Pad himmapan with Chicken at Thai Taste by Kob (review coming in May)
After weeks of Todd pushing it in our meetings, I finally made it to Thai Taste by Kob in Wheaton, which wasn’t just a superb dinner—it might’ve been the best Thai dinner I’ve had in Washington. We did the grilled pork moo yangskewers, the spicy papaya salad, Todd’s recommended bamee moo deang (egg noodles topped with roast pork, baby bok choy, and fish balls), kiew tod shrimp wontons, the kai yad sai omelet, and a seriously hot basil fried rice with shrimp. But the best dishes of the night were the fried chicken with cashews ( pad himmapan) and the kua kling with pork, a jungle-style curry from South Thailand that we just couldn’t stop eating. And the best part of the evening? After ordering an absurd amount of food, the bill came out to be just $22 per person.
The Charcuterie pizza at Vin 909 Winecafe
I tend to be skeptical of pizzas with more than four toppings.
Not that a pie that loads it up can’t sometimes be delicious, but Neapolitan pizza—the reigning style in the region—is best when it’s simplest. Too many ingredients almost guarantees you won’t be able to pick up a slice without all that expensive Buffalo mozzarella you sprang for sliding off onto the table.
This tends not to be a problem with pizzas baked in a brick oven. They can bear the load. Their durability, however, often comes at the expense of taste; most brick-oven crusts are pretty rudimentary things compared to most Neapolitan crusts, which have the texture of great bread.
The great thing about the crusts at Vin 909 is that they combine the sturdiness of a brick-oven crust with the finesse of a wood-fired one.
I love them with just a smear of marinara, mozzarella, and basil, but I’ve discovered that they’re just as fantastic loaded up with American Berkshire prosciutto, applewood bacon, spicy soppressata, wild and local mushrooms, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil—a concoction chef Justin Moore calls the Charcuterie.
The toppings knit together so well you’re not even aware that there are nine different ingredients on your pie, but at the same time—and true to the Italian way—each bite is a little different from the one before it.
The best pizza I’ve eaten in a year.
Hot dogs at Haute Dogs and Fries
As someone with a lifelong fear of Spam, I have a weird affinity for that other processed meat product of scary and unintelligible origin, the hot dog. Dirty water dogs from midtown street vendors, chili half-smokes at Ben’s, I’ll take ’em all (though I draw the line at the microwaved ones on Amtrak).
Thank god this Old Town hangout—a spinoff of the original Haute Dogs in Purcellville—is a safe distance away from where I live in DC, because their dogs are my kryptonite. I tried three, and I couldn’t pick one to single out, since each was delicious in its own way. There was the purist-friendly Fenway dog, loaded with relish and yellow mustard; the spicy-sweet bánh mì dog, with Sriracha mayo, cucumbers, and cilantro; and the sleeper hit, the Duck Duck Dog, which is a hot dog done up like one of my other favorite things in the world—Peking duck—with hoisin and scallions. What they all have in common is the smoky and salty sausages. But what really elevates them are the top-split, liberally buttered, and griddled buns. They could stuff anything—even Spam—into one of those things and I’d probably gobble it up.
Pasta with clams at Fiola Mare
Chef Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s airy Italian spot has attracted an US Weekly’s worth of A-listers since opening just over a month ago; Michelle Obama and rocker Steven Tyler are among the most recent. Fittingly, the kitchen creates dishes designed to wow, both with luxurious ingredients—an order of caviar-topped oysters for the table?—and sea-centric indulgences, such as meaty lobster ravioli that have stayed with Trabocchi since his Maestro days. But my favorite dish is among the menu’s most simple: pasta with clams. Perfectly toothsome Gragnano spaghetti arrives Amalfi Coast-style, a spicy toss of Italian chilies, tomato, and sweet littleneck clams crowned with fat pieces of calamari. Like some of the best dishes, it takes me back to a better place, in this case a sunny vacation in Capri, filled with warm afternoons spent over cold white wine and the freshest seafood imaginable. The dull Potomac waters flowing outside Fiola Mare’s windows are a far cry from the bright blues of Southern Italy, but even if the natural environment doesn’t help along the transporting experience, the kitchen has it right.
See also: Previous Best Things I Ate