This summer, Mount Vernon Triangle and Shaw are providing a culinary round-the-world odyssey. Tucked in the corner of the cavernous Marriott Marquis hotel in Mount Vernon Triangle is a stop at Spain, Portugal, and Morocco: Mike Isabella’s latest outpost, Arroz. The stylish decor is modern with Moorish flourishes. Diners cozy up in alcoves, while others cluster around the handsome bar. Seated near a window, we perused the Spanish/Portuguese/Moroccan menu.
Our server, Raul, poured me two varieties of Albarino – Spanish and Portuguese. I chose the Spanish. A specialty is the assortment of bombas – bountiful rice dishes similar to paella. (Arroz means rice). Ideal for a group, bombas are embellished with Maryland crab, duck, suckling pig, or vegetables. Another entree is Moorish-style chicken with kale, chickpeas, and preserved lemon.
But Peter and I settled for a quartet of small plates: burnt eggplant, pureed and combined with black garlic and topped with cucumber circles, peas, and fiddleheads. The exotic combo comes with Moroccan flatbread.
Octopus ala plancha (crisply grilled but tender) is artfully arranged with chickpeas and potatoes. A quartet of codfish fritters is crowned with dainty quail eggs. Deep-fried sweetbreads are presented on a small board with pureed chickpeas, lemon, and a dab of mustard.
A refreshing finale is rhubarb sorbet. Our check ($104 before tip) arrived with tiny cookies. Service is impeccable. Located at 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Arroz is open nightly, plus weekend brunch. Call 202-869-3300 or visit www.arrozbmic.com.
Tiger Fork presents an entirely different culinary experience. Sequestered in the former Rogue 24 space in Blagden Alley, Tiger Fork melds Hong Kong cuisine with European and Middle Eastern flavors. We used chopsticks in lieu of forks.
Rather than wait an hour for a table, we perched at the octagonal bar. There we sampled executive chef Irvin Van Oordt’s chow fun noodles, rolled up into cylinders, speckled with what looked like black sesame seeds and resting on a puddle of piquant sauce. Wontons were filled with turkey and shrimp, scented with ginger. Delicately flavored fried rice was laced with chicken, Chinese sausage, peas, and spring onions.
Fragrant Taiwan green tea arrived in a lovely ceramic pot, accompanied by raw sugar. The brief wine list is mainly European; beers include Asian-style brews.
Designed by edit lab at streetsense, Tiger Fork’s 2,600 square-foot space frames the bar and a long communal table. A chef’s counter overlooks the open kitchen.
Located at 922 N St. NW (rear of Blagden Alley), Tiger Fork is open nightly, closed Monday. Call 202-733-1152 or visit www.tigerforkdc.com.
Etete (Amharic for mother), 1942 Ninth St. NW, is unlike the early Ethiopian eateries in Adams Morgan, which were festooned with ethnic baskets and artwork. Reopened after an extensive facelift, Etete resembles a trendy nightclub, with abstract paintings and modern furnishings.
American-born chef Christopher Roberson’s menu is equally avant-garde, borrowing from other cuisines. Teriyaki crispy beef? Injera tacos? Codfish fritters? (We had a similar dish at Arroz, see preceding item.) There’s even fish and chips. Why not? Ethiopia was occupied by Italy before World War II, and Italian wines appear on the beverage list. However, Roberson does prepare traditional doro wat (chicken stew poised atop the signature injera, the fermented pancake-like bread) and spicy lamb stew.
Etete is open nightly.
Call 202-232-7600 or visit www.eteterestaurant.com.
We had already discovered Halfsmoke’s spicy wurst and yummy mac-and-cheese bites at the Taste of Shaw. So we decided to visit the source, possibly inspired by the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street NW. But Halfsmoke is totally different from the iconic Ben’s.
Halfsmoke appeals to the child in all of us. Hanging chairs greet customers, floors are old-fashioned bathroom tile. There’s a fussball table, with books and videotapes in the back. Picnic tables provide outdoor patio seating. A red neon sign proclaims, “Don’t grow up, it’s a trap.” Like Peter Pan?
The cooking is hardly spa cuisine. Our delightful server, Reece, brought us popcorn in a Play-Doh can. Then she explained the menu as I scarfed the popcorn. Select your protein: half-smoke, beef or pork “brat,” grilled chicken, lamb sausage, vegan falafel. Your choice may rest on a toasted bun, a bed of wild rice, flatbread, or mixed greens.
Emerging from a wood-burning oven, the flatbread resembles a pizza crust, crisp and slightly charred at the edges. Piled on top is sliced sausage, chili, cheese, dressing, deli mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut, you name it. Ingredients are displayed in the large open kitchen.
As if the entrees are not decadent enough, you may order funnel cakes and boozy milkshakes for dessert. (A grownup touch is a full bar including fancy cocktails, lots of local beers, and better-than-decent wines by the glass.) Food arrives in a child’s lunchbox; the check is tucked in a vintage videotape cover (our title was “Toy Story”).
Located at 651 Florida Ave. NW, Halfsmoke is open daily for lunch and dinner. Call 202-986-2079 or visit www.halfsmoke.com.
Logan Circle is getting a new sushi bar, Hando-Meko, in the former Popeye’s space at 1315 14th St. NW. Owner/chef Jin K, who also operates Sushi Jin Next Door locations in Silver Spring and Woodbridge, plans to showcase handrolled (temaki) sushi, crafted from seafood, rice, and seaweed. Complementing the fishy dishes will be an extensive sake selection. Three bars will accommodate about 75 patrons, plus a 12-seat outdoor patio.
Shaw Shrimp Redemption
Shrimp are swimming in chef Ferhat Yalcin’s kitchen at Drift on 7th. The plump crustaceans are tucked into crunchy corn tortillas with pico de gallo, garlic, and sour cream; or enlivened with garlic for Cajun shrimp. They also appear in ceviche, a contemporary take on this classic with corn, cilantro, and balsamic vinegar. Drift on 7th uses only environmentally responsible, sustainable seafood.
The beach-like atmosphere is laid-back, and the bar is underlit with ocean blue; walls feature warm wooden boardwalk planks and marine decor. There’s live jazz, 6 to 9 p.m., on Tuesday and Thursday, and at Sunday brunch from noon to 3.
By the way, brunch is a weekend-long celebration replete with lobster omelets, shrimp and grits, with andouille and breakfast items. Plus bottomless mango, orange, or cranberry mimosas and bloody Marys.
Located at 1819 Seventh St. NW, Drift on 7th is open daily (dinner only except for Sunday brunch). The restaurant is located right by the Shaw/Howard University Metro station. For reservations and further information visit www.drifton7th.com or call 202-350-4350.
Wine about It
Coming soon, if not already: the Bloomingdale neighborhood will welcome Tyber Creek Wine Bar. Operated by Jordan and Jonathan Stahl, the newcomer will take over the space vacated by Rustik. Heading the kitchen will be chef Terry Tate, formerly of the Heights in Northwest Washington. Tyber Creek will seat 45 indoors plus another 45 on the patio. Emerging from Tate’s wood-fired kitchen will be roasted chicken, lamb shoulder, flatbreads, and lots of summer veggies.
Open daily, Tyber Creek is at 84 T St. NW, just off Rhode Island Avenue.
Also in Bloomingdale, Boundary Stone has launched a summer menu. Choose from brunch options like a chorizo sausage and cheese with an over-easy egg. For dinner, chicken liver pate with pistachios, cornichons, and pickled onion; house-made beef and pork meatball sub with marinara; potato gnocchi al pesto with asparagus, favas, and prosciutto; roasted salmon filet with spaetzli, sugar snap peas, spring onion, pancetta, and romesco.
Located at 116 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Boundary Stone is open daily, including weekend brunch. For more information visit http://boundarystonedc.com.