Best New Restaurant

808 V St. NW, (202) 847-4980
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

While most of the ingredients at Hazel are familiar, the way Chef Rob Rubba combines them is other-worldly, and that makes for a dinner that’s full of surprises. Take the Shaw restaurant’s signature dish, for example—who would have thought to pair griddled zucchini bread (Rubba’s grandmother’s recipe) with a jar of foie gras mousse topped with chamomile gelee and bee pollen ($15).

Then there’s the steak tartare, which invites guests to smash crispy, golden tater tots into a mound of minced rare beef topped with caramelized onion dip ($15). It’s hard not to feel like a demonic toddler playing with food, but that playfulness is exactly what Rubba is going for with his globally-inspired cuisine.

Rubba has worked for big names like Gordon Ramsay, Charlie Trotter, and George Perrier, but Hazel, in partnership with Neighborhood Restaurant Group, is his first solo restaurant. It opened in June with a menu of sharable, medium-sized dishes plus the “Ducked Up” family-style meal. Those who are ambivalent about duck need not apply because it’s a Rohan duck extravaganza that feeds two to three guests for $95. It comes with roasted duck breast, crispy wings, kimchi-confit fried rice, duck sausage, and more.

The drinks are just as fun. They range from trendy orange wines and sour beers to cocktails from Megan Coyle divided into two categories, “delicate” and “complex.” Kick things off with the “Power Play” containing gin, Montenegro Amaro, persimmon vinegar, and chocolate-mole bitters ($13) or the “Transfigurations” with vermouth, rhum agricole, dry Curacao, and fermented lime ($11).

Other factors that make Hazel best-new-restaurant material include the fact that it boasts an expansive, colorful patio for outdoor dining; a playlist of old-school hip hop and punk; a brunch menu that includes delights like curry squash donuts and breakfast donburi; and the restaurant’s house hot sauce called “Fire Panda” that you can purchase and bring home.