The Dish: Rabbit Nuggets with Thai flavors and a curry mustard condiment
Where to Get It: Hazel, 808 V St. NW; (202) 847-4980; hazelrestaurant.com
What It Is: Chef Rob Rubba sources rabbits from two farms and grinds the meat to make a mousseline that he flavors with Thai herbs and spices like lemongrass, Thai chilies, ginger, Thai basil, and mint. Next he breads and fries the mousseline using egg and a flour mix of panko breadcrumbs and glutenous rice flour to get them extra crispy. “For the dipping sauce, we wanted something fragrant,” Rubba says. “We love the chicken nuggets at Chick-fil-A, and the honey mustard is our go-to.” He boosts a Dijon-style mustard with garlic, ginger, Kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, and lime juice to achieve the desired effect.
What It Tastes Like: These hunka hunkas of burning love have a rich gaminess and just a touch of Thailand. Swiping at the egg-sized orbs and dipping them in flavor-charged curry mustard with your fingers feels like something that would go down at a Renaissance festival or during the Highland Games in Scotland. The golden fry on the nuggets is executed to the point that there’s an audible crunch when you take a bite. That’s always a plus. They do make for heavy eating, though, so sharing an order among friends is best.
The Story: Rubba’s caught on that katsu is so hot right now. The Japanese-style of frying can also be found in Izakaya Seki’s pork katsu sando and in Donburi’s pork or ebi katsu bowls. But Rubba didn’t want to bread and fry something boring. “The first goal is, does it taste good? The second goal, is it fun?,” he explains. “It’s sophisticated in terms of flavor profile and technique, but we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously.” The nuggets are even served in a little baggie.