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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Paul: Korean fried chicken style ribs
Marnay: English muffins with nduja, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam
Hazel: 808 V Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: U Street