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Finding fresh oysters and nalli gosht in Washington

October 18, 2012|By S. Irene Virbila
  • A selection of oysters at Rappahannock Oyster Bar inside the new Union Market in Washington.
A selection of oysters at Rappahannock Oyster Bar inside the new Union Market… (S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles…)

On a recent jaunt to Washington, circumstances kept me from eating at some of my top picks in the capital: Minibar by José Andrés was in the midst of moving to new quarters, with just 12 seats. Michel Richard’s Citronelle was closed due to extensive water damage at the Latham Hotel. And it turns out that in order to get a reservation at the highly lauded KOMI, the high-end Greek restaurant from Johnny Monis, you have to call exactly one month beforehand. I didn't and believe me, I was kicking myself.

I did manage to get a res at Rasika, the contemporary Indian restaurant, but at the newer West End location, not the original Penn Quarter locale -- and only at 9:15 p.m., too late to entice more friends to come with me. Two of us got a table on the broad sidewalk terrace where we could hear half a dozen languages spoken all around us.

This is really sophisticated Indian cooking, not at all gimmicky, with a large menu. We started with sev batata puri, delicate little biscuits piled with potato, crispy noodles and mango. I loved the eggplant layered with slurried potato and side of slender okra cooked with lentil and curry leaves. The standout, though, was nalli gosht, lamb shank garnished with a single charred chile pepper.

Because my reservation at Rasika was so late, I thought I’d check out the new Union Market in the meatpacking district before dinner. It had just opened the week before and was still very much a work in progress. One cowboy meat purveyor had arrived with his goods in coolers because he wasn't sure how many people would actually show up. It killed me, because his meats from local, sustainable farms looked so good. The cheese-and-wine bar was thronged. Even more so, Rappahannock Oyster Bar, where I enjoyed a dozen oysters (Rappahannocks, Stingrays and Olde Salts), a glass of Muscadet and a terrific bowl of oyster chowder made with Benton's bacon.

From there, it is a short walk down to H Street, reminiscent of New York's East Village way back. It’s basically a couple of blocks of hip -- brick-oven pizzerias, craft beer bars, etc. My destination: Toki Underground for a bowl of Taiwanese-style ramen. It's a small, adorable attic space above a pub, decorated with hanging lanterns and with a genial host who tells you with the utmost politeness that it will be a two-hour wait. So much for ramen. It would have to be a weekend night!

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