Familiar Dishes With Creative Touches at Daru

Capitol Cuisine

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In the Atlas District, Daru creates exotic Indian cuisine with international flourishes, including this generous, flavorful lamb shank.

New Indian

Daru, an exceptional Indian restaurant with international flair, has arrived in the Atlas District. You’ll find it at 1451 Maryland Ave., NE (the former Star Grocery), just off H Street. “We’re so excited to be a part of the neighborhood,” co-owner Dante Datta explained as we surveyed the busy kitchen where chicken tikka was roasting on vertical skewers. “We found this property thanks to a real estate broker friend.”

Created by Dante and chef/co-owner Suresh Sundas, the kitchen turns out the familiar Indian dishes with creative touches: Daal (spicy lentils) are perched on burrata; paneer cheese arrives in pesto tikka; naan is dusted with Middle Eastern za’atar blend; achiote-red jackfruit is tucked into flatbread tacos.(The co-owners met at the West End Rasika in 2012.)  Asked about the new restaurant’s name, Dante explained “Daru” means “hooch” or “moonshine.”

We had to check this out. On a Thursday evening, we settled by the window in the restaurant’s cozy corner space. The place was humming. Our excellent servers–Athena and Helen—recommended the lamb shanks (instead of lamb chops), describing the shanks as richer, more flavorful than chops. She had that right. The lamb had marinated overnight in garam masala and mace, before roasting in Kashmiri chili paste, coconut milk and saffron. The enormous portion could feed two; we took half of it home. Peter chose chicken tikka, where chef Sundas had marinated the white meal cubes in onion, tomato masala and fenugreek before roasting them on vertical skewers.

We also sampled palate-blasting dhungar bhartha (smoked eggplant with onions, ginger and cilantro and lots of hot peppers). A dollop of yogurt would have soothed my singed palate. Daru’s wonderful Indian breads include garlic naan, whole wheat roti and an assorted basket; we chose za’atar olive naan.

An old favorite, Eastern Market’s Market Lunch, welcomes customers
with blueberry pancakes, fried fi sh, crab cakes and more.

Besides innovative cocktails concocted by Columbia Room alum Tom Martinez, there’s a  selection of beers—including Taj Mahal lager from India and American-style India pale ale (from Kalamazoo, Michigan). From the brief wine list, I quaffed a Tempranillo/Granache blend from France.

Dinner for two with a drink apiece came to $79 before tip. Daru seats 40 diners inside plus another 16 on the patio. For now, Daru is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. with brunch planned for the future. Call 202-388-1848.

Revisiting an old Favorite

As many new restaurants are opening around Capitol Hill, husband Peter decided to revisit an old favorite. Here’s Peter: Market Lunch beckoned as I led a fellow DC tour guide on a stroll around America’s best urban neighborhood. We found Eastern Market’s venerable eatery—dating from 1978—as good as ever, although pricier than in pre-pandemic times. However, you can now use your credit card to purchase those fish sandwiches, burgers, crab cakes, blueberry pancakes, omelets, French toast and other favorites. Market Lunch is no longer “cash only.”

A popular Market Lunch entrée is the fried flounder, served with fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce. Photo by Pete McCall

On a recent Wednesday, there was no line for food so we were served promptly. My crispy rockfish sandwich, served with coleslaw and tartar sauce, was well worth the $12.95 price tag. “Delicious,” agreed colleague John, as he chowed down on the flounder sandwich with fries ($11.95).

I considered ordering the meaty crab cake sandwich, tagged at $18. Next time! While seated at the long communal table, we chatted with an interesting customer who shared his life story. We agreed our down-home lunch was a wonderful, nostalgic vignette of Capitol Hill. Market Lunch is open Tuesday-Sunday for breakfast and lunch, starting at 7:30 a.m. For more information call 833-200-6878 or visit www.marketlunchdc.com.

Beer Here

Five years after arriving in Shaw, Better Hospitality Group will unveil another Takoda Restaurant & Beer Garden. This one is coming to Navy Yard. Don’t rush over right away! The sibling restaurant won’t arrive until next summer. The 7,000-square-foot space at 1299 First Street SE, replicates the Shaw layout with a second-floor space and third-story rooftop.

BHG executive chef Julio Estrada’s tater tots, burgers, wings, and sliders will arrive at the future location. A 24-line draft system will dispense cocktails and beers. By year’s end, BHG also hopes to bring a spinoff of its Penn Quarter Boardwalk bar to the Wharf.

Welcome Back

In the Atlas District, Burmese restaurant Thamee has reopened for on-site dining. However, customers no longer find servers to pour drinks, debone fish tableside, or answer questions. Due to the pandemic and labor shortages, Thamee (Burmese for “daughter”) has switched from fine dining to fast casual.

Across from Eastern Market, The Wells gin bar sports a stunning décor. Guests may also quaff Krug Champagne while noshing on chips and caviar. Photo courtesy of Sarah Matista Photography

“I would rather have fast, friendly, casual service than service that doesn’t hit the mark,” co-owner Simone Jacobson told Eater DC. Now, customers order at a counter and carry their trays (lined with banana leaves) to the renovated upstairs dining room with an outdoor patio. QR codes on the tables allow diners to order additional food and drinks.

The kitchen still concocts curries with coconut, chicken, pork, eggplant, mangos and more. You can also order mohinga, the “national dish of Burma,” popular breakfast fare similar to China’s congee. Thamee’s full bar remains. Call 202-750-6529 or visit www.thamee.com.

Snazzy Gin Joint

The Wells, a snazzy gin bar, has opened at 727 C St. SE, wedged between The Duck and the Peach and La Collina. All three are operated by Hollis Silverman. Designed by local architecture firm HapstakDemetriou+, the décor is stunning with Bocci light fixtures, forest green sofas, and leather cushions lining brown banquettes, lounge seats and barstools.

Besides all kinds of gin and other inventive cocktails, mixologist Philip Keath pours champagne (including a $400 bottle of Krug), upscale wines and beers. Imbibers may munch on potato chips—naked ($5) or with crème fraiche and Ossetra caviar ($115).

The Wells requires reservations, available through Tock. Visit www.exploretock.com/thewellsdc.com.

Wine About it

We had a divine midday repast at Eastern, the dressy wine bar at 360 Seventh St. SE. (Sister restaurant is Barrel, 613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.) While focusing on fruit-of-the-vine, Eastern also showcases innovative, Southern-accented food, prepared by executive chef Walter Herandez. Seated on the patio, we shared a house dip: house-made pimento cheese with home-baked charcuterie rolls. The bread was flecked with tiny bits of meat and cheese. The other house dip is white bean hummus with house pita.

While the kitchen specializes in charcuteries, I ordered the BLT: sourdough bread enveloping Nueske’s bacon (as good as Benton’s), Bibb lettuce and thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes, all slathered with Duke’s mayo. Healthier–but equally tasty—options are tuna tartare with avocado and orange ginger glaze, and red snapper ceviche dotted with circlets of baby cukes, radishes and nuoc cham (an Asian lime, fish sauce and garlic mixture). The spritely dish was escorted by house-fried won tons.

Complementing our meal was a glass of Spanish Albarino and a refreshing mimosa. Lunch for two came to $60 before tip. Service was excellent, provided by Ryan.