2011 has seen the advent of some fabulous new restaurants in the D.C. area. Let’s take a look back at some of the most successful spots added to the Capital City’s culinary scene.
Lunch Hours: Mon-Fri: 11:30 a.m-2:30 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Mon-Thurs 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Fri 5:30-11:30 p.m.; Sat 5:00-11:30 p.m.
At Fiola, Chef Fabio Trabocchi features classic Italian cuisine in an upscale venue. Since its opening in April, diners have been able to choose from decadent antipasti plates such as burrata, a luxurious cheese made with mozzarella and cream, and authentic pasta dishes such as Cacio & Pepe, a Roman-style pasta made with spaghetti, sheep’s milk cheese and peppercorn. Even the bar menu at Fiola provides a mouth-watering array of dishes, including mozzarella fritters; rosemary, basil and parmesan Tuscan fries; and Gianduia, a chocolate hazelnut bar.
El Centro D.F.
Dinner Hours: Daily 5pm-11 p.m.
Late Night Hours: Fri to Sat 11 p.m.-3 a.m.
Rooftop: Daily 5-9: p.m.
Brunch Hours: Sat to Sun 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Spring was a prolific time for D.C. chefs, as Fiola’s opening was followed by the introduction of El Centro D.F. in Logan Circle. Owner Richard Sandoval had already achieved great success in the D.C. area with Zengo, Masa 14, and El Sandia. El Centro has now also made its mark on D.C. with its fun Latin vibe. Hosting a rooftop bar and basement tequileria, the main floor of El Centro is a Taqueria: a casual dining spot serving ceviche, enchiladas and tacos. Don’t miss the $35 bottomless brunch, which is all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink.
Lunch Hours: Mon to Fri 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat 12-5 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Sun to Tue 5 p.m.–12 a.m.; Wed to Thurs 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Fri to Sat 5 p.m.–2 a.m.
One of the most highly anticipated restaurant debuts of 2011, Graffiato, was opened in June by “Top Chef Masters” runner-up, Mike Isabella. Located in Penn Quarter, this restaurant touts a casual dining scene with an Italian-inspired menu. Sample small plates from the vegetate section, including warm fingerling potatoes made with leeks, lemon, and capers, or house-marinated olives. For the main course, do not miss the pizzas. With whimsical names such as “Papa Smurf” and “Porky’s Revenge,” the thin-crust pizzas are crafted from quality ingredients and are a hit among patrons. Be sure to try the Greco-Roman with eggplant, roasted peppers, kalamata olives, arugula, feta and caper, or the Jersey Shore with fried calamari, tomato, provolone and cherry pepper aioli.
Hours: Tue to Sat 6 p.m.-12 a.m.
It seemed the summer could not top the exciting spring of 2011 in the D.C. restaurant world until July brought Rogue 24 to the Shaw neighborhood. Opened by R.J. Cooper, the popular chef of the gourmet Southern restaurant Vidalia, Rogue 24 is a great addition to the D.C. dining scene because of the exciting culinary experience it provides. Choose between 24 or 16 course menus, each featuring a tantalizing array of small, handcrafted plates. Sample Parmesan marshmallows, basil snails and a series of desserts titled “happy endings/little things.” The kitchen, located in the center of the restaurant, churns out an endless supply of delightful, creative bites. Vegetarians who call in advance can also be accommodated. Dinner is pricey, but the experience promises to be legendary. The 24-course menu runs $120, or $175 with beverage pairings and the 16-course menu is $100, or $145 with beverage pairings.
District of Pi Pizzeria
Hours: Mon to Thurs 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri to Sat 11 a.m.-12 a.m.; Sun 11 a.m.–10 p.m. (Brunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.)
It is true that D.C. has loads of popular pizzerias, so what does District of Pi offer that makes it one of the best restaurant additions to the city in 2011? The answer is its deep dish pizzas. Thick and hearty, these are no ordinary pies. The cheese is baked onto the bread and then topped with a host of juicy toppings. With its mozzarella, meaty portabella mushrooms, onions, kalamata olives, red bell peppers, garlic and zucchini toppings, the Berkeley pie is a must-try. The Western Addition is also a treat, smothered with a delicious blend of spinach, ricotta and feta, as well as mozzarella, mushrooms, onions and garlic. The atmosphere at District of Pi is fun and lively, but if you don’t have time to stop by, go to the Pi DC website to find the Pi Truck, a food truck that drives the pizzeria’s warm, deep dish pizzas around the city.
ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
The owners of Chipotle Mexican Grill opened ShopHouse Asian Kitchen, known as an “Asian Chipotle,” in the fall of 2011. Introducing fast, Asian food designed after shophouses in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia, diners at this Dupont Circle restaurant choose from a base of brown rice, jasmine rice, or rice noodles, topped with meat or tofu and veggies. Sauces include spicy red curry, mild green curry, or sweet and citrusy tamarind vinaigrette. Top your bowl off with garnishes like papaya, pickles, or herb salads, or crispy garlic, crunchy peanuts, and toasted rice.
Hours: Mon to Fri 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Closed Saturday and Sunday
Keeping in line with the Asian trend this fall was BonMi, a casual Vietnamese restaurant serving Banhi Mi. These traditional Vietnamese sandwiches are served on a crusty baguette and come topped with pickled veggies made in-house, cucumber, cilantro, chili-lime mayo and your choice or meat, tofu or butternut squash. Diners who are not in the mood for a sandwich can also find lettuce wraps, summer rolls and salads. Take a mini-trip to Vietnam at your lunch hour, all for less than $10.
Hours: Tue to Wed 5:30-10 p.m.; Thurs to Sat 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Sun to Mon Closed
The latest and possibly best of the newest restaurants in D.C., Little Serow was opened in early November by famed Chef Johnny Monis of Komi. Komi has long since been D.C.’s most coveted restaurant, and Owner and Chef Monis has finally decided to treat D.C. residents to more of his fabulous culinary talent. The best part is that Little Serow is much more affordable than Komi; diners are served a family-style meal for a $45 flat rate. The Asian cuisine stays in line with the common theme in D.C. in the fall of 2011, but it’s a departure from Komi’s Mediterranean food. The menu changes weekly and is available on the restaurant’s website. Head over soon; it is walk-in only and once word gets out, you may not be able to snag a seat!
Priya Konings is a child welfare attorney and restaurant critic in Washington D.C. Her restaurant reviews can be found here.