Apparently 2017 is the year of vegetables. This works out pretty well for me since I’m a vegetarian but even if you aren’t, you will find the dishes you’re about to read about (and hopefully try eventually) to be delectable. I love writing this annual (or semi-annual since we ran two veg dining guides last year, one in February and one in December) guide because it lets me highlight my favorite dishes from all the food I get to sample at taste tests and restaurant openings. If you don’t read anything else I write, this is the best place to get a summary of some of the best dining options in D.C. So without further adieu, here’s a countdown to 2017’s best vegetarian dishes thus far.
17. Westend Bistro’s Khachapuri
Ok, so I know Compass Rose’s khachapuri is famous in the DC area. But I found one that is even more decadent. New Chef de Cuisine Alvin Dela Cruz loves to incorporate ideas, flavors, and dishes from his travels, which is how he developed the khachapuri that is currently on the brunch menu. His khachapuri is made with puffed pastry, which is smothered in cheese, topped with an egg and baked to perfection. Then, he drizzles the dish with sea salt and shaved white truffles. The luscious melted cheese, buttery puffed pastry, creamy egg yolk and heady white truffles make this a brunch dish for champions. Enjoy it with a glass of champagne.
16. Casa Luca’s Ravioli San Leo
I love handmade pasta. I especially love it served simply and elegantly. At Casa Luca, the housemade ravioli is stuffed with fresh, creamy ricotta cheese and served in a lemon and herb infused butter sauce, with a sprinkling of chopped almonds for a bit of crunch. It is visually stunning but even better to eat.
15. Ottoman Taverna’s Sigara Boregi
Phyllo dough stuffed with tangy feta cheese and rolled into cigars and baked. No more info is needed. Eat these and you’ll be livin’ the dream!
14. Bindaas’ Corn and Pepper Uttapam
So I know I featured one of Bindaas’ dishes in our last veg dining guide, but I couldn’t help but include another one in the 2017 guide. What can I say, I love Indian street food! The uttapam is one of my favorite dishes there; uttapam are kind of like savory Indian pancakes, made of rice and dal (lentils). The ones at Bindaas are topped with sweet corn and peppers, making for a savory-sweet flavor profile. The soft uttapam is the perfect vehicle for the sweet corn, and a dollop of cilantro chutney contributes a bright, fresh element to the dish.
13. Tredici Enoteca’s Mushroom Toast
The picture of this dish speaks louder than any words I can use. This dish sounds ordinary but in reality when you encounter this thick slab of sourdough bread, piled high with maitake mushrooms, and then literally covered in soft shards of cheese and chives you and your dining partners will literally be fighting over the last bite. Super satisfying and delicious.
12. Beefsteak’s Cauli-Power Salad
We all know that despite being a vegetarian I am not into salads. Well, entree salads. I tend to think of salads as an appetizer or side dish; but I need a real entree just like anyone else! But of course, Jose Andres changed my mind. His cauli-power salad is a salad like no other. With loads of cauliflower, mushrooms and greens this salad is a power house; mozzarella adds a fresh, cheesy note while the fig balsamic dressing brings out the natural sweetness of the onions and tomatoes. A heavy sprinkling of corn nuts brings a great crunch. Consider me converted! Salad for lunch it is—as long as its at Beefsteak.
11. Indique’s Morel Vegetable Stew
Indique has really re-vamped their menu recently and it shows. This new morel vegetable stew involves potatoes and morel mushrooms, which are particularly chewy and nutty, cooked in a gorgeous sweet and spicy coconut curry broth. The fragrance from the ginger and curry leaves, and heat from the green chilis is intoxicating. Enjoy it with cold beer.
10. Declaration’s Margherita Pizza
I know everyone loves the traditional Italian pizzas with the thin crust and discs of fresh mozzarella. Those are good; but I really love a pizza with a thicker crust, more sauce, and melted cheese. At Declaration, the pizza is just that. A thick, doughy crust is covered in a rustic tomato sauce and heaps of mozzarella cheese and baked so that the cheese melts completely and the dough forms those golden puffs all over. Whole basil leaves are baked into the pizza, adding a fragrant, peppery note. It’s simple and simply divine.
9. Taqueria Nacional’s Sweet Potato Tacos
There’s nothing like some chips, salsa, a margarita, and delicious taco. Unfortunately, most veggie tacos are just beans and cheese. At Taqueria Nacional, the staff is great at coming up with interesting veggie options, and their sweet potato taco is one of the best. The small, housemade corn tortilla is stuffed with cubes of sweet potatoes and cooked cake, and then topped with both a spicy green and a onion and tomato salsa. Its Mexican at its best.
8. Royal’s Charred Vegetable Chorreadas
Chorreadas is one of my favorite Columbia dishes. At Royal, the dish features grilled veggies like broccoli and onions that are blanked by the creamiest tomato sauce, and then topped with shredded cheese and cilantro. The vegetables are smoke and hearty, while the tomato sauce is bright and savory and addictive. Broccoli has never tasted this good.
7. Daikaya’s Seared Enoki Mushrooms
Most food lovers think Daikaya has the best ramen in town. But did you also know that above the ramen shop there is an izakaya that serves fantastic Japanese small plates? The menu has plenty of delights, but I always go back for the enoki mushrooms. These mushrooms are soaked in a rich miso butter, making the mushrooms so soft and silky they will literally melt on your tongue.
6. Little Sesame’s Fried Cauliflower Hummus Bowl
I don’t know what it is about Little Sesame’s hummus that makes it so good. It is literally the creamiest, smoothest nuttiest, best hummus I have ever had. The hummus bowls at Little Sesame come with a series of creative toppings, which change seasonally. Currently, the venue is offering a fried cauliflower bowl which may be their best one yet. The meaty hunks of cauliflower are topped with green onions and spices, served on a bed of hummus with a side of warm, doughy pita bread. Meat eaters who think a vegetarian dish can’t be satisfying need to order this immediately.
5. Shouk’s Black Bean Pita
Ok, the truth is I love all of Shouk’s pitas. Their veggie burger was featured in our last veg dining guide. And I am obsessed with their cauliflower and tahina pita. My current favorite however is the black bean pita. There’s just something about the hearty black beans with spicy harissa and sweet potatoes that makes the flavor profile of the pita complex and well-rounded. Order it with a side of polenta fries and house lemonade.
4. Centrolina’s Papparedelle
Well, we all know I love Chef Amy Brandwein’s food. She makes fantastic Italian fare, and the menu changes daily so you never get sick of the menu . This winter she has been featuring a housemade pappardelle, where silky noodles are swirled with greens and huge, meaty mushrooms, served in a butter sauce and adorned with shredded Parmesan. It is so warm and comforting you won’t want to eat anything else when its cold outside.
3. Lapis’ Bolani
Now that it got recognized by the Michelin guide, it may be harder to get a resveration at Lapis but I would do what you can to get into this Afghani gem. All of their food is fantastic, but your meal will not be complete without an order of bolani. Bolani is a Afghani flatbread that is warm and earthy, made from wheat flour, and stuffed with different fillings like leeks, potatoes, or pumpkin. The pumpkin is my favorite; the sweet filling is able to stand up to the deep, earthy flavor of the wheat bread. The herb infused yogurt dipping sauce brings a creamy and tart element to the dish. Its perfect for sharing but you better order one just for yourself!
2. Himitsu’s Vegetable Kakiage Udon Bowl
This is the noodle bowl of my dreams: fresh, chewy udon noodles come swimming in a silky, savory dashi broth, with a smattering of fragrant green onions as the only garnish, making the dish incredibly simple but bursting with umami from the garlic dashi. But, there is one other essential element to this dish that makes takes it over the top. On the side, Chef will bring you a vegetable fritter; fried strings of onions and veggies that are crazy good. Crunchy and salty and perfect, you should drop the fitter into you soup which will add even more flavor and bring a crispy, decadent aspect to your noodle soup.
1. Colada Shop’s Empanadas
This new Cuban spot has plenty of tasty dishes, including Cuban sandwiches, croquettas, and pastelitos. But the best item of all is the spinach and cheese empanadas. It’s made with freshly sautéed spinach and mounds of swiss cheese that are folded into a empanada wrapper and then fried. The cheese melts until it is gooey and delicious, and the dough is buttery and crunchy. Smother it in the cilantro sauce it comes with and wash it down with a mojito.