Eggplant parm at All-Purpose

Becky Krystal/The Washington Post

Eggplant parm


This hearty, “Jersey-style” homage to chef Michael Friedman’s childhood  has been on the Shaw pizzeria’s menu from Day One. Friedman follows his mother’s lead by not breading or frying the eggplant. Instead, it’s roasted in a lot of olive oil, rendering it silky and tender. Also key: the house-made, long-simmered tomato sauce that’s just the right amount of acidic and sweet. Layered with mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bread crumbs, the appetizer is rich enough to feed a group, but not so much that it’ll stop you from going back for forkful after forkful.

$15 | 1250 Ninth St. NW. (See on map) | 202-849-6174 |

Tacos de canasta at Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Tacos de canasta

Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana

Tacos de canasta, or basket tacos, get their name from the Mexico City bicycle vendors who stack the snacks in a large container (i.e., “baskets”), slipped between layers of plastic wrap, cloth or butcher paper. As the vendors pedal to their destinations, the tacos steam on themselves, saturating the tortillas with the flavors trapped inside the masa wraps. Mezcalero chef and owner Alfredo Solis doesn’t have time to bike around the city waiting for his tacos to achieve peak flavor, so he’s devised a kitchen shortcut that mimics the steaming process. Soft in the center, crisp around the edges and soaked end to end in guajillo sauce, these bites are a whole new experience in taco eating.

$7 | 3714 14th St. NW (See on map) | 202-803-2114 |

Tacos de camarones   at Taqueria Habanero

Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post

Tacos de camarones  

Taqueria Habanero

The secret to any good taco starts with the tortilla. The corn shells at Columbia Heights’ Taqueria Habanero are made-to-order, leaving them soft, a bit puffy and still comfortingly warm when they get to the table.  The best filling of the bunch is the shrimp (camarones), which arrive with a bed of salsa, chunks of tomato, a slice of avocado and a smooth, zippy chipotle crema. The lush combination is wonderfully balanced, never overwhelming the shrimp, which remain the stars of the show. Habanero offers a range of salsas, from citrusy to tongue-scorching, but you won’t need them — the brightness of lime juice is about as much as this taco needs.

$3 | 3710 14th St. NW. (See on map) | 202-722-7700 |

Hot Mess at Frankly…Pizza!

Holley Simmons for The Washington Post

Hot Mess


Chef and founder Frank Linn has a soft spot for white pies. “I think they’re sleepers,” he says. One bite of the Hot Mess, and you’ll probably agree. The sauceless, gooey, wood-fired pie is topped with three kinds of cheese, candylike caramelized onions — Linn tells his team to “think kettle corn” when they’re making them  — roasted and pickled jalapeño peppers and thick-cut bacon made in-house. The unlikely combination translates into a harmonious blend of salty, sweet and smoky. Marinara who?

$16.75 | 10417 Armory Ave., Kensington (See on map) | 301-832-1065 |

Bun bo Hue   at Mi La Cay

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Bun bo Hue  

Mi La Cay

This soup has it all — a rich pork and beef broth infused with lemongrass and made funky with fermented shrimp paste, thick rice noodles, slices of brisket and Vietnamese ham, meaty ham hock and congealed pig’s blood. (Just try it. It’s like a savory, firm tofu.) Fresh garnishes tame all that meatiness. You’ll get bean sprouts, lime, Vietnamese coriander, sliced jalapeño, onion, scallion and shredded lettuce and red cabbage, plus the particularly intriguing shaved banana blossom, whose strands add a welcome crunch. Happy slurping.

$8.95 | 2409 University Blvd. W., Wheaton (See on map) | 301-929-2822

Butterscotch cremeux   at Mirabelle

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

Butterscotch cremeux  


You may be puzzled by the teeny serving size — just four ounces — of this dessert by pastry chef Aggie Chin. And then you take a bite. The silky pudding is so devilishly decadent that anything more than a nibble feels naughty. The unctuous, egg-based mixture is flavored with caramelized brown sugar and a hint of Bastille 1789 French whiskey and then topped with a thin-but-powerful layer of caramel, whipped cream and chunks of Maldon sea salt. The kitchen offers only about 20 per day, so get there early.

Available only at lunch, $9 | 900 16th St. NW. (See on map) | 202-506-3833 |

Carolina on My Mind at Federalist Pig

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

Carolina on My Mind

Federalist Pig

Served on a paper-lined jellyroll tray, this pork sandwich has a sculptural grace. The coarsely chopped pork and coleslaw are stacked impossibly high inside a soft sesame bun. How it manages to keep its shape — this Mayan-head sculpture of meat and vegetable — is beyond us. One bite, though, and the form collapses. The meat, the juices, the slaw — they tumble and drip from the bun, as they do with all great sandwiches. You’re left to focus on the flavors and textures: the puckery bite of pork, the crackle of fried skin, the fearsome heat. This is art.

$9.50 | 1654 Columbia Rd. NW. (See on map) | 202-827-4400 |

Cheeseburger at Melt Gourmet Cheeseburger

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post


Melt Gourmet Cheeseburger

Is there such a thing as a destination hamburger? If so, it’s found at Melt Gourmet Cheeseburger in Leesburg, a solid hour’s drive northwest of Washington. The standard cheeseburger here is a statuesque beauty, a half-pound patty formed with an Angus blend of short rib, brisket, chuck and other trimmings. Tucked inside a house-made sourdough bun, the patty comes draped with a melted, semi-translucent blanket of American cheese, as surreal as a Dalí painting. One bite, and the burger drips its juices all over the place, suggesting that Melt not only knows how to buy and hand-form good ground beef, but also how to grill it.

$7.95 | 525 E. Market St., Leesburg (See on map) | 703-443-2105 |

The cheesecake at Kyirisan

Holley Simmons for The Washington Post

The cheesecake


Don’t let the garish hue throw you off: This neon-green cheesecake isn’t overpowered by mint. Rather, pastry chef Mollie Bird uses pandan extract in the decadent dessert. A cross in flavor between coconut and hazelnut, the tropical plant, common in Southeast Asian cuisine, peps up the Italian-style cheesecake, which is lighter than its flour-laced New York brethren. Served atop a custardlike pandan anglaise and sprinklings of crushed hazelnuts that draw out the nutty hints, the dome is coated in a chocolate mirror glaze and topped with Szechuan pepper whipped cream.

$11 | 1924 Eighth St. NW. (See on map) | 202-525-2383 |

Peking duck at Peking Gourmet Inn

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

Peking duck

Peking Gourmet Inn

One thing above all has drawn hordes of diners to Peking Gourmet since it opened, in 1978, and it’s not the photos of politicians and celebrities  on the walls. It’s the duck. Plump, glistening and carved into thin slices tableside, the birds steal the show here, and for good reason. Julienned cucumbers and spicy jumbo spring onions (grown at the restaurant’s farm in Purcellville, Va.) add crunch, while the skin — oh, that delightfully crispy, crackly and golden-brown skin — is the essential sidekick to the dark breast meat. Sweet hoisin sauce and house-made pancakes bring it all together into a package that delivers even after all these years.

$43 ($22.50 half-duck) | 6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church (See on map) | 703-671-8088 |

Crab risotto with uni at Conosci

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

Crab risotto with uni


See the burnt-orange swath of uni, a delicacy from the innards of West Coast sea urchin. It’s waiting for you to mix it into the risotto underneath. There, its briny richness will melt into the creamy arborio rice, stirred with Maryland jumbo-lump crabmeat, butter, white miso, white shoyu, the Japanese spice blend togarashi and yuzu juice. And all that lovely complexity is why the dish has been on the menu since the restaurant opened last year.

Included in $85 and $135 tasting menus; can be added to the $45 tasting menu for $10 | 465 K St. NW. (See on map) | 202-629-4662 |

Crispy chicken skins at Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post

Crispy chicken skins

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

At Jack Rose, the perfect pairing for your drink — whether it’s a small-batch Kentucky bourbon or a local IPA — is a bowl of fried chicken skins. These hot shards of crackling skin, zesty with paprika, salt and sugar, are the kind of moreish bar food that works as a starter or a late-night snack. No matter when you order them, they always disappear faster than you think. Although they’re served with a lime and a bowl of tangy Green Goddess sauce, the crunchy bits are flavorful enough to devour on their own.

$7 | 2007 18th St. NW (See on map) | 202-588-7388 |

Avgolemono soup   at Greek Deli

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

Avgolemono soup  

Greek Deli

Avgolemono is not a soup, although you could be forgiven for thinking so, given how often the term is used to describe the dish. Avgolemono is a sauce, whose components are announced every time you say the Greek word: Avgo is “egg,” and lemono refers to lemon. Greek cooks use the sauce in a variety of dishes, whether in stuffed grape leaves or meaty lamb entrees, but Kostas Fostieris, owner and chef of Greek Deli, is an old pro at incorporating the sauce into his rich and rewarding chicken soup. The lemon is treated so delicately that it comes across more like candied fruit than tart citrus. A soup worthy of the lofty name.

$5.25 | 1120 19th St. NW. (See on map) | 202-296-2111 |

Fried whiting sandwich at Horace and Dickie’s Carryout

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

Fried whiting sandwich

Horace and Dickie’s Carryout

Horace and Dickie’s calls its signature menu item a sandwich, which is true — in the way that you might also describe D.C. summers as “a bit warm.” Four or five immense breaded-and-fried fish fillets fill a takeout container, dwarfing two slices of white or wheat bread, which are tucked under a piece of wax paper. The best way to eat the hot-and-crispy fish, doused in a tangy, peppery hot sauce, is to stack half of the fish between the bread, and save the rest for lunch the next day, unless you’re splitting it with a hungry friend or two. Words of warning: These are old-school fillets, fried whole with bones. Exercise caution when chowing down after an H Street bar crawl.

$7 | 809 12th St. NE. (See on map) | 6912 Fourth St. NW., Takoma. (See on map) | 5601 Allentown Rd., Suitland. (See on map) | 202-397-6040 |

Ful at Keren

Holley Simmons for The Washington Post



This Eritrean dish’s name pretty much sums up how you’ll feel after eating a bowl. The thick mixture, commonly served for breakfast, is reminiscent of a bean dip, made with tomato sauce, cumin and crushed fava beans. It’s topped with chopped onions, jalapeño peppers, yogurt and a blend of spices (chile peppers, garlic, ginger) known as berbere powder. You’d be wise to mix everything up before using the crusty bread as a utensil — and be sure to ask for a pat of butter to deepen the flavors.

$5.99 | 1780 Florida Ave. NW. (See on map) | 202-265-5764

The “G” Man at Mangialardo’s

Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post

The “G” Man


Head to the tiny Mangialardo’s for lunch, and there will probably be a police officer or firefighter in line. There’s a good reason: The subs at  the family-owned sandwich shop, which has been on Capitol Hill for more than six decades, are some of the best in town. The most iconic is the “G” Man, a foot-long feast packed with slices of ham, salami, pepperoni and mortadella; fontina and provolone cheeses; and vinegar, lettuce, tomato and mustard. Order it “hot and hard” — with hot peppers on a hard roll from the District’s Catania Bakery — and you’ve got a spicy, flavorful Italian sub that could easily serve two.

$8.50 | 1317 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. (See on map) | 202-543-6212 |

General Tso’s cauliflower   at Junction Bakery & Bistro

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

General Tso’s cauliflower  

Junction Bakery & Bistro

Nathan Hatfield decided to make a meatless spin on the Chinese-American restaurant staple in part because he always wished the dish came with cauliflower rather than broccoli. At Junction Bakery, he coats the trendy brassica in a light batter, fries it and thentosses it in a delightfully sticky sauce made with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Scallions and black and white sesame seeds cap off the enticing dish, a sweet and sour treat with a gentle heat from arbol chiles.

$7 | 1508 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria (See on map) | 703-436-0025 |

Gnocchi Bokki at Hazel

Rey Lopez/

Gnocchi Bokki


Like so many epic culinary creations, this mash-up owes its origin to a pantry raid during a snowstorm. Hazel chef Rob Rubba had a hankering for gnocchi, but the only sauces at his disposal featured Korean flavors. Thank goodness for that. This refined version features pillowy pasta bathed in a ragu of tomato paste, onion, carrot, garlic, ginger and pork butt, braised for eight hours and emulsified into a delightfully smooth, spicy sauce. Rubba wanted “funky flavors” and he got them, but it’s the subtle touches that make this dish a star. Fresh kimchi delivers an acidic bite and much-needed crunch, while shaved pecorino adds depth and smoke to an umami-packed plate.

$15 | 808 V St. NW. (See on map) | 202-847-4980 |

Ham croquetas   at Colada Shop

Emily Codik/The Washington Post

Ham croquetas  

Colada Shop

If your happy hour at Colada Shop turns into happy hours — easy to do when the $8 drinks are so good — you’ll need something savory to help you carry on. To the rescue: jamón croquetas. A fixture of Cuban cuisine, they’re a study in comfort-food textures: soft little pillows of deliciousness stuffed with ham and bechamel on the inside, with an exterior that’s been deep-fried to a golden crisp. Perfectly snackable, they play well with any of the restaurant’s beachy drinks, and the price is bite size, too: $3.50 for two.

$3.50 | 1405 T St. NW. (See on map) | 21430 Epicerie Plaza, Sterling. (See on map) | 202-332-8800 |

Happy Camper   at Buttercream Bakeshop

Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post

Happy Camper  

Buttercream Bakeshop

Tiffany MacIsaac’s bakery does well by nostalgia, and this bar is no exception. The Happy Camper is the pastry chef’s riff on s’mores, made with a graham cracker crust, chocolate ganache and honey-vanilla marshmallow fluff. If it sounds overly sweet, it’s not, thanks to the dark chocolate and torched marshmallow’s slightly bitter edge. And unlike the campout versions that are apt to fall apart at first bite, this dessert eats like a dream — smooth and sophisticated, but recognizable and satisfying to your inner child.

$3.50 | 1250 Ninth St. NW. (See on map) | 202-735-0102 |

Boudin blanc   at Marcel’s

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

Boudin blanc  


Chef and owner Robert Wiedmaier estimates that Marcel’s has served close to 160,000 boudin blancs since the restaurant opened almost 19 years ago. On the menu since Day One, the sausage is shockingly fluffy despite the fact that it’s laced with pheasant, chicken and four ounces of foie gras. The secret: a nuanced whipping preparation that breaks down muscle proteins — that Wiedmaier says can take a chef six months to perfect. In case it wasn’t rich enough, the small-but-mighty link is placed atop a black-truffle puree and served with a seasonal touch, perhaps caramelized pearl onions in the summer or cannellini beans in the winter.

Available a la carte for $24 | 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (See on map) | 202-296-1166 |

Karaage and biscuits   at Himitsu

Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

Karaage and biscuits  


Buttermilk-brined fried chicken, a hit from the start at tiny Himitsu in Petworth, has survived every menu purge and pretty much flocks to every table every night, says Kevin Tien, the chef behind the juicy, crunchy sensation. Its sting comes by way of Korean chile pepper paste, its richness from a dollop of creamy Kewpie mayonnaise, its sweet note from homemade pickles. Recently, Tien added warm biscuits to the equation, making the dish even more of a draw. Warning: Get it while you can. The chef plans to remove the fried chicken this summer, but only with something that will make diners forget about it, Tien promises. Fat chance, chef!

$24 | 828 Upshur St. NW. (See on map) | 

Künefe   at Ottoman Taverna

Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post


Ottoman Taverna

To make this künefe, pastry pieces are packed around an unsalted cow’s milk cheese imported from Turkey, then baked in a wood-burning oven. Once it emerges, crispy golden on the outside and perfectly melty inside, the dish is soaked in a sugar syrup infused with anise and lemon and topped with ground pistachios. Despite the soak, the sweetness is restrained. Sure, you could share one — rich and indulgent as it is — but we’re prone to keep it all to ourselves.

$9.25 |  425 I St. NW. (See on map) | 202-847-0395 |

Linguini with spicy XO sauce   at Masseria

Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

Linguini with spicy XO sauce  


You know the story: Boy meets sauce. Boy falls in love with sauce. Boy figures out a way to serve sauce to the masses. So it goes at Masseria, where chef Nick Stefanelli says he “Italianized” an XO sauce — a thick, spicy condiment flavored with fish — he encountered during a trip to Shanghai. To make Masseria’s version, which he mixes into a tangle of linguine and tops with crunchy bread crumbs, Stefanelli cooks prosciutto and dried shrimp in olive oil and garlic until it forms a piquant paste. On the menu since opening day, it’s one of his most lauded dishes.

Prix fixe: $84-$125 | 1340 Fourth St. NE. (See on map) | 202-608-1330 |

Lobster jambalaya   at Fish

Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post

Lobster jambalaya  


When a Spanish chef opens an American seafood restaurant, there is perhaps no better showcase of his skills than jambalaya. At Fish, José Andrés’swaterfront restaurant in the MGM National Harbor casino, the chef brings a paella-master’s touch to the Louisianan dish, made with Carolina Gold rice and built to be shared by two to four people. Your server will present the enormous platter of okra-studded rice tableside for everyone to ooh and aah over that gorgeous lobster (and ’gram it) before it’s dished out individually — a nice touch.

$62 | 101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill (See on map) | 301-971-6050 |

The Messy   at Smoked and Stacked

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

The Messy  

Smoked and Stacked

Does Marjorie Meek-Bradley make the best pastrami in the District? The Messy might turn you into a believer. Smoky slices of meat — pungent with coriander and pepper —  are the star of the Messy, the Top Chef alum’s fantastic take on a Reuben, topped with sauerkraut, Comte cheese and Thousand Island dressing, on warm rye bread. The name is appropriate — have napkins handy for when the dressing gushes out. This sandwich is so flavorful and balanced that you won’t mind a little bit of a mess.

$13 | 1239 Ninth St. NW. (See on map) | 202-465-4822 |

Not So Classic-style fried chicken biscuit at Stomping Ground

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

Not So Classic-style fried chicken biscuit

Stomping Ground

At her Del Ray restaurant, Nicole Jones puts a Middle Eastern twist on a Southern favorite. The best-selling Not So Classic fried chicken biscuit packs za’atar, honey, hot sauce, red onion and benne-seed (the South’s version of sesame) tahini  into a single bite. It’s spicy, bitter and sour, plus buttery and rich, thanks to the massive, delicate biscuit. It also doesn’t hurt that the 24-hour marinated, flour-dredged chicken breasts are fried in lard.

$9 | 2309 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria (See on map) | 703-364-8912 |

Pao bhaji   at Bindaas

Becky Krystal/The Washington Post

Pao bhaji  


Vikram Sunderam describes this Indian street food as a “vegetarian sloppy Joe” because of its appearance, but that doesn’t do this lively dish justice.  The chef cooks a changing mix of vegetables — which might include cauliflower, carrots, peas and potatoes — with onions, tomatoes and a special blend of spices. (Think cumin, black pepper, red chile and black salt.) A potato masher transforms it into a pulpy kind of stew, served with buttered, griddled Parker House rolls that you can use to scoop up the veggies or form open-face sandwiches. Believe us, it tastes better than it looks.

$10 | 3309 Connecticut Ave. NW. (See on map) | 202-244-6550 |

Chicken karahi at Afghan Bistro

Becky Krystal/The Washington Post

Chicken karahi

Afghan Bistro

At this small suburban gem, what started out as an occasional special has turned into a menu staple. There are two main components of the chicken karahi: tender chicken thighs and roasted eggplant. After being cooked in an aromatic tomato sauce, the eggplant is combined with the meat, which almost melts into the stew, then gets a hit of yogurt-and-garlic puree before serving. Another last-minute addition: Thai chile peppers, which contribute an electric heat. Sopped up with basmati rice and Afghan flatbread, this is a hearty, well-rounded meal you won’t soon forget.

$13.95-$15.95 | 8081-D Alban Rd., Springfield (See on map) | 703-337-4722 |

Prawn vindaloo   at Jewel of India

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post

Prawn vindaloo  

Jewel of India

The menu description for this oft-ordered dish — popular throughout India, particularly in Goa — states that it’s hot. But we’d argue that it’s more sharp than spicy. That’s most likely due to the addition of white vinegar, which speaks volumes over the chile notes. The creamy sauce, flavored with garlic, ginger, cumin and coriander, glides over slightly soft potato hunks and plump rounds of prawn, their natural sweetness complementing the touch of sugar that goes into this ruddy red curry.

$20 | 10151 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring (See on map) | 301-408-2200 |

Shawarma   at Max’s Kosher Cafe

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post


Max’s Kosher Cafe

Momi Houmran, an Arab Israeli from Haifa, doesn’t want to hear that the shawarma at Max’s Kosher Cafe is “close to” the real thing served back home. He knows it’s better. Houmran crafts the meat cone, sizzling on a vertical spit, from turkey thighs and a hint of lamb. The condiments are made in-house, too: pickled cabbage, cauliflower, turnips and eggplant; fried eggplant; and hot and sweet peppers. Mixed with tahini sauce, this symphonic blend of flavors and textures, served inside a Wheaton strip mall, goes toe-to-toe with any in the land of milk and honey.

$7.95 ($5.75 half) | 2319 University Blvd. W., Wheaton (See on map) | 301-949-6297 |

Seafood pancake   at To Sok Jip

Joanne Lee for The Washington Post

Seafood pancake  

To Sok Jip

If you order only one dish at To Sok Jip, a bustling, perpetually crowded Korean restaurant in Annandale, let it be the seafood pancake, or haemul pajeon. You might be tempted by the build-it-yourself bo ssam or the fire-red bubbling stews, but this meal — a giant golden orb cut into hefty wedges like a pie — achieves a fantastic balance of flavors and textures: sweet and savory, crisp and tender. Crammed with squid, green chiles and scallions, it’s big enough to feed two. Then again, To Sok Jip is affordable enough — and delicious enough — that it’s often hard to stop at this one dish.

$14.99 | 7211 Columbia Pike, Annandale (See on map) | 703-333-2861 |

Shouk burger   at Shouk

Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post

Shouk burger  


Throw out every bad cliche you may have heard about veggie burgers — they fall apart, they’re too hippie, they have no flavor. This patty from plant-focused fast-casual Shouk will make you a believer. It’s chock full of good-for-you ingredients, including chickpeas, black beans, lentils, mushrooms, cauliflower and beets. But lively condiments, such as tahini, pickled turnips, arugula, roasted tomatoes and charred onions, make for a substantial, complex burger. A fluffy pita to hold it all in ensures you can savor every last bite.

$9.75 | 655 K St. NW. (See on map) | 202-652-1464 |

SnoCream   at SnoCream Company

Becky Krystal/The Washington Post


SnoCream Company

This Asian-inspired dessert, available at the relatively new Block food hall in the Virginia suburbs, has a lot going for it. Looks, for one. A mixture of milk and water is frozen into a cylinder, then shaved into ribbons that pile up like the folds of a wedding gown. Add in a slew of customizable toppings — mochi, boba, Fruity Pebbles among them — to such colorful flavors as Thai tea and mango, and you’ve got a highly photogenic and multi-texture treat that also happens to be delicious. It’s lighter than traditional ice cream, too, which means you can eat a lot more in one sitting and feel refreshed rather than, well, guilty.

$6 | 4221 John Marr Dr., Annandale (See on map) | 202-656-6144 |

Steamed clams   at Ruta del Vino

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Steamed clams  

Ruta del Vino

Is that a cube of potato or a chunk of pork belly? There’s only one way to find out, and you’ll be pleased either way. Those and other nuggets— littleneck clams, cilantro, grilled corn and onions — come swimming in a broth made of white wine, clam juice and lime in the steamed clam dish at this Petworth wine bar. The aji amarillo, a South American chile pepper, lends a subtle heat and a bright yellow hue, while the acid from the wine leaves a tart sting on your tongue.

$12 | 800 Upshur St. NW. (See on map) | 202-248-4469 |

Stuffed salmon waffle   at Et Voila!

Doug Kapustin for The Washington Postt

Stuffed salmon waffle  

Et Voila!

Although this brunch plate looks simple, it represents a feat of culinary engineering. A chilled block of veloute sauce with leeks and Norwegian salmon is enveloped in brioche dough. It’s cooked on one of the kitchen’s two imported waffle irons designed especially for making the stuffed waffles from Belgium, the chef’s native country. An immediate injection of mild red curry enhances the saucy center within, and wide ribbons of Scottish salmon with dots of chopped chives grace the top.

$12 | 5120 MacArthur Blvd. NW. (See on map) | 202-237-2300 |

Yassa chicken   at Chez Dior

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Yassa chicken  

Chez Dior

Yes, the chicken is excellent, its flavorful, charbroiled legs served with a side of spicy Jamaican hot-pepper sauce. But the best thing about this dish is what comes on the side: a bowl of caramelized onions cooked with a generous helping of lemon juice. Yassa poulet, as it’s called in Senegal, is traditionally marinated in this lemon-onion sauce, but Chez Dior’s genius is in separating the two, allowing you to mix and savor the dish’s smoky, spicy and sour flavors. Dip your chicken in the onion, dip your rice in the onion, or leave the rest behind and take a spoon straight to that saucer.

$14.99 | 5124 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville (See on map) | 240-696-5907 |

Big Plate Chicken   at Queen Amannisa

Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

Big Plate Chicken  

Queen Amannisa

Uyghur is a relatively new cuisine to the Washington area, and if you’re trying it for the first time, you ought to start with the Big Plate Chicken at Queen Amannisa. The simple name belies a complex and hearty dish, emblematic of the hospitable culture of the Uyghurs, an ethnic group from western China whose crossroads cuisine has elements of both Chinese and Middle Eastern food. True to its title, Big Plate Chicken is an enormous platter of bone-in bird, slathered in a mouth-numbingly peppery sauce, sopped up by potatoes and vegetables. Best of all are the hand-stretched, made-to-order noodles underneath. A hallmark of Uyghur cuisine.

$29.99 | 320 23rd St. S., Suite 150, Arlington (See on map) | 703-414-7888 |

Tocino pork   at Matthew’s Grill

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Tocino pork  

Matthew’s Grill

For every soul who thinks Filipino food is too pungent, too funky or too whatever, we steer them straight to tocino pork, a sweet-and-savory dish often consumed for breakfast in the Philippines, not unlike maple-glazed bacon is in the States. The Spanish word “tocino,” in fact, translates into “bacon.” The tocino pork at Matthew’s Grill are bite-size pieces of pork butt cured in a mixture of brown sugar, sugar-cane vinegar and soy sauce. After their cure, the pieces are boiled in a little water until the liquids reduce into a candied glaze. Those pork nuggets go down faster than popcorn at the movies.

$10 | 213 Muddy Branch Rd., Gaithersburg (See on map) | 301-990-8858 |

Tom yum noodle soup   at Thai Cuisine

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Tom yum noodle soup  

Thai Cuisine

The menu warns — in uppercase letters, no less — that this is not lemongrass soup, the Thai bowl perhaps more familiar to Western diners. No, this bowl provides more complexity than lemongrass soup’s adrenaline shot of heat and acid. This soup finds willowy rice noodles submerged in a vegetable broth swimming with so many other ingredients that your palate won’t know which way to turn. Among them: ground pork, fish balls, dried squid, fish sauce, crushed peanuts, pickled jalapeños and chili powder. As a final grace note, it’s garnished with fried wontons, adding a counterintuitive crunch to your bowl of Thai soup.

$9.95 | 757 Hungerford Dr., Rockville (See on map) | 301-838-4480 |

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