The hottest restaurants in DC are serving up medium-sized dishes.
The hamachi crudo at Hazel is just one example of the medium-size plates—the perfect choice for sharing more than just a taste—that are hitting the District this season.
Bindaas, which in Hindi means “cool” or “laid-back,” is an Indian street-food restaurant in Cleveland Park (3309 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-244-6550) that’s on the leading edge of a food trend: medium-sized plates. But, don’t call this food trend “new,” says restaurateur Ashok Bajaj.
He’s been around Washington, DC, long enough to know that food fads come and go, and he’s not surprised that these dishes—shareable plates that are bigger than a bite and smaller than a full entrée—are back in a big way.
“We didn’t do medium plates intentionally. They’ve been around forever,” Bajaj says. “In India portion size matters. You want to sample a lot of different food, without the guest leaving hungry.” And they’re also priced right. At Bindaas, most plates range between $10-$14 each.
Rob Rubba and his team at Hazel work quickly behind the scenes to produce perfectly plated—and portioned—dishes, such as the steak tartare.
This portion size is a big departure from the small-plates craze that swept across DC just a few years ago, and is mainly due to the fact that diners are demanding both value and quality from their food, says chef Rob Rubba.
His restaurant, Hazel (808 V St. NW, 202-847-4980), opened earlier this summer in the Atlantic Plumbing building of North End Shaw with such delectable dishes as barbecue carrots with hazelnuts, fennel, and buttermilk and sticky-crunchy ribs with roasted peanuts, cilantro, and a citrus glaze. Plates on the self-described “medium-size menu” generally range from $11 to $16, and are inspired by Rubba’s personal experiences, like the zucchini bread, spun from his grandmother’s recipe.
“A medium plate is a dish that would be considered a well-portioned appetizer,” Rubba says. “Guests are more aware of quality, local, and rare ingredients... Our goal is [to make them] actually shareable and contain more than a small bite per person.”
And a little further south in Shaw, medium plates are also on the menu at Cedric Maupillier’s Convivial (801 O St. NW, 202-525-2870). The chef first built a critical mass of followers with his burgers at Mintwood Place, and at his newer venture, he prefers split-friendly portions for dishes like his fried chicken coq au vin. But good luck sharing. The mouthwatering fried chicken—topped with a reduced glaze and braised vegetables—is so good that you may just want it all to yourself.