Jennie Tai
Recipes Washington DC

9 Best Bites from Capital Food Fight

{Judges: Carla Hall, Padma Lakshmi and Andrew Zimmern}

Last week, City Eats asked their twitter followers what they would choose as the secret ingredient for this year’s Capital Food Fight battle (hosted by DC Central Kitchen). I suggested lionfish, (a fish that should be eaten more to help the critical reef habitat of the Florida Keys) and won a pair of tickets to the event! That night, I got to meet a bunch of amazing chefs and celebrities like former Hells Kitchen contestants, Top Chef alumni, and a few of my favorite Travel Channel hosts (like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern). In a single night, I also got a chance to sample small bites from dozens of notable restaurants around the DC metro that I’ve wanted to try for years. After an hours worth of sampling everything from cotton candy with duck, antelope carpaccio, to apple pop rock gelatin – I was pleasantly surprised by many of the restos I’ve overlooked over the years, and am excited to stop by for a visit. Below are photos of my favorites.

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1) South Texas Antelope Carpaccio
Jackson 20
Destination: Alexandria, VA When I first heard about Jackson 20, it was a rave about their brunch sausage gravy and biscuits, so I imagined rich, Southern cooking. Who knew the small bite they’d feature at Capital Food Fight would be so refreshing? I’ve never had sliced antelope before- but the sliced carpaccio and salad was surprisingly edible light and bright. Can’t wait to stop by to see more of Jackson 20’s wild perspective on Southern cooking.
2) Celery Waffle + Orange Duck + Cotton Candy
Belga Cafe
Destination: Capitol Hill
They had me at cotton candy. The tangy orange duck and savory celery waffle were a refreshingly delicious alternative to the dozens of soggy fried chicken and waffles I’ve went through this past Summer, and I can’t wait to stop by Belga Cafe to find out what other eccentric creations they have to offer.
3) Fried Steamed Buns with Korean Lamb Barbecue
Masa 14
Destination: DC Masa 14’s new executive Chef Adam Goldman revamped the bar menu with fun Latin-Asian bites like this crispy fried ‘steamed’ bun with sweet Korean lamb barbecue and chopped vegetables. Other new head-tilting menu items include the pork belly steamed buns with achiote and pineapple, Japanese sausage flatbread with pickled mushrooms, and barbecued eel hand rolls with mint and pickled jalapenos.
4) Crab Roll in Black Plum + Pimento
Destination: Falls Church, VA
2941 has always been a favorite of mine – mainly because I’ve always left pleasantly surprised after every visit, whether it was because of the cotton candy or fresh bread I got to take home after every meal, the seasonal amuse bouche, or the brilliant new menu items (that sound odd at first, but always seem to work perfectly together) – and the little crab roll wrapped in dark pink plum, pimento, nasturtium leaves, and mango sauce was the perfect representation of the mind-bending, beautifully crafted bites you’d find at there.
5) Seafood Shumai
Ping Pong Dim Sum
Destination: Chinatown, DC
After having dim sum in San Francisco a few years ago, I felt like most of the dim sum joints I came home to weren’t worth visiting anymore. I was always a little wary of shaked up asian fusion concepts (since dim sum is a traditional brunch that’s always been served old school and 100% no-fuss in my family) so when I heard there was a mod dim sum joint in DC, I left it in the back burner. Boy was that a mistake. The seafood shumai is a soft steamed bundle of king prawns, scallop and squid – a perfect, pillowy teaser of what the rest of their dim sum menu is like.
6) Bite-Sized Cork Reuben
Destination: Logan Circle
Even after tasting dozens of small bites (and having a scoop of clementine sorbet from Dolcezza) before making it over to the Cork table – I couldn’t pass up these bright bunches of hot pink sauerkraut. I love a great wine bar that not only has a keen sixth sense for great pours, but also one that knows their food. Like adding sea salt to hot chocolate – great food brightens up your wine tasting experience, and Cork has lots of delicious small plates to share -like poppyseed tagliatelle with caramelized fennel, braised rabbit, wood mushrooms and bacon; and kona kampachi with ruby red grapefruit ginger vinaigrette.
7) Super Plump Atlantic Oysters
Rappahannock River Oysters
Destination: Union Market
Rappahannock River Oysters has their own farm in Topping, VA (where they’re also raising Jeff Black’s latest signature oyster, the Old Black Salts), but recently just opened their own oyster bar at Union Market in DC, where they shuck several different kinds of Atlantics every weekend from 11-8 on Friday and 8-8 Saturday & Sunday. The ones that were being served (their signature Stingrays and Olde Salts) were especially plump, but while one was sweet (like butterscotch) – the other was surprisingly salty – which was right up my alley.”The difference is that one was raised in the river, while the other was raised by the ocean.”
8) Caramel Apple Burst
Destination: DC
Opened just a year ago, Lincoln is a relatively NKOTB. The name of hte dish sounds a bit cheesy, and yes- the photo makes it look like a mustardy clump of gelatin – but this was easily my favorite dessert of the night. The apple flavored gelatin was rolled in sweet pop rocks that literally burst on your tongue as you sip the caramel apple cider. I found the Lincoln table closer to the end of the night when my heels were beginning to take a toll on my feet, and I was literally sitting at a couch when I took a bite – but this bright little bite woke me up for another hour. Can’t wait to check out what else Lincoln has to offer.
9) Brisket Sliders + Quail Egg + Truffle Mayo
Destination: U Street
I’m a sucker for anything topped with a sunny-side up egg, but when you add caramelized onions and truffle mayo to the mix – you better believe I’m coming back for seconds. Luckily I found the Policy table near the end of the night. Otherwise, I’d probably have expended most of my tummy capacity gorging on these addictively delicious bite-sized bundles. After taking a quick peek at their menu – I’ll need to stop by to try the spring gnocchi and chili-glazed pork belly.

Thanks again to City Eats for the tickets! I had a blast and can’t wait to see what happens next year.

Want to know more of what happened that night? Find out who won, who cooked the better iguana dish, and who auctioned off a chance to nibble ham off her shoulder for $1,000 in my recap on NoVA Magazine here.


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