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Superb Cheese Onion soup at Charley Key Food items is one particular of our critic’s preferred drop comforts. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.
’Tis the season for all matters pumpkin-spicy, absolutely sure, but also all factors cheeseladen, brothy, creamy, and relaxing. In other words and phrases, convenience food items. And while the strategy is subjective—my balm may well be your bore, and vice versa—here are the dishes I have been turning to lately.
French Onion Soup
Charley Prime Foods | 9811 Washingtonian Blvd., Gaithersburg
Onion soup pops up in all places when the temperature will get chilly—who can resist that dreamy cheese pull?—but not quite a few kitchens get it right, and no sum of Comté can make up for a ho-hum broth. At this steakhouse from Jackie Greenbaum and Gordon Banks, there are no this sort of problems. Chef Adam Harvey derives his soup from a recipe he uncovered decades in the past at Alexandria’s Morrison Dwelling, and the broth—amped with Worcestershire and lemon—could stand on its have. But bit by bit cooked onions deglazed in port, sherry, and Madeira, additionally tons of gooey Gruyère, make it a bowl to bear in mind.
Kema by Kenaki | 11325 7 Locks Rd., Potomac
If you are an unabashed lover of more than-the-prime sushi rolls—bring on the zigzags!—Ken Ballogdajan is a chef you want to know about. His hottest restaurant, which he runs with his sister Aki, echoes the menu and quickly-casual vibe of his Gaithersburg strike, Kenaki. I was at initial skeptical of this collision of spicy-tuna and shrimp tempura rolls, which receives a dose of umami from shiitakes and bonito furthermore a stripe of zesty mayo. One bite in and I was offered.
Spaghetti With Clams
Opal | 5534 Connecticut Ave., NW
Colin McClimans claims spaghetti with clams was a person of his father’s go-to bash platters. At his airily really Chevy Chase DC dining space, McClimans’s variation is far more refined. The chef tends to make his pasta in-dwelling, for just one, and tints it with saffron. He serves the clams, steamed with white wine and shallots, with no their shells for much easier consuming. But he finishes the bowl the old-fashioned way, with chili flakes, parsley, and herby breadcrumbs. Most vital, he retains the salty, garlicky soulfulness of the Italian-American traditional.
Virginia’s Darling | 277 S. Washington St., Alexandria
“I love that this dish is possessing a moment,” states Nicole Jones, owner of this lovable Outdated City wine bar. “It’s as super-classic culinary-school as it receives.” Indeed, she discovered to make the brown-buttery French plate at L’Academie de Delicacies. Her system is basic: Sizzle the huge, flat filet of delicate white fish in clarified butter until eventually it turns crispy and golden, increase even much more butter to the pan, then balance out the richness with a good deal of lemon juice, capers, and parsley. Sole meunière is the dish that sparked Julia Child’s obsession with French cuisine, and Jones’s rendition helps make it uncomplicated to envision why.
Mac and Cheese
Doro Soul Foods | 1819 Seventh St., NW
As the mother of a 7-year-outdated, I have a lot of mac and cheese in my everyday living. But the model that chef Elias Taddesse will make at his Ethio-American fried-hen place in the vicinity of Howard College is on a amount all its personal. There is almost nothing moderate about it: It’s as sharp as it is creamy, has a zesty kick, and receives its slight sourness from a dusting of breadcrumbs designed from injera. There’s no superior spouse to a plate of Taddesse’s supremely crunchy, berbere-spiced fried hen.
Vera | 2002 Fenwick St., NE
“I really feel like I’m sitting down inside of a Miley Cyrus album include,” claims a pal as we just take in the pulsing, cactus-lined dining space in Ivy Town. The cocktails are head-turners (so numerous flowers!), and the kitchen area fuses Mexican and Lebanese flavors into flashy, generally skillful share plates. Offered all that, my preferred dish here is rather homey and subdued. The very simple slash of grilled branzino is established atop rice that is shiny with turmeric and sided with a trio of sauces that replicate the kitchen’s viewpoint: two vivid salsas and a pool of labneh.
Irregardless | 502 H St., NE
This H Street–corridor bistro is obsessed with Virginia wine. Even its pierogi plate—more cheffy than Polish church supper—owes a little something to the point out. The crisply pan-fried dumplings are filled with ricotta and Gouda from a Loudoun County farm, then served with pickled rutabaga and fennel in area of sauerkraut. A buttermilk-and-dill sauce adds a sour-cream-like tang.
Bao Bei | 11910 Parklawn Dr., Rockville
It requires a minor operate to find this takeout-only, Taiwanese-type bao maker, hidden alongside the backside of a Rockville strip mall in a communal kitchen area with a buzzer entry. Inside, you’ll obtain twentysomething operator Kevin Hsieh, who has devoted himself to crafting these cloud-mild, a bit sweet buns. He folds them to make Pacman-like sandwiches, the ideal of which is stuffed with luscious soy-braised pork stomach, furthermore pickled greens and a dusting of crushed peanuts and sugar.
Small Blackbird | 3309 Connecticut Ave., NW
What was after the mod-Indian cafe Bindaas is now a moodily lit wine bar. Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj flipped the Cleveland Park place to its new strategy in September, and it shares a kitchen—and chef, Ryan Moore—with Bajaj’s following-door Israeli eating home, Sababa. Moore stays generally devoted to the skinny, crispy Alsatian-style tart, delicately arranging it with onions, bacon, and Gruyère. But there is one particular clever Mediterranean tweak. As an alternative of fromage blanc, Moore employs a slather of tangy labneh.
Joon | 8045 Leesburg Pike, Vienna
Tahdig—the prized, deliciously crunchy layer of rice that sorts at the bottom of a pot as it cooks—steals the highlight at this Persian fine-dining place in the vicinity of Tysons, a joint effort between Iranian cookbook star Najmieh Batmanglij and ex–Maydan chef Chris Morgan. You are going to find tahdig in lots of guises—plain and saffron-scented, speckled with dill and fava beans—but the kitchen’s finest preparation is ladled with bitter cherries that are scented with cinnamon and vanilla. It is a dish of luxurious contrasts, among the cherries, fluffy and crispy bits of rice, and fragrant hits of saffron and pistachio.
El Presidente | 1255 Union St., NE
The 2nd wave of restaurateur Stephen Starr’s DC takeover is upon us, commencing with this theatrical Mexican bar/dining area, which debuted in September close to Union Market place. (Also in the will work for Starr: an Italian current market in Georgetown and a takeover of the historic Occidental restaurant, among other issues.) This early strike on chef David LaForce’s menu borrows from nevertheless a different Starr location, El Vez in Philly. I get why the kitchen cribbed the recipe. The crunchy, batter-fried hunks of mahi-mahi accented with avocado and smoky rémoulade right away turned the ideal fish tacos in town.
Crinkle Fries With Za’atar
Kirby Club | 2911 District Ave., Fairfax
Absolutely sure, there are significantly much more intriguing dishes on the menu at Rose Previte’s boho-awesome Lebanese dining room in the Mosaic District. So you must not skip, say, the kalamata-olive-and-walnut dip or the lamb kebabs. But aspect whichever you order with these crispy and salty crinkle fries, amid a couple dishes Previte keeps all over to make the menu “approachable” and child-friendly. The snack is actually all about the dip—a salty-sweet layering of feta and apricot marmalade—and the liberal shake of za’atar, created by regional spice purveyor Z&Z.
This report seems in the November 2023 problem of Washingtonian.