 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, Washington, DC 20003
Reservations available via phone.
I've been putting off writing this one up as I wanted to see what other diners thought - so that I might be able to chalk my experience up to opening week jitters. Unfortunately recent articles in the Post and elsewhere, as well as a casual perusal of Yelp feedback, seem to affirm my first impressions of the place, so here goes.
DBGB is obviously a "big deal" for DC foodies who spend lots of time waiting and wishing for the day that the nation's capital can begin to offer a food scene that compares to New York, let alone with Paris or London. When the news that Daniel Boulud, the patron saint of all things bistro, burger and Lyonnaise sausages (not to mention his status as a permanent member of the Bourdain clique), was bringing his popular casual dining joint to DC, I like many others was very excited indeed.
I've been lucky enough to eat at all of Boulud's restaurants in New York, including the absolutely stunning (food and price tag) two-Michelin-starred Daniel, Cafe Boulud on the Upper East Side, Bar Boulud near Lincoln Center which quickly became my go-to wine bar when I lived in the area, db Bistro Moderne in the Theater District (home to the original foie gras burger) and of course, the original DBGB downtown. I've enjoyed my experience - some more than others - at every single one of these places and have also marveled at Boulud's ability to maintain a level of consistency in terms of taste and service regardless of how many restaurant outposts that were being opened up across the world with his name plastered on it.
Alas, I think DC's DBGB has caused me to rethink this opinion.
Don't get me wrong - most of the food was serviceable and actually fairly reasonably priced, in my opinion. For example, the classic country pâté tasted delicious - an exact carbon copy of the version I've had at a number of DB's New York places. However, the frisee salad that came along with it was a little sad - limp and underdressed. The bread, similar to the slices that arrived in the bread basket for the table, was incredibly cold and gave the impression that someone had sliced up yesterday's bread early in the morning.
The rest of the food kind of followed suit. Tasty but unremarkable - colder, smaller versions of what people have had before. I think the whole experience could kind of be summarized as a little...soulless? For what it's worth, I enjoyed the main courses the most. We tried a "duo" of sausages - the boudin basque (blood sausage) was fall apart tender and so was the coq au vin, if not a bit over-salted.
Things definitely weren't improved by the fact that service was spotty, our waiter who was clearly overwhelmed and new on the job, was unable to share any insights whatsoever about the wine list, which might as well have been written in Greek. The space itself, part of the much lauded CityCenter luxury development of retail, dining and residences downtown, is far too big and cavernous, creating an atmosphere that you're eating in a very well designed cafeteria or mess hall.
I guess that's the thing about this whole place. The food is...pretty good. The service...can, should and probably will get better over time. The space itself is too big but the seats are small with tables crammed right up next to each other, presumably to maximize the number of diners. As good as the food is or might be, it's hard to create a cozy, intimate atmosphere where you can enjoy your French bistro comfort food if the wait staff is clearly rushed off their feet, attention to detail is lacking in both food and decor and - perhaps not surprisingly - the big man himself is obviously not the one doing the cooking.
Food: 3.5/5. Mostly well-executed if not for a few lacking details.
Drinks: 4/5. Good wine selection by the glass and by the bottle. Ask for a sommelier if your waiter is unable to advise.
Ambiance: A large, cavernous space that doesn't feel very personal. There are hand-painted dishes by celebrity chefs you can gawk at though so that's something.
Jasmine says: Three and a half chomps. Not the best first foot forward for good ol' DB here in DC. That being said, the food is pretty good and the service should improve. I'd like to come back a second time.
DBGB Kitchen & Bar is located at:
931 H Street N.W.Washington, DC 20001
Reservations available via OpenTable.
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.