Ever try eating eggs Benedict with chopsticks? I attempted this on a damp, winter Sunday when Peter and I revisited Bar Chinois, 455 I St. NW, in the bustling Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood. As we had noted on our first visit two years ago, France meets China in an exotic, flavorful, ever evolving kitchen. While we perched at the bar in the busy dining area, affable bartender Tristan Magee poured our drinks. My glass of Rose de Provence brought a whisper of spring on a dreary day. Peter sipped a pineapple mimosa (other fruity choices were orange, cranberry, grapefruit).
Tristan also handed us chopsticks. From the brunch menu, I went for the duck confit eggs Benedict, a combination I’d never encountered before. In lieu of the usual English muffins, the moist, shredded duck rested on a pair of brioche buns, topped with five-spice hollandaise—an Asian twist on a classic sauce—and runny poached eggs. Five-spice is a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and Szechuan peppercorns. The Benedict was escorted by a crisp arugula salad and pickled red onions. The result was delicious and not overly filling. Yes, I did it; I managed to consume the concoction with chopsticks.
Peter chose two appetizers: shrimp bao, which resembled Asian style sliders, with the grilled crustaceans nestled between small, doughy pancakes. A quartet of XLB pork dumplings consisted of gossamer jackets wrapped around savory ground pork.
Among other brunch options are vegetable congee, the homespun Chinese, soul warming soup often consumed for breakfast. This upscale version involves jasmine rice, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, Swiss chard and broccolini. Other mid-day dishes include breakfast fried rice with shrimp and pork sausage; crab Rangoon, the Chinese/American staple of crab meat, cream cheese, pickled onions and soy sauce.
For dinner, diners may expect Hong Kong style BBQ chicken with Swiss chard and chimichurri; slow braised five-spice pork belly; honey-glazed miso salmon; chocolate cheesecake, matcha crème brulee. Our lunch for two, with a drink apiece, came to $78, pricy but well worth it. Tristan’s service was excellent. For hours and more information, visit www.barchinoisdc.com.
Paris comes to NoMa
Coming soon if not already: Pastis, 1323 Fourth St. NE, ensconced in a former warehouse in NoMa. The first DC spinoff of the New York parent, the Parisian bistro was created by James Beard Award-winning restaurateurs Stephen Starr and Keith McNally. The spinoff kitchen will dispense classic French fare with a modern twist: decadent, soul-warming French onion soup; garlicky escargots tucked into cast-iron nests; hanger steak frites; croque madame; lobster Cobb; steak frites and more. Joining those classic favorites on the DC menu will be poached beef tongue served with crispy veal and potatoes and classic Wiener Schnitzel–breaded veal cutlet escorted by Persian cucumbers and potato salad.
The Pastis cocktail menu includes Parisian-inspired classics and spritzes such as the San Tropez Spritz, made with St. Germain, Cap Corse Blanc and sparkling wine. The wine list will encompass vintages from France’s myriad winemaking regions–bottles for every palate, price and occasion.
Pastis’s New York history stretches back more than 20 years. The original bistro opened in 1999 in the Big Apple’s then-nascent Meatpacking District. Pastis DC will be the third incarnation of the French bistro, following closely on the heels of Pastis’ arrival in Miami. Among other local Stephen Starr enterprises are nearby St. Anselm (1250 Fifth St. NE) and Logan Circle’s Le Diplomate (1610 14th St. NW).
DC’s Pastis also showcases the New York restaurant’s trademark design. The original Pastis was inspired by cafes and brasseries from Paris, while remaining modern. Ian McPheely, director of Paisley Design NYC, imbued the DC location with the spirit of Pastis, mixing golden-hued lighting with hand-painted mirrors created by designer Robert Padilla. The DC bistro will also have the same curved red banquettes, white “subway” tiles, artfully mismatched chairs and tin ceilings.
For now, Pastis will be open for dinner only, lunch and brunch to follow. For exact hours and more information, visit www.pastisdc.com.
New Executive Chef
Nearby, the three-year-old “Modern Mexican” Destino, 1280 Fourth St. NE (La Cosecha Latino marketplace), recently welcomed a new executive chef, Vincent Baldice. He has joined forces with Josh and Kelly Phillips’s Destination Unknown Restaurants, which also operates Taqueria Las Gemelas (also in La Cosecha) and Ghostburger (Shaw). At Destino, Chef Baldice creates such innovative dishes as beef tartare with mango salsa crowned with caviar; avocado with smoked tomatillo; bacalao (cod) with mole sauce; butternut squash soup with almond and sesame; pork carnitas with oyster mushrooms. For Destino hours, menus and more information, visit www.destinodc.com.
Yet more pizza…. Parachute Pizza touched down recently at 1309 Fifth St. NE (Union Market). The well-received newcomer dispenses Sicilian style slices and whole pies, oysters, salads, and a full bar. For more information, visit www.parachutepizzadc.com.
Cold Weather Dining
Coming up January 15 to January 21: The 2024 Winter Restaurant Week. Sponsored by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the culinary promotion will highlight special deals throughout the Metropolitan area. Three-course dinners will be priced at $40, $55 and $65; with three-course brunch and lunch tagged at $25 and $35. As in years past, numerous area restaurants, including many in or near Mid-City, are expected to join in. For more information and a list of participating restaurants, visit www.ramw.org.