Last night’s Best of Washington party at the National Building Museum had Skee-Ball, an open bar, AND a mermaid (no joke—the theme was under-the-sea). Of course, we’re all about the food. More than 70 of the area’s top restaurants served up bites and drinks. Here are some of our food team’s very favorites.
Best in show: Daikaya Group
For the second year in a row, chef Katsuya Fukushima (dressed in a Totoro costume) and the Daikya Group stole the show with their mini pop-up restaurant. It was worth the wait to rotate around four different stations, starting with a mezcal-and-sherry cocktail; moving to a scallop crudo with apple-dashi broth; then to charred eggplant, mini mozzarella balls, basil, and bonito flakes in an ethereal dashi broth; and capping it all off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with umami-rich chicken skin-caramel sauce.
Best under-the-sea theme: Kith & Kin
The team behind chef Kwame Onwuachi‘s Afro-Caribbean restaurant at the Wharf prepared a full (edible) seascape at their table, including chocolate shells filled with sprulina (green algae) white chocolate coconut mousse and pineapple as well as curried king crab with plantain granola.
Best drink: El Sapo‘s whole coconuts
Everyone was lining up for this Silver Spring Cuban restaurant’s booze-spiked whole coconuts. The logo-seared fruit was the best marketing move at the party.
Best one-stop dinner: Mama Chang’s
At the table for Peter Chang’s Mama Chang, you could load up your plate with as many Sichuan noodles and hunks of spicy smoked fish as you wanted.
Best junk food riff: The Dabney‘s catfish dip with cornmeal cracker
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne brought back one of our favorite snacks: an artisanal take on Doritos (bbq’d cornmeal crackers) with smoked Chesapeake catfish dip. Bonus: it’s on the menu at the restaurant if you stop by soon.
Best sandwich: Kogiya‘s beef short rib and kimchi on milk bread
Our favorite Korean barbecue spot grilled up marinated beef short ribs then sandwiched it with kimchi. Bonus: the cute cartoon cow seared on the soft slices of milk bread.
Best savory pastry: Blue Duck Tavern’s vegetable pot pie
We didn’t miss chicken at all in this pot-pie garnished with watermelon radishes and a gingery broth.
Best hand-held snack: Momofuku‘s lettuce cups
Chef Tae Strain‘s team filled lettuce cups with brightly flavored pork-sausage-and-shrimp larb and toasted rice.
Best nood pic: Chiko‘s spicy noodle with Sichuan pickle
We couldn’t help snapping some ‘gram photos above Chiko’s table, which was heaped with garlicky noodle bowls with toasted sesame and crispy shallots—not just a pretty picture but a tasty meal as well.
Best vegetarian: José Andrés’s restaurants
Perhaps a fitting plug for his new book, Vegetables Unleashed, Andrés’s restaurants served meatless fare (plus a delicious Oyamel margarita). Zaytinya’s chilled yoghurt soup with spring vegetables and golden raisins put any gazpacho to shame, while Jaleo served its classic cones with Spanish goat cheese, tomato marmalade, and dehydrated tomato flakes.
Best cocktail-food hybrid: Bindaas
Hungry and thirsty? The pineapple-rum golgappas—like a shooter in an edible, crispy shell cup—fulfilled both cravings (we also loved Rasika’s spiced shrimp as an accompaniment).