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Incoming chef Yo Matsuzaki introduces a new menu and theme. By Anna Spiegel
New chef Yo Matsuzaki will take Zentan in the direction of a Japanese izakaya. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Zentan has made several big changes in recent years, transitioning from celebrity chef Susur Lee's restaurant to a pan-Asian eatery helmed by Jennifer Nguyen. Nguyen departed in August, and now a new toque is taking the restaurant in a different direction. Yo Matsuzaki, who began last week, will release a more traditional Japanese menu for lunch and dinner, following an izakaya theme. 

The Shikoku, Japan, native comes to DC from an executive chef position at Oakland's Ozumo and stints at Nobu. While sushi and sashimi will remain on the menu, Japanese small plates will become the focus at dinner. Matsuzaki says he plans to serve charcoal-grilled robata skewers and larger proteins like pork ribs and whole fish, as well as dishes inspired by his home country such as slow-braised meat with miso and dashi broth. Look for more noodles, as well, especially spicy ramen at lunch. 

Matsuzaki's izakaya-style dishes will begin to roll out soon, with a full menu change projected for November. The five-person, omakase-style chef's table will resume on October 16 for $65 per person.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 03:00 PM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus the Source's comedy/dumpling brunch. By Anna Spiegel
Dare to try an octopus Bloody Mary at Del Campo's new brunch? Photograph courtesy of Del Campo.

Free apps: The Diner reopens Monday after a brief closure to remodel the 13-year-old space. Head there between 4 and 7 for a look at the digs and a taste of the new cocktails and food. Free appetizers will be served. 

Bar chefs: The final installment of Chefs Behind Bars happens on Monday at the Gryphon from 6 to 8:30. The competition benefiting No Kid Hungry pits eight chefs against one another in a challenge to whip up the tastiest cocktail. Tickets are $40, and include sips of all eight drinks. 

Boozy dinner: Devil's Backbone Brewery and Catoctin Creek Distillery are behind a beer-and-whiskey dinner at Graffiato on Monday from 7 to 10, which features a menu of Italian small plates. Tickets are $97.50, all-inclusive. 

Drink Mediterranean: Wine director James Horn uses the Coravin system to pour rare vinos at G on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8, showcasing Italian and Greek varietals alongside shareable antipasti platters. Tickets are $65. 

No silverware allowed: The F**k Forks fundraiser makes a splashy return on Thursday at 6 with a fleet of big-name chefs, bartenders, and deejays. Industree's benefit for F**k Cancer is the first event held in Brookland's food incubator, Mess Hall, so you can take in all the finger foods and booze while admiring the new space. Tickets are $80 for general admission, $130 for VIP. 

Farm fundraiser: Jackson 20 hosts Soil & Soul on Friday, a seasonal food-fest benefiting the Old Town Alexandria farmer's market SNAP Dollar Matching Program. Local restaurants such as Brabo and Society Fair serve bites, while the cash bar includes Virginia wines, brews, and farm-inspired cocktails. Several market vendors will also participate. Tickets are $35, or $40 at the entrance. 

Gourd season: The Black Squirrel celebrates autumn with the Smashing Pumpkin Fest on Friday at 5. Pumpkin beers flow from 15 tap lines, and a variety of dishes star the orange gourd, including soup and mac and cheese. There's even a pumpkin ice cream float. Admission is free. 

Oktoberfest bash: One of the area's biggest Oktoberfest celebrations goes down on Saturday from noon to 7, courtesy of Capitol City Brewing Company. A projected crowd of 10,000 samples beers from 65 mid-Atlantic breweries at the Village of Shirlington location, served alongside Germanic eats like brats and soft pretzels. Admission is $30 for drinkers, which includes a glass and ten drink tickets (kids and designated drivers enter free). 

Laugh your dumplings off: One of the best weekend events goes down at the Source on Saturday from 11 to 1, where nationally acclaimed comedians Tig Notaro and Jena Friedman join chef Scott Drewno for a hands-on dumpling class followed by a family-style brunch. The afternoon session is part of Brightest Young Things' Bentzen Ball comedy fest, which is worth checking out even when there aren't edibles involved. Tickets for the brunch ($75) benefit the George Washington Mobile Mammography Unit. 

Play at the table: The newly opened Shake Shack Tysons starts a table tennis league on Saturday at 3. Admission is free and open to the public, but only 16 slots are available for the tournament. Gratis Shack wristbands and shades are given to all, as well as food and drink specials throughout the day. 

Bloody battle: Del Campo launches a new brunch menu this weekend--which includes an all-you-can-eat option for $45--and throws a Bloody Mary throwdown on Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 to mark the occasion. Tickets are $45 and include the meal, and samples of Bloodys from Graffiato, Mandu, and more. That crazy octopus concoction pictured above is available for the brave.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 01:13 PM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Caroline Cunningham

Happy Monday, food truck followers! Kick off your week with some fun flavors like spicy "mango bango" water ice from Carmen's Italian Ice or Reuben mac and cheese aboard CapMac.

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Posted at 09:50 AM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Cheers with sausages, fire, and liquid arugula. By Anna Spiegel
Washington's crazy cocktail garnishes include Gypsy Soul's arugula oil-topped concoction (left), and dumpling shooters at Chaplin's. Gypsy Soul photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Washington bartenders put a creative twist on cocktail garnishes that go way beyond lemon peels, including house-made sausages, flaming oranges, and liquid arugula.  

1. The Gnome with arugula oil at Gypsy Soul

8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax

We've seen plenty of salad-like garnishes in our drinking day, but few in liquid form. Bryan Tetorakis took inspiration from citrus peels, which are prized by bartenders for the color and perfume-y oils they lend to cocktails. Instead, he blends peppery arugula and grapeseed oil, strains and freezes it, and then squeezes droplets onto a herbaceous mix of vodka, Cocchi Americano, and Aperol.

2. Cold War "dumpling shooter" at Chaplin's Restaurant and Bar

1501 Ninth St., NW

Oysters have cornered the bomb market for way too long (except one, see below). Bar-bros Ari and Micah Wilder make a citrusy shot with gin, Pimm's liqueur, ginger, and lemon, to which they add a house-made shrimp dumpling. We suggest chasing one with the other, unless you have a large mouth. 

The Source's sausage Bloody (left), and hybrid oyster and pickleback shooters at Eat the Rich.

3. District Mary at the Source

575 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

What's more Washington than a half-smoke? A brunch-time Bloody crowned with said house-made sausage, plus an Old Bay rim.  Dim sum can't get any better. 

4. Oyster Back at Eat the Rich

1839 Seventh St., NW 

This oyster shooter is sure to put barnacles on your chest. First, take the shot of Old Overholt Rye, then chase it with the mixture of pickle juice and a freshly shucked Rappahannock oyster. Part bivalve-bomb, part pickleback, and all awesome. 

Dried ham lends smoke and salt to Restaurant Eve's drink (left), while a porkier drink can be found at Toki (right).

5. I Am Virginia with dried ham at Restaurant Eve 

110 South Pitt St., Alexandria

Todd Thrasher creates an ode to the Old Dominion with Wasmund's single-malt whisky, Madeira, and local figs. The finishing touch: Virginia ham, which he dries, grinds, and combines with salt for the rim. 

6. Toki Monster at Toki Underground

1234 H St., NE

This pork belly beauty is one of Toki's signatures. It's tempting to eat the kushiyaki skewer immediately, but that's doing the drink an injustice. Let the grilled meat marinate in the bourbon and pepper-honey liqueur, which adds smokiness to the cocktail and a boozy finish to the carnivorous garnish. 

The Passenger's eye-catching tiki bowl arrives on fire (left); a cooling pomegranate popsicle comes in Stone Cove's cosmo (right).

7. Volcano Bowl at the Passenger

1021 Seventh St., NW

Order this showstopper during Tiki Tuesday. The four-person drink comes loaded with light and dark rums, fresh juices, house-made syrups, a scattering of flowers, and a tower of flaming oranges. Burning citrus: not just a good band name, but delicious.

8. Pom Cosmo at Stone's Cove Kitbar

2403 Centreville Rd., Herndon/10997 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills

Everyone loves popsicles. Most everyone (secretly) loves cosmos. Put a house-made pomegranate pop in a pom-vodka cosmo and everyone's happy. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 02:17 PM/ET, 09/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The top chef is going big, with new concepts to come for Washington. By Anna Spiegel
Mike Isabella takes to the skies with a growing number of airport restaurants. Photograph by Greg Powers.

Mike Isabella is going big. The Washington-based toque just opened Graffiato Richmond and is poised to debut a fast-casual version of sandwich shop in Newark's Prudential Center in October. Now he's taking his brand South and West with a version of Pepita set for Los Angeles International Airport; the Mexican cantina is also slated for Ballston next year, near Kapnos Taverna, due in December. A new concept, The Beach Bar by Mike Isabella, will also debut in the Pensacola, Florida airport.

"My goal is to be the next Wolfgang Puck," says Isabella. "He has restaurants, catering, equipment, food in the grocery stores. He has everything you could possibly want as a chef."

News came earlier this week via the Washington Business Journal that Isabella will also open a version of Kapnos at Reagan National, along with other eateries like Richard Sandoval's El Centro D.F. and a Cava Grill. While Isabella is unable to confirm the DCA eatery, he says it's likely Washingtonians will see spinoffs of Kapnos and G in Reagan and Dulles come 2015.

Each Isabella airport eatery will reflect the given city's cuisine or one of his restaurants located there. For LA, it means tacos and margaritas. Pensacola's Beach Bar will serve dishes from the Florida Panhandle and bordering states, like crawfish hushpuppies, pimiento cheeseburgers, and crispy oysters with comeback sauce. Isabella says he sees potential in the concept, which he may evolve and eventually bring to Washington. 

"We keep pushing," says Isabella. "We're doing restaurants, we're in stadiums, and now we're going into airports. Our concepts have been successful, and we're going to do new ones." 

Learn more about Isabella's rise in our October issue, out on newsstands now, which includes a behind-the-scenes photo essay featuring the chef.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 09/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Ten of the tastiest stories we're reading this week. By Anna Spiegel, Benjamin Freed, Tanya Pai, Carol Ross Joynt
We'd rather lick our noses than eat Marmite, too. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Ever wanted to make "condom escargot cooked with butter"? Now there's a creative Japanese condom cookbook that is pretty gross promotes safe sex. [Kotaku] —Anna Spiegel

Emeril Lagasse admits he has "nowhere to go, really—other than broke." Is one of the most prominent celebrity chefs on the outs? [The Week] —AS

Stunt hamburgers are generally awful, but there's something so wonderful about watching 2 Chainz's encounter with the world's most expensive hamburger. [First We Feast] —Benjamin Freed

As we head into the cooler weather, Sam Sifton offers a lovely ode to the joys of home cooking with remembrances of the great Craig Claiborne (he calls it a “manifesto”). The message? Just cook. [New York Times—Carol Joynt

Is Rick Bayless the most interesting man in the world? Eater takes a look at the chef/actor/yogi/farmer, who can also do the splits. [Eater National] —AS

First it was babies trying lemons for the first time—now, apparently, it's tigers sampling Marmite. [BuzzFeed] —Tanya Pai

Anatomy of the legendary Momofuku pork buns, ten years later. [Eater NYC] —AS

Just in time for the High Holidays, research finds that Jewish millennials follow kosher dietary laws at double the rate of baby-boom chosen people. And now that it's so hip and trendy to not mix meat and milk, more goys than ever are following the kashrut. [The Atlantic] —BF

Portlandia stars and first-time cookbook authors Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein talk favorite Portland restaurants, eating in cars, and the "tapas ghetto." [Bon Appétit] —AS

The fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US is a "breastraunt" called, no joke, Twin Peaks. Sadly Invitation to Love is not involved. [The Braiser] —AS

Posted at 10:38 AM/ET, 09/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Caroline Cunningham

Happy Friday, food truck followers! Welcome the weekend with Italian braised pork from CapMac and pumpkin-streusel coffee cake aboard Sweetbites. Didn't get enough street eats this week? Join us tomorrow at our Truck It! food festival to taste more from the District’s best mobile vendors. Tickets ($20) are on sale now.

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Posted at 10:15 AM/ET, 09/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A svelte French-Southeast Asian eatery comes to the Georgetown waterfront. By Anna Spiegel
Mama Rouge mixes French and Southeast Asian dining traditions in the former Bangkok Joe's space. Photograph courtesy of Mama Rouge.

Absinthe cocktails. Pork belly bao buns. Three styles of Asian fried chicken. These are just a few of the things you’ll find at Mama Rouge when the French- and Southeast Asian-inspired eatery debuts on the Georgetown waterfront October 14. We got an exclusive look inside the new eatery. 

Husband-and-wife owners Aulie Bunyarataphan and Mel Oursinsiri operated Bangkok Joe’s in the space for 12 years before closing to revamp the design and concept. While Joe’s specialized in Thai food—as do their other ventures, Arlington’s T.H.A.I. and Tom Yum District—Mama Rouge draws from a mix of European and Asian traditions.

Seasonal fruit crepes at brunch speak to the restaurant's Francophile influences.

The drink list mixes Sriracha Bloody Marys with sparkling Calvados cocktails. More melding appears on the lunch and dinner menu  in dishes such as orange-Sriracha fried chicken with soy butter, or a ham-and-cheese bánh mì. Other items fall into classic camps, such as French daily specials of steak au poivre and duck a l’orange, or crispy pork spring rolls alongside bowls of Vietnamese pho. A concise brunch menu offers crepes, pastry baskets, and savory scallion-crab pancakes. While prices aren’t pocket change, they’re gentle overall for a Georgetown waterfront restaurant.

The 100-seat dining room and bar also received a complete makeover, courtesy of Collective Architecture with VSAG. Vibrants blues and reds mix with more traditional French light fixtures and banquette seating. Come warm weather, you can sip boozy punch on a 30-seat outdoor patio. 

Eager to try it out? Reservations are accepted beginning on October 6.

Mama Rouge. 3000 K St., NW; 202-333-4422. Opening hours: Monday through Wednesday 11:30 to 10:30, Thursday 11:30 to 11, Friday 11:30 to midnight, Saturday 11 to midnight, Sunday 11 to 10:30. Brunch served Saturday and Sunday 11 to 2:30. Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs

Posted at 04:19 PM/ET, 09/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
One of the biggest fall restaurant openings is almost here. By Anna Spiegel
Pinea will open with Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as poached shrimp with smoked-tomato vinaigrette. Photograph courtesy of Pinea.

One of the biggest fall openings is imminent. Pinea, the new Southern European-restaurant replacing J&G Steakhouse in the W Hotel, announced an October 1 opening date. On the menu: chili-spiked pasta with clams and crab, whole roasted fish, and a lamb burger from chef Barry Koslow

Koslow most recently churned out some of Washington's best corned beef and pastrami at DGS Delicatessen, but a transition to Mediterranean cooking isn't a stretch. Dishes from the region have always been present on his menus, whether at DGS, the now-closed Mendocino Grill, or Arlington's Tallula/EatBar. The breakfast menu is the most concise, ranging from simple organic eggs with herb-roasted potatoes to piperade, a spicy pepper stew with eggs and chorizo. Lunch and dinner get more elaborate, with an emphasis on house-made pastas, charcuterie, and seafood dishes. Appetizers such as poached shrimp with smoked-tomato vinaigrette are joined by a list of merenda, which fall more in the tradition of shareable snacks like bruschetta and Serrano-wrapped roasted figs. 

All three meals commence when the restaurant opens. In the meantime, you can check out the hotel's recently reopened and remodeled P.O.V. rooftop lounge. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 12:52 PM/ET, 09/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The makers of Magical Butter bring the botanicals. By Anna Spiegel
Learn to make botanical treats at the Takoma Wellness Center. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Street eats are about to get a lot more interesting. Following in the tradition of unusual food trucks such as the Four Seasons-mobile and the Nutella truckMagical Butter is bringing its cart to DC. The maker of a handy gizmo that automatically extracts botanical nutrients into butter, oils, and more will lead a cooking demonstration at the Takoma Wellness Center on September 30. The dispensary is one of the legal, Department of Health-approved locations for medical marijuana. 

Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, who opened the center last year, will participate in botanical cooking demonstrations along with chefs Jeremy Cooper and Joey Galliano. The duo man the Denver-based food truck and its marijuana-infused menu (think dishes like a "Danksgiving" turkey sandwich with stuffing and gravy).The workshop will show patients how to safely extract cannabis and mix it into tasty and medicinal butters, sauces, spirits, and more.

Unfortunately, the instructional course and its enlightening fare won't be accessible to the general public, but licensed medical marijuana patients are invited to attend. We'll share more details closer to the demo.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 11:05 AM/ET, 09/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()