Seeds of Summer: D.C. Restaurants Get Creative With Watermelon

June 29, 2011


Hundreds of years ago, resourceful explorers used watermelons as canteens, because the hefty fruits are 92 percent H20 (the name might have been a clue). Today, watermelons are in high demand with a different type of adventurer — the culinary kind. Master chefs and mixologists are finding new ways to use the watermelon, which has taken a starring turn in everything from cooling cocktails to sunny salads. “Watermelon means summer to me,” says Härth’s executive chef, Tom Elder. “It’s a classic American fruit that we can all relate to.” Even when it’s unrecognizable.

ZATINYA’S SEARED HALLOUMI AND MELON SALATA
“People don’t associate watermelon with Mediterranean cooking,” concedes head chef Michael Costa. “But it’s actually quite prevalent.” Case in point is the Aegean eatery’s seared Halloumi (a Greek cheese made with sheep’s and goat’s milk) and melon salata ($9.50). A slab of the griddled cheese sits at the center of the plate, surrounded by a ring of compressed watermelon cubes, light green squares of pickled watermelon rind and half orbs of roasted cherry tomato.
» 701 9th St. NW; 202-638-0800, Zaytinya.com.



ZENTAN’S CHILLED STRAWBERRY AND WATERMELON SOUP
Most diners don’t think of ordering a bowl of soup to get their internal AC going, but that just means they haven’t tried Zentan’s chilled strawberry and watermelon soup ($15). The two starring fruits are blended with a splash of yuzu juice (a tart Asian citrus fruit), a little sour cream and a few fresh mint leaves. It’s garnished with an oval island of crème fraîche ice cream and a few strawberry slices. Executive chef Jaime Montes de Oca uses these familiar flavors to draw in his diners. “People are more likely to order dishes if they incorporate something that they recognize,” he says. “If you can warm them up with that, you can get them to do more hardcore Asian cuisine next.”
» 1155 14th St. NW; 202-379-4366, Zentanrestaurant.com.

OVAL ROOM’S CRUDO OF TUNA, BONITO, WATERMELON AND AVOCADO
Executive chef Tony Conte likes to play with his food. His crudo of tuna, bonito (similar to skipjack tuna), watermelon and avocado ($15) doesn’t look anything like you’d expect. Compressed watermelon is topped with ground tuna and shaped into a translucent bar; it’s hard to tell where the fruit stops and the fish begins. “Until you actually eat it, you don’t know what is what,” Conte says. This confounding creation is crowned with fried garlic, shallot chips and homemade avocado ice cream. The plate is decorated with cherry bomb radishes and a brushstroke of bonito mayo.
» 800 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-463-8700, Ovalroom.com.

ZENTAN’S CHILLED STRAWBERRY AND WATERMELON SOUP
Most diners don’t think of ordering a bowl of soup to get their internal AC going, but that just means they haven’t tried Zentan’s chilled strawberry and watermelon soup ($15). The two starring fruits are blended with a splash of yuzu juice (a tart Asian citrus fruit), a little sour cream and a few fresh mint leaves. It’s garnished with an oval island of crème fraîche ice cream and a few strawberry slices. Executive chef Jaime Montes de Oca uses these familiar flavors to draw in his diners. “People are more likely to order dishes if they incorporate something that they recognize,” he says. “If you can warm them up with that, you can get them to do more hardcore Asian cuisine next.”
» 1155 14th St. NW; 202-379-4366, Zentanrestaurant.com.

HÄRTH’S WATERMELON SALAD
This Tysons Corner restaurant prides itself on its farm-to-table approach, which is showcased with the locally sourced watermelon salad ($8). The pinkish-red slabs are dotted with white cubes of feta cheese and thinly shaved red onions marinated in white wine vinegar, then drizzled with a honey-sweetened tangerine vinaigrette. The summery salad is finished off with a few radish sprouts on top. ”They add a spicy, peppery, horseradish-y flavor,„ Elder says. ”That creates another dimension for the dish.„
» 7920 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Va.; 703-761-5131, Harthrestaurant.com.

CARMINE’S WATERMELON CRICKET
If you’re looking to beat the heat, enjoy a Watermelon Cricket or three ($11 each). Rosehip- and cucumber-infused gin is mixed with muddled fresh watermelon, lemon and lime juice; a splash of simple syrup; and Peychaud’s bitters (boozy bitters from New Orleans). “It’s very refreshing in the hot humidity,” says beverage director Erin Ward.
» 425 7th St. NW; 202-737-7770, Carminesnyc.com.

Written by Express contributor Nevin Martell
Photos by Daniel Swartz and Nevin Martell

SECTION: {section=express, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=express, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Most Read
Next Story
Marc Silver · June 29, 2011