What took us so long? Compass Rose Kitchen & Bar, 1346 T St. NW, has been around for almost a decade, but Peter and I had not dined there until now. This place is a jewel, a marvelous culinary journey around the globe.
Ensconced in an old townhouse, Compass Rose takes up two floors reached by rather steep steps. The interior is festooned with exotic artifacts from many nations. The moniker—Compass Rose—refers to the travels of proprietor Rose Previte, who was named Restaurateur of the Year at the 2023 RAMMY Awards. She has visited numerous nations represented in what comes out of chef Shelby McCrone’s amazing kitchen. (A graduate of L’Academy de Cuisine, McCrone previously wielded her whisk at upscale restaurants, including Sababa and Marcel’s, both in Northwest.)
We were seated in the “streatery,” the outdoor extension leftover from Covid shutdown days. Large fans cooled the space, which resembled a train car. Our helpful servers explained the menu: berbere spiced yams (Ethiopia), steak kebabs (Lebanon), sabich (Middle Eastern-style fried eggplant), poutine (gravy-topped fries representing Canada), Spice Bag (fried chicken thighs from Ireland), pupusas (El Salvador) and much more.
Peter chose chicken kebabs (Tunisia). The moist breast meat was nestled on a bed of slightly sweet couscous and accompanied by peach-flavored dip. I went for khachapuri, the traditional Georgian cheese-filled bread. With a flourish, server Clio presented the molten cheese tableside before stirring it. The cheese was a mixture of mozzarella, ricotta and feta. She also suggested that we allow the cheese to cool slightly before cutting or tearing the oval-shaped bread to dip into the cheese. It was like eating fondue.
Compass Rose’s wine list is also international, showcasing vintages from Georgia (reportedly the world’s oldest wine producing region), Cyprus, Lebanon, Spain, Canary Islands and elsewhere.
What a gustatory experience! Our luncheon tab for two—cleverly tucked inside “Fodor’s Guide to London”–came to $83 including tax and a 20 per cent service charge. A lot cheaper than airfare to Europe.
For hours and more information, visit www.compassrosedc.com.
We also decided to look in on an old favorite—Busboys and Poets—450 K St. NW (Mount Vernon Triangle). Owned by Iraq-born Andy Shallal, the progressive café/bookstore operates several sister restaurants.
We were tempted to sit inside amid the books, artwork and convivial bar, but opted instead to enjoy late summer sunshine on the spacious front patio. Sipping our excellent $6 Bloody Mary and mimosa (specially priced for brunch), we scanned the lengthy menu: vegetarian and vegan dishes abound, including roasted veggies, tempeh (fermented soybeans), avocado pesto with vegan cheese, black bean burgers, hummus, falafels. Other options include firecracker shrimp, nachos, wings, paninis and myriad salads.
Peter went for the falafel sandwich, the fried chickpea patty tucked into a large pita pocket along with hummus, pickled radishes, onions, and tahini sauce. Delicious but messy. For a side dish, Peter chose fresh fruit, an ideal dessert.
I chose the Mediterranean lamb burger, also nestled in a pita pocket with yogurt sauce and other goodies. My side Caesar salad was delicious. (Other side options are the house salad and regular or sweet potato fries.) While the ground lamb was slightly overcooked for my taste, it was nicely seasoned.
Lunch for two with a drink apiece came to $56.76, including tax and tip. Service, provided by Corin, was excellent. Busboys & Poets is open daily. For exact hours and more information, visit www.busboysandpoets.com.
Hot on H
Things are heating up on H as Dumpling Hot Pot Beyond arrived July 4 at 1216 H St. NE. The zesty newcomer focuses on Shanghai and Szechuan cooking, including homemade noodles, pork wontons, beef dumplings. dan dan noodles, garlic-vinegar rice noodles. There’s also dim sum. But the star of the kitchen is the bubbling hotpot, presented in a handsome blue vessel. Dumpling Hot Pot’s bright, airy décor is simple, yet eye-catching. Management is working on an alcohol license, and plans are afoot for a sake bar upstairs. For updates and more information, visit www.dumplinghotpotbeyond.com.
Nearby, Sticky Fingers Diner, the vegan retro chic bakery and bar, at 406 H St. NE, is extending summer with a “seaside” pop-up. The plant-based boardwalk-themed menu offers homemade soft pretzels, popcorn balls, faux “beef” brisket made with seitan (a protein made by rinsing the starch from wheat dough), “ice cream” sandwiches, cotton candy. To drink: wine cooler slushies, boozy floats and strawberry lemonade.
The funky Jersey Shore décor follows the playful theme with blow-up beachballs, pink flamingos and “pesky” seagulls. For hours and more information, visit www.stickyfingersdiner.com.
In Shaw, Los Cinco Tacos has arrived at 711 Florida Ave. NW. It’s an offshoot of Capo Italian Deli, located right next door. The creator is Jose Candelero, Capo’s longtime director of kitchen operations, who grew up in Veracruz, Mexico. Tapping recipes passed down from his grandmother, Los Cinco Tacos will highlight steak, chicken, adobo pork (marinated in red chili sauce) and grilled cactus tacos, quesadillas, and more. Sassy cocktails include Capo’s “Fauci Pouchy” (vodka, eider flower, grapefruit), espresso martinis, passionfruit margaritas. For hours and more information, visit www.loscincotacos.com.
Jazzy Logan Lowdown
Near Logan Circle, a snazzy supper club, After8 DC, has hatched inside Butter Me Up at 1409 T St. NW. There, chef Raymond Melendez draws influences from his culinary travels throughout the Mediterranean and southern France. At After8 DC, expect caviar and oysters, lavish surf-and-turf, lobster paella, pork belly croquettes, Moorish-style chicken, Basque cheesecake. Diners may splurge on the chef’s table, unlimited tapas or desserts. The stylish bar pours spicy macha Margaritas, sage Old Fashioneds and plenty of bubblies. For hours and membership information, visit www.after8dc.com.
Gone and Going
Kitchen Cray, 1301 H St. NE, closed at the end of August. Shaw’s La Jambe, at 1550 7th St. NW, is closing this month.