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Another Take on The Shaw Bijou, This Time from Washingtonian

What the critics are saying this week

The Shaw Bijou [R. Lopez]
The Shaw Bijou [R. Lopez]

Washingtonian’s Cory Kummer reviewed The Shaw Bijou after three visits, but it’s exactly a taste of what to expect: the restaurant has since announced it’s dramatically dialing back its concept by cutting 13 courses to seven and the price from $185 to $95.

Still relevant: the “young and diverse” team led by executive chef Kwame Onwuachi, who’s got a prestigious Eleven Madison Park and “Top Chef” resume. The Shaw Bijou is “undeniably a show” and shines when it comes to “affability, imaginative cocktails, and terrific, carefully sourced wines,” says Kummer.

While he’s all about the first step of the “dinner party” scenario—cocktails in a “plush, intimate, sexy” bar area—he’s not a fan of the dining room, which has a “man-cave” look to it.

As for the food, the hits include the Alaskan king crab, with “luxurious nubs of meat swathed in garlicky butter” and the “velvety” squash velouté.

“Too many dishes, though, are tepid—such as the otherwise terrific rectangle of sliced Wagyu “steak and egg” in béchamel sauce. Temperature aside, it was just as tasty with gently smoked salmon as a pescatarian alternative. The seafood menu—offered as part of the restaurant’s “highly customizable experience”—is far more successful than the vegetarian version.” [Washingtonian]

The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema awards Mount Vernon Triangle’s Turkish restaurant Ottoman Taverna two and a half stars this week. Right off the bat he’s wowed by the “significant thought” put into the decor, ranging from blue amulets upon entrance believed to ward off the evil eye to a lengthy marble bar “veiled in a white trellis” to floor tiles that “channel a Turkish bath.”

The first “comforting” bites include warm breads. The standout starter cocktail is made with beet juice and mezcal (“two ingredients that sound incompatible but make merry going down...the drink is intoxicating in more than one way”).

While he still considers the dips at Zaytinya to “be superior,” much is left to be admired at Ottoman when it comes to its soups.

“A garlicky puree of red lentils delivers a ripple of warmth from maras peppers, revered for their fruity heat, while a bowl of thin yogurt and rice, shot through with dried mint, is basically a stuffed grape leaf in liquid form. Both soups shimmer with a drizzle of paprika oil.”

He notes that meat “bulks up many of the main courses” and the best of the lamb dishes “are chops flavored by their marinade of pepper and thyme, propped up on white beans and finished with breezy mint puree that cuts through the richness.”

Doner durum is stuffed with crisp carved beef and lamb with lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt and red onion, creating a Turkish burrito. He suggests against going to work afterwards, as the “messy and marvelous” lunch sandwich is “best followed by a nap.”

He has lukewarm feelings about the seafood selections, saying the branzino was “bland.” Vegetables, on the other hand, “can be seductive” and the karnibahar stew with cauliflower florets, chickpeas and pearl onions is one not to miss and manages to taste “hearty and healthful” at the same time.

The happy ending is expertly-made baklava and a cup of “thick, intense” coffee, which is Sietsema’s idea of “Turkish delight.” [WaPo]

DC Modern Luxury’s Nevin Martell stops by The Backroom at Kingbird inside the recently-revamped Watergate Hotel. He’s immediately impressed by the ambiance:

“Servers dressed in tuxedoes evoke the black body and white chest of the restaurant’s winged namesake; they flit between standalone tables and those nestled against candy-apple-red banquettes in the 60-seat dining room. A clubby soundtrack prevails, making me unconsciously bob my head as I read over the menu.”

The kickoff to the meal is champagne, and his glass of Charles Orban Champagne Rosé features a “subdued sweetness and a tart raspberry undertone.” Canapes include a beet financier “with an earthy sweetness that gives way to a buttery richness”. Executive chef Michael Santoro (of Fat Duck in London and Blue Duck Tavern in D.C.) shows off his French technique at Kingbird: “There’s an emphasis on classic flavor-building presented with modernist plating.” Exhibit A is his squid-ink ravioli stuffed with short ribs, mascarpone and salsify. (“Rich and earthy, there’s a hint of the sea and just a pop of acid,” he says.) While Martell thinks the squash velouté is likely too sweet for most palates, the “far more successful” dish is the seared rib-eye cap with a bone marrow and parsley crust.

Desserts from Pastry Chef Celia McGhee (formerly at Daniel Boulud’s DBGB and Bryan Voltaggio’s Range) are composed with “thoughtfulness and poise” and his “fantastic” finale is a “flurry of mignardise” like a guava white-chocolate bonbon, a hazelnut profiterole and a chocolate truffle. [DC Luxury]

The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema gets in a first bite in at Nasime in Alexandria, where he discovers “art you can eat” and “one-of-a-kind Japanese dining in the suburbs.”

There’s slices of bigeye tuna that “go down like butter from the sea” and “ribbons of marbled salmon dappled with shimmering roe,” while raw branzino is “anointed” with ponzu jelly. Hidden finds include minty shiso and split Key limes. “Pink and green, subtle and shocking, it’s the kind of food you pause to admire before you take your first bite and eat leisurely so as to delay a clean plate.”

The single, five-course tasting menu six nights a week is $48, and you’ll want to book a table, he recommends, as there are just 20 seats.

In addition to “alluring sashimi” his likes include chive-flecked lobster poached in sake and “embellished” with sea urchin and his third course of marinated sea bass. The meal bulks up thanks to a pot of rice, braised pork belly, shredded burdock, mushrooms and a poached egg. [WaPo]

Sietsema continued to write up a storm this week, also trying out the new Ten Tigers Parlour in Petworth.

He gives big props to the soup dumplings, “swollen with steaming (pork and chicken) broth and best tackled by nibbling a hole in the top or side and pouring a splash of black vinegar inside.”

Housemade bao buns contain “zesty ground chicken swaddled in a fluffy pillow” and he’s also a fan of the donburi, “a big bowl of steamed rice decked out with slices of panko-crusted chicken (or braised pork belly), a fried egg and bright pickles.”

His beef with the place, the former home of Chez Billy, is its cave-like lighting, low tables and hard white benches that “make eating difficult and lingering unthinkable.”

The drinks aren’t great either, saying “signature cocktails are off, by a mile.” [WaPo]

FROM THE BLOGS: BYT takes a first look at Ari’s Diner...Been There, Eaten That’s Lori Gardner looks back at memorable meals from 2016.

The Shaw Bijou

1544 9th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20001

Ottoman Taverna

425 I Street, NW, , DC 20001 (202) 847-0389

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