Insatiable

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. In NoMa, Laos in Town sports a charming décor and exotically delicious Southeast Asian cuisine.

Laos in NoMA

It had been a couple of years since Peter and I last dined at Laos in Town, 250 K St. NE, a NoMa hot spot. Laotian cuisine is similar to the cooking of neighboring Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. But there are differences. For example, Laotian chefs showcase khao niaw (sticky rice with various toppings), herbs and spices, while Vietnam and other nations employ rice with a balance of sweet and salty flavors. Moreover, Vietnam incorporates chicken or beef in its signature soups—including pho–while Laos often relies on pork. Also Laotians usually eat with forks instead of chopsticks.

I’d forgotten how attractive the Laos in Town interior is. Guests are greeted by a small, colorful retail market, which hawks baskets, dainty teacups, spices, cookies, even t-shirts and tote bags. Brightly decorated fish traps dangle from the ceiling. Another wall is lined with what resembles birch tree trunks.

Although pork is popular in Laos, we saw only one porcine entrée on the menu. Chicken and fish figure prominently. I chose deep-fried calamari. The crispy squid rings were accompanied by a forest of scallions, red onions and tiny red firecracker-hot peppers. Peter sipped kang gai, a tummy warming chicken soup, replete with white meat and redolent of cilantro. He also ordered crispy rice salad with red onion, scallions, cilantro and tasty Asian sausage. Others in our group went for poh pia (vegetarian spring rolls), chicken and rice. Extra-spicy dishes are labeled “phet.”

In Laos in Town’s kitchen, a chef prepares the restaurant’s signature khao niaw–sticky rice.

Desserts—displayed in a case out front—include feather-light sponge cakes with fanciful garnishes, including a tiny daisy.  Lunch for two, including a glass of sauvignon blanc and Peter’s guava juice, came to $76 including the 20 percent service charge. Service, rendered by Lane, was excellent, especially since she had a large group to feed.  For more information, visit www.laosintown.com.

New in Shaw

In Shaw, Mita has arrived at 804 V St. NW. Created by co-owners Miguel Guerra (who comes from Venezuela) and Tatiana Mora, the sprightly newcomer showcases a South American-influenced vegetarian tasting menu. The 14-course prix fixe repast is $150 per person. An à la carte veggie menu is in the works. For now, Mita serves dinner only. If the name sounds familiar, Mita was born as a plant-based pop-up in the La Cosecha Latino marketplace. For updates and more information, visit www.mitadc.com.

Accompanied by scallions, red onions and hot peppers, crispy calamari is a favorite Laos in Town appetizer.

Logan Lowdown

After a decade downtown, MXDC Cocina Mexicana is relocating to 1610 14th St. NW. You’ll find celebrity chef Todd English’s Latino transplant in Logan Circle’s old Dolce Vita space. For updates, visit www.mxdcrestaurant.com.

New on U

Enigma Cocktail Lounge and Wine Vault, 1330 U St. NW, has slid into the former Fainting Goat space. The latest culinary venture from the CLH hospitality group, Enigma’s chef Marcel Chehaieb concocts fries cooked in duck fat served with harissa ketchup; “sculpted” chicken ballotine (deboned thigh or leg) with scallions and wilted spinach; charred (grilled) octopus. “Experimental” cocktails match the creative cuisine: “Flamboyant” (Scotch, pomegranate, honey) and “Smoldering,” similar to an Old Fashioned. Plus, beaucoup wines. For more information, visit www.enigmadc.com.

Big Apple Spinoff

Coming soon—if not already–to Mount Vernon Triangle: H&H Bagels, 601 K St. NW, in the AC Hotel. The first Washington outpost of the New York mainstay, H&H will be joined by a “speakeasy” in the hotel’s lower level. In true Big Apple fashion, the newcomer will dispense bagels (plain, cinnamon raisin, poppy seed and “everything)” smeared with cream cheese, and flourishes like jalapeno cheddar, Asiago cheese, avocado, capers. Heartier H&H options include bacon and eggs, Nova Scotia salmon. For updates and more information visit www.hhbagels.com.

Also in Mount Vernon Triangle, 2Fifty BBQ has brought its Texas-style barbecue to 414 K St. NW, where Toscana Market used to be. Created by owners Debby Portillo Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzales, the award-winning eatery is based in Riverdale, Maryland. For hours and more information, visit www.2fiftybbq.com.

Nearby, dLeña, 475 K St. NW, is celebrating Carnaval (Mardi Gras in New Orleans), with live music, dancing and festive menus for two weekends: Feb. 9-10 and Feb. 16-17. For hours and more information, visit www.dlenadc.com.  dLeña is also marking Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, with a five-course menu. Guests are greeted with a glass of sparkling rose before savoring grilled oysters, short rib, duck carnitas and more. Price: $150 per person; wine pairings are $95 extra. For reservations and more information, visit www.dlenadc.com.

And FRESHFARM MVT Winter Market is up and running. Located at the corner of Fifth and I Streets NW, FreshFarm is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., regardless of rain, sleet, snow, whatever. For a list of market vendors (some are new) and more information, visit www.freshfarm.org.

Pizza and More (soon)….

On the way to the Angelika popup theatre to see “The Color Purple,” we checked out Parachute Pizza, 1309 Fifth St. NE (in Union Market). Customers order electronically at the kiosk, pay, find a seat and await their food and drinks. At this writing, Parachute Pizza, which opened late last year, sells only pizza–deep dish Sicilian style—available whole or by the slice. Soon, if not already, diners can expect salads, oysters, garlic knots and other dishes. I chose a slice of “New Haven or Bust,” white pizza (sans tomato) crowned with clams, parsley, grated Grana Padano (similar to parmesan) and sprinkled with red chili flakes. Peter chose “I’m a Fungi,” loaded with roasted mushrooms, red onion and cheese. Among other options are classico (tomato, basil, mozzarella), cacio e pepe (white sauce, provolone, herbs).  No frills here; cups and utensils are plastic, plates and napkins are paper. There’s also beer and wine.

Parachute Pizza is open daily. For updates and more information, visit www.parachutepizzadc.com.

Egging On

Nearby in Union Market, Egg Yaki opened recently, showcasing Japanese inspired, three-egg omelettes and small plates. Options include “Heart & Seoul,” made with house made kimchi and yuzu mayo; fried sweet potatoes; crispy Brussels sprouts with fish sauce. Egg Yaki’s creator is chef Nicholas Joseph Martino, who also operates neighboring Aboveground, which dispenses such British standbys as fish-and-chips, shepherd’s pie and sausage rolls. For more information, visit eggyakidc.com or www.abovegrounddc.com.

Greek to Me

And coming soon to NoMa: Greco Truly Greek, 1285 Fourth St. NE. Don’t rush over right away, the second local outpost of the quick-service, Boston based eatery is not slated to arrive until spring or summer. For updates, visit www.grecotrulygreek.com.

Gone

The Owl Room, 2007 14th NW, the two story cocktail lounge/hot spot that replaced Marvin’s last March,  called it quits late last year…and next door, the Gibson, 2009 14th St. NW, poured its last champagne on New Year’s Eve.

Ciao for Now

As always, Peter and I will be spending the month of February in the warm and sunny (we hope!) climes of Florida. Therefore, I will not be submitting an Insatiable column in March. See you in April!