Hot Starters

by Editorial

Also joining the celeb-chef scene this fall is the two-in-one lounge and restaurant The Source by Wolfgang Puck (575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW). Side note: what is up with chefs giving themselves a byline? Executive chef Scott Drewno, a veteran of Spago and Chinois on Main, offers classically Puckish Asian-inspired fare: there is a casual menu in the lounge (Kobe beef sliders, those famous pizzas) and formal dining upstairs (blue crab and shrimp siu mai dumplings, Assam prawns with fresh curry leaves). Questionable name aside, the buzz on this place is already deafening.

Again in the category of B.L.R.W. (bar/lounge/restaurant/whatever) comes Hudson (2030 M St., NW), which is perfect for late-night revelers suffering from low blood sugar – located in the former David Greggory space in Dupont Circle, this sleek spot serves food morning, noon and practically all night. The down-home dishes such as lmatzoh ball soup and fried chicken are comforting, but their artfully-crafted cocktails are the true headliners: the 80-calorie Lo-jito packs a fruity slurp with minimal guilt, while the Pomegranate Caiparinha offers a sexy ruby red blend of tart and sweet.

Speaking of drinks, cozy Veritas (2031 Florida Ave., NW) is a welcome addition to the city. They offer an eye-boggling list of wines, by the glass or bottle, though we prefer their imaginatively named flights like “backpacking in Italy,” which offer a taste of three Italian reds. Of course it’s not a true oenophile experience without fine fromage, and while you won’t win any points from your cardiologist by dining here, their selection of cheese – mostly imported – makes for a delicious interlude.

If you’re in the mood for homey, not haute – and really, who doesn’t have those moments? – the new Stone’s Throw restaurant (2660 Woodley Rd. NW) grills up some butter-soft prime cuts of beef. Fresh from a multi-million dollar renovation, the Marriott Woodley Park’s dining mainstay could still use a visit from Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares – on a recent visit, our table overlooked the American Bar Association’s annual convention – but the menu’s classic steakhouse fare is faultlessly prepared. The key here is to keep it simple – skip the fancy foie gras and carpaccio and head straight for the grilled rib eye served juicy and pink, washed down with an icy vodka martini.

Mistletoe, roast turkey and eggnog are so passé. Here are our picks for unique festive cheer:

Game on!
Channel Top Chef and tuck into roasted elk, seared venison loin and other wild beasts with Butterfield 9’s (600 14th St. NW) game tasting menu.

Go Douro
Forgo Cab-Sav and present your hostess with a bottle of Portuguese red wine from the Douro region (pronounced doh-roh). Plummy and soft, with delicate floral hints, they pair well with red meat. Calvert Woodley Wines and Spirits (4339 Connecticut Ave. NW) has a wide selection.

Sichuan Dreams
Who needs yuletide cheer, when you’ve got Hong Kong Palace (6387 Seven Corner Center, Falls Church, Va.) Don’t be fooled by the name. Their Chinese Sichuan cuisine – fiery hot chilies mixed with numbing peppercorns for a blend of pleasure and pain – is guaranteed to raise endorphin levels.

Think Traditional, Buy Local
Roast a locally grown free-range turkey or slice into a pasture-raised ham. Maple Lawn Farms in Fulton, Maryland supplies Whole Foods, while Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Virginia sells at local farmer’s markets.

Steak and Scene
The Palm (1225 19th St. NW) is now 750 square feet bigger, giving us more room to spy on meat-and-potatoes-fueled wheeling and dealing. We’ll be keeping an eye on the three “power booths,” located next to the bar.

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