Viva Espana!: Capitol Cuisine

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Octopus, prepared in various ways, is popular in Spanish restaurants on both sides of the Atlantic.

Spanish cuisine is hot now. We’ve recently returned from Spain, where we gawked at grandiose cathedrals, medieval fortresses and amazing food markets while savoring marvelous meals.  Back home again, we’ve rediscovered two excellent Spanish restaurants just a few blocks from our home: Casa de las Comidas, 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, and Bodegon Spanish Tapas, 515 Eighth St. SE, on Barracks Row.

Created by Javier Candon (who also operates sister restaurant Ser in Arlington), Joselito has been around since 2017. The moniker pays homage to Bardem’s late father, Jose Candon Perez.

Owned by brothers Joe and Moe Idrissi, Bodegon, a spinoff of Georgetown’s Bodega, opened last July.

Nearby, at 503 Eighth St. SE, Chat’s Liquors carries a nice array of Spanish wines. Vis-it www.chatsdc.com.

On both sides of the Atlantic, Iberian restaurants generally showcased a gazpacho Andaluz, olives, jamon Iberica (thinly sliced Spanish ham), manchego cheese, grilled octopus, fried calamari, deep-fried anchovies (our favorite!) and—especially in the Mediterranean city of Sevilla—paella.

While many restaurants in Spain don’t open until 8 or 9 p.m. (Spaniards dine late!), many people graze earlier on tapas (small plates), which might include the aforementioned olives, anchovies, ham and cheese as well as bread topped with tomatoes, marinated peppers and codfish fritters.

For more information on our neighborhood Spanish restaurants, vis-it www.Joselitodc.com and www.bodegondc.com.

On Barracks Row, beautifully decorated Bodegon Spanish Tapas specializes in authentic Iberian cuisine.

Viva Mexicana!

En route to a Nationals game recently, we savored a delicious Mexican brunch at el Bebe, 99 M St. SE, right near the park. After admiring the colorful Mexican murals and other motifs, our group started with house-made guacamole served with seasoned chips (the kitchen was out of the popular Mexican street corn dip); carnitas (beer-braised pork) quesadillas and hearty breakfast burritos. The latter was stuffed with scrambled eggs, chorizo, potatoes and slathered with a tangy tomato sauce. Smoky black beans and cilantro-lime rice escorted the generous platter.

Among other menu options are fajitas, chicken tinga (stewed chicken with pickled radish and pea-nuts), assorted tacos and umpteen kinds of tequila. Come summer: frozen margaritas.

Part of the Metropolitan Hospitality Group, el Bebe is next door to sister restaurant Circa. Lunch for two, including a glass of better-than-decent house red wine (you can also order “bottomless” mimosas for $25 per person), came to $48.95 before tip. Service was excellent.  For hours and more information, visit www.elbebdc.com.

New American

Near Eastern Market, another “New American” restaurant has arrived: Newland, 327 Seventh St. SE. You’ll find the pricy newcomer on the site of the departed Montmartre. Newland’s airy interior is appointed with cool pastel shades with banquettes along one side.

Executive Chef Andrew Markert, who also presides over the kitchen at nearby Beuchert’s Saloon, has created a pair of menu options: His four-course $80 prix fixe menu might include salt roasted squash, lobster with gold rice, dry-aged duck breast, carrot cake. Wine pairing is $44 extra. For $120, diners get a “chef’s tasting menu.” For this seven-course repast, Markert taps seasonal in-gredients from the Mid-Atlantic region. Wine pairings are $66. Beverage Director Mackenzie Conway concocts snazzy cocktails. A 22 percent gratuity is added to customer tabs.

The restaurant name Newland, by the way, refers to the Baltimore road where Markert lived as a child. Newland is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday; weather permitting, there’s outdoor seating. For reservations and more information visit www.newlanddc.com

Coming Soon

Mason & Greens, a Sustainable Dry Goods Grocer, plans to open at 406 Eighth St. SE, where Dunkin’ Donuts used to be. The earth-friendly shop will be 100 percent plastic free. For updates visit www.masonandgreens.com. And, Beuchert’s Saloon and Fight Club, 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, is expanding to 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, the space vacated by Hank’s Oyster Bar.

Duking it Out

Duke’s Grocery, the British-style pub showcasing hefty sandwiches, burgers, truf-fled mac-and-cheese and a humongous bar, will open at 1201 Half St. SE, in the Navy Yard. Don’t rush over right away; the fourth DC Duke’s is arriving this fall.

Newland, a modern American restaurant near Eastern Market, has an airy inte-rior featuring muted pastel hues.

Located a block from Nationals Park, where Duke’s has taken over the grilling at the stadium’s FIS Championship Club, the future Duke’s will offer a weekday happy hour (noon to 7 p.m.) and its “bottomless” brunch.

Executive chef Allyn “Ink” Barrack’s popular “Proper Burger” is stacked with gouda, dill pickles, charred onions, sweet chili sauce, arugula and garlic aioli, all nestled in a brioche bun. Among other menu options are tartines, latkes, quinoa bowls, wagyu (and “Impossible”) burgers, lamb and beef gyros, pastrami grinders, banh mi, and jerk chicken thighs with naan. For more information, vis-it www.dukesgrocery.com.

Java and Ice cream

Restaurateur Aaron Silverman has expanded his Rose’s Restaurant Group:  Nothing Fancy, 715 Eighth St. SE, has opened next door to his Rose’s Luxury. The buzzy newcomer serves espresso and soft serve ice cream in such flavors as buttered popcorn and pineapple. Vis-it www.rosesluxury.com.

Market Watch

At Eastern Market’s outdoor farmers’ row, we stumbled upon Yufka Bakery, which dispenses hand-stretched phyllo pastries with various fillings including spinach and feta, bacon and potatoes. Yufka’s kiosk is open most Saturdays and Sundays. For more information email [email protected].

New–sort of–Pizza

On the way home from CVS recently, I noticed that Pizza Iole, 1123 Pennsylvania Ave. SE—also undergoing renovation—sports a new moniker: Peri-Peri Original. “We’re the same restaurant but under new management,” Ethiopian born co-owner Abitti Bayissa explained.

The menu is also the same as Pizza Iole’s, focusing on “gourmet” pizza like Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil); Greek veggie, white pizza (garlic, cheeses, sans tomato); Buffalo piz-za; chicken pesto and more. You can also create your own pie in various sizes; gluten-free crust is available. Plus salads, calzones, wings and sodas. Peri-Peri is open daily, with carryout and deliv-ery. For more information, visit www.pizzaiole.com.

Gone

We bid adieu to La Grenier, 502 H St. NE, which has departed after 11 years in business. We will miss the garlicky escargot, house-made pate, French onion soup and chocolate mousse…. We’ve also noted the loss of Barracks Row’s Cava Mezze, 527 Eighth St. SE, which folded late last year after a dozen years of serving chicken souvlaki, lamb gyros, and “crazy” feta dip.