Washington foodies are benefiting from several top-notch restaurants, including celebrity chef-driven concepts by Daniel Boulud who brought his DBGB down from New York and Iron Chef Jose Garces’s Rural Society, not to mention Stephen Starr's immensely popular Le Diplomate. Local celebrity toques like Fabio Trabocchi also fans the flames with his Fiola Mare (a semifinalist for a 2015 James Beard Award), helping to buoy D.C.’s dining scene, which has grown significantly in recent years. Indeed, in 2014, 1,328 licenses were granted to restaurants in D.C., up from 522 in 2010, according to the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The Washington Post reported that in 2001, D.C. denizens enjoyed 1,423 restaurants, but that number has climbed to 2,111 in 2013, according to the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.
And the pace doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Perhaps the most widely anticipated opening, David Chang’s Momofuku (and Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar) has chowhounds glued to the storefront at CityCenterDC and on social media high alert. CityZen’s Eric Ziebold announced a duo of restaurants near Mount Vernon Triangle for late 2015, while fans of Noma look forward to Jeremiah Langhorne’s The Dabney. Michael Mina alum Jonah Kim staged a promising popup of Ballston-bound Yona at partner Mike Isabella’s sandwich shop, and yet another Top Chef alum Edward Lee eyes a summer opening for Succotash at National Harbor. The latest announcement brings the owners of Red Hen and Boundary Stone together to open a pizza-focused, Roman-style restaurant called All Purpose in The Colonel apartment complex in Shaw later this year. Until then, sate your appetite with these picks to try now.
The street food-inspired menu at globe-trotting Compass Rose heads our list of must-tries. Proprietors Rose Previte and husband David Greene, of NPR’s Morning Edition, entice crowds with top toque JohnPaul Damato’s takes on Georgian, Turkish and Malaysian cuisines, among others. Don’t miss: the cheesy, chewy khachapuri and any of the intriguingly named cocktails like “Lost in Venice.” Hungry diners would do well to get in early as the cozy row house—decorated with compass points and rich, saturated colors—fills up quickly. Night owls benefit from late hours: 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 1346 T St. NW, 202.506.4765
The latest spot from José Andrés takes diners to Peru, where Japanese and Chinese flavors amp up that country’s native Criollo cuisine. In China Chilcano's exuberantly blended world, jicama and peanut add crunch to shiu mai dumplings topped with a silky quail egg, and a variety of ceviches marry Japanese aesthetics with the punch of Latin spice. Big plates reflect the chef’s playful personality: egg noodles tangled with veggie-heavy fried rice are topped with mini airplanes made of soy sprout, reminding diners of the journey. Fruit popsicles reward those who save room for dessert, ending the meal on childhood memories. 418 7th St. NW, 202.783.0941
At Ed Witt and Nathan Anda’s dimly lit Penn Quarter altar to meat, a list of more than 30 types of house-made charcuterie previews the protein-heavy evening to come. And there’s much to choose from at The Partisan thanks to Anda of next-door’s Red Apron. He’s credited with bringing whole-animal butchery (from Animal Welfare Approved local farms) to D.C.
The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the lamb ribs. Braised in whiskey and doused with a purée of roasted onion, they fall off the bone. Tender meatballs over creamy polenta are another crowd pleaser, but the real digging in occurs with larger plates like smoked lamb shank scented with rosemary and “rotissi-fried” chicken, a marvel turned on a spit then deep fried for a crispy skin. At the bar, Jeff Faile takes a whiskey-forward approach with help from beer guru Greg Engert of Bluejacket/Churchkey, who authors an eclectic brew selection. 709 D St. NW, 202.524.5322
On the Georgetown Waterfront, the latest concept by Reese Gardner (Copperwood Tavern) appeals to sailors and landlubbers alike with deckhands for docking, boat delivery and a wall of windows for watching various vessels go by. Dishes at Orange Anchor reinforce the seafaring theme with Allan Javery’s shrimp and lobster rolls, oysters and clams casino, but also land on terra firma with filet mignon, grilled Portobello and a burger (albeit topped with fried oysters). The beverage program keeps the party going with a rum-focused menu—more than 40 varieties, plus some infused with orange. 3050 K St. NW, 202.802.9990
Bangkok-based Mango Tree chose Washington’s CityCenterDC as its first foray into the American market, with plans to open several more in other cities along with a casual concept. In the meantime, the flagship (by Pitaya Phanphensophon and Richard Sandoval) has garnered praise for its sleek two-story space totaling 6,800 square feet and modern approach to authentic Thai cuisine, which adds high-end ingredients like duck and lobster to curries and noodles. An eclectic beverage program trots the globe from Brazil to France and, naturally, Thailand, enjoyed at either of the restaurant’s two bars. 929 H St. NW, 202.408.8100