Dining Notes

Ambar, DC’s first Balkan restauant is now serving a “bottomless” weekend brunch. Photo: Goran Foto

At long last Nooshi, upstairs from the well-received Tash, arrived last month on Barracks Row. We went on opening night; in spite of bad weather the place was packed. We entered through the red side door which led upstairs to the handsomely appointed space, which seats 120. Red seems to set the tone: an Asian-style red chest (hostess stand) greets guests. Lacquered red chairs, colorful wall hangings, burnished wood, glittering light fixtures, and skylights complete the sleek, sophisticated look. Unfortunately concrete flooring creates a high decibel level, making conversation difficult. 

Toward the back of the dining area with its long sushi bar Nooshi’s open display kitchen is set off with “Peking Duck” etched on a frosted glass partition. Nooshi’s third level is dominated by large windows overlooking Barracks Row. Seated downstairs we started our repast with tom kha, Thailand’s aromatic, lemongrass/coconut-milk soup laced with shrimp, cilantro, and other spices. Zippy Indonesian fried rice was replete with chicken. Fried Singapore noodles showcased pork and shrimp, a dish benefitting from a dash of soy sauce. Next time we’ll explore calamari, won tons, edamame, Korean-style wings, spring rolls, and myriad noodle and rice dishes. We will also check out the extensive sushi lineup.  

Located at 524 8th St. SE (upper levels), Nooshi is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 202-827-8832

Coming Soon

Spike Mendelsohn’s latest enterprise, Bearnaise, is set to debut this summer at 313 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Spike’s mom and sister were spotted shopping in Paris for artwork to decorate the property, which used to house Thai Roma and Conrad’s bar. Spike, who has cooked in France, told me that Bearnaise will be modeled after a “classic steak/frites” restaurant. He and a colleague were sweeping the floor of the gutted space, getting ready for the future restaurant. Stay tuned.

Nearby…

Beuchert’s Saloon, the reincarnated speakeasy which opened in mid-March, is now serving weekend brunch. From 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. guests may chow down on executive chef Andrew Markert’s “brunchers” or “lunchers,” like house-made granola, beet salad, cornmeal cakes, roast chicken omelettes, and “B-burgers.” Meanwhile prosecco – ideal for mimosas – bubbles from Beuchert’s very own fountain. 

Weather permitting, guests may dine al fresco on Beuchert’s patio. Located at 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Beuchert’s is open daily. 202-733-1384. www.beuchertssaloon.com

And

Around the corner, on Barracks Row, Ambar, the hill’s first Balkan restaurant, has introduced “bottomless” weekend brunch. For $35, guests get unlimited dishes and cocktails. The prix fixe deal must be ordered by the entire table. Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. “Small plates” options run the gamut of wild mushroom salad, white veal soup, Balkan burgers, salmon omelettes, cinnamon-sweet sourdough, and fried apple rings. Ambar is located at 523 8th St. SE. 202-813-3039. www.ambarrestaurant.com

District Taco Arrives

Si! As we reported last month the hill welcomes another Tex-Mex eatery. District Taco has arrived at 656 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, in the spot vacated by Yes! Organic Market, which moved to Barracks Row. Don’t miss the nifty Art Deco sign out front.

We had already sampled District Taco’s overstuffed taco at a recent Hill Center event. It was delicious but messy, requiring a fork and lots of napkins. But we were not prepared for the enormous burrito mojado, bulging with chicken, black beans, rice, cheese, and spices. Equally generous was the quesadilla, filled with choice of meat. Peter chose pork. 

We ordered our meals at the counter, waited for our number, and headed to the condiment bar, laden with incendiary mestizo and milder tomatillo salsas, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, and other toppings. If you really want firepower request the palate-scorching habanero salsa. You have been warned.

District Taco, which operates an outlet downtown and another in Arlington, dishes up all-day breakfast (try the huevos rancheros), nachos, salads, and assorted sides, plus kids’ meals. District Taco has also applied for an alcohol license, so expect cerveza sometime in the future. Open daily. www.districttaco.com

Cuban Delight

We thought the only place to find an authentic Cuban sandwich was Ybor City, the Cuban neighborhood in Tampa. That was before we tasted the two-fisted, overstuffed version at Canales Delicatessen, in Eastern Market. Lacking so-called Cuban-style bread, Canales presses a regular sub roll filled with roast pork, ham, pickles, and mayo (some purists use mustard). Priced at $6, a Canales Cuban sandwich can feed two. Eastern Market is closed Mondays. 202-547-4471

More Java Buzz

For your Sunday morning buzz, at Eastern Market’s flea market (across the street from the market itself) is Vigilante Coffee Company. Based in Washington, with a pop-up spot in Chinatown, this local company dispenses good java from various countries, micro-roasted and brewed by the cup or in bags. Look for the stand on Sundays.  

Garden Buzz

Speaking of coffee, the other day we stopped by Sidamo Coffee & Tea, 417 H St. NE. We were greeted by the aroma of freshly roasted coffee, and we mean fresh. “We roast our coffee daily,” said proprietor Kenfe Bellay, indicating the huge roaster by the entrance. He added that much of Sidamo’s java comes from his native Ethiopia (where coffee beans were first discovered, we’re told). 

Out back is Sidamo’s lovely garden patio. Red roses were in bloom, which set off bright red umbrellas shading the three tables. Besides delicious coffee Sidamo offers teas, yerbe mate (South American herbal infusion), bagels, croissants, sandwiches, and other light fare. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, Sundays at 2:00 p.m., the family-run café hosts an impressive Ethiopian coffee ceremony. 202-548-0081. www.sidamocoffeeandtea.com

New

In nearby Penn Quarter restaurateur Ashok Bajaj has added yet another establishment to his growing culinary family. Nopa, named for its location, North of Pennsylvania Avenue, has opened at the former site of Zola. Nopa’s executive chef Greg McCarty creates “savory snacks,” market veggies, cheeses, smoked meats, and entrees (skate with rhubarb sounds particularly intriguing). There’s also a raw bar. Peter checked out Nopa the other day and reported an attractive, airy décor with white brick walls separating the three dining areas and lots of rich leather. Look for a mini review in a future Dining Notes.

Located at 800 F St. NW, Nopa is open daily (check). 202-347-4667

How Sweet It Is …

Fans now find more than beer, hot dogs, and pretzels at Nationals Park. New on the stadium’s edible scene is Fluffy Thoughts Cakes, which opened last month. You will find the kiosk in section 134 (first-base line), dispensing jumbo and mini cupcakes in such flavors as red velvet, apple/bacon, and chocolate, as well as brownies and baseball-shaped cookies. Fluffy Thoughts Cakes is the sweet creation of talented Lara Stuckey, a 2003 graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine.

Briefly

Congrats to Hill’s Kitchen, 713 D St. SE, Leah Daniels’ nifty cookware shop (with cooking classes held upstairs), which is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Acacia Gourmet (before that Wellness Café), 325 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, has departed. Look for a sushi eatery to open in that spot.


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