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Oct 20, 2009 11:53 PM

Christmas in Washington DC

Yes, I know it's not even Halloween but I'm coming to DC for Christmas and I'm VERY excited!

We're going to the Terra Cotta Warriors at the National Geographic and the Nutcracker at the Warner Theater--sister loves to plan outings.

Seeking two restaurants near our events or on the way. Will eat anything. Want to avoid high end of cost spectrum.

We LIKE using the metro, but will have a car so we can go anywhere. Would prefer not to get mugged outside of restaurant, but willing to participate in local urban economic stimulus program in exchange for good eats. (Joke, sister knows DC area pretty good)

Wonder if DC has any good Izakayas or restaurants that do a decent Kaiseki? Would kill for a great Yakitori place for a late night snack. Haven't seen much on that on the DC board. I love sushi, but I'm a bit of a traditionalist and tend to avoid rolls especially if they have geographic locations, monsters, bugs, or spicy in their names.

Here's my short list which is not too short yet, but that's why I'm starting NOW. I also have no idea if all (any) of these places are anywhere near where I think I'm going to be going.

Black Salt
Blue Duck Tavern
Brasserie Beck
Taberna del Alabardero
Sushi Taro
XO Taste
Cafe Atlantico

I've already done Oyamel, Zaytina, Jaleo, and a few other places with names I cannot recall.


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  1. Kaiseki isn't a term that gets used much even in DC to describe the two restaurants that qualify: Makoto and Sushi Taro. The former has a long-standing reputation for excellence and the latter got a very positive review in the POST's most recent annual restaurant review.

    I don't think DC has a restaurant that qualifies as an Izakaya as I understand the genre. (I'll admit to being far from expert, but we'll ve visiting Tokyo in several months and two Isakaya are on our dining out list.)

    There are a lot of good options near the Warner Theater. I notice that the most often recommended place, Central, isn't on your list. If you use the search feature of this board and the key words "Warner Theater" you'll find lots of threads on this topic.

    When you visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, you'll be at 17th and M Streets. I'm drawing a blank on recs for that area. I thought of Equinox, Oval Room, or Bombay Club, all of which are clustered on Connecticut Avenue near Lafayette Square, but I suspect others can supply closer restaurants.

    4 Replies
      1. re: Indy 67

        Thanks. An izakaya is sort of like a Japanese pub that serves tapas and is intended as an informal place. A lot of izakaya's in America are actually a bit more formal than is traditional and are closer to Kappo's or even Kaiseki places. Many people think Izakayas are sushi bars, so if you've been to a sushi bar with a ton of small appetizers then it was really an izakaya.

        And thanks, I'll add Central to the list.

        1. re: thirtyeyes

          Your definition matches my expectation for our izakaya meals in Tokyo.

          Kaz Sushi Bistro comes closest to being such a place, but for whatever reason, I've never seen the term "izakaya" applied to this restaurant. That label doesn't appear anywhere on the restaurant's web site. You might want to look at the menu and see if the dishes really are izakaya regardless of what isn't stated.

          1. re: Indy 67

            It looks interesting and I'll check it out if I have time. I'm no expert, just a guy that eats a LOT of Japanese. As I understand it, the line between a sushi-ya (sushi bar) and an izakaya sometimes blend and he's got a pretty good appetizer menu and plenty of sake on the menu. Reading the chef's blog makes it sound like he's a classically trained itamae who'd rather be running a pure sushi-ya but has made concessions to survive in DC.

            If you're going to Japan you should definitely plan on hitting a yakitori place also. Here's an LA Hounds description of a great San Diego yakitori place, it'll really whet your appetite if you're looking for something new. Pure yakitori places are very rare even in LA and San Diego.


      2. Tosca isn't too far away from the Warner Theater and has a really nice pre-theater menu. Also if you get the regular menu you can get half of pretty much any of their pastas I really like the rabbit ragu.

        For a good deal and tastey food I like Brasserie Beck. I love it in the winter as I find it a very warm, cozy atmosphere and they have good filing portions of nicely made food. I really like their mussels, and their chocolate mousse cake. Not exactly near your destinations, but they have valet...

        Rasika is one of my favorite places in DC, although it can be a little loud. I don't think it is too expensive, but it can be if you order a lot, I guess.

        Blue Duck Tavern would be fun at Christmas, although I think it is pricier. They serve family style though and their roast meats are very tasty.

        I also love Dino and they have such a nice wine selection...

        Palena is a bit pricier too, but really very good, as well. And I love how warm and inviting the cafe feels, and how romantic the back room is in a not overdone way.

        1. I don't know where you're staying, so I'm not sure what is 'on the way.'

          1 Reply
          1. re: Steve

            Not too good with the geography, but a few miles from Franconia Metro station. I'm thinking I always get on the blue line?

          2. Since you'll have a car, you could go to Blue Ocean in Fairfax:


            I don't think it would personally be worth the trek from where you'll be, but it's probably the closest you'll find to a genuine Izakaya in this area. They're kind of an odd duck, though, as they do a bunch of things pretty well but nothing really spectacularly--not quite a great ramen-ya but with a pretty good bowl of ramen, not quite a great sushi-ya, etc.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sweth

              I've heard there is a special Japanese-language menu at Blue Ocean with the authentic stuff. The regular offerings are good, but not too exciting.

              Though this is pretty far from the OP.

              1. re: Steve

                yup, theres a couple of big whiteboards that are japanese-only and seem to be changed alot, sadly they give no english translation :(

                1. re: Crocken

                  Maybe you could ask? I've ordered from quite a few menus which I couldn't understand, usually there is a way to figure something out, even with a language barrier. When in total doubt, just point to something you can afford.

                  1. re: Steve

                    lol, i know language barrier eating, but a whiteboard of roughly scribbled japanaese characters is a bit beyond me.

              2. re: sweth

                I can't comment on the restaurant itself but just wanted to add that I'm not sure I agree that Fairfax is really too much of a trek from Franconia, where OP is staying. Especially in comparison to the trek to DC from Franconia.

                For the poster not good with geopgraphy, Franconia is indeed on the blue line and is in Virginia.

                1. re: cookie44

                  The OP specifically asked for recs near National Geographic and Warner Theatre or on the way there from Franconia. If I were driving from Franconia to catch a show at the Warner Theatre, I would consider Blue Ocean to be completely out of the way.

              3. From your list --

                Black Salt (this is way away from where you'll be and is not Metro-friendly, but I love it there...recommended)
                Blue Duck Tavern - delicious food and a nice space, recommended (but can be pricey)
                Brasserie Beck - LOVE it here! Highly recommended (ditto for the Central suggestion by someone else)
                Dino - good Italian and very casual and relaxed, very metro friendly
                Cashion - have not been to in years, but I am told it is still very good
                Taberna del Alabardero - this can be quite pricey, I think, unless you opt for the bar/tapas menu. But I do love it here.
                Equinox - understated and refined, delicious food
                Sushi Taro - ???
                Palena -- the best food in DC., Period. Hands down. Can be pricey, but the cafe is a steal. If I had one place to go before I was going to die, this would be where I would want to go.
                XO Taste -- ???
                Rasika --- great space, great food, inventive modern indian. Love it.
                Sei -- ???
                Cafe Atlantico - good, but other places would be better.
                Proof -- nice place, recommended
                Rice - ???
                Tosca - can be pricey, great space and great service and food. recommended
                Belga - ???
                Hook - ???

                Another option might be PS7s, too. If you're looking for a cheap but excellent meal (say lunch), there's a Lebanese butcher in Falls Church, VA that is awesome, too.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Pool Boy

                  Thanks all. I'll let you know where we go if I can remember this post.