Mandu could have been mistaken for a hot nightclub with a line of people camped out down the block at 10 p.m. on a recent Friday night. But instead of a bouncer, a host ushered in the crowds. Within 10 minutes, every seat in the Korean restaurant was full, with people two or three deep shouting orders at the bar. In the house that night? Guest chef Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya. Sure, all these people could walk just a few blocks south to try his cooking any day of the year. But for one night at Mandu, he teamed with chef Danny Lee, Lee’s mom Yesoon Lee, and Jonah Kim (formerly chef of Baltimore’s Pabu) for Anju, a monthly pop-up serving Korean-inspired drinking snacks. Rather than cooking their normal hits, the chefs experimented with things that might otherwise be too wacky for their menus: ramen quesadillas, mapo tofu frito pies, and kimchi bolognese.
Every month, a different chef takes over the kitchen at Mandu for the late-night party. But Lee never intended for Anju to be this way. When Lee and Kim, his good friend, launched the pop-up in June, it was just supposed to be them in the kitchen. The original goal was to gauge interest in dishes for a possible late-night Korean bar snacks restaurant that Lee would like to open. But among the crowd at that first event were fellow chefs—like Vermillion’s William Morris and The Source’s Scott Drewno—and when things got busy, they jumped in the kitchen to help push out dishes. That sparked the idea: Why not bring in different guest chefs every month?
Anju is just one of the many guest chef series and collaborative pop-ups or “takeovers” proliferating in D.C. these days. Whereas many chefs were once very possessive of their own territory, now they seem to be playing a game of musical kitchens. It’s no longer weird to find someone cooking Chinese food in an Italian restaurant one night or a French chef taking over a Korean kitchen another. The result is not only some interesting mash-ups, but it could be paving the way for potential collaboration restaurants down the line. Read more Is the Future of D.C. Restaurants in Collaborations?
It's not easy to name a sausage company. The chances of bad puns and innuendos, as you might imagine, are pretty high. So when husband-wife team Scott McIntosh and Ana Marin first launched their sausage company three years ago, they named it 13th Street Meats after the street where they live. Dodge City, American Ice Company, Boundary Stone, and others all carried their products. But now that they've expanded the operation to their own shop at 247 Florida Ave. NW, the name doesn't quite fit. "I don't know anything about branding, but I know that that's 3rd Street," McIntosh says pointing out the door, "and if we're 13th Street Meats, it's just going to be confusion until the end."
So they've switched to another equally straightforward name: Meats & Foods.
The small shop opened quietly last week with a menu that's as simple as the name. For now, there are only six sausage sandwiches—all $6 each—with add-ons like beef chili, cheese, or Gordy's pickles. The half-smoke is so far the top seller, but the veggie dog made with seitan, veggie stock, soy sauce, olive oil, and beans has been a surprise favorite. Eventually, Marin, a former vegetarian, would like to add some vegetable sides like tomato salad or pasta salad. (Right now, the only side is chili.) Beers ($4-$6) include DC Brau, Natty Boh, Coors Light, and Yuengling, and Marin and McIntosh are also looking to add some wine if they can find something good and affordable. Read more Get a $6 Sausage Sandwich at Meats & Foods
Zentan chef Jennifer Nguyen has parted ways with the Donovan House's Japanese restaurant. Nguyen took over the kitchen in the spring of 2013 after celebrity chef Susur Lee, who opened the restaurant, split with Zentan.
Jacque Riley, publicist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, sent Y&H the following statement:
Chef Jennifer Nguyen has left Zentan to pursue other opportunities. We are very grateful for the passion, dedication and talent she brought to the restaurant and will be actively seeking a new executive chef who can carry the torch of Zentan. In the meantime, our team remains committed to creating the great Japanese cuisine and warm service our guests have come to expect at Zentan.
No update yet on who will takeover Nguyen's position. Y&H is trying to reach Nguyen to hear about her next move. Stay tuned.
Photo courtesy Zentan
Following in the footsteps of his boss Mike Isabella, Kapnos chef George Pagonis will appear on the next season of Top Chef. Set to premiere Oct. 15, the Bravo show will take place in Boston this year.
Prior to Kapnos, Pagonis spent time at Graffiato and Zaytinya (where he first worked under Isabella) as well as Aureole in New York.
Meanwhile, Isabella has been back in the TV kitchen for spin-off show Top Chef Duels, which pits former contestants against each other. Isabella's episode airs tonight at 10 p.m.
Check out a preview of the Boston season above.
The state of the D.C. beer scene in 2014 [DC Beer]
The best happy hours in 15 D.C. neighborhoods. [Thrillist]
Master Chinese chef Peter Chang to open restaurant in Rockville Town Square. [Post]
Mr. Smith's will relocate to Chadwicks, which will close. [Eater]
Maple in Columbia Heights now has a back patio. [PoPville]
Revisiting D.C.'s mainstay restaurants. [Zagat]
Chefs start to see real cost savings from kitchen gardens. [WBJ]
Photo by Darrow Montgomery
Ward 8 D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry dropped into Takoma Park's Republic last week for the late-night menu. That's when the restaurant's music booker, Catherine Rytkonen, invited him back for Monday Blues Night. Not only did he show up, he requested a song from the band and then picked up the mic.
Barry performed T-Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)"—a song he's busted out on several occasions—with Frederick, Md.-based band Hard Swimmin' Fish.
"Everybody kind of went nuts," Rytkonen says. "He sounded pretty good. That raspy, bluesy voice, it's pretty amazing."
Maybe Barry missed his true calling?
For the first time this year, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington introduced a new category to its annual RAMMY awards that finally made food trucks eligible for the prize. Ultimately, though, no mobile vendors were nominated to this "fast bites" category, which also covered quick-serve spots, delis, and coffee shops with food.
That's OK, though, because now the DMV Food Truck Association has introduced its own annual awards that it hopes will have the same significance in its own community as the RAMMYS do among restaurants. (Other cities have the Vendys.) The association has done various awards in the past, but they were usually festival-specific and included less serious categories like "sexiest trucker." Among the eight categories now: Food Truck of the Year, Chef of the Year, Food Truck Design of the Year, and Best Five Buck Bite. Read more Food Truck Association Launches Its Own Awards
In case Rose's Luxury didn't have enough accolades and glowing reviews, here's another pretty big one: Bon Appetit has named it the best new restaurant in America. The magazine selected chef Aaron Silverman's Barracks Row restaurant from a list of 50 nominees, which also included Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency, and Mockingbird Hill. (For some odd reason, the three counted as one spot.)
"Rose’s isn’t just in the restaurant business; it’s in the making-people-happy business," writes Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton. "If that feels like a revelation in dining, it should. It did to me, and it’s why Rose’s tops our list of this year’s best new restaurants."
Although leave it to a national mag to be unable to resist a reference to power lunches when discussing D.C. dining:
Later, as I’m finishing my whiskey and paying the bill, I realize why those people were willing to wait two-plus hours for a table in a city whose food culture is otherwise known mostly for power lunches: Rose’s is a game-changer.
Because you named one our restaurants the best, Bon Appetit, we'll let that one slide.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery
Red Apron will be joined by a restaurant called B Side in Merrifield. [Post]
The nine most anticipated fall openings [Zagat]
Seven days of food specials [Eater]
The Diner temporarily closes for a refresh. [PoPville]
Rogue 24 releases new a la carte menu. [Washingtonian]
Roundup of new and almost-open restaurants in northern Virginia. [NoVa Mag]
Photo of Red Apron chef Nate Anda by Darrow Montgomery
The latest installment of craft beer mania is upon us in the form of the city's sixth annual DC Beer Week. Today through Sunday, local breweries, bars, and restaurants will play host to over 100 events focused on drinking and learning about craft beer. Below are our picks for the best foamy fun the week has to offer.
Dogfish Head Dazed & Infused at Scion, 5 p.m.
Dupont Circle's Scion Restaurant will feature 30 different brews from Dogfish Head, including 10 beers infused with ingredients like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, jalapeños, and kimchi (not all in the same beer, luckily). All brews will be $3 off, and free glassware will be handed out while supplies last.
Craft of Comedy at The Big Hunt, 7 p.m.
Flying Dog, Altas Brew Works, Lagunitas, and Ommegang beers will be the backdrop to an evening of local stand-up comics at The Big Hunt presented by Sean Joyce, founder of Underground Comedy. No advance tickets necessary, and beers are pay-as-you-go. Raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes from each brewery will be given with each brew purchase. Read more Top Picks for D.C. Beer Week