Insatiable

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On a miserable, rainy Sunday, we decided to seek out a Shaw favorite rather than wait in line at a hot new destination. Three of us braved the unending rain and snagged a parking space right across the street. We settled into the cleverly named Beau Thai, which has been around a few years. Pots of exotic plants greet customers; otherwise we found the decor rather plain. Along with familiar Siamese standbys, the extensive menu encompasses pumpkin-focused fall specials and gluten- and sugar-free paleo selections.

Warmed by hot sake, we chose a traditional culinary route, starting with an appetizer of a half-dozen crispy, veggie-filled spring rolls escorted with sweet and sour sauce and garnished with a thatch of shredded carrots. Husband Peter’s tom yum soup – another golden oldie – was chicken broth-based with lots of tomatoes, mushrooms and a scattering of shrimp. Among some international menu crossovers we noted chicken (or vegetable) filled empanadas and duck/ginger flatbread.

Drunken noodles, laced with rice noodles, basil and choice of protein, is a customer favorite.

I settled for a Thai favorite, drunken noodles – wide rice noodles stir-fried with chunks of white meat chicken, Thai peppers, garlic and fragrant basil. There was just enough firepower without scorching the palate. I had considered the red curry duck with grapes, pineapple and tomatoes. Maybe next time.

Another red curry option was a palate-searing dish (friend Nan called it “kick ass hot”) tossed with tofu, Thai eggplant and bamboo shoots. A hint of coconut and accompanying brown rice tamed the firepower somewhat. We could have gone for a fried whole fish (market price) cloaked with tamarind sauce and capped with crispy garlic, or maybe crispy tilapia. Or the traditional pad Thai, the mild melange of rice noodles stir-fried with egg, spring onions and bean sprouts, sprinkled with crushed peanuts. 

Lunch for three with a small carafe of sake (Beau Thai has a full bar) came to $63.80 before tax and tip. Service was excellent. Open daily for lunch and dinner, Beau Thai is located at 1550-A Seventh St. NW; call 202-536-5636. There’s a sister restaurant at 3162 Mt. Pleasant St. NW; call 202-450-5317 or visit www.beauthaidc.com.

Exotic potted plants greet customers at Shaw’s cleverly named Beau Thai.

Menu with History

Folks wanting to learn some civil rights history while sampling downhome Southern cuisine should check out Langston Grille, 1831 Benning Road NE. Located near the US National Arboretum, the restaurant was named after John Mercer Langston, son of Lucy Langston, a Virginia-born freed woman. Langston graduated in 1849 with honors from Oberlin College, the nation’s oldest co-ed college and first to admit African Americans. He eventually became a leader in our nation’s Reconstruction period. (He was also the great uncle of famed poet/playwright Langston Hughes.)

But diners cannot live by history lessons alone. Emerging from Langston Grille’s kitchen are Southern/soul food staples (sometimes with a twist) like fried chicken with waffles, jerk wings with dirty rice, salmon cakes (or shrimp) and grits, oxtails, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler. All desserts are crowned with vanilla ice cream.

Langston Grille is open nightly, plus weekend brunch. Call 202-397-3637 or visit www.langstonbar.com.

Family Fun

Ivy City already boasts distilleries, wineries and beaucoup restaurants. Later this winter, the burgeoning neighborhood will welcome The Lane, a “family social club” at 1408 Okie St. NE. Two working moms, Molly Nizhnikov and Rachel Lubin, came up with an idea for a place for kids to romp while parents can relax. In addition to a well-equipped playground, The Lane will feature a cafe and bar dispensing cocktails, coffee, beer and wine (juice boxes for the kids), pastries, sandwiches and salads. A catering kitchen will accommodate local pop-ups.

FORM Architects is designing the two-level space, with a roof deck, two party rooms, exposed steel and bright accents.

Fall Menu

Nearby, Ivy City’s City Winery, 1350 Okie St. NE, has unveiled executive chef Brandon Igenito’s fall menu. Among newcomers are burrata salad with roasted beets, watercress, hazelnuts and balsamic reduction; seafood Fra Diavolo served over tagliatelle; honey-mustard-glazed smoked pork belly with braised collards and spiced apples; chicken saltimbocca with sweet potato risotto and prosciutto, farro with roasted vegetables. Wines, made and bottled right there, complement the seasonal, cool-weather dishes.

As cooler months roll in, City Winery’s weekend brunch descends from the rooftop bar to the ground floor barrel room. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. Heading the menu: avocado toast, crab cake benedict, “autumn quiche” with a sweet potato crust. For more information and/or reservations call 202-250-2530 or visit www.citywinery.com.

Cuban to Mexican

Little Havana, 3704 14th St. NW, closed last month after just one year in business. Owner Solis (El Sol, Mezcalero) will flip the space into a Mexican restaurant called Anafre. Look for the replacement later this fall or winter. Instead of Cuban sandwiches, the open kitchen will focus on charcoal-cooked dishes. Anafre, Spanish for a coal-fired clay stove in Mexico, is a tribute to Solis’s mother, Felisa Romero, who grew up in the Mexican countryside. She cooked for her brothers using a charcoal-fueled stove.

The culinary goal is to showcase dishes beyond tacos and guacamole, including coal-roasted chicken and whole fish brushed with mole verde. Plus tlayuda, a crispy Mexican-style flatbread; mole-glazed ribs and Puerto Nuevo-style lobster. The crustacean is flash-fried, then finished on the grill.

Little Havana’s beverage director, Heriberto Casasanero, who formerly poured drinks at Copycat Co., recently moved on to Bar Lorea, the new cantina located at 2005 14th St. NW, just off U Street. (See the October 2019 “Insatiable.”)

Star Power

Congrats to local restaurants who’ve earned a Michelin star for the first time: Middle Eastern-focused Maydan (U Street corridor); Gravitas, Matt Baker’s Mid-Atlantic tasting room in Ivy City; Little Pearl, the cafe-by-day and wine-bar-by-night spinoff of Aaron Silverman’s Pineapple and Pearls (Capitol Hill); and Sushi Nakazawa, the dressy, downtown omakase (dishes selected by the chef) destination. Michelin guidebooks have been published by the French tire company for more than a century, and Michelin’s “Red Guide” rates the world’s top hotels and restaurants with one to three stars.