Vive la France!
French cuisine seems to be staging a comeback in our nation’s capital. About time. A recent Gallic arrival is Petite Cerise, 1027 Seventh St. NW, in Shaw. Ensconced in a long-vacant 130-year-old building, Petite Cerise (“little cherry”) is across the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The main floor is casual, with dressier dining upstairs. Created by chef Jeremiah Langhorne and partner Alex Zink—who brought us the acclaimed Dabney—this 90-seat charmer is a slice of Paris. For breakfast, customers nosh on croissants (try the delicious, flaky chocolate version) and other pastries with their coffee.
Later, Petite Cerise dispenses small plates, including assiette de rillette–(meat slow-cooked in fat, similar to confit), perched on baguette rounds with mustard and a cornichon. When they say “petite,” they mean it; the rillette was only two or three bites. Peter ordered grilled mussels; six mollusks arranged on a bed of rock salt. More filling was the well-seasoned side of green lentils. Entrees include grilled artichokes, coquilles St. Jacques (scallops with white asparagus), and braised lamb with spring vegetables. On the all-French carte du vin, my glass of Grenache/Cinsault rosé was a breath of spring.
Petite Cerise is a bit pricy; our light lunch came to $70 before tip. Service was excellent. For hours and more information, visit petitecerisedc.com.
At 1602 U St. NW, “modern” Parisian fare meets sushi at sleek two-story newcomer Baby Shank. The space formerly housed Local 16. On the Gallic front, you’ll find New York strip steaks, rack of lamb draped over Parmesan risotto, and steamed mussels. Chef “Noriaki” Yasutake of Chinatown’s departed Sei resurrects his acclaimed sushi rolls, including the “S.O.S.” with salmon and strawberry, beet tartare, spicy tuna beignets, and his “Fish and Chips” creation. For more information, visit www.babyshankdc.com.
While wandering around the jumble of warehouses, wholesale markets and restaurants near Union Market, we stumbled upon an oddly named enterprise: Crooked Run Fermentation, 550 Morse St. NE. Naturally, we had to investigate. The DC spinoff of two Virginia restaurants, Crooked Run’s kitchen ferments everything: pizza dough, bread, beer, wine and cider. The brewery is in Leesburg.
Crooked Run—named after a creek in Leesburg–is different. For “pan” pizzas, chef Chris Morgan ferments the Virginia-milled flour naturally. The result resembles thickly sliced bread. From umpteen kinds of pizza varieties, we chose Sicilian anchovy; the personal size pie was topped with tomato sauce, sliced garlic, roasted onions and boquerones (marinated anchovies). Other pizzas include the standard pepperoni, as well as offbeat concoctions like “Reading Terminal,” topped with porchetta (roasted pork), mozzarella and broccoli rabe, and the “Delmar,” capped with fried calamari and vodka sauce.
From Crooked’s appetizer, salad and sandwich listings, we opted for crunchy, deep-fried calamari, paired with incendiary cherry peppers and a pair of sauces. Delicious.
Besides locally fermented beers, the bar pours draft wines and a few bottles. Since the kitchen was out of draft wines, we sipped a natural—sans sulfites—slightly fizzy Pet-Nat. Coming soon are cocktails made with locally distilled spirits.
Operational manager Jose Flores, who was also bartending, took good care of us. Lunch for two came to $49 including tax and tip. For more information, visit www.crookedrunfermentation.com.
Scream for Ice Cream
Ready for dessert? Across the street from Crooked Run, look for the Van Leeuwen ice cream parlor, which opened in March at 418 Morse St. NE. The sweet shop is the first DC offshoot of the New York based company. Visit www.vanleeuwen.com.
Nearby, in the bustling La Cosecha Latino marketplace at 1280 Fourth St. NE, Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana holds court. The exciting menu matches the vibrant décor, with tiles and colorful wall hangings. Among authentic specialties are ceviche, chile rellenos, Yucatan-style braised chicken, corn (or flour) tortillas filled with shrimp, pork, or huitlacoche (flavorful Mexican fungus that grows on corn). The drink listing is equally impressive, offering numerous mezcals, tequilas, sangria, and exotic cocktails. Beers are Mexican, while most wines flow from Spain and Argentina. For more information, visit www.lacosechadc.com.
Love Makoto, an enormous Japanese food hall, is due to arrive at Capitol Crossing, 200 Mass. Ave. NW. For this ambitious, 9,000 square-foot enterprise, Chef Makoto Okuwa and Eric Eden are joining forces to create this “love letter” to Okuwa’s homeland. While final plans are still in the works, guests can expect a ramen shop, bakery, robata grill, and dining room serving myriad sushi creations and other Asian delights. Watch for details.
Mexico meets Lebanon
Coming soon to Ivy City: Vera, 2002 Fenwick St. NE. The stylish two-story newcomer will showcase the bold and flavorful cuisines of Mexico and Lebanon. The brainchild of Nayef Issa, co-founder of Dupont Circle’s Residents Café & Bar, and partner Nour Chaaban, Vera is named for Veracruz, Mexico’s historic port city that welcomed Lebanese immigrants in the late 1880s. Vera strives to honor these Lebanese cooking traditions by using ingredients like chickpeas, sumac and tahini. These Mediterranean items meld with chili peppers and tortillas to create marriages like falafel tacos, shawarma al pastor and other Latino dishes.
Vera’s exact menu and chef will be announced soon. For updates, visit www.veradc.com.