American food with a twist

EatBar is one of the bright spots in Clarendon for small plates. Voted one of the Best Bars of 2013, EatBar offers up modern small plates without a big price tag.

The seat-yourself restaurant and bar has an atmosphere that’s cozy and candlelit, but noisy enough that you don’t feel like you have to whisper.  The gastropub lists wine and beer options drawn on chalkboards. The cushioned booths will make you feel comfortable hanging around a while and probably ordering more food until you’re in a food coma.

EatBar features contemporary American food with a few twists that keep the food interesting.

Classic American foods get upgrades with the use of different spices and sauces from different cultures. Like the chicken wings in Korean BBQ or chili lime sauce. My group gotthe Korean BBQ, and we ate everyone single morsel.

 

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Latin-Asian Fusion at Zengo

Zengo, meaning give and take in Japanese, is the perfect name for the restaurant located next to the metro station in Gallery Place/Chinatown.

Chef-owner Richard Sandoval owns five popular restaurants in D.C., including my favorite El Centro D.F., so my expectations for Zengo were pretty high. It did not disappoint.

Thai-chicken empanadas

Thai-chicken empanadas

While there are dinner entrée options, the bulk of the menu showcases small plate options that are meant for sharing. The culinary concept of Zengo merges Latin and Asian cuisine in some unexpected way, but still includes a few staples you’d likely associate with Latin or Asian food – whatever your preference. I like them both, so I was in for a treat.

The most interesting thing about the menu at Zengo is that it changes. Every few months the culinary team gets together and chooses two different countries, one Latin and one Asian, and mixes together their flavors and customary dishes for a totally unique small plate experience. During my visit, the test kitchen had produced a profile of Japan and Mexico. Some of the dishes included Thai-chicken empanadas and teriyaki pork belly gorditas sliders with Oaxaca cheese.

At first, I was unsure if sushi and tacos would make a good combination but decided to try it anyway.

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Twisted Vines Bottleshop & Bistro

This sophisticated wine bar serves up a heaping of tasty small plates, perfectly paired with a vast selection of libations. Opened in 2010 by husband-and-wife team Josh and Sybil Robinson, Twisted Vines offers small plates as dinner options and 100 plus wines from Spain, Uruguay and Australia, to name a few. If the Zagat rating isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider the tasty tidbits on the menu. I ordered the $6 Twisted Trio, which comes with roasted olives, Marcona almonds, and a sweet and zesty cranberry peanut mix.

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The Twisted Trio
Photo by Paulina Kosturos

When I asked the waiter, Eduardo, or self-dubbed “very handsome waiter,” what to pair with the trio, he responded by giving me a brief history of wine pairings. According to Eduardo, the French wanted to make more money on selling wines. So they began insisting that only certain foods be paired with certain wines.

And so the story goes, food and wine pairings were born.

While this remains debatable (Read up on the origins of food pairings here), the trio serves as the perfectly salty snack for the red wine drinker. According to Eduardo, a full to medium-bodied wine brings out the intense flavors of the food, making for a bolder taste.

“It’s like drinking beer and scotch,” he said.

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