Insatiable

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Palette 22, the Union Market district’s newest hot spot, is a feast for the eyes and the palate.

We’re back from sunny, if sometimes chilly, Florida. Yes, we miss the glorious sunsets, amazing wildlife and flopping fresh shrimp and grouper plucked from the Gulf of Mexico. But Washington has greeted us with early-blooming cherry blossoms, a new Nationals baseball season and exciting new restaurants. The Union Market district has spawned at least two.

Palette 22 is a feast for the eyes ‒ and the palate. The new restaurant is ensconced in a two-level, former poultry factory at 400 Morse St. NE. Chicken images festoon the ladies room walls. At the month-old spinoff of the Shirlington Village (Arlington) original, guests sip zany cocktails while watching local artists working and displaying their wares. The art is for sale.

Our group of four visited on a sunny, early spring Sunday. We were seated in a sun-drenched room decorated with super-sized, cheery paintings. Colorful menus reflected the artistic theme.

After placing a stack of brightly patterned plates ‒ all different ‒ on our table, our helpful server took our drink orders. She also inquired about any food allergies. I opted for a spicy Bloody Mary made with New Amsterdam vodka, Marzano tomatoes and Worcestershire, poured into a sesame-seed-studded glass. Other drinks included sangria, mojitos, beet chaat (beet juice, mezcal), beer, lots of wine choices and spirit-free cocktails.

At Palette 22, dishes and the menus are beautifully orchestrated.

Brunch? Where to start? Indulging his love for beets, husband Peter skipped the chickpea hummus and ordered beet borani, Persian-inspired pureed beets drizzled with pomegranate molasses and sprinkled with goat cheese. We spread the colorful mixture on thin, toasted naan. Another plant-based option is the attractively presented roasted cabbage with chile sauce and parmesan.

Among entrees: a moist and flavorful lamb and beef brisket kofta ‒ sort of like a sausage ‒ came with cucumber salad, cheese and sumac. Delicious. I had considered the charred octopus (or prawns) but settled for the duck confit Benedict with hoisin, pickled carrots, spiced peanuts and hollandaise. Our ever-helpful server offered to replace the overcooked egg. No problem, I ate it anyway but appreciated our server’s concern. A Vietnamese creation was the bahn mi Benedict, made with char siu pork, pickled veggies, jalapeno and hollandaise. Peter found the pork a tad fatty.

Lunch for two came to $68. Service was exemplary. Palette 22 is part of the Alexandria Restaurant Group (ARP). For hours and more information, visit www.palette22.com.

Pastis, another Union Market district newcomer,
provides a local taste of Paris.

Paris in NoMa

Not far away, Pastis, a charming New York City transplant, arrived late last year at 1323 Fourth St. NE, in the Union Market neighborhood. The Gallic newcomer is part of the acclaimed Starr Restaurant group, which operates 30 restaurants nationwide including nearby St. Anselm and Logan Circle’s Le Diplomate. In fact, Pastis (named for an anise-flavored French aperitif) somewhat resembles Le Diplomate, with its Parisian buzz, ambience and decor. Outside, a bright red, train-like structure accommodates additional patrons.

The Pastis menu is traditional, with a few international twists: French onion soup, escargot, cioppino, moules frites (mussels with fries), branzino and, of all things, spaghetti Bolognese. Saturday and Sunday brunch brings French toast, eggs Norwegian, quiche Lorraine, ratatouille omelets. Like its Big Apple counterpart, our local Pastis pours an amazing array of cocktails, aperitifs, wines, cognacs and whiskeys. Watch for a complete writeup soon. For Pastis hours and more information, visit www.pastisdc.com.

In Mount Vernon Triangle, Baan Siam offers unusual dishes like vermicelli with shrimp, peanut sauce and fried watercress.

MVT Goes Whole Hog

Meanwhile, hog carcasses are arriving at 2Fifty Texas BBQ, 414 K St. NW, in Mount Vernon Triangle. However, the newcomer offers more than pork. Besides myriad porcine parts, you’ll find American wagyu brisket, tender beef ribs, turkey, lamb and sausages made in-house. But 2Fifty serves lots of pork. The meat is ultra fresh, as entire pigs are delivered there daily.

To accompany all that barbecue: mac-and-cheese, cornbread, plantains, kidney beans. Among lighter options are sandwiches, nachos and salads. First come, first served, so it’s best to arrive early. (There’s another 2Fifty BBQ in Riverdale, Maryland.) The MVT 2Fifty is closed Tuesday. For hours and more information, visit www.2fiftybbq.com.

From BBQ to Baan

We’d planned to check out MVT’s 2Fifty BBQ, but since it was closed on Tuesday we decided to revisit a nearby Asian favorite, Baan Siam, 425 I St. NW. The place was busy, and most tables were occupied. Although we lacked reservations, we were seated right away. Besides the usual pad Thai and drunken noodles, the menu offers less familiar dishes reminiscent of items we encountered in Thailand.

For an appetizer, Peter chose succulent pork skewers served with a flavorful peanut sauce and pickled cucumbers. Other starter options include green mango salad and fried calamari.

I was tempted by the basil fried rice with smoked duck, or a boneless chicken thigh nestled in a banana leaf. However, I decided on Thai vermicelli with shrimp and chili peanut sauce. The yummy accompanying thatch of lightly fried watercress tasted like tempura.

Lunch for two with my glass of pinot grigio came to $59, before tip. Service was excellent. For hours and more information, visit www.BaanSiamDC.com.

From Naan to Tacos

Here’s a switch: Glassy, the former Indian restaurant at 1625 First St. NW, has morphed into a Latin-influenced Mood Swings Food Hall. The monthly rotating menu offers myriad tacos (fish, chicken, shrimp, even eggplant), quesadillas with assorted embellishments and sides: chips and salsa (red or green), guacamole, black beans. The bar pours margaritas, other cocktails, beer and wine. For hours and more information, visit www.moodswingsfoodhall.com.

Plant Life on V

In Shaw, Mita has arrived at 804 V St. NW. Chefs Miguel Guerra and Tatiana Mora formerly cooked at Michelin-starred El Cielo. Mita started as a pop-up in the La Cosecha marketplace in the Union Market district. In its new digs, Mita serves 14-course, plant-focused dinners tagged at $150 per person. Mainstay creations are arepas filled with smoked potatoes; yuca, corn, mushroom terrine; asado negro with endive and parsley.

For hours and more information, visit www.mitadc.com.

New on U More Pizza …

The U Street corridor welcomes 90 Second Pizza at 1408 U St. NW, in the former Jimmy John’s space. For more information, visit www.90secondpizza.com