The Washington Post


Young and the restless

What's hot right now? These eight dining rooms are at the cutting edge of D.C.'s evolving dining landscape.

  • Updated 09/17/2012
  • 8 Items

Eric and Ian Hilton have a funny way of telling people they're not empire builders: They keep opening cool places to eat and drink. Following on the heels of Chez Billy in Petworth is the brothers' new Brixton, a ground-floor tavern topped with a lounge capped with a rooftop deck. The British-bowing retreat taps into Eric's Anglo passion. Where else can you get Scotch eggs and samosas followed by the possibility of sipping under the stars? With the exception of a salad here or pot de creme there, the short menu highlights British pub staples.


The French bistro is run by the owners of Marvin and Blackbyrd Warehouse. The watering hole spreads across two floors; a mezzanine lounge looks down on a bar featuring two-stool nooks that give occupants privacy even during rush hour. The small dining room on the ground floor is dark and moody, but also cozy with flashes of green (curtains and panels) and white (globes set off each booth). It's the middle of a heat wave, and I'm eating beef daube -- but no sweat. This restaurant does justice to the wintry braised beef, in a neighborhood hungry for better places to eat.


The heavy wooden door opens to reveal a Logan Circle space that looks as if it has been around for ages. The kitchen sends sensual tastes of EspaƱa -- jamon-wrapped figs, chilled gazpacho and shrimp punched up with garlic and lemon -- to your massive table. Weighty chandeliers, a movable red-leather wall and a treasure-trove of (white and red) Rioja make Estadio the most alluring place to graze on Spanish savories that can sometimes be lacking. Estadio means "stadium." Don't expect any serenity with your sangria.


This no-reservations Thai restaurant is a product of the same minds behind its neighbor, the starry Komi. Dinners are served family style. Every dish (and every drink) is accompanied by a short story or helpful instruction. A plate of sliced house-made pork sausage is garnished with sprigs of anise-flavored Thai basil that a server tells us to use for bundling the spicy coins of meat. A short stack of pork ribs, marinated in fish sauce and whiskey imported from Thailand, then smoked and grilled, is so tender, I'm not sure how the meat stays on the bone. I do know this: The finishing accents of red chili paste, fresh dill and sugar leave a trail of pleasure on the palate.


Former Central Michel Richard chef Cedric Maupillier steps out on his own at this Adams Morgan spot that weaves traditional French accents with American food favorites. Even the most familiar-sounding dishes surprise you with their rich treatments and vivid flavors. The interior bows to the food. Knotty reclaimed wood, leather booths the color of espresso and some strategically placed wheat stalks and vintage ironwork create a cozy, uncomplicated setting for Maupillier's scene-stealing cooking. However, you'll need strong lungs to communicate with your table mates. The sound levels here place you on a factory floor.


Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is the fifth restaurant from chef Jeff Black, whose domain includes Addie's in Rockville, Black's Bar & Kitchen in Bethesda, Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park and BlackSalt in the Palisades. His latest might be his greatest, or at least the most fun. Danny Wells, a longtime chef with the Black Restaurant Group, heads the kitchen, where he and his mates crank out big, bold-flavored food that suggests a Crescent City denizen is stirring the pots: Cue batter-fried shrimp with Vietnamese-style slaw, and three zesty gumbos. The dining room staff couldn't be more doting. And Core Architecture Design has done a terrific job of taking a vacant shell and turning the space, which includes an adjoining bar, Black Jack, into a beacon on its block.


I've always admired Ripple for the warmth of its service and the wit of its dining rooms, and now I can vouch for the cooking. Since Logan Cox came aboard in May 2011, the modern American bistro has evolved from a shiny bauble into a certified gem. I don't need food to entertain me. The interior does a good job of that. Owner Roger Marmet, a former executive at the Learning Channel, didn't have to look far for a tastemaker. He tapped his wife, Betsy, who has a master's degree in design from Parsons. Using the mosaic bar she inherited from the former Aroma cigar den as inspiration, she dressed the banquettes in a patchwork of fabrics that bring the '60s and '70s to mind, hung turquoise chandeliers from a chocolate-brown ceiling and added red pressed-paper tiles to a wall, suggesting swirls of wine.


The Taiwanese-style ramen shop has acquired a cult following that knows to be in line by 5 p.m. or risk an uncertain outdoor wait. There are fewer than 30 stools, all but a few squeezed in front of a ledge that rings most of the room. Strapping bowls of steaming noodles from Taipei-born, Tokyo- and Woodbridge-raised Erik Bruner-Yang are the lure, but the setting registers a 10 on the fun meter, too. Skateboards stand in for guardrails, interior shingles and footrests. Japanese anime art serves as wallpaper, and red paper lanterns dangle from faux tree branches.

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