Category Archives: Penn Quarter

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A Peek Into Minibar

Tonight Jose Andres opened up Minibar and Barmini to the masses. And by the masses, I mean those of us who find the concept of dropping $225 for a meal (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity) rather foreign.

It’s Minibar’s 10th anniversary. To celebrate, they held an open house; from 5-9pm, all were welcome to tour the space, sip on a complimentary drink and nosh on the restaurant’s twist on a Philly cheesesteak.

Here’s the line at 5:40pm, snaking up 9th St.

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To prevent people from blocking the exit of another building, the line was separated to clear an open space.

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A nice man came around with a tray of cocktails.

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I can’t remember the ingredients of any of these drinks, but whatever it was, it was refreshing.

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This is a marble. They were handed out to each person in line, to be used like a ticket to enter the restaurant. It was not food. I know that because I popped it into my mouth.

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In my defense, the woman distributing the marbles didn’t say what they were.

I honestly thought it was some culinary creation with a hard shell and soft center. My friends mocked my stupidity, but I can’t be the only idiot in line who mistook the marble for food. Can I?

And then, we made it to the entrance. We were ushered into Minibar’s cocktail lounge, Barmini.

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More cocktails were being served.

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This one, vaguely reminiscent of Limoncello, packed a punch.

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A few more steps, and we we were now in Minibar.

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Chefs were busily preparing the complimentary dish of the night, Minibar’s Philly cheesesteak.

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We all agreed, we could have eaten five of these. Or ten. A hollowed-out, submarine-shaped pita filled with a liquidy, fluffy white cheddar. Draped on top, thin slices of Kobe beef. It’s a classic Minibar course, and it’s brilliant.

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Continuing on the short tour to a small dining room with a single table.

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And finally, a gelatin cube dessert, which I think contained saffron. It was both sweet and savory.

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We each also received an envelope with a small gift, and the possibility of a golden ticket — a meal for two at Minibar.  I didn’t pull the golden ticket, but my gift was a complimentary sandwich from Jose Andres’s food truck, Pepe. Works for me!

For most of us, this was probably our first and only visit to Minibar.  It was fun to step inside and get a glimpse and taste of what goes on there.  Happy 10th anniversary!

Minibar
855 E St. NW
Washington, DC
202-393-0812

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Taylor Gourmet Sandwiches Elicit Moans of Rapture

Don Draper — or more likely Harry Crane — would have been thrilled to film my co-workers and me for a Taylor Gourmet commercial.  We were the perfect “Mad Men” TV campaign: a multi-racial group spontaneously erupting with sounds of ecstasy as we dug into our respective sandwiches.

One co-worker took a bite first. “Ohhhhh, my god!” she yelped.

I heard an “Mmmmmm” from another area of the office.

Then I bit into my sandwich and let out my own, “OHHHHH!”

I had the Pattison Avenue: thinly sliced roasted pork, broccoli rabe and sharp provolone on a warm roll. This is how it looked before it completely disappeared in my stomach.

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I finished it, sighed deeply, and lit up a cigarette. Okay, I didn’t really do that. But I wanted to. That’s a helluva sandwich.

Taylor Gourmet
624 E St. NW
Washington, DC
202-652-0145

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Is Absolute Noodle Worth a Visit? Absolutely.

What’s the hotter trend in D.C. right now, ramen or “fried chicken and donuts”? And when will some daring restaurateur open an eatery that combines all three?

In Penn Quarter, Daikaya has been generating buzz for its ramen bar and izakaya. One street over on 5th St., the less flashy Absolute Noodle seems to be flying more under the radar.

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Absolute doesn’t serve strictly ramen; as its name suggests, the emphasis is on Asian noodles and noodle soups. You can select egg noodles, fettuccine, glass, ramen, rice, soba, or udon, pair them your choice of three broths, and mix and match with various meat toppings and veggies.

Then there are the restaurant’s special signature noodle dishes, which run for $10. I liked the look of the bulgogi udon and duck soba, but ultimately was drawn to the baby back ribs noodle.

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In the bowl were wavy egg noodles, veggies, a dark Thai-inspired sauce, and two “intentionally braised” baby back ribs. What that means I don’t know. Are ribs usually braised accidentally? Sir, we braised these ribs, but we didn’t mean to! We’re so sorry!

Anyway, these were intentionally braised. The tender meat pulled away easily from the bone and incorporated into the chewy noodles. This particular dish is served without broth, so I ordered a bowl of broth on the side.

The whole thing tasted great and was a nice amount of food for $10. My co-workers liked their various noodle soups too, and even had leftovers to take home.

So hooray for this ramen/noodle trend. Keep it coming.

Absolute Noodle
772 5th St. NW
Washington, DC
202-789-0022

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Party in a Bowl: Ramen at Daikaya

Much has changed in the week and a half since I ate at Daikaya.  The weather has nudged warmer (sort of), and the restaurant has since opened its second-floor izakaya. I’m guessing what’s stayed the same are the lines queuing up for a taste of the ramen.

The ramen bar was hopping on a chilly Tuesday night.

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We were lucky to get seats at one of the long communal tables.

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The gyoza were what you’d expect — crispy on the bottom with a thin skin and juicy filling of pork and cabbage.

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Daikaya keeps the ramen menu simple with four types to choose from.  I have to imagine the shoyu ramen is the most visually appealing of them all.

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The glossy, caramel-colored broth shimmers in the light.  Rounding out the bowl are bean sprouts, chopped scallion, a sheet of nori, grilled onions, ground pork, a slice of roast pork, and half a soft boiled egg.

One sip of the broth and boom, a flavor of grilled smokiness explodes on the taste buds.  It’s intense and wonderful.  I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was imparting all that grilled goodness into the broth — was it the onions? An exceptionally hot wok?

Doesn’t matter. The point is, the rich broth accompanied by the toppings and chewy, wavy ramen noodles works beautifully.

My office is near Daikaya so I’m admittedly biased, but hooray for ramen in Penn Quarter!

Daikaya
705 6th St. NW
Washington, DC
202-589-1600

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Ella’s Meatball and Leek Pizza

As I’ve said before, a city can never have too many pizza restaurants. Bring it on — the more pizza, the better.  The Penn Quarter/Chinatown area has some good options, from Matchbox to District of Pi.  It’s not mind-blowing, pizza-of-the-gods stuff, but you’ll leave satisfied.

Which is how I felt about Ella’s.  The pizza there holds its own, with crispy thinnish crust, interesting toppings, bright sauce and the right amount of cheese.

Here’s one with artichokes.

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And another with meatballs and leeks. Never thought to put leeks on a pizza, but it really works. Kind of a great pairing, actually.

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Ella’s is perfect to hit up before a game at the Verizon Center, before a movie/show, or simply for a weeknight happy hour.  Other people seem to know that too, because it looks like the place can get somewhat crowded.  I guess everyone loves pizza.

Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza
901 F St. NW
Washington, DC
202-638-3434