Best restaurants in the D.C. area: Tom Sietsema’s favorites in July 2023

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Can’t get to Spain this summer season? I’ve bought you coated, with two eating places that may get you there, if just for a meal. Up for a highway journey? Let me counsel two locations, one among which requires some critical persistence.

Vera stylishly blends two cuisines, however service leaves a bitter style

Perhaps you’re craving Vietnamese, or a steak dinner, the invoice for which doesn’t learn like a mortgage cost. Carried out and achieved.

All you must do is repeat after me and break bread in a few of my favourite locations to eat proper now.

For a few of us, it’s all concerning the numbers at this family-run Vietnamese restaurant in Eden Heart.

If I’m within the temper for soup, I do know 84 will reward me with catfish, okra, cilantro and juicy chunks of pineapple in a sweet-sour broth tweaked with tamarind. After I’ve bought noodles on my thoughts, 51 brings me a bowl of positive vermicelli carpeted with pickled radish, shrimp, folds of charred pork, julienne cucumber and breezy mint. “Add the fish sauce and blend it up,” a server coaches recipients. We do as we’re informed and delight within the crowd of flavors and textures. Chopped child clams, onions and laksa leaf, or Vietnamese coriander, make a jumble of smoky, stir-fried pleasure framed by sturdy rice crackers freckled with black sesame seeds. Say “9,” and the dish is yours.

Amtrak’s first-class Stephen Starr menu upgrades eating on the rails

A scarcity of employees for the reason that pandemic pressured co-owner Mai Lam to trim the menu by about 20 gadgets (and shut a number of hours earlier), however Rice Paper, opened in 2012 by her mom and a cousin, stays a humiliation of riches with slightly below 100 dishes. Grilled turmeric fish is gone, however lemongrass hen, or 86, stays — and continues to name to me. “I carry that house to the children on a regular basis,” says Lam. “It’s straightforward to eat.” Sure, ma’am.

It’s a very good signal to listen to so many purchasers talking Vietnamese within the comfortable, 50-seat eating room, dressed with aqua cubicles and banquettes and tables a shade of lemongrass. One wall is brick, and one other is outfitted with framed (well-deserved) accolades and spherical mirrors that resemble big portholes. Diners can depend on the pleasant employees to make suggestions and warn towards taking spring rolls house, out of concern the supple rice paper wrappers will go dry. Pitching in on the restaurant is Lam’s brother and mom, who is available in three days every week to assist out within the kitchen, the place she oversees marination.

I by no means discover Rice Paper, frequented by locals and vacationers alike, at relaxation. Count on a line at excessive midday, as an illustration, regardless of all of the competitors close by. Lam suggestions off me — and thus you — with the perfect time to go to: 3 to five p.m. weekdays, she says.

6775 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church. 703-538-3888. Open for indoor eating and takeout. Entrees, $15 to $63 (for shareable oxtail soup).

The newest from veteran restaurateurs Jackie Greenbaum and Gordon Banks will be something a diner desires it to be: date evening, household reunion, a single journey. Designed as a fancier model of Bar Charley in Washington, Charley Prime Meals really joins concepts from all of the homeowners’ institutions. The pastas, as an illustration, can be acquainted to followers of Little Coco’s within the District, as will the blissful hour burger, borrowed from Quarry Home Tavern in Silver Spring.

Charley Prime Meals brings D.C. touches to the Maryland suburbs

The eating room appears nothing just like the competitors in sprawling Rio Lakefront. Flowery wallpaper, work from Greenbaum’s personal brushes, forest-green cubicles and a raised bar make a extra private assertion, and the way cool that greater than half the seats are on a (coated) patio overlooking water.

Set sail with stumps of crisp sticky rice plied with shredded roast pork, completed with Korean barbecue sauce, or a salad so huge and delightful, it must be in photos. Ask for “Ode to Spago,” a contented fusion of cabbage, wonton crisps, hen poached in coconut milk and lemongrass and … you get the concept. The bounty is scrumptious.

The menu casts a large internet with out going all Cheesecake Manufacturing facility on its viewers. Suppose roasted salmon, hen Milanese and a French dip sandwich rethought with shaved lamb and harissa aioli. A bit billed “Right here’s the Beef” seduces steak lovers with cuts for each price range, and the kitchen’s care and a focus prolong to french fries lower in-house and youngsters’ menus that includes smaller parts of grownup alternatives.

The bar might be SRO. Crowds type when nice drinks are pretty priced.

9811 Washingtonian Blvd., Gaithersburg. 240-477-7925. Open for indoor and outside eating and takeout. Dinner entrees, $18 to $65.

Chomping on the bit as we anticipate the barn-size landmark to open on St. Michaels Harbor, dozens of us are entertained by the pre-show sight of servers slicing a grove of lemons and securing big sheets of paper to picnic tables with the assistance of masking tape. You need to present up early for lump crab truffles, crab imperial and steamed hard-shell blue crabs. (“If he don’t kick,” guarantees the menu, “we don’t cook dinner!”) The restaurant seats 350 folks in and out, however spots are claimed shortly; on Saturdays, as many as 1,200 clients is likely to be served seafood with a view.

Proprietor Tracey Jones Wass says her dad and mom “put St. Michaels on the map” after they launched the Crab Claw in 1965. Between the cheery and environment friendly younger servers, who sport T-shirts emblazoned with “I eat the mustard” and allow you to know recent lime juice goes into the margaritas, and the intoxicating fragrance of water, beer and lemon, the scene alone may clarify the restaurant’s future.

However the meals is simply what you crave, too. Maryland crab soup is loaded with its candy signature, but in addition tomatoes, corn and critical warmth. Broiled or fried, the pleasant crab cake, veined inexperienced with what look like herbs, arrives in a tender potato bun with sweetly recent coleslaw, made proper right here, and french fries. The fried hen is respectable however upstaged by its sidekicks (love the mustardy potato salad). Go huge and ask for the treasure chest of steamed spiced shrimp, mussels and oysters rounded out with boiled potatoes, corn on the cob and drawn butter — a picnic for Poseidon.

A companion and I sat close to a household reunion, an everyday sight right here, says the proprietor, who provides that not a Friday goes by with out a rehearsal dinner.

Get there whilst you can. Chesapeake Bay Journal studies the seafood draw is being purchased by its neighbor, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Jones Wass declined to confirm or remark, sharing solely that the restaurant will stay open for its annual March to October season. In the meantime, she’s busy preserving reminiscences of the place. On the horizon: a cookbook that includes Crab Claw recipes.

304 Burns St., St. Michaels, Md. 410-745-2900. Open for indoor and outside eating. Sandwiches, $12 to $29; entrees, $24 to $43.

Thirty years after it served its first tapa, this Spanish oasis from chef-humanitarian José Andrés is as recent as ever. Diners stroll in to what at all times looks like a fiesta (a masked bull head on the wall close to the bar helps) and sit right down to a number of menus itemizing dozens of drinks and small plates. Overwhelmed? You’ll be able to’t say you weren’t warned by the title alone, which interprets to Spanish as “racket.”

Jaleo by José Andrés retains the tapas occasion going after 30 years

For assist in winnowing the various decisions, I requested the trailblazer behind the script to choose three tapas he considers essential to understanding Jaleo, which juggles 600 or so covers a day. One is gazpacho, the chef’s spouse’s recipe, spiked with sherry and poured right into a bowl of minced cucumbers and inexperienced peppers on the desk: an invigorating liquid salad. The opposite is garlic shrimp, pearly sauteed seafood ramped up with chile de árbol. Even easier, however simply as elegant, is airy-crisp pan de cristal imported from Barcelona and slathered with crushed beefsteak tomato. A lot pleasure from simply two components!

Enable me so as to add to his cheat sheet. I by no means graze right here with out ordering the toss of sliced apple, fennel and manchego — a refreshing pause between the recent or wealthy tapas — and one thing with ham, usually the little pork patties sandwiched with piquillo peppers, caramelized onions and aioli in a toasted brioche bun. The croquettes show the kitchen’s talent at frying, whereas the “previous” and “new” olives marry custom with molecular gastronomy.

Backside line: You’ll be able to take anybody to Jaleo and make them a fan.

480 Seventh St. NW. 202-628-7949. Open for indoor and outside eating and supply. Small plates, $5 to $22.

Jake and Sara Addeo comply with the identical recipe created by the unique homeowners, additionally a pair, of their 20-seat restaurant in Rappahannock County, the place everyone seems to be served the identical multicourse menu starting at 7 p.m. Like their predecessor on this warm-in-wood, candlelit eating room, the Addeos are doing one thing proper. Three Blacksmiths is sort of fully booked six months out.

In new palms, a rural Virginia gem continues its scrumptious streak

Some free of charge bubbly begins the ceremonial dinner, simply as it would within the house of a very good host, adopted by a trio of little snacks that change from week to week. The remainder of the five-course menu is “impressed from farmers’ lists,” says Jake, whose Italian roots floor in particulars together with the opening focaccia, later pasta course and wine pairing alternatives. Highlights from a current meal included a superb carrot soup shot by way of with Indian spices and saddle of lamb rolled up with herbs and anchovies, a most important course organized with a golden polenta dice, break up sugar snap peas, and a discount of purple wine and strawberries.

Jake presides over the open kitchen, and Sara, a former trainer, manages visitor relations. Three Blacksmiths is so intimate, although, diners get face time with each. Chances are you’ll end up your watch, notably when you’ve bought an extended drive forward of you. The lags between some programs really feel like these dinner events the place house cooks try too laborious to impress you.

However little particulars — sheepskin stools for baggage, little anvils along with your occasion’s title displayed, candy treats for the highway — create huge impressions, and when’s the final time dinner in a restaurant felt like dinner in somebody’s house?

20 Important St., Sperryville, Va. 540-987-5105. Open for indoor eating Wednesday by way of Saturday. 5-course menu, $148 per particular person.

Guitar music and a beaming host are simply what two of us want after battling Friday site visitors to succeed in this multistory oasis of serenity in Glover Park.

“It’s not usually you allow the workplace and land in Spain for dinner,” says our attendant as he leads us upstairs, the place chef Danny Lledó greets us with a snack from the open kitchen. A cracker fused from rice and manchego and flavored with cherries makes a pleasant welcome. As soon as we’re seated within the intimate white eating room, extra snacks (oysters capped with lemon and honey “air!”) land on our linen-draped desk.

If you happen to suppose positive eating is lifeless, these eating places supply scrumptious proof in any other case

Diners don’t get a menu up entrance at Xiquet (pronounced chee-KETT). Lledó and group need to shock you from course to course. Even so, every dish is accompanied by a flowery card describing the components and sharing some background. For these of us who just like the deep dish on what we’re consuming however don’t need to take notes, the amenity is sensible.

Curious concerning the sauce subsequent to the dill-cured bluefin tuna? The puree of garlic and almonds is a nod to Spain’s basic chilled soup, ajo blanco, whereas the inexperienced dots, from plankton, are supposed to present the dish a maritime style. Surprise the place the chef will get his luscious suckling pig, which is cooked in its personal fats and accessorized with garlic puree, orange gel and grilled lettuce splashed with 25-year-old wine vinegar? A card credit Spain, house to the well-known Iberian black pigs, and New Jersey, the place they’re raised. The “noodles” supporting some candy lobster evoke the pasta used for fideuà however are in truth matchsticks of parsnips infused with seafood broth. Dover sole is adopted by a frog’s leg is trailed by squab garnished with jewellike raspberries.

Dinner, washed again with the choice of positive Spanish wines, stretches greater than a dozen scrumptious programs, however they’re portioned to sate quite than stuff you. A few hours in, a palate cleanser of watermelon sorbet ignited with purple chili flakes and sweetened with grilled cherries prepares you for a few mild desserts adopted within the lounge with housemade bonbons and tea.

The notes, impressed by the Spanish card recreation known as brisca, change with the season and are supposed to lure clients for apart from an annual special day — “4 instances a yr” to gather a full deck, says the intelligent chef behind a luxurious restaurant the place I’d be blissful to spend my very own cash.

2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-913-4671. Open for indoor eating Tuesday by way of Saturday. Dinner, $265 per particular person, excluding tax and 22 % gratuity.

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