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This should be a good year for variety in the D.C. dining scene. The most anticipated restaurants scheduled to open in 2013 feature Southeast Asian, Japanese, French, Latin American, Greek, Italian, and American fare, plus some hybrids. Veteran restaurateurs will expand into new cuisines, big names will make their District debuts, and a few longtime Washington chefs who had been working for others will finally open restaurants of their own. Fine dining will take a back seat. Modern takes on ethnic cuisines will abound. Beer will remain big. And the 14th Street NW corridor will only get hotter. Here’s our ranking of the places we’re most excited to see open this year:
705 6th St. NW
ETA: January (fingers crossed)
It’s been two years since we first learned that this ramen joint and izakaya is coming to Chinatown, but the lengthy wait and delays have only made us crave it more. Sushiko owner Daisuke Utagawa, former Think Food Group (and Minibar) chef Katsuya Fukushima, and 18th Street Lounge co-founder Yama Jewayni are teaming up on the Japanese spot. The two-story restaurant will serve Sapporo-style ramen downstairs, and drinks and snacks ranging from sashimi to yakitori in the izakaya upstairs. 2012 saw some formidable new ramen joints, but if anyone is truly going to challenge Toki Underground, it’s Daikaya. Also deserving an honorable mention on this list is the Daikaya team’s neighboring Japanese-style cocktail bar, Kiji Club (600 F St. NW), where Fukushima will prepare a menu of otsumami, Japanese snacks that accompany drinking.
300 Tingey St. SE
We’ve already gotten a little peek of what’s to come from Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Navy Yard brewery through its collaborations with beermakers across the country. Head brewer Megan Parisi and beer director Greg Engert collaborated with Florida-based breweries Cigar City and Funky Buddha on a movie snack-themed beer called Snack Attack and paired with DC Brau on a smoked wheat ale called “Embers of the Deceased.” They even created a Belgian saison with Pennsylvania’s Iron Hill Brewery using violet wood sorrel found by Birch & Barley chef Kyle Bailey. If these unique creations are any indication of what’s to come, Bluejacket will be one of the most innovative (and popular) breweries in town. And though the beer will inevitably be the main attraction, do not overlook the 200-plus-seat restaurant. Bailey and NRG pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac will reimagine a “beer hall” menu with items like whole rotisserie chicken with tarragon spaetzle and Yankee pot roast.
10. Unnamed restaurant from Ashok Bajaj
800 F St. NW
All we need to hear is the name “Ashok Bajaj” to know this place is going to be good. The owner of Rasika, The Oval Room, Bibiana, and other top eateries is opening his eighth restaurant in the Penn Quarter location formerly home to Zola. The still-unnamed American brasserie with “French accents” will offer burgers, sandwiches, steak, a fish of the day, a raw bar, and more. Bajaj is now interviewing chefs. He also plans a strong cocktail program and a wine list of about 150 bottles. “It’s going to be a little bit on the cutting edge for a brasserie. It’s not going to be your traditional brasserie,” Bajaj says. The “industrial chic” dining room with exposed brick will be more casual than Bajaj’s fine dining establishments, but not quite as casual as Ardeo + Bardeo, he says.
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