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Some of D.C.’s Best Chefs Gave Sneak Peeks of Their Next Restaurants

Big names from Centrolina, Masseria, and more cooked previously unseen dishes this past weekend

Hatoba preview
Spicy red miso ramen from Hatoba, the new Sapporo-style ramen shop from Daikaya Group that’s coming to Navy Yard.
Albert Ting/Courtesy of New Kitchens on the Block

Yesterday at the Mess Hall restaurant incubator in Northeast, a 2019 James Beard Award finalist stabbed a pizza peel into a portable wood-burning oven just outside an open garage door. In an adjacent room, the chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant flipped a frying pan full of tiny cuttlefish, peas, and Greek Olive oil. Next to him, a Rammy Award finalist for Chef of the Year ladled out cups of gumbo. Not far way, another Michelin-decorated chef sprayed foie gras foam into a cocktail.

This collection of culinary talent assembled for an event called New Kitchens on the Block, a mega pop-up that lets some of the most anticipated restaurants of the year preview what they’ll serve when they open. For the fifth edition of the event, organizers Nevin Martell and Al Goldberg fielded a lineup mostly filled with established stars.

That meant Amy Brandwein, the Centrolina chef, gave attendees a taste of the Italian cafe she’s opening this summer. Nicholas Stefanelli, the chef of Masseria and Officina, showed off his plans for regional Greek cuisine. Kyle Bailey of the Salt Line was cooking Cajun. And Ryan Ratino of Bresca was pouring drinks from the bar at his upcoming tasting lab.

Here is a handful of things Eater learned from the afternoon:

Scacce is like a skinny calzone

Brandwein, a Beard nominee for Best Chef:Mid-Atlantic for the third year in a row, came to the Edgewood neighborhood to promote Piccolina, the all-day cafe she expects to open across from Centrolina this summer. Most everything there, including omelets, will be wood-fired, so it was appropriate that Brandwein’s preview dish was pulled out of a hot dome oven sitting on a trailer. She was making two types of Sicilian scacce: flat, long pouches of elastic dough that seemed like the sensible, European version of an Italian-American calzone. Brandwein served one scacce stuffed with tomato and caiciocavllo cheese and another filled with lamb sausage and rapini.

Cava won’t be the only Mediterranean bowl in town

Michael Schlow, the Beard Award winner from Boston whose D.C. footprint includes Alta Strada, Casolare, and the Riggsby (among others), wants to show the healthier side of Italian food with his first foray into the fast-casual market. Prima, which will take over the former Taylor Gourmet space in Bethesda Row, could be about six weeks from opening, Schlow tells Eater. The Lululemon crowd will be happy to hear that the restaurant will be focused on bowls (pre-set and customizable) that toss together seasonal veggies and Italian proteins — Sicilian tuna, for example. At New Kitchens on the Block, Schlow and group culinary director Ed Scarpone showcased a vegetarian/gluten-free option full of quinoa, peas, pickled red onions, roasted cauliflower, and Parmesan crisps.

This is what Greek island food looks like

Nicholas Stefanelli, the chef-owner of Michelin-starred Masseria and the recently opened Officina complex at the Wharf, provided a first look of his take on regional Greek cuisine. At Philotimo, which is expected to open downtown at some point this summer, Stefanelli wants to introduce Americans to less familiar dishes than gyros and moussaka. On Sunday, he was serving his riff on a speciality from the island of Crete, tiny pan-seared cuttlefish tossed with peas, charred fennel greens, an herby puree, and olive oil from Vordonia, a village outside of Sparta.

Cretan cuttlefish with fennel
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

Navy Yard’s new ramen shop is almost ready

Chef Katsuya Fukushima took a break from blow-torching hunks of pork destined to go into bowls of ramen to tell Eater that the Daikaya group is just waiting on permits to start up its Navy Yard venture, dubbed Hatoba. For his preview bowl, Fukushima served up a bowl of spicy broth built on a backbone of seafood stock and red miso paste. Hatoba will use noodles sourced from Sapporo, just like the group’s other restaurants (Daikaya, Haikan, Bantam King).

Jônt will have haute snacks

Ryan Ratino, the chef of Michelin-starred Bresca, came to New Kitchens on the Block to promote Bar Jônt, the front-facing piece of the tiny tasting restaurant he’s building on the second floor of his business on 14th Street NW. Ratino is planning to serve some sort of gourmet hot dog, but that didn’t make an appearance Sunday. What he did have, in addition to a cocktail that mixed gin and Riesling with apple and foie gras foam, was a different high-brow party snack. Ratino made crunchy rinds out of beef tendon, dusted them with his take on ranch powder, and topped them with caviar.

Bresca and Jônt chef Ryan Ratino
Albert Ting/Courtesy of New Kitchens on the Block

The food will steal attention at this Indian cocktail bar

Among a crowd of already successful chefs and owners at the event, the relatively green Daru crew stood out for inventive tweaks on Indian flavors. Dante Datta, currently the bar manager at Ellē, and chef Suresh Sundas are teaming up to open the H Street cocktail bar later this year. Datta had a mezcal and hibiscus punch with black salt that was meant to make drinkers think of tamarind. Sundas made sev puri, a puri crisp brimming with spices and chutneys, with a the addition of avocado. The end result was something like Indian chips and guacamole.

Suresh Sundas with his avocado sev puri.
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

Mess Hall

703 Edgewood Street Northeast, , DC 20017 Visit Website

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