From Italian to Mexican to Japanese

Washington, D.C.

Had a chance to check out some new restaurants in the District this weekend. Here are some thoughts:

Vapiano: This chain out of Germany just opened its first place in the city at 1800 M Street. Essentially, it’s an Italian cafeteria hybrid that looks like an Ikea showroom. There are various stations set up around the perimeter, where you pick up made-to-order pizza, pasta, salad, drinks or dessert and then swipe an electronic card you’re given upon entering. When it’s time to go, take your card to the cashier and pony up (makes eating out in groups pretty painless).

The food was good, my salad with turkey breast was fresh — with meat cooked at the time of preparation — although the drinks seem overpriced ($3 for an iced-tea). And employees seem to be handling the massive downtown lunch mob scene with varying degrees. After stubbing a toe on a counter, one was heard saying: “That’s it. I’m quitting.”

Zengo: I’m a big fan of Mexican and Japanese fare — but usually not during the same meal — although dinner at this Gallery Place hotspot has made me a believer in Latin-Asian fusion. We started out with some great drinks, like the Mojito de Mango, with Parrot Bay mango run, fresh mango and mint and the Caipirinha, a biting mix of samba cachaca, lime and brown sugar. With a group of 7 and a great booth, we then went to town and ordered a bunch of fantastic appetizers for the table.

Highlights including the thai chicken empanadas, won ton tacos (with charred ahi tuna, sushi rice, pickled ginger and mango salsa) and the pork-shoulder rice noodles in hot & sour sauce. My buddy said that his lobster roll (cream cheese, pickled red onion, cucumber, habanero chive aioli and truffle oil) might be the best sushi roll he ever had. And if that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is.

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Comments

  1. Yes, my pasta was good, but the chef preparing my meal certainly did not make it with love, nor even with any enthusiam whatsoever. When I asked for extra parm she sure did put it on, in an angry fistful. Great food, not the most friendly cooking staff. However, the hosts and cashiers were quite nice and informative.

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