Author’s Note: At Borderstan.com you’ll always get food news from writers who actually eat in our neighborhood. They know where to find the newest rooftop bars, the brunch with unlimited Mimosas, and the best vegetarian options in the city. That’s why we’re giving you a chance to get to know the writers who bring you the best eats Borderstan has to offer. So, grab your fork and take a seat at our table.
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Kim Vu is a food writer for Borderstan.
What’s the best resto in DC? Why?
Vu: Eola. The last time I went to Eola I was so excited about the meal, I emailed Alejandra [Owens, Food Editor] and asked her if I could write about it the next week. I’ve never had a bad meal there, and while Komi or Minibar might get more press, I love the dining room, the whole experience, and I love the fact they always go out of their way to make the meal a special occasion.
Describe your food writing style; what kind of story are you looking to tell?
Vu: I like talking about the surprising and the strange. If a restaurant is serving weird parts of a pig, or there’s a place no one’s ever heard of doing amazing things, that’s the gospel I want to spread. If something I write can get people out of the Ruth/Chris/Morton’s of the world, and get them going to local, sustainable restaurants that do more than just steak, that’s the dream.
Which food writers/photographers are inspiring you right now? Who do you look to for food news?
Vu: I love Bourdain and Ruth Reichl, the former for his snark and wit, the latter for her storytelling and the way she describes food without relying too heavily on adjectives (a skill I have yet to master).
What is your version of comfort food?
Vu: Nothing says home to me like pho. I also have a not so secret love of McNuggets and tater tots, but pho is my actual comfort food/hangover cure.
What is the cooking tool you can’t live without?
Vu: I just received my first J.A. Henckels knife block last Christmas, and I love my 7″ Santoku knife.
If the top restaurants in DC debate is like the Miss America pageant, then the state of Borderstan has some of the city’s most charming and beloved contestants: Komi, Obelisk, Estadio, Birch and Barley. But is the best eatery in the District not only in our fair neighborhood, but hidden right in plain view?
Even with its prime location on P and 21st and its three straight years rising up the Washingtonian rankings, Eola still feels like our little secret. When I recommend it to friends as an ideal place to take in a dinner, the answer comes back, “Never heard of it. Where is that?” But any time I mention it to someone who’s been there before, the answer is always, “Yeah! That place is amazing.” But sadly instances of the former seem to happen more than the latter, and in most cases, that means lower-than-warranted turnout; on our Tuesday dinner last week, there were only two couples with us the entire night.
Which is a shame, because Eola is quite simply one of the best experiences in the city. For one, it’s the perfect picture of a dining room for a date. Exceptionally and impeccably well-coiffed, the room features a beautiful aged wooden floor that meets an exposed brick wall to one side, a pleasant cream yellow color with chocolate trim on the other three. Sometimes you just feel a place is comfortable and intimate and inviting. This place is it.
But the superlatives that the food deserves exceed even those in a Lil Wayne rap. Eola switched last year to all five-course tasting menus; and at only $65 a head for five courses (!), it also doubles as one of the best deals in the city. The restaurant offers three choices: one regular menu, one vegetarian, and one offal menu designed for the adventurous, all of which change on a frequent basis.
This shift allows Chef Daniel Singhofen and his kitchen the liberty to freely riff on the classics and innovate, which they do with style. On our trip, a quail and pistachio terrine wonderfully plays the part of a first-course pate, while a beautiful array of wild mushrooms in consomme is a luxurious blend of earthy flavors and intriguing textures.
A nettle risotto and a broccoli and pork belly ravioli are boldly inventive with sharp and clean flavors. And our entree courses are beyond compare, with the most perfectly-poached halibut we’ve ever had falling apart in fleshy, buttery chunks with each bite, and a rabbit ballotine with fiddlehead ferns offered tender and crunchy counterpoints, all within a flavor profile that was pleasantly rustic country.
So, in one fell swoop, you can enjoy a classic dining room and exceptional service, support a local business, and oh, have the best meal in the city for an amazing price. Go now, go often, and get in on the secret. Then tell everyone you know.
From Alejandra Owens at One Bite At A Time
This one is for the foodies. Have you ever been to a restaurant where you can tell which dishes the chef has put his/her heart and soul into? The ones they’ve tested over and over to perfect? I tasted that at least four times at Eola.
Eola is a cozy restaurant overlooking P St. whose space has been at least three different things in the last five years. Now it’s a “modern American restaurant” where Chef Dan Singhofen whips up some serious magic.
All I have to say is: Go Brave. Go there willing to try new things. It’s the exotic, different dishes where Chef Dan shines the most.
Yes, his pumpkin soup is silky and smooth like you wouldn’t believe. But his foie gras, pig brain and coddled egg dishes are the ones you will walk away remembering — and not just because you ate pig brain.
The “FBLT” — foie gras “bacon”on truffled brioche with petite greens and maderia aioli — was a dish best served in silence. My friend literally made me stop talking while we ate it because he wanted to savor it that much. We went for crispy pig ears (delightful, really!) to snack on and the pig brain — though ours was prepared differently and did not come in tortellini — was had near the end of the night. And it melted — just melted! — in my mouth in the most orgasmic way. These are items you will not want to miss. I promise.
So readers, would you try Eola‘s pig brain and foie gras dishes?
- Where Am I Going: 2020 P St. NW (P St. & Hopkins St.).
- When Am I Going: Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 pm
- Paycheck Pain: Appetizers will run you between $8 and $19 while entrees will go for $24 to $31.
- Say What?: You can hear a pin drop.
- What You’ll Be Eating: I bet most folks will go for the pasta dishes, the beef loin or the pork. I was feeling adventurous and went with a foodie friend, so we went headfirst into the more exotic dishes. The chef’s style is modern American, which seems to be a catch-all these days for chefs who are trying new and exciting things — and exciting the meal was!