Insatiable

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Since Jan. 15, diners 12 and older entering a District restaurant, bar, nightclub or entertainment venue must show proof that they have had at least one shot of an approved coronavirus vaccine. As of Feb. 15, everyone visiting those same venues will have to demonstrate they have had “a full initial course of vaccination,” not including boosters.

Joyful Japanese
Peace and Joy. What a welcome thought on a dreary, miserable winter day. That was our pleasant experience at Takara 14, which debuted late last year at 1326 14th St. NW. The Logan Circle newcomer is upstairs from Ammathar Thai Cuisine. Takara is Japanese for ‘peace’ and Joy was the name of our wonderful server. We climbed the rainbow-hued steps which led to a cheery, cherry blossom-filled dining room. One wall was painted pale pink. Was it spring already? A spacious two-level bar in the back was festooned with multi-colored lights, glittering chandeliers and brightly painted chairs and banquettes.

Chef John Yi’s menu with international flair focuses on hot and cold small plates: Expect house-smoked Norwegian salmon with edamame mash, soy sake, basil oil and salmon roe; tuna “tartare;” a soothing miso soup laced with assorted mushrooms; grilled nasu (eggplant); vegetable tempura; the ubiquitous Brussels sprouts enlivened with bonito flakes. A quartet of New Zealand baked mussels was arranged on a copper-tinted plate with a pair of little wooden spoons for easy eating. But I gobbled my chicken karrage, Japanese-style fried chicken morsels, with my fingers, which proved easier than wielding chopsticks.

Takara 14’s pastel décor provides a cheerful, colorful respite from a dreary winter day. Photo: Celeste McCall

Sushi shines here, with an assortment of fishy and vegetarian options. For an omakase, the chef will choose favorite sushi and sashimi, perhaps the ‘opal,’ blue fin tuna, salmon, yellowtail and pickled radish, swathed in sesame soy, or splurge-worthy wagyu items in the $30 range, perfumed with truffles or other luxuries. I settled for a la carte sushi: yellowtail tuna rolled with rice and scallions wrapped in seaweed; and my favorite, unagi, eel, perched on a rice pillow bound with a strip of seaweed.

We also found moderately priced bento boxes, as well as rice and ramen bowls. Add in a full bar with happy hour. Our server Joy poured our warm sake into little white cups, resting on tiny floral saucers. A charming touch of class. Our lunch for two came to $65.40 including tax and Joy even signed our check with a “thank you.”

Takara 14 is closed Mondays.  For more information, including hours or to place an order, visit www.takara14dc.com

Takara 14’s New Zealand baked mussels arrive on a pretty plate with two tiny wooden spoons. Photo: Celeste McCall

Chilling Out
With the Super Bowl coming up Feb. 13, our thoughts turn to comforting, yet festive, party fare. After cancelling our holiday plans when Peter and I both caught COVID, we are ready to party, safely of course, masked, vaxed and boosted. High on our list of celebration victuals is tummy-warming chili with myriad toppings. We are listing only three here, but many more favorites are out there; most offer dine-in, takeout and delivery.

Ben’s Chili Bowl has multiple locations including the legendary original at 1213 U St. NW.  Ben’s zesty chili (beef, turkey or vegetarian) comes in large or small bowls, piled atop the famous half smokes, as well as on burgers, subs and fries. Visit www.benschilibowl.com.

At Meats & Foods, 247 Florida Ave. NW, beef or vegetarian chili is incorporated in yummy Frito pies, piled atop potatoes, on half smokes or snuggled in a “chilito,” a burrito made with a flour tortilla burrito. Visit www.meatsandfoods.com.

At Republic Cantina, 43 N St. NW, Truxton Circle’s Tex-Mex hot spot concocts a bean-free brisket with chili powder, onion, cilantro, crema and cotija cheese. At the bottom is a surprise layer of caramelized cornbread. Visit www.republic-cantina.com.

New on U
London Curry House, the first District outpost of the London-inspired restaurant group, has arrived at 1301 U St. NW. The creator is Mumbai-born Asad Sheikh, who has brought us Bombay Street Food on Barracks Row and Butter Chicken Company in Atlas District.

London Curry’s 75-seat dining room displays the melding of Indian and British cultures. A reminder of India’s Aug. 15 Independence Day is splashed across a mural. British flags frame the bar, along with a print of Big Ben. A bright red British telephone booth is complete with its original rotary phone. There’s also an image of the late Anthony Bourdain, who loved Indian cuisine.

Bourdain would surely approve of Sheikh’s menu: dopiaza, an onion-heavy South Indian staple with chili, ginger and garlic; saagwala, a milder, spinach-based curry common in northern India; Jaipuri, a roasted red chili with yogurt; chicken tikka masala; goat curry and lamb rogan josh in a creamy tomato sauce. Yes, you’ll also find fish and chips. For more information, visit www.dclondoncurry.com.

On U Street NW, the original Ben’s Chili Bowl is famous for half smokes and lots of chili. Photo: Celeste McCall

Smoky Market Watch
A recent arrival at Union Market is 2fifty’s barbecue. The newcomer’s “Central Texas style” ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausages and other items are wood-smoked at 2fifty’s parent eatery in Riverdale, Maryland. You can also find sandwiches, platters and more. Union Market is located at 1309 Fifth St. NE. For hours, more information and to place orders visit www.its2fiftys.com.

Across the River
Shaw’s El Rey Mexican restaurant is reaching across the Potomac, launching a spinoff at 4201 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood. Like its parent restaurant at 919 U St. NW, the suburban offshoot specializes in tequila and tacos, plus burritos, quesadillas and papas birria nachos, described as Mexican-style cheese fries. For more information, visit www.elreyva.com.

Ciao for Now
As we do every February, Peter and I are headed for the warm and sunny climes of Florida. Therefore, I won’t be contributing a March column. See you in April!