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Blue Duck Tavern_lobster roll_092418.jpeg
Roasted Maine lobster “roll” at Blue Duck Tavern (Image: Courtesy Bluck Duck Tavern)

5 delectable D.C. dishes to eat right now

The best bites of the moment aren’t always found at the newest spots. There might be a recently appointed chef at an old favorite who is creating exciting dishes, a seasonal menu change at your favorite bar or a new twist on a popular dish at an oldie-but-goodie. So, while you’re plotting how to get in to the new hotspot, consider checking out these enticing new offerings around town.

Bing bread at Momofuku CCDC

In case you missed it, this David Chang outpost hired a new chef this spring and rethought the entire experience—no more ramen or buns, and those of you with twitchy backs will be happy to learn that they ditched the chic but torturous stools in favor of real chairs. A cornerstone of executive chef Tae Strain’s new menu is something called bing bread, a pillowy flatbread made with three types of flour. The dough is fermented for 48 hours before it’s flattened out and cooked to order on the plancha. It arrives warm, soft and a little crispy around the edges with your choice of three dips and spreads: butter with honey and gochugaru; pimento cheese seasoned with house-fermented chilis and topped with dill-pickled kohlrabi and jalapeños; or sunflower hozon, which is a Chang-coined term for a sort of miso-like umami bomb made with nuts, seeds or legumes instead of soybeans.

Roasted Maine lobster “roll” at Blue Duck Tavern

Executive chef Adam Howard recently took over the kitchen at this beloved West End dining room, and this lobster is a show-stopping addition to the menu. But purists, take note of the quotation marks around the word “roll.” This is not something you’d get in New England, but rather reads more like what would happen if you crossed a lobster roll with a lobster boil. It starts with a three-pound blanched lobster that’s split down the middle and doused in butter loaded up with lemon zest, herbs, roasted garlic and cracked black pepper. The crustacean is then roasted with baby corn and peewee potatoes, all served with herb-buttered rolls and a slaw that’s given a flavor boost with housemade green tomato chow chow. Life hack: The dinner menu features a whole lobster for $62, but a half lobster is offered at lunchtime for $36. While there, try the honey-roasted carrots, the beef-heart tartare made to evoke a Reuben sandwich, and the herbed cavatelli.

Callaloo soup at Spark

Spark is another restaurant that underwent a menu overhaul earlier this year, a move that paid off big-time since the Caribbean-inspired smokehouse was just named to Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list. There are several knock-your-socks-off dishes coming onto the fall menu, but one that stood out for its vibrance, spice and flavor punch is chef Peter Prime’s callaloo soup. Prime, who was born in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, describes this bright-green soup as an old family recipe. “I sautée greens, onions, garlic and a smoked protein, usually brisket or something with a lot of flavor, with a bit of salt and pepper,” he says. “Then add the liquids: lime juice, coconut milk or water stock—my family would use any delicious liquids we had around the house—and let it all braise for four hours. I then add sliced okra and let everything bubble together, then you blend.” He garnished it here with olive oil and creme fraiche. Other standouts from the new menu include the curry duck, an eggplant spread and jerk shrimp.

Foie gras mousse at Opaline Bar & Brasserie

The restaurant at the Sofitel experienced a reboot earlier this year, with a polished new dining room and updated menu, but it's still heavily French-inspired. At a recent tasting of the fall menu, which debuts Oct. 11, our table was over the moon for this very rich and silky mound of foie gras mousse served atop a bed of spicy pepita brittle with aromatic grilled brioche and a small jar of housemade Concord grape preserves. Co-chefs Dan Woods and Kevin Lalli say a key step in creating that luxurious mouthfeel of the foie gras mousse is taking it out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving. Then you spread it on the grilled bread, add a dollop of jam, a sprinkle of pepita brittle—and boom, you’ve got the world’s classiest PBJ. If you’re not a foie person, there’s an equally alluring pot of curried mussels and a lovely coq au vin on the fall menu that you should not overlook. The hotel also just kicked off brunch for the first time.

Grilled Fisherman Style Octopus with Bagna Cauda at Sfoglina

You can’t throw a fish these days without hitting a menu with octopus on it, so to be worthy of making this list, you know it has to be a pretty special dish. The grilled octopus is perfectly tender, a feat in itself, and infused with a soft, smoky char. The real magic, though, is the addictive bagna cauda sauce underneath. Chef Philip Marzelli, who runs the downtown location that recently flipped from Casa Luca to Sfoglina, confits the octopus in olive oil for two hours before it hits the grill, then finishes it with espelette pepper oil and edible flowers. Follow it up with a hearty bowl of pappardelle sauced with lamb ragu and a slice of hazelnut-laced chocolate gateau for the ultimate Sfoglina meal.