The Food Critic’s Picks: 5 Dishes to Try Now

Some highlights from a week's worth of meals.

The Stacked, with pastrami, dijon, and slaw, at Smoked & Stacked. Photograph by Evy Mages

Pastrami sandwich at Smoked & Stacked

It’s too hard to choose between the two pastrami sandwiches at Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s snug new shop, so I’m copping out and going with the pair of them. The Messy is a riff on a reuben with comte, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island. The Stacked is layered with creamy slaw and dijon on a soft, slightly sweet milk bread bun. Both are stuffed with pastrami that’s as buttery and juicy as you’ll find around here. 1239 Ninth St., NW. 

Happy Camper at Buttercream Bakeshop

After a double-sandwich lunch (see above), I headed across the street to the eminently Instagrammable Buttercream Bakeshop for a Queen Bee (aka kouign-amann). But then I got sidetracked by these s’more bars, so, double dessert. What makes them so great is that they give as much attention to the crumbly graham base and thick swirl of marshmallow as they do to the fudgy center. 1250 Ninth St., NW. 

Corn donburi at Hazel

Elote meets a donburi bowl, and the result is clever fusion that actually makes sense. The togarashi and rice meld beautifully with the lime-spiked aioli, salty cotija cheese, sweet corn, and cilantro. 808 V St., NW. 

Rockfish a la plancha at Kyirisan

Some days during the week, this dish is made with pompano, another meaty, mild white fish. When I had it, chef Tim Ma was using California rockfish, generously rubbed with a soybean/chili paste. Either way, you’ll want to order this  splendidly messy plate. It’s piled high with cilantro and scallions, and is a nice diversion from some of the more studied creations here. 1924 Eighth St., NW. 

Albondigas at Tapabar 

This Bethesda newcomer shows promise, mostly because chef Alonso Roche isn’t afraid to keep his Spanish small plates simple. These meatballs, seared on the outside and soft on the inside, are set off with ruddy, tangy salsa brava and a good bit of chopped mint. 4901 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda. 

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.