Although the baseball season is winding down, Navy Yard restaurants and watering holes are thriving. We’ve recently dined at Albi, the Michelin-starred Middle Eastern restaurant at 1346 Fourth St. SE. Showcasing the cuisine of the Levantine region (which encompasses parts of Lebanon, Syria and Israel), Albi is operated by Michael Rafidi. Albi is Arabic for “my heart.” The spacious display kitchen is dominated by the wood-burning oven which produces many exotic creations.
Perched at the marble-topped bar and presented with a complimentary dish of smoky pickled cabbage, our group of three ordered drinks, then a trio of hummus appetizers. The hummus was the best we’ve tasted outside Israel. Served with puffy pita bread, one hummus was capped with Maryland crab (which we couldn’t discern), another with smoked mushrooms (chanterelle and oyster) and the third was crowned with smoked lamb, my favorite.
Another typical Middle Eastern dish is fattoush—a garden medley of watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, feta and sumac, combined with crispy pita chips. Unfortunately, I found the dish overly salty. Other options include lamb pies, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), lamb kebabs, grilled sea bass. Or you can go for a sofra (“set table”), a lavish, multi-course repast served in the main dining room.
Snazzy cocktails, wine and beer accompany the exotic dishes. The latter list included Tabeh Golden pilsner ($9) from Palestine. I found the wines by the glass rather pricy; I thought my chilled Heitz Cellar red was not worth $16. We loved Albi’s high energy, and service was friendly and efficient. As we departed, our server presented us with a plate of tiny cardamom cookies—a delightful finale. For more information visit www.albidc and www.yellowthecafe.com.
Circa Hits Home Run
On the way to a Nationals game recently, our group of four stopped for brunch at Circa, 99 M St. SE. Not only did we select an excellent restaurant, we were grateful for our noon reservations. Our quartet settled at a table near the window, where we began with a blood orange bellini, a sprightly mixture of orange, peach schnapps and cava (sparkling wine). A standard mimosa was equally refreshing.
I considered ordering avocado toast or fried chicken Benedict, but instead chose two small plates. Fried calamari (tender, not rubbery) rested on a bed of Kalamata olives and marinara sauce. Tuna poke nachos—which we passed around the table—was an international concoction of spicy fish morsels enlivened with sesame ginger marinade and avocado, all perched atop crunchy wonton chips. “Four cheese” flatbread was a spread of garlicky spinach, mozzarella, provolone, ricotta and goat cheese. Delicious!
Blackened chicken mango salad was a medley of crisp mixed greens, red grapes, fried goat cheese and amazingly moist chicken breast. Service was excellent. Other Circa restaurants are located in Foggy Bottom and Clarendon (Arlington). For more information visit www.circabistros.com
Nearby, Chicken + Whiskey has hatched at 70 N St. SE in the Navy Yard. The parent rotisserie shop and whiskey bar on 14th Street NW has added a bigger offspring next to Nationals Park. Latino chef/partner Enrique Limardo, who has wielded his whisk at topnotch local restaurants, has designed an eclectic menu. His focus is on Pollo ala Brasa—slow-roasted chicken, which is brined for 12 hours. A quarter bird is $10.49, which comes with two sides; choices include beans, yucca fries, sweet plantains and queso-slathered macaroni. As the restaurant name indicates, the bar pours a lengthy list of domestic and international whiskeys.
More from the Yard
AC Hotel Washington DC Capitol Hill Navy Yard (a Marriott hotel) has appointed a new executive chef, Angela Rose. Chef Rose will lead the kitchen at Smoke & Mirrors, the lively rooftop bar boasting a panorama city view, the AC Lounge, the first-floor cocktail bar serving Spanish-inspired tapas, and the AC Kitchen, where guests chow down on breakfast.
Chef Rose brings nearly a decade of culinary experience to her new post, including stints at several luxury hotels. Most recently, she was executive sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore. For menus, hours and more information visit www.marriott.com.
Watch these Spaces
Coming soon to the District Wharf: Limani, 670 Wharf St. SW, showcasing seafood-centric cuisine of the Mediterranean and Greece…And…set to open soon, if not already in the Atlas District is Sweet Sweet Kitchen, 500 H St. NE, where Butter Chicken Company #2 used to be. The West African/Caribbean eatery is the offshoot of the parent eatery in Silver Spring. Watch for details…Ginza BBQ Lounge and Karaoke bar is coming at 526 Eighth St. SE, on Barracks Row.
We were shocked and saddened to learn that Rappahannock Oyster Bar, 1309 Fifth St. NE (inside Union Market) is departing after a decade of tasty oyster slinging. We will miss the scrumptious grilled oysters and seafood chowders, but plan to revisit the District Wharf location soon. Fortunately, co-owner Travis Croxton, who was among the first Union Market retail tenants when it opened in 2012, is shifting his employees to the Wharf outpost. See you there.
Also gone is Newland, 327 Seventh St. SE (near Eastern Market). Chef Andrew Markert’s pricy tasting room has folded after only about five months in business. Markert, who still operates nearby Beuchert’s Saloon and adjacent sandwich shop/cocktail spot Fight Club, told Eater DC that Newland was the “right concept, but the wrong time.” Before Newland, the site housed our beloved French bistro, Montmartre.