Primrose

Recently, no restaurant has enchanted us like Primrose. In fact, we have had dinner there once a month for the last three months. That is a lot for us – we aren’t restaurant critics who can use the company credit card to eat. We also aren’t “influencers” who demand free meals in return for Instagram posts – we pay for every meal ourselves. At Primrose, it’s the smart service, beautiful design and superlative food that keeps us coming back for more.

Primrose in Brookland, DC

The interior decor at Primrose is beautiful, maybe one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in DC. I don’t mean that in a negative way, either. It is both whimsical and comfortable. The best way to take it all in is by sitting at the bar with a glass of wine or two (or hey, a bottle). Co-owner Sebastian Zutant is a winemaker himself, and you can try some of his wines under the Lightwell Survey label or go for the well-curated list of wines from (exclusively) France and Virginia.

Wine at the bar at Primrose in Brookland, DC

With a baby on the way, we appreciate the fact that Primrose also has the fanciest and most complete changing table we have ever seen in a restaurant bathroom. There are also plenty of booster seats and high chairs.

All of this would not matter if the food weren’t good. Luckily, Primrose’s food manages to outshine the décor. If it’s on the menu when you visit, a bracing bowl of gazpacho is a great way to start a meal.

Gazpacho at Primrose in Brookland, DC

Spring had certainly sprung at our most recent visit. We made a meal out of quintessential spring vegetables, including a tartine with fava bean crème fraiche topped with more fava beans, chives and microgreens. It made for an outstanding starter. Same thing goes for the outstanding simplicity of globe radishes, green tops intact, sea salt and whipped butter. Tre Bien!

Spring vegetable tartine at Primrose in Brookland, DC

For a medium plate, Spring brought a sublime bowl of plump ricotta gnocchi, chanterelle crème, peanuts and giant chunks of chanterelles. It was all topped with roasted spring onions for an extra kiss of Spring.

Ricotta gnocchi at Primrose in Brookland, DC

You can easily make a meal out of small and medium plates at Primrose. But if you did that, you would be missing out on the best roast chicken in DC. Every single bit of this brined bird is flavorful and tender, even the white meat. The chicken gets served with a date jus and cashew gremolata for some nice crunch and texture. It also comes with sides of thick cut fries and a side salad. If you don’t want the whole chicken, Primrose also serves a half portion as an entrée.

Roast chicken at Primrose in Brookland, DC

Even with all these great options, you would be wise to end your meal with the chocolate pot de crème. Trust us on this one.

Chocolate pot de creme at Primrose in Brookland, DC

Best Bite
Paul: Roast Chicken
Marnay: Ricotta Gnocchi

Address
Primrose: 3000 12th St, NE Washington, DC 20017
Closest Metro: Brookland

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Mama Chang

As regulars at Q by Peter Chang, we eagerly anticipated the chef/restauranteur’s new spot, Mama Chang. This isn’t a strictly a Peter Chang restaurant, though. Mama Chang celebrates the women in the chef’s life – his daughter Lydia runs the front of the house as well as business development while his wife Lisa, is his pastry chef. In fact, Lisa was running the kitchen the day of our visit.

On a Sunday morning, we made our way from Silver Spring to Fairfax via public transit (doable) to see what Mama had to offer. I heard early reports on social media that the restaurant had been wildly popular, so we were not surprised to find a 20-30 minute wait when we arrived at 1pm. (It cleared out by the time we finished eating which you can see in the photo below.)

room

It’s a good idea to start your meal with dry-fried cauliflower, a take on Peter’s famous dry-fried eggplant. We actually found the cauliflower to be a little spicier than the dry-fried eggplant, and that is certainly no slouch on heat! The cauliflower was so green and fresh that for a moment I thought we were eating Romanesco, because of the color. But no, this is just fresher than your typical cauliflower.

cauliflower

The pan-fried noodles with vegetables were different than what we were expected – they are seriously fried to a crisp in the pan. In the picture below, you can see that some of the sections have been blackened. Once the noodles mix with the sauce, though, they suddenly reconstitute and become slippery yet toothsome. They go well with the bounty of fresh bok choy and carrots piled on top, which may be the secret star of this dish.

noodles

Everything we ate at Mama Chang was great, but the salt and pepper crispy lotus root sandwiches were truly a revelation. Lotus root gets stuffed with ground pork and fried until it is shatteringly crisp. The sweet flavor profile of the rich ground pork reminded us of the Dong Po pork belly at Masterpiece, in suburban Atlanta. All this is topped with chopped scallions and red onions for freshness.

Chang

The only thing we did not love was the red pepper fried chicken with sesame, and that was only because it was not as crispy as we imagined. That, though, is the smallest of quibbles.

Although it’s still new, Mama Chang has already become the place to go in Northern Virginia for authentic regional Chinese cooking. Our only question to you, dear reader, is: When are you going to go?

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Salt and Pepper Crispy Lotus Root Sandwich

Address
Mama Chang: 3251 Old Lee Highway, Suite 101 Fairfax, VA 22030
Closest Metro: Vienna