Recap: New Kitchens on the Block @ Mess Hall

Photos By Armando Gallardo, Words By Brandon Wetherbee

The purpose of New Kitchens on the Block is twofold. For diners, it’s a chance to preview upcoming restaurants, pop-ups,shops and caterers. For chefs, it’s an opportunity to showcase their food for an eager public. It’s an annual event that will hopefully occur more often. D.C. seems to have more restaurants opening than any other city.

The standout of the 2016 edition was Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s Smoked and Stacked. This year’s best was Unconventional Diner by David Deshaies and RASA by Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman.

Unconventional Diner will open sometime this summer. It’ll be near Smoked and Stacked. The diner will also be part of the Convention Center. Central Michel Richard chef and partner David Deshaies’ upcoming restaurant will be a little more casual than Central. They served vegan meatloaf and lemon meringue pie at NKOTB. The pie could not be improved. Small, beautiful, fresh and citrus-y, the dessert broke through all of the heavy tastes presented throughout Mess Hall.

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RASA has been coming since 2015. It looks like 2017 will finally be the year the Navy Yard restaurant opens. Their lamb and potato dish was the best main course of the event. Their chutneys were the food we kept coming back for. RASA was smart enough to have small jars of the chutney available for attendees. We’re hoping it’ll be for sale in the restaurant. They pack a strong, spicy flavor unlike any chutney available in local grocery stores.

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The choose-your-own adventure style of NKOTB is part of why it’s great. Excited about the soon to open Taqueria del Barrio in Petworth? Have a taco. Dying to try Johnny Spero’s Reverie? Have some Japanese grilled meat. Can’t wait for a wine shop to open on H Street? That’s why Dio Wine Bar is in Mess Hall.

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Besides the food, we enjoyed the art of Nora Simon. Her colorful food-based art would fit well in our office and your kitchen.

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We’re fans of Mess Hall. Ramen World is one of the best annual food events in D.C. New Kitchens on the Block is slowly getting to that level.

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