Vietnamese flavors at Moon Rabbit include grilled prawn with muoi ot xanh sua dac sauce.
While many things about our dining habits have changed in the past year, one thing remains the same: The world awaits downtown. Whether it’s takeout, outdoor patio dining or breaking bread indoors while spaces are still at partial capacity, take a little trip around the globe with some of the most talented chefs in town. We put together this reminder about the riches to be found on the plate—minus a passport.
Korean comfort food at SeoulSpice
Kevin Tien, who has garnered praise from Food & Wine as one of the best young chefs in America, takes the helm at the new 50-seat restaurant at The Wharf in the InterContinental Washington, DC. The menu, focused on modern Vietnamese cuisine, is Tien’s love letter to his heritage as a first-generation Asian American. “The experience I’ve gathered has made me a better leader and a better cook, and to be able to bring that experience to bear in creating a restaurant that celebrates the recipes and dishes I grew up with—Southeast Asian cooking traditions passed on from grandmother to mother to son—feels like a full-circle experience,” says Tien. Early favorites at the Southwest restaurant include pineapple milk buns, grilled prawn with muoi ot xanh sua dac (a spicy dipping sauce popular in rural Vietnam) and bo luc lac (Australian grass-fed ribeye with watercress). 81 Wharf St. SW, 202.878.8566, moonrabbitdc.com
Modern Indian dishes like potato and fig dumplings can be found at Rasika West End
RASIKA WEST END
When James Beard Award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam is leading the kitchen, the culinary journey—featuring modern Indian dishes—is going to be extraordinary. This legendary spot on a corner in DC’s West End continues to produce many surprises, and we can’t wait to sit on the venue’s sunny sidewalk this spring to enjoy dishes like chicken tikka French toast, mango shrimp, masala crabcake, tawa baingan (eggplant, spicy potato), murg tariwala (homestyle chicken curry) and salmon tandoori. 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW, 202.466.2500, rasikarestaurant.com
Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj tapped the great John Melfito lead the kitchen when he opened this 140-seat modern Italian gem on New York Avenue roughly 18 months ago, and the hosannas for the food and setting have been loud. In addition to outdoor seating this spring, patrons will find a 513-square-foot private dining room—seating up to 48—with two walls of expansive windows and 13-foot ceilings. Another semiprivate space, graced with a collage depicting Italian streetscapes like the Trevi Fountain, seats 12. Melfi’s dishes offer a playful take on classic Italian fare. Tastes not to miss include Acquerello risotto; olive oil-poached Icelandic cod; and whole-wheat tagliatelle with beef, pork, veal Bolognese and 36-month-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano vacche rosse. 1100 New York Ave. NW, 202.216.9550, modenadc.com
Modena, led by chef John Melfi, dishes contemporary Italian on New York Avenue downtown.
No, it’s not a high-end eatery, but can anyone who adores Korean comfort food have made it through the past six months without the dreamy to-go boxes at SeoulSpice? With locations in NoMa and Tenleytown, the resto is big on variety and taste-testing new combinations (organic tofu and kalbi marinade, anyone?). Also, look for dry-aged beef, banchan (kimchi, Korean radish, cucumbers, bean sprouts, kale, sushi-grade white rice) and housemade sauces like ginger-carrot and creamy Sriracha. 145 N St. NW, Ste. 400, 202.817.6927; 4600 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202.830.9351, seoulspice.com
Photography by: Rey Lopez; Shimmon Tamara