In 1993, José Andrés made his first foray into the DC dining scene when he opened the popular Spanish tapas eatery Jaleo. As anyone familiar with Washington restaurants knows, the chef and restaurateur didn’t stop there. Andrés has grown his culinary empire in the past 20 years to include six branded restaurants in the greater Washington area, including Zaytinya, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, minibar, barmini, America Eats Tavern, and several locations of Jaleo. Here, he shares his recommendations for dining in the District when he’s not helming the kitchens at his own restaurants.
This is a really fun restaurant. I love what Katsuya Fukushima is doing. I love that you can order a humble bowl of noodles like the shio, or you can have the bolder, more complex shoyu ramen that is just so amazing. I usually order the shio and then add the extra toppings, which really elevate the soup to something astonishing. Daikaya’s bar Izakaya [has] an amazing modern interpretation of the sake bomb using spherified sake [sake encapsulated in a thin shell]. It’s the perfect way to have this amazing drink. 705 Sixth St. NW, 202-589-1600
The Inn at Little Washington
My friend Patrick O’Connell opened this restaurant 35 years ago and, really, it was a pioneer of fine dining in the DC area. It is a beautiful destination and the ideal place for a romantic dinner. The menu is always evolving, which is what makes it very special; I don’t think I’ve had the same thing twice. The last time I went with my wife, I was really watching my weight so I had an astonishing and inventive menu of vegetables. Don’t get me wrong—I love a good jamón Ibérico—but there is something really sexy about vegetables. When I go to the Inn, we usually do a wine pairing…. The restaurant has an exceptional wine list. Middle and Main Streets, Washington, VA, 540-675-3800
The Red Hen
The Red Hen just opened so I’ve only been able to go in once or twice. I think they are doing great things, so I hope to be able to go more often. Right as you walk in, you will see a big beautiful stone wood-burning oven. A wood-burning oven is typically used to make pizza, but Red Hen uses it to create a variety of Italian-inspired dishes. I love that it’s a different way of using the oven than what maybe people are familiar with. The rigatoni with fennel sausage is astonishing! 1822 First St. NW, 202-525-3021
Azur is located right in the heart of Penn Quarter in the building that was Café Atlántico and America Eats Tavern. As a Spaniard I really love the sardines. Azur has a great dish of wild sardines in escabèche with green apple, radish, and spring onions. I always order the gin and tonic—it’s the perfect cocktail, but they also have a great selection of Belgian beers. And of course, I love the oysters from the raw bar. It’s a great choice for something quick and casual. The space now belongs to my friend Frederik de Pue, yet I always feel at home there. I stop in whenever I can and when I’m walking between my own restaurants. 405 Eighth St. NW, 202-347-7491