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2 Lunches and 2 Dinners in DC

Hi. We've decided to take a trip to DC to see the cherry blossoms. Unfortunately we won't have a lot of time -- arriving later on Saturday night (around 8P or so) and leaving after lunch on Monday. This allows for 2 dinners and 2 lunches. Couldn't get into minibar. No set budget or cuisine preferences except no Ethiopian (DH doesn't like it). As we don't have much time in DC basically looking for the "greatest hits" kind of thing -- I hate using that term as I know there probably is more depth to the area. We will have a car but prefer to keep lunches in the sightseeing area.

This is what I'm thinking of right now:

Sat dinner -- Komi or Jaleo
Sun lunch -- Zaytinya
Sun dinner -- Rogue 24 (made reservations)
Mon lunch -- Rasika

1. I'm leaning towards Komi as I've eaten at the Bazaar a couple of times and seems a bit similar to Jaleo, well at least the traditional tapas side. But I'm wondering if Komi is too much like Zaytinya. If one has other suggestions for a later meal on Saturday night I'm wide open.

2. Are reservations essential for Zaytinya and Rasika lunches? It's just that we plan to do a bit of sightseeing and would rather have the flexibility to eat lunch when it suits us.

3. Any breakfast places worth checking out? Probably looking for bakery type of items.

Haven't booked our hotel yet but leaning towards Penn Quarter for convenience purposes.

Appreciate any insights you may have. Thanks!

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  1. Komi is definitely better than Jaleo.

    No reservations are need for lunch at either Rasika or Zaytinya.

    1. The city is packed during peak cherry blossom time. Book your hotel and restaurant now.

      1. If you're staying in Penn Quarter, Red Apron Butchery does a decent breakfast sandwich. It's new so they're still working out some kinks though. Protein Bar has oatmeal, yogurt and breakfast burritos. You'll get your food fast there. If you want breakfasts that are, um, cheap, seedy and old school, try Lincoln Diner across from Ford's Theater.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mer_Made

          Is that special bread they developed as amazing as it looks?

        2. If you can get into Komi, then certainly try it.

          Zaytinya's brunch is good. But it will be similar flavor profiles to what you had the previous night -- perhaps something more varied might be better. I don't think the Zaytinya brunch is a "must try" -- there are plenty of other options that are just as good. Acadiana pops into my mind, as I just had a stellar brunch there a couple months ago. Also enjoyed the Farmers Fishers Bakers brunch last weekend.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rachelcp

            Acadiana has a great brunch....and a really for 3-course deal.

          2. Komi and Zaytinya are nothing alike. That said---I would go elsewhere for your Sunday lunch (I'm personally not a fan of Zaytinya). Maybe check out the Source's dim sum brunch or go to Le Diplomat (make a reservation). Other great choices for brunch/lunch would be Mintwood Place or Hank's Oyster Bar.

            You should be ok with lunch at Rasika on a Monday (you could always sit at the bar).

            1 Reply
            1. re: Elyssa

              The Source's brunch is only on Saturday.

              And no, Komi and Zaytinya are nothing alike in atmosphere, presentation, etc. but it's still Med flavors and ingredients two meals in a row. And it's not like you're vacationing on the Aegean where you intend to eat that for a week straight.

            2. The brunch at Daikaya is really good and quite different from what other restaurants are serving. I love how they serve taiyaki for their take on chicken and waffles.

              1 Reply
              1. re: shake N baik

                Wow, their brunch menu does look pretty cool! The croissant with uni butter and broken egg also sounds intriguing.

              2. Thanks everybody!

                Ok, turns out that Komi is completely booked. So I guess whether or not Komi and Zaytinya are similar doesn't really matter anymore.

                I should probably mention that I'm not a fan of traditional American brunch -- eggs, pancakes, yogurt, etc. The reason why Zaytinya is appealing because they've got a huge selection of mezze available during brunch hours.

                My revised proposed itinerary:

                Sat dinner -- Acadiana or Jaleo or Zaytinya
                Sun lunch -- Zaytinya or Jaleo (cuz both have a lot of non-typical-brunch menu items)
                Sun dinner -- Rogue 24
                Mon lunch -- Rasika

                I've also given consideration to this:

                Sat dinner -- Rasika
                Sun lunch -- Zaytinya
                Sun dinner -- Rogue 24
                Mon lunch -- Laotian menu @ Bangkok Golden (before we head back home)

                I think what makes it difficult is that I have very few meals here. Thanks for all the breakfast recs as well. Judging from these meals, there's probably a good chance I won't be hungry in the morning but it's good to know in case we feel like eating in the morning.

                ETA: Btw, should mention that I know absolutely nothing about Laotian cuisine. Looking at Bangkok Golden's menu, looks similar to Issan Thai cuisine. Is the taste similar?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Miss Needle

                  I would do Rasika for dinner (make a reservation) and then either Zaytinya or Jaleo for lunch on Sunday. You can also do Acadiana for brunch (they have non-traditional egg dishes for brunch....po boys, gumbo etc).

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Just to throw another contender into the pile, what about Central for either Saturday dinner or Monday lunch? I just had lunch there the other day and got reminded of how outstanding it is, specifically Michel Richard's fried chicken. I wouldn't do both Jaleo and Zaytinya in the same weekend.

                    Acadiana is a good spot for dinner or for the brunch. It's been around a while, so I think it gets overlooked (easy to get a reservation). There are a number of lunch-type items on their brunch prix fixe as mentioned above.

                    Unless it's on your way out of town, I wouldn't haul out to Seven Corners (~30 min in the car from penn quarter) for Bangkok Golden on such a short trip. Save it for an extended visit!

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Oh, and the brunch at Graffiato is heavily-skewed towards non-traditional items. You can get the "famous" pepperoni sauce, pizzas, pasta, etc.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        The problem at Bangkok Golden is that there are too many great things to order:

                        mieng muang luang, rice paste wrap
                        call at least four days in advance for som pa, raw fermented fish
                        nam kao, rice ball salad
                        grilled pork neck (not on the menu, just ask)
                        sai oua, lao sausage
                        moak normai, bamboo steamed in banana leaf
                        kao soi, Lao style (very spicy soup), not on the menu, just ask.
                        kao piak sen (noodle soup with chicken, not spicy)

                        plus many interesting specials

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Given that you're in DC, I suggest you go to Little Serow for dinner on Sat (no reservation, go wait at 4:30, it's Issan Thai cuisine by the Komi chef).

                          Keep your Rogue 24 reservation if you like molecular gastronomy.

                          I don't think there's anything special at Acadiana, Jaleo, or Zaytinya that you can't get in NY. On Sunday morning, Union Market opens early but the one place that I'd eat at won't open until 11 (Rappahannock Oysters - great fresh oysters, clams, and sometimes sea urchin in the shell), but you can have coffee/tea, nibble on something. Or go to Le Diplomate for a seafood plateau (can you tell that I love seafood, even for brunch).

                        2. If you can get into brunch at Le Diplomate, you should do it. Hottest resto in DC, and for good reason.

                          Personally I prefer Brasserie Beck and Bibiana Osteria to Zaytinya and Acadiana.

                          Oh, and I *love* the Lao menu at Bangkok Golden but it will be a schlep if you don't have a car.

                          1. parking near the Basin will be a BITCH, it will require extra time and metro doesn't go near so you may consider plugging local cab #s into your cell and going that way. and trust me, the folks at the Bureau of Engraving don't take kindly to cutting through their lot...

                            BUT!!! DC has tons of cherry trees and dogwoods and other such around. the basin is beautiful, but flowering ornamentals became quite the fashion in plantings in the years following. if things are blooming, all of town will be quite nice.

                            Bangkok Garden? are you flying through National or Dulles?

                            Laotian has a lot in common with Cambodian, which has a lot in common with VN. so while there are differences, shouldn't be enough to throw you off.

                            1. I would definitely have at least one meal on 14th Street, and just walk around there, either Saturday night or Sunday brunch. The best options are, I think, Estadio, Bar Pilar (great new menu), Etto, Ghibellina, and I've heard great things about the new Lupo Verde. Others enjoy Doi Moi and Kapnos, but I think they're less consistent. (Skip Le Diplomate -- nothing you can't get elsewhere.)

                              Right now, some of the best cooking in DC -- and great vibes, too -- can be found at Little Serow, Rose's Luxury, Seki and Red Hen. Also, Daikaya for ramen, and I've been hearing good things about its upstairs brunch. Rasika is very good. (And Rasika West End is closer to the blossoms.)

                              1. Oh boy, wish had more time in DC to fit all of these restaurants in! Am looking into if I can swing my work schedule around that we arrive earlier on Saturday to fit an extra lunch in there.

                                I was planning on swinging by Bangkok Golden on my way out of town -- know it's in the opposite direction but perhaps I can combine it with a visit to Georgetown and Arlington Cemetery -- yes, a bit ambitious for such a short stay.

                                There have been a couple of recs for brunch @ Le Diplomat here. When I look at the menu, it kind of sounds like a typical French brasserie. Is it that the food is very well prepared there? Or the fact that it's the hottest spot in town to eat at? Or is there something else about that place that I'm not aware of?

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  I'm thinking that since you're coming from NYC, Le Diplomate may not be as good a suggestion, not different or special, in your particular case. But I haven't had brunch, specifically, there myself.

                                  1. re: mselectra

                                    Thanks for your thoughts about Le Diplomate. I probably should have specified where I was from in my original post -- though some hounds seem to get upset whenever somebody says they're from NYC because they think the poster is bragging -- whatever. I've learned to stay away from those dramas! Would rather focus my energies on finding good food.

                                    Can anybody tell me if a stop at Dangerously Delicious pies is worth it for their Baltimore Bomb?

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Sorry, Miss Needle, I thought it had come up on here that you were coming from NYC. Le Diplomate is a Starr restaurant, which is NY-based I believe -- thus my thoughts. I think it's helpful to know where people are coming from, to tailor suggestions. When I was living in smaller town, LD is just the kind of place I would have loved to have access to on a visit to a big(ger) city.

                                      1. re: mselectra

                                        Yes, I believe that somebody did say that I'm from NYC -- probably looked at my profile as I never mentioned it myself. I do agree that mentioning where people are coming from can be important. Eg. I would never think about going to Five Guys in DC when there are so many in NYC.

                                        I thought Starr restaurants were more Philly based though I believe he's got a few in NYC as well. It was more of the fact that Le Diplomate reminded me of the many French brasseries NYC has -- Balthazar, Minetta Tavern, Artisanal, etc.

                                        Well, turns out that I've got an extra lunch on Fri! Now the hard part is deciding how to maximize the extra time!

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          I don't find Le Diplomate to be worthy of it's "hottest table right now" buzz. It's nothing much different from Parc in Philly...or any other Paris-themed brasserie IMHO.

                                          1. re: rachelcp

                                            I agree! Was not at all impressed by the food there, though the ambiance is pretty cool.

                                  2. re: Miss Needle

                                    I wasn't 100% impressed with Le Diplomate- as you say, it's pretty standard bistro fare. Really well-done, but kind of typical. As an alternative, I'd suggest the brunch at DGS- a pretty modern, inventive take on delicatessen fare. Just went there on Sat for brunch, sat on the patio, had the chopped liver app and the matzo brei. It was awesome, highly recommend.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Bangkok Golden opens at 11. They offer a la carte as well as a buffet and the place can easily get packed after 11:30 because of the buffet crowd. I suggest you get there before 11:30. Personally I would rather eat the 7 course prix fixe at Little Serow for $45 pp, just because you'd get 7 courses. You can order 7 courses at Bangkok Golden for less than $90 but who in their right mind orders that much food? I would heartily recommend Bangkok Golden if you have a small group.

                                      1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                        Little Serow sounds very good but I don't think I would want to spend sightseeing time waiting for an hour for the restaurant to open. Perhaps next time. Thanks for the tip on getting to Bangkok Golden early. As we'll be heading home afterward, we can take home leftovers. So over-ordering shouldn't be too much of a problem.

                                    2. Thank you to all for your input. I had a wonderful weekend in DC. Here's my trip report.

                                      BANGKOK GOLDEN
                                      Due to the crazy traffic, I had to make some last minute changes to the itinerary. We would not have made it in time for our Zaytinya lunch reservation on Friday. We went to Bangkok Golden instead. We ordered the seafood orm, nam khao and mieng muang luang. The seafood in the orm was perfectly cooked. The shrimp was crisp and the squid was tender. The taste was very interesting -- I just wished I had something bland (like plain rice) to eat it with as it was a bit salty by itself. I loved the nam khao -- never had anything like it. I'm a huge fan of the crispy rice bits in dol sot bi bim bap so this dish really resonated with my taste buds. The mieng muang luang was interesting with the interplay of the soft rice with all of the crispy bitter, sour, sweet, salty elements. Service couldn't have been any nicer. They were so gracious. Too bad we weren't able to try any more items as we both didn't have the biggest appetites due to being under the weather. They didn't ask us about spiciness. I know Lao food is supposed to be very spicy. Our food was on the mild side -- so I think they toned it down for us (unless the dishes we ordered are supposed to be mild). Next time I'll be sure to ask them to crank it up a bit.

                                      As we had tickets for Monuments by Moonlight, we had an early dinner at Zaytinya, eating outside in the glorious weather. I was surprised how busy the restaurant was at an off hour! We ordered a bunch of different mezze -- seasonal mushrooms with dates and almonds, cumin dusted sweetbreads, taramosolata, octopus santorini, kibbeh naya and lamb tongue souvlaki. I enjoyed all dishes, though the octopus had a bit more capers than I would prefer and the sweetbreads had a bit too much cumin for my taste. The lamb tongue was extremely tender and flavorful. DH said that the kibbeh naya could probably convert non raw meat eaters. The mushrooms were very meaty and juicy. We followed it by the mezze portions of the famed yogurt and apricots and galatopita. They were both good. I think I may have been expecting more from all the raves I've been reading about the yogurt. But it was still very tasty. Would love to try more dishes here.

                                      DAIKAYA (Brunch)
                                      We didn't have a reservation for Sunday brunch. Ordered from the brunch side (even though they had some izakaya offerings). I am normally not a standard brunch type of person but there were some very interesting sounding dishes on the menu. We had the chicken and waffles, broken egg with croissant and uni butter, hapa loco moco and finished it off with the french toast. Their version of chicken and waffles was chicken karaage and taiyaki served with wasabi butter. I will have to say that this was a new one for me. I enjoyed it very much. The hapa loco moco was basically a half sized portion of the Hawaiian loco moco -- meatloaf patty with gravy over rice topped with a sunnyside egg. It was good though I would have liked a bit of hot sauce to perk it up. The croissant with broken egg and uni butter was very good. The uni wasn't super strong in flavor -- probably would be a plus in the eyes of some people. I'm not sure I "got" that dish but I still enjoyed it. I really liked the crackling crust of the french toast, kind of like the top of a creme brulee. It was a bit to sweet for my taste but I enjoyed it compared to most french toast out there.

                                      ROGUE 24
                                      We received a phone call the day before where they asked us which menu option we would like. We opted for the 24 hour course. I've only encountered this in Japan but totally understood why they wanted to do this as to minimize waste. I think the meal is a great value for what they had to offer. Many of the dishes were certainly laborious to put together; they could have easily charged up to 50% more. Some of the items were very good such as the liver puree on kimchi puff (though I didn't taste the kimchi) ; some were misses like the asparagus with char (needed salt -- and I don't get the char). I'm starting to realize that I'm not the largest fan of these types of meals. It's funny because a couple of my favorite meals were at Alinea and Pierre Gagnaire, restaurants that employ modernist techniques. I think it just requires a huge amount of skill to pull off this type of food as I thought every single thing I ate there tasted fantastic -- as opposed to Rogue where there were quite a few courses that were interesting but not as tasty (to me). The pacing of the meal was quite uneven. I think what happened was that the restaurant wanted everybody in the restaurant to be on the same course -- which happened after Course 15 or so. So there were sometimes be very large gaps between courses or the courses would come out very quickly. If that's what the restaurant wanted, it probably would be better to just do two seatings. It was an interesting experience but I don't need to go back.

                                      This was probably my favorite meal of the trip. It was also the best meal I've had at an Indian restaurant ever. We ordered the palak chat, sev batata puri, goat cheese kulcha, chicken biryani and tawa baingan. The palak chat was quite new to me but very interesting with all the different textures and flavors. I may try to replicate this at home. I also loved their version of the sev batata puri -- much more crunchy than others I've had in the past. In fact, I may have enjoyed this more than the palak chat that everybody talks about. The tawa baingan was a bit messy to eat but so tasty. One thing I appreciated about Rasika is they aren't shy with the spices. I feel that many Indian restaurants I go to use spices that are old so the flavors are muddled. The spices used here are fresh and permeated through the entire dish. The chicken biryani was the best biryani I've eaten (including my mom's). The dough top definitely kept the rice moist and I liked the use of the fresh green chiles that were in the dish. The goat cheese kulcha was hot, tangy and very satisfying. Service was really gracious and the room was very beautiful and inviting.

                                      DANGEROUSLY DELICIOUS PIES
                                      I picked up a slice of the Baltimore Bomb to have back home. Usually I'm not a fan of super sweet items, but I enjoyed this gooey, fudgey pie for some reason.

                                      CALIFORNIA TORTILLA
                                      DH forgot to bring his antibiotics to the restaurant and needed to take them with food. It was after midnight and he just wanted to pick up something small. We ended up going to California Tortilla and picking up a couple of carnita tacos. Pretty bland and uneventful but the selection of hot sauce was quite impressive.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                        Thanks for the great report! I haven't been to Zaytinya in ages, but have had the same reaction as your husband about the kibbeh.

                                      2. Komi is a great choice, and it is not at all like Kaytinya. The ambience and prices at the former are upscale. The food is good at both. But good luck getting a reservation at Komi.

                                        If you have time, check out Proof at Penn Quarter for dinner. Delicious food, great wine, and amazing service.

                                        You definitely will need to make a reservation for lunch at Rasika, which is smaller and also in great demand. May be okay without reservation at Zaytinya b/c it is a larger space.

                                        If you like New Orleans-style food, I recommend Bayou Bakery in Arlington, VA. It is a short walk from Courthouse Metro. I've heard Paul (French cafe) also is good, but I haven't had breakfast here in the U.S., only at their London location.


                                        PS: Sorry, I hadn't noticed your recap until after I posted my suggestions. Sounds like you had a great trip.

                                        1. Great report back! Thank you so much for all the details.

                                          Teh mieng muang luang a Bangkok Golden is not spicy at all, definitely comfort food. Sometimes they serve charrred chili peppers on the side - but really they are beside the point. The nam khao is 'buzzy' but not terribly spicy. The orm is not usually spicy. For some of the dishes, i know fire eaters who have asked them to tone down the spice - especialy some of the salads can get very, very spicy.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Steve

                                            Thanks for clarifying the spice levels. Guess the dishes I ordered weren't meant to be super spicy. I'm usually good with spice but can only handle a spice level of 4 out of 5 at a couple of Issan restaurants in NYC when ordering the papaya salad or larb. If prompted at Bangkok Golden, I probably would have ordered Thai spicy vs. Laotian spicy -- I don't think I would have been able to handle it!

                                          2. Thanks for these postings, which were very helpful during last week/weekend's 4-day trip to DC. I relied on this thread, and also on Eater38's list of DC restaurants (http://dc.eater.com/archives/2014/04/...). Eater38's list of my hometown Chicago restaurants is very good, and I used its SF list with great success, so I was reasonably confident about using it for DC. Our best DC meal was Zaytinya--by far--but we also greatly enjoyed dinner at Le Diplomate (great waiter), dinner at Hank's Oyster Bar (another great waiter), lunch at DGS Delicatessen, and wine at Cork & Wine on 14th (before dinner elsewhere). We stayed at the Kimpton Helix on Rhode Island just off 14th and, while the hotel could use a little "freshening up," the room was great at the price we paid and the location was unbeatable.