Holidays hog the spotlight in December, but the Washington area’s restaurant and bar scene stayed busy with a stream of openings and closings. These were the highlights.
The Berliner Beer Hall: Malmaison — a five-year-old event space and modern French-style cafe tucked under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown — has traded Paris for Berlin. After closing “for renovations” in the fall, it reopened as the Berliner Beer Hall in mid-December. But don’t compare this to Old Europe or Biergarten Haus: Instead of the dark wood, taxidermy and Bavarian knickknacks that clutter traditional German bars, this space has a breezy, industrial feel with high ceilings and walls that roll up like garage doors — a vibe that’s more Kreuzberg than Munich. Still, from a seat at one of the weathered communal tables, you’ll be able gaze on vintage photographs, a collection of old cuckoo clocks or the free-to-play table-tennis table. The two dozen drafts include a number of classic German beers from smaller breweries, such as Klosterbrau and Mahr’s Brau, as well as local craft offerings. And although “beer” is in the name, don’t overlook the food: Chef Mike O’Brien, a veteran of beer-centric San Francisco bars Mikkeller Bar and the Monk’s Kettle, is making flavorful sausages, including a delicately spiced Berliner Brat, a white-pork-and-veal sausage with ginger and nutmeg. Berlin’s multicultural vibe is reflected in the currywurst, a frankfurter covered in curry-spiced ketchup, and a kofta kebab with lamb meatballs. Overall, it’s another win for the Popal family, owners of Georgetown’s Cafe Bonaparte and Adams Morgan’s Lapis. 3401 Water St. NW.
Fuyu: Whaley’s, the oyster-focused seafood spot at Yards Park, has taken a winter break. In its place, chef Daniel Perron is offering a menu focused on shabu shabu, or Japanese hot pot. Diners take turns dipping scallops, shrimp, beef or vegetables in a choice of bubbling house dashi or red miso broth, before finishing with udon noodles. Other choices include monkfish katsu sandwiches and charcoal-grilled tempura oysters, washed down with cocktails featuring Japanese whisky or shochu. (Don’t worry: The seafood towers and local oysters are still available, and oysters are $1 between 5 and 7 p.m. as part of the daily happy hours.) The shabu shabu menu will be available through mid-March. 301 Water St. SE.
Julii: The owners of Cava enlisted the help of Doi Moi’s former executive chef to create a new French-Mediterranean concept at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda. Sasha Felikson’s menu features French onion soup and roasted bone marrow, but also highlights fare from across the sea, such as shakshuka and lamb tagine. Daytime hours, including breakfast service, are coming soon. 11915 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda.
Pizzeria Paradiso Spring Valley: The fifth Pizzeria Paradiso location boasts everything fans have come to expect from Ruth Gresser’s 27-year-old pizza-and-craft beer chain, with the added bonus of extra room. Including the large patio, Spring Valley boasts 179 seats — more than the Dupont Circle and Hyattsville restaurants combined. The menu features the same wood-fired pizzas that Gresser has become known for, such as the spicy Atomica and the gooey Quattro Formaggi. The spacious bar includes two pinball machines and a pair of video-game machines, plus 14 draft beers and ciders and a library of 200 bottles and cans. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. 4850 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Punch Bowl Social: If your group can’t decide what it wants to do tonight — bowling? Arcade games? Table tennis? Karaoke? — then Punch Bowl Social at Ballston Common Quarter is probably the answer. Stretching to 24,000 square feet, the three floors of Punch Bowl Social include a trio of bars, private karaoke rooms, eight bowling lanes, a video arcade, foosball and ping-pong tables, and much more to keep everyone happy and distracted. The beer list contains a number of good Virginia options; the cocktails are basic, if frequently fruity; and there are a surprising number of nonalcoholic choices, such as matcha lemonade, cilantro fizz and a German chocolate egg cream. Food-wise, there’s a “superfood grain bowl” on the same page as “The Wolf,” a fried-bologna-and-cheese sandwich topped with potato chips and served on Texas toast. Basically, there’s something for everyone. 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Spin: Quick: Which Olympic sport do you think has the most participants around the world? Soccer? Swimming? Curling? Wrong: According to the International Olympic Committee’s website, the answer is table tennis. This might explain why Spin, a new 12,000-square-foot deluxe ping-pong parlor, has opened under the National Press Club. Originally launched in New York City in 2009, Spin has all the trappings of a nightspot — multiple bars, including a large horseshoe counter in the middle of the main room; comfortable leather chesterfield sofas for lounging; a menu of $11-$13 house cocktails — plus a dozen Olympic-size tables, including a few situated in private nooks. Playing costs $9 per person per hour, though that does include the services of “ball boys and girls” who chase stray ping-pong balls around the room after missed serves. It’s more economical to play on Sundays, when that fee covers unlimited all-day play. It’s worth a visit just to see the space — don’t miss displays of old games, and an Instagram-ready bathtub full of balls to pose in. A weekly social league is coming soon. 1332 F St. NW.
Tiki TNT: Todd Thrasher helped usher in the Washington area’s serious cocktail scene with his work at Alexandria’s PX, but his latest endeavor is 180 degrees from a speakeasy. Tiki TNT, a sprawling bar and rum distillery that opened at the Wharf earlier this month, is colorful and playful, with a rooftop bar and multiple outdoor spaces with water views that will be perfect for enjoying one of Thrasher’s frozen rum-and-Cokes, served in a Coke can. For now, we can sit at the bar with tiki drinks that bear his stamp — playful, flavorful and far too easy to drink — and pretend we’re sipping daiquiris outside as the sun sets. 1130 Maine Ave. SW.