DC Restaurant Week Summer 2012 Newcomers

DC Restaurant Week takes place twice a year and since new restaurants open up every single month in the area, it is a great time to check out a place that you’ve been hearing about but haven’t had a chance to visit. According to my records, these spots are first timers to DC Restaurant Week. All of these local eateries are offering the deals for the first time ever. This post is the first installment of a variety of feature articles to come — all about DC Restaurant Week. It seems only fitting that the first timers listing be the premiere post. Please let me know if I have missed one on the list. See my previous post for Winter 2012′s Newcomers.

Also see Dining in DC’s Top 20 Picks.

Bandolero. Photo by Paul Ferrari

Bandolero -  Former Top Chef contestant, Mike Isabella has been taking over DC with his fun, casual concepts, of which his newest modern Mexican restaurant, Bandolero (3241 M Street) in Georgetown in no different. Bandolero opened in late May of this year and this summer will be its first time participating in DC Restaurant Week. If you haven’t been, DC Restaurant Week might be an opportune time to check it out. The menu hasn’t been released; however, I enjoyed the nibbles that I’ve had thus far. Enjoy tacos of various flavors, including Tuna tartare, Blue Crab with coconut, red chili, and purple potato, Snapper, and Crispy Mahi Mahi with chipotle, avocado, and lime or as Mike calls them “fish stick” tacos. Try the poblano and cheese empanadas; sopes of lamb and goat cheese and of course, freshly made guacamole. Inside, it is a rather dark, like a “Day of the Dead” look complete with black iron cemetery gates, host stand lined with machine gun bullets, cactus, and blanched animal skulls. You’ll love the long copper bar with wooden crates acting as shelves to display the numerous bottles of tequila and mezcal–37 of the first and about 15 of the latter.

District Kitchen- Opened in January 2012, District Kitchen (2606 Connecticut Ave., NW) offers a farm-to-table menu and exposed brick walls. Chef Drew Trautmann has cooked in some of D.C.’s best restaurants. His first when arriving to DC was at Restaurant Nora, where he became familiar with the abundance of local and organic products available in the area.

Fujimar- Located downtown( 1401 K St. NW), Fujimar actually reflects a rebranding of Lima as an Asian-Latino, nouveau cuisine restaurant serving ceviche, lobster, sushi and more. It strives to be just as hip and trendy as the fashionable Lima Lounge nightclub downstairs with its plush seating and sleek modern exterior. This summer will be their first time participating in DC Restaurant Week.  There is also a unique and extensive drink menu for those in the mood. The DC Restaurant Week 3-course menu hasn’t been released yet, but expect that Chef Raynold Mendizabal will strive to put his fest fin forward offering fresh fish and seafood. The menu proudly informs diners that the fish used in the dishes are shipped to DC “the very same day” that they are captured in the wild. Combined with a range of Latin flavors, this makes for a delicious consistency to every dish available. You really can’t go wrong giving the spicy tuna, the Chilean sea bass, and certainly the hamachi a try.

The Hamilton Dining Room. Photo by Maddie Meyer

The Hamilton - Clyde’s Restaurant Group’s newest establishment, The Hamilton (600 14th St NW) is a landmark building that was originally constructed in 1929 and operated as the flagship store for Garfinckel’s department store until 1990. The Hamilton opened in December 2011, but this summer will be their first time participating in DC Restaurant Week. Convenient to Metro Center, with one of the best state-of-the art sound and light systems available, Hamilton Live  has become a popular restaurant and music/performance venue  that can comfortably accommodates 400 guests. Recently appointed Salvatore Ferro as Executive Chef at The Hamilton, presides over the expansive restaurant which consists of three dining rooms, three bars, a sushi bar along with a subterranean, and the state-of-the-art theater. Ferro’s menu at The Hamilton focuses on seasonal and regional American fare using fresh ingredients including Clyde’s signature local farm-grown produce and hormone-free beef. The DC Restaurant Week 3-course menu hasn’t been released yet; however, if the restaurant week menu is anything like his regular dinner menu, guests will  find a delicious variety of noshing options.

Cast Iron Amish Chicken. Photo by Lisa Shapiro

Mintwood Place –  Located in Adams Morgan, just a few steps from its namesake, Mintwood Place (1813 Columbia Rd.), opened in late January of this year. This summer will be their first time participating in DC Restaurant Week. Many have been very eager to visit. It’s only natural that everyone has such high expectations since you have a top-notch team conjoining their talents, especially when you have an award-winning, young and talented chef like Cedric Maupillier, formerly of Citronelle and Central Michel Richard at the helm and Neill Blackwood at the front of the house, formerly of Mokomandy and Trummer’s on Main. Sous chef Dawn Swaney was Maupillier’s sous chef at Central prior to his departure in 2010; thus picking right up where they left off with little to none transition time. They already know that they work well together and make a great team — and it shows. I’ve been once for dinner and have been raving about it ever since. I’m dying to return! Even Tom Sietsema gave them a whopping 3 stars! On Maupillier’s DCRW  Dinner menu, for a $5 supplemental fee, you can start off with a few “nibbles” such as warm olives, chipotle roasted almonds, deviled pickled eggs, or maple pork cracklin’. For first course, chose from a tomato gazpacho, iceberg salad, country pate, or summer flounder ceviche. The first two sound lovely, but if this ceviche is anything like his was at Central, I’m sure it will be take your breath away. I love it when chefs offer items from their regular menu! That’s how you know that you’re getting true value. For second course, I’m looking right at the (Cast Iron) Amish Chicken or the Tagliatelle Bolognese. For dessert, chose from four sumptuous options, such as vanilla creme brulee, blueberry tart, brownie sundae, or chocolat mousse. Mintwood Place will be at the top of my Top 10 Picks for sure! Look for it!

Pulpo- Brand new in the beautiful and historic Cleveland Park neighborhood, Pulpo (3407 Connecticut Ave., NW) offers Spanish tapas inspired cuisine with American Fusion. According to their website, Pulpo’s extensive wine list features wines from Spain, Europe, and South America as well as four different Sangrias. Guests can enjoy their four large communal tables and open kitchen. Since I have not dined here, I am not able to comment on their cuisine; however, when their restaurant week menu becomes available I will do my best to offer an opinion. I will say that generally I have provided advice to diners looking to get the most bang for their buck during restaurant week and I have always said that tapas is often not the best deal.

Palak Chaat. Photo courtesy of EPICURYAN

Rasika West End - The newest of Ashok Bajaj’s restaurant empire, Rasika West End (1177 22nd St., NW) is a sophisticated modern bar and restaurant serving exotic cocktails along with an extensive wine list to complement the traditional and modern Indian cuisine. The  stunning interior with an artfully geometric Banyan tree branching down from the ceiling complements the modern dining room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking M Street provides an open and airy space and lovely backdrop for the talented Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam, recent RAMMY award winner for Best Chef of the Year. Both Lunch and Dinner 3-course DC Restaurant Week menus have been posted online. The menu should be familiar to frequenters of the Penn Quarter locale. Yes, the much-praised palak chaat (a crispy spinach, yogurt, tamarind and date salad) is offered here too. The spinach is fried till almost brittle, with a texture so light and airy, it is nearly weightless. Chef Sunderam’s restaurant week menus are always very promising and at such an excellent value, which includes some his best dishes, such as the palak chaat, black cod lightly sauced with star anise. Rasika offers a $35 pre-theatre menu (M-F 5:30-6:30 p.m.; Sat 5:30-6:30 p.m.) with similar offerings as restaurant week. If you haven’t been, Rasika is no doubt one of the best restaurants in DC.

Station 4′s Bar & Lounge. Photo by Christy Creative

Station 4 -Located at 1101 4th St., SW, within the Southwest Waterfront, lying along the Tidal Basin and facing West Potomac Park, is an up and coming neighborhood that will soon be a regular stop for DC area residents. Just one metro stop from the Navy Yard, Station  4 has become a popular hang out for DC area residents looking for some pizazz. Station 4 brings modern American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist to this new revitalized neighborhood and offers guests a retreat during the spring and summer seasons with their  large outdoor patio which can accommodate 56.  Station 4′s 3-course restaurant week menu is not yet available online; however, since Executive Chef Orlando Amaro is celebrating National Peach Month with a special menu that is ripe for the picking, I’m suspecting that he’ll be serving up a few peach inspired dishes.

Unum- Located in Georgetown, Unum (2917 M St., NW)  is an intimate neighborhood restaurant which offers contemporary American cuisine in a warm and inviting space that features stone walls, wood beams, a backlit tree carved from steel, and a 12-seat bar. Unum is the first restaurant owned by Executive Chef Phillip Blane and his wife, Laura Schiller. They seek to offer diners exciting and approachable dishes with regional and international influences.

Others may be added … stay tuned!

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