Hazel

Being back in DC means that we get to check out some of the newer restaurants that we’ve been too busy to get to over the last few weeks (see the previous post).  On a dreary Thursday night during one of the rainiest weeks of 2016, we checked out Hazel in Shaw.  Hazel is an Asian-accented restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Partisan, Rustico, Sovereign, plus many others) and Chef Rob Rubba.  It is located in a brand new mixed-use building across V Street from the 930 Club.

Hazel restaurant

The first thing that one notices upon entering  at night is that the space is dark and moody.  From our perch at the bar there were spotlights above us that illuminated the otherwise dark space.  We spent the evening watching the rain through the floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the restaurant.

As with any Neighborhood Restaurant Group restaurant, the beer list was stellar.  But Hazel also has a strong focus on cocktails.  I enjoyed the Too Short a Season, which was basically a spritz, my cocktail obsession of the moment.  The sweet yet bitter taste of the Cappelletti, also known as Specialino in its home of Brescia, really shined through the rest of the ingredients.  Marnay got a saison, her favorite style of beer, from Oxbow.

Hazel cocktails

Chef Rubba’s menu is entirely small plates, with two family-style “huge” plates:  a whole snapper and a roasted duck.  I am seeing this trend of having family-style portions pop up more and more on menus and I am a huge fan.  It takes dining from a semi-solitary activity and turns it into an experience, where interaction among others is required.

But on to our food.  English muffins slathered with whipped nduja, a spicy spreadable salami, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam were a striking example of the way hot and cool play off of each other.  The nduja, yogurt and jam were layered in a ramekin so that it resembled a sunny-side up egg.

Hazel english muffins with whipped nduja

We liked the littleneck clams in a brown butter miso broth, but would not be inclined to order them again.  After we finished the chewy clams, we took the small bowl of steamed rice and let it soak up the umami-packed broth.  An above average dish but not a repeater.

Hazel littleneck clams

My favorite was their Korean fried chicken style ribs, which is quickly becoming their quintessential dish.  The ribs are crunchy, sweet, spicy and meaty, pretty much the four adjectives that make up an optimal dish.  The heat was noticeable, and my sinuses would confirm this, but it didn’t overwhelm the other flavors.

Hazel Korean fried chicken style ribs

We were very fond of the food at Hazel.  What set it apart from all of the other new restaurants with great food, though, was the atmosphere.  We felt like we spent a few hours after work hanging out in an exclusive club with superb food.

Best Bite
Paul: Korean fried chicken style ribs
Marnay: English muffins with nduja, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam

Address
Hazel: 808 V Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: U Street

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Momofuku CCDC

On a Tuesday night we made reservations at one of DC’s most popular new restaurants, Momofuku CCDC.  This is the DC offshoot of David Chang’s extremely successful Momofuku empire.  The restaurant offers limited reservations and we made ours’ a month out.

The space is rather bare, with concrete floors and not much on the walls.  There is a giant peach projected above the bar, which is a nice touch.  The curved wooden seats do not even have backs.  My first impression was that this does not seem like a restaurant where guests are expected to linger.  While we reviewed the food menu, we started off with some drinks.  I got the Seven Spice Sour, which had some serious heat.  It consisted of sake, yuzu, lime and shichimi, that ubiquitous reddish-orange spice found at Japanese restaurants.  Marnay got a Grenache rose from Provence, the birthplace of rose.

Momofuku DC cocktails

Our food was coursed out, but it came fast.  The first two dishes to arrive were the Shiitake Buns with hoisin, scallion and cucumber and the Rockfish crudo with yuzu, bonji and sliced apples. The shiitake buns tasted like they were filled with crispy bacon. It was incredible what they did with the mushrooms…it was pure magic.

Momofuku DC Shiitake Buns and Rockfish Crudo

There was no indication on the menu that the Rockfish would be raw until the server told us after we ordered.  Not a problem, but a little warning on the menu would be nice.  The paper thin slices of raw fish came with bonji sauce, a David Chang trademarked creation similar to soy sauce.

Very soon after these two dishes left the table, the famous Momofuku Ramen arrived.  It is a pork based soup with sliced pork belly, pulled pork shoulder and a beautiful poached egg floating in the middle.  Piercing the egg provides even more delicious richness to the broth.   The bowl was substantial and even though we shared it, we were not able to finish.

Momofuku DC Ramen

Out of all the reasons to come to Momofuku CCDC, we were most excited to try dessert from Milk Bar.  Trying their famous Cereal Milk ice cream is almost a cultural experience and we were looking forward to it.  Honestly, though…we were a bit disappointed.  I guess it tasted like milk-flavored soft-serve, but we thought there would be a lot more flavor.  Same goes for the Compost Cookie that we ordered.  It was good enough, but we were expecting great.  Momufuku CCDC is not about to give Osteria Morini a run for its money as best restaurant for dessert in DC.

Milk Bar Cereal Milk ice cream

Outside of Milk Bar, Momofuku CCDC is very good.  I think that the next time we go we will just get dessert from RareSweets.  Or, if we’re feeling really adventurous, we will go to the bar at DBGB and order the Baked Alaska.

Best Bite
Paul: Shiitake Buns
Marnay: Momofuku Ramen

Address
Momofuku CCDC: 1090 I St, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Metro Center

Xiao Bao Biscuit

We left for Xiao Bao Biscuit around 5pm, because they did not take reservations. Halfway there, we got caught in a torrential downpour. Even with umbrellas we were soaked, so we took an Uber the rest of the way.

Xiao Bao is in a former gas station and auto repair shop. Where the pumps used to be, are now outdoor tables. The inside has a cool, industrial feel. We felt right at home as soon as we walked in because it reminded us of a place we would find in Silver Spring.

We started the meal with two local beers, Paul had a Westbrook Rye Pale Ale (from Mount Pleasant) and Marnay had a Coast IPA (from North Charleston.) The theme of the restaurant is Asian comfort food, this being a restaurant in Charleston and all. There are dishes from China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. It’s a small plates restaurant, and we ordered three dishes from China to share.

All three dishes were amazing. The price point is very reasonable, and it’s a fun, hip environment with great music. Of the three restaurants in Charleston that we went to for dinner, this is the one we would go back to over and over.

Address
Xiao Bao Biscuit: 224 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29401