Insatiable

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dLena’s open kitchen showcases a wood burning oven which turns out steaks, short ribs, grilled chicken and camarones (shrimp).

Having just returned from our annual Florida hiatus, Peter and I were eager to catch up with Shaw, U Street and Mount Vernon Square’s rapidly expanding resaurant scene. Tops on our visit list was dLena, 476 K St. NW, Richard Sandoval’s classy restaurant serving Mexican classics with modern flair.

At Sunday brunch, the place was hopping. Lacking reservations, we could not score a booth or table but were happy sitting at the friendly bar. Perched there, we slurped a refreshing mango mimosa and a tangy “traditional” margarita. From the tapas menu, we considered the beef tacos, chicken-and-waffles and bacon guacamole, but settled on three “small plates.” Tuna ceviche was enlivened with cilantro, red onion and a chili pepper. Presented on a bed of ice, the citrusy fish dish was escorted by a small wire basket filled with tortilla chips.

Cazuela, a tasty montage of charred tomato salsa and potato hash, topped with a smoked egg, came in a piping hot skillet resting on a circular block of wood. The bottom was slightly scorched, lending a smoky flavor but rendering the dish rather dry.

We also shared the generous dish of “street corn,” enhanced with cotija cheese and bacon. – Brunch for two with a drink apiece came to $79.30, including tip. Service was excellent.

At Mount Vernon Triangle’s dLena, cazuela is a flavorful montage of tomato salsa and potato hash topped with a smoked egg.

dLena is best known for Sandoval’s wood- burning oven. Among items sizzling on the grill is a 14-ounce boneless ribeye; mezcal flambeed tomahawk steak flambeed tableside (for two); Wagyu steak; short ribs; grilled half chicken and camarones a la diabla (spicy jumbo prawns).

Also catching my eye was the grilled avocado. Next time. For sweet finales, options include creme brulee, sorbets and gelatos. A healthy, helpful note: dLena’s menu lists possible allergens in many items.

Not surprisingly, the drink menu encompasses myriad tequila and mezcal cocktails, plus beer and an impressive wine lineup. The latter features mainly Spanish and South American selections offered by the bottle and glass. For dLena’s hours, reservations (highly recommended!) and more information, visit www.dlenadc.com. 

Snazzy Latin Seafood

In Shaw, Mariscos 1133 has arrived – where else? ‒ at 1133 11th St. NW. You’ll find it on the southeast corner of N Street. Sibling chefs Alfredo and Jessica Solis honor their Mexico City hometown with a repertoire of “Baja Caribbean” cuisine. Besides an extensive raw bar, the open kitchen turns out several varieties of ceviche, grilled octopus a la diabla, crab cakes, whole grilled red snapper, fried calamari and blackened mahi.

Also on U, Rebel Taco’s first bricks-and-mortar restaurant features a dramatic, exterior mural.

Among land-dwelling items are jerk chicken, grilled skirt steak, slow-roasted pork shank and Cuban sandwiches. The bar offers Caribbean-themed cocktails. Guests may choose from 22 wines by the glass, mainly vintages from Spain and South America, plus beers from Mexico, Peru and Washington, DC. For more information, visit www.mariscos1133.com.

New on U

It’s baaack! Following an extensive renovation, Oohh’s & Aahh’s has reopened on 1005 U St. NW. Founded in 2003, the popular African American-operated business is best known for its signature mac-and-cheese, turkey chops (and wings), assorted chicken dishes, shrimp-and-grits, collards, cornbread and sweet potato pie. It’s a friendly, old-fashioned place.

You’ll find another Oohh’s & Aahh’s eatery at 5933 Georgia Ave. NW. Unlike the U Street location, this one offers full bar service. For more information, visit www.oohhsnaahhs.com.

And, just up the street, Rebel Taco Food Trucks is unveiling its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant at 1214 U St. NW. You can’t miss the enormous, dramatic mural on the exterior. Rebel’s cleverly phrased menu offers “I’ve hit guac bottom” (guacamole with housemade chips), “You guac my world” (fried avocado), “shrimp gone wild” (battered with cornflakes) and “Buffalo Soldier” with house-made sauce and crumbled blue cheese. For hours and more information, visit www.rebeltaco.com.

Paris Comes to NoMa

Coming soon to 1323 Fourth St. NE (a converted warehouse near Union Market): Pastis, showcasing traditional French fare. Created by Keith McNally and Stephen Starr, Washington’s Pastis will be an offshoot of the original in New York’s Meatpacking District. (Starr also operates nearby St. Anselm and Logan Circle’s Le Diplomate.) Among Parisian-style dishes emerging from Pastis’ 3,200-square-foot kitchen will be salad Nicoise, tuna crudo, steak tartare, onion soup, lobster frites, duck confit, grilled lamb steak, filet au poivre and a wonderfully gooey croque-monsieur. Plus beaucoup wine, of course.

Dining at Pastis will be (hopefully) an all-day affair, going from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Pastis’ 250-seat local spinoff will feature two outdoor patios, seating 100 diners. For updates, visit www.pastisnyc.com.

RAMMY Awards

Looks like things are almost back to normal, as Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) recently announced the 40th Annual RAMMY Awards. As usual, the black-tie gala will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on July 24. The gala honors the accomplishments of hard-working individuals and organizations of the region’s restaurants and foodservice community.

Awards will return to long-standing categories including formal fine dining, casual restaurant, wine (cocktails and beer) program and chef of the year. Last year, such categories as “most innovative to-go packaging,” “outstanding Covid-safe redesign” and “splendid holidays at home” reflected challenges caused by pandemic shutdowns. 

This year, as usual, some nominees were chosen by the RAMMY executive committee, others by the general public. RAMMY finalists will be announced at an invitation-only event this month. For more information regarding the awards, how to support the program and this year’s format, visit www.ramw.org.

On U Street NW, Oohh’s & Aahh’s offers down-home southern fare in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

Plant Life on H

Doron Petersan’s Sticky Fingers Diner arrived last month at 406 H St. NE. The 56-seat vegan newcomer replaces Petersan’s Fare Well, which was also plant-based. Sticky Fingers’ all-day menu offers “savory comfort foods,” desserts and a bakery. All-day breakfast items include chilaquiles, pancakes and Benedict Florentine. Lunch brings buffalo cauliflower dip, polenta fries, pierogis and plant-based burgers. You’ll also find “charcuterie” and “cheese plates,” with cashew-almond “cheddar,” almond “ricotta,” vegan “pepperoni” and “roast beef.” To drink: vegan milkshakes, coffee and espresso drinks, plus a full bar.

Petersan also operates Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats in Columbia Heights. For more information, visit www.stickyfingersbakery.com.

Market Watch

Near Eastern Market, Newland was set to open last month at 327 Seventh St. SE, site of the departed Montmartre. Chef/owner Andrew Markert, who also presides over the kitchen at nearby Beuchert’s Saloon, dispenses “modern American” dishes like charred scallops with crispy rice, black bass with pearl onions, dry-aged duck breast, Koji strip steak, carrot cake and lemon pie. For hours and more information, visit www.newlanddc.com.

Something Fishy at The Wharf

Fat Fish opened last month at 1 Market Square SW, located conveniently near the Municipal Fish Market. The sustainable newcomer serves such dishes as poke bowls and poke nachos with edamame guacamole; sushi-style rolls; “Sweet Sea” salmon; tropical tuna and citrus ceviche. Among desserts are exotic flavors of vegan ice cream. Fat Fish comes from the same team that operates nearby Chopsmith at The Wharf. For more information, visit https://www.fatfishrolls.com/