Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Mike Isabella of Graffiato (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Mike Isabella of Graffiato
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Chef Mike Isabella describes himself as intense, focused and driven. And at first you might be intimidated by the tattoos or the serious face when he asks a line cook about a certain dish, not to mention his culinary prowess that landed him on Top Chef and as a runner-up on Top Chef All Stars. But then you mention you’re both from New Jersey or make an astute comment about a dish, and right away the ice is broken, the conversation is off to a start and you wonder how anyone could describe the chef as anything but affable and welcoming.

Like many of the chefs I talk to, Isabella started cooking at a young age just by keeping busy in the kitchen with this grandmother. “I loved the smell of her cooking. Helping her kept me occupied,” he said. From there, becoming a chef was a no-brainer. “This was the only thing I wanted to do. So I knew I couldn’t fail and I worked my ass off.”

The northern Jersey native started out at The Restaurant School in New York, followed by a stint in Philadelphia working with the likes of Stephen Starr, Jose Garces and Marcus Samuelsson. After Philadelphia, Isabella moved to Atlanta to work at a greek restaurant, Kyma, before coming to DC to be the executive chef at Jose Andres’ Zaytinya for three years. Today, you probably know Isabella best from Top Chef and from Graffiato, his Italian restaurant he opened in Chinatown this past summer. “I had grown up in New Jersey, went to New York and then Philly and Atlanta, but I couldn’t find the right fit for me,” Isabella says. In a goldilocks-esque moment, it turned out that DC was just right for the chef. “DC is the perfect size,” he says, adding that the farms in the area are a huge asset. “This city sticks together. We all [in the culinary scene] support one another and make each other better. Chefs here always welcome new people with open arms.” Continue reading

Food and Drink

First Look: Graffiato

graffiato

Earlier this year it was Toki Underground and Shake Shack that were pretty much the buzz everywhere before they opened their doors. When that died down, Graffiato became the restaurant everyone was talking about. The 130-seat dining spot in Chinatown comes to us courtesy Top Chef Mike Isabella, and it has been consistently crowded since it opened in June.

As most foodies can tell you, Isabella is no stranger to DC. He spent three years in a kitchen a few blocks northwest of Graffiato, as the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya. If that doesn’t ring a bell, he also appeared on Season Six of Top Chef and he was the runner up on Top Chef All-Stars.

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The Daily Feed

This Week in Food

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Open!

Two new places opened up on H Street this week, and they’re sure to be favorites for residents and other Washingtonians. For less than $9 you can get a full plate of stir-fry at Khan’s Bar and Grill. It’s not fancy, but it works, and well at that. Just on the next block is the ramen and dumpling house, Toki Underground.  Of course, expect late hours for both.

Medium Rare also opened up this week with its minimalist menu. Pay $19.50 and you’ll get a prix-fixe menu of rustic bread, a mixed greens salad and a Sirloin Steak with fries. The Cleveland Park restaurant comes to us from Mark Bucher of BGR The Burger Joint.

Coming!

Best Bites has some great news for meat lovers out there. To be exact, “a large, USDA-certified commissary for processing locally raised meat that will be sold on-location, to venues in the parent Neighborhood Restaurant Group, and eventually to a string of Red Apron butcheries in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.” What that mouthful means is that you will soon be able to get pastrami short ribs, summer sausage, smoked jowl rillettes, wild-boar salami, and more at a brick and mortar.

Winner

Mike Isabella of the coming up Graffiato took second place in Top Chef, edged out by Richard Blais.  So yet again, a Washingtonian makes it so far and doesn’t grab the title. That’s okay. Congraulations!

This weekend

It’s time for ARTINI 2011. You can read our drinks roundup here, here, and here. This Saturday mixologists from 12 of the city’s top venues will serve up artistic martinis inspired by works from the Corcoran Collection. If you wanted to go, but don’t have a ticket, you’re out of luck because the event is sold out. But I still can’t wait to find out who wins!

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

This Week in Food

Photo courtesy of
‘Hank’s Oyster Bar’
courtesy of ‘jichen2′
Running Indefinitely: Kushi Izakaya & Sushi will donate 100% of the sales of its popular Buta Bara Kushiyaki (Pork Belly Kushiyaki) to the Japanese Red Cross to support earthquake and tsunami disaster relief in Japan. The Pork Belly Kushiyaki, made with North Carolina pigs and cooked sous vide for several hours, is Kushi’s best-selling menu item averaging monthly sales of approximately $7,500.00. 

Getting Bigger…Come May Hank’s Oyster Bar will double in size, adding a bar & lounge as well as a private dining room. So what does this mean? Late night hours! Two am on weeknights and 3 am weekends. Our devoted readers might also remember that restaurant partners Jamie Leeds and Sandy Lewis from Hank’s sold CommonWealth Gastro Pub in Columbia Heights last month.

Opening: Because I live for press releases with a lot of adjectives and love the movie Burlesque…”From the restaurateurs behind distinctive dining concepts OYA and SEI comes SAX, an exclusive lounge and restaurant with provocative live entertainment designed to amuse, please and divert the senses with opulent grandeur.” Look for it in May.

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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

This Week in Food

Photo courtesy of
’15/365′
courtesy of ‘_rockinfree’
What’s coming: Fifty years ago when I was a student at University of Maryland-College Park, I fell in love with Chipotle. Only I could get myself into credit card debt by buying one vegetable burrito every day for one year. Anyway, Prince of Petworth hears that Chipotle will open up a series of Asian themed restaurants this year that could be called ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. Long name. A source tells PoP that ShopHouse has signed a lease in Dupont Circle at 1516 Connecticut Ave next to BGR.

In openings: Tom Sietsema tweets that Penn Quarter’s Hill Country BBQ will start serving its brisket and beans on March 12th. Hello Texas! Just two weeks later on the 28th, Pizzeria da Marco will open in Bethesda. Metrocurean tells us that the 130-seat restaurant will serve traditional Neapolitan pizzas fired in a 4,500-pound wood-burning oven. In what’s prob my fave opening of the month, PoP reports that Paila Chilean Grill and Cafe has opened up at 1424 Park Rd in Columbia Heights. See the menu here.

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The Daily Feed

Celebrate Redwood’s Second Birthday Tonight

Photo courtesy of
‘happy birthday, Amanda!’
courtesy of ‘staceyviera’

It’s Wednesday night. You’re tired. Your big plans are to watch Top Chef with your good friends Hint of Lime Tostitos and Diet Coke. Maybe you’ll even invite some guacamole along if you’re feeling extra social.

While that does sound like quite the party, there’s an even better option on tap for tonight: Redwood Restaurant & Bar’s second birthday in Bethesda. In addition to free hors d’oeuvres, you’ll also enjoy happy hour specials and live music from Donato Soviero and Latin jazz band Trio Caliente. At 9pm, the restaurant will show Top Chef on a jumbo 16′ by 18′ screen, allowing you to get your weekly fix of Tom Colicchio after all. The fun starts at 7pm, and the kitchen will stay open late until 11pm.

Redwood Restaurant & Bar is located at 7121 Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda Maryland 20814. Closest Metro: Bethesda (Red line). For more information, call (301).

The Daily Feed

Top Chef: Washington, D.C. to Debut on Bravo on June 16

Photo courtesy of
‘Vapiano’
courtesy of ‘ellievanhoutte’

Bravo just announced that the newest season of Top Chef, which was filmed in DC throughout the last few months, will debut on the network on June 16 at 9 p.m. While you’re patiently waiting to see what they’ve got cooked up with the new season, you can check out the bios of the 17 Chef’testants for the upcoming season.

The Daily Feed

Embassy Chef Challenge

Photo courtesy of
‘House of Sweden Podium’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Awesome food in an awesomely designed embassy…. You can’t go wrong with that.

Cultural Tourism DC and the Embassy of Sweden present the Embassy Chef Challenge 2010 on Thursday from 6:30 to 10:00.  Watch 12 embassy chefs representing Belgium, Hungary, Korea, Panama, Israel, Qatar and more take on hors d’oeuvre in this delicious (and friendly) challenge.  I also hear that there will be some celebrity chef judges in the audience (hint, hint: Chef Carla Hall and Michel Richard to name a few) so to all of our foodie friends out there, you won’t want to miss this.

Tickets are available online or by calling 202-661-7581.

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, The District

Top Chef Contestant Blais Brings Burgers to Chinatown

Photo courtesy of
‘The Juicy Loosey’
courtesy of ‘akuban’

You guys, we must be getting sexier, ’cause Top Chef has been drawn to us as of late. The crush is festering, and we’ve just moved from the couch to the bedroom. Not only do we get served by Carla Hall, Spike, Bryan Voltaggio, and Mike Isabella but Richard Blais recently announced that he is bringing his Flip Burger concept to DC.

Atlanta is the home base for Flip Burger and Blais is reportedly looking around Chinatown for his third location (We’re second to Birmingham, odd, right?). For my love of Richard Blais subtle sarcastic sense of humor I’m going to politely refrain from whining about how all celebrity chefs like to bring us steak and burgers. Cause they do. Steak or burgers. Red meat. Woo! Ugh.

(Oh, whoops.)

Anywho, Blais says that Flip is all about burgers + molecular gastronomy, and who doesn’t love a little liquid nitrogen mixed with their food? I say? Bring it.

Entertainment, Food and Drink, Fun & Games, News, People, The Daily Feed

DC’s Own On Top Chef Masters Tonight!

Photo courtesy of
‘art and soul mac and cheese balls’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’

Just a quick reminder to all you foodies and Bravo Top Chef fans out there – Chef Art Smith of Art and Soul will be on Top Chef Masters tonight! Art and Soul, located in the Liaison Capitol Hill, right near Union Station is hosting a Top Chef Master’s Viewing Party tonight. The party will be held in ArtBar from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m., and will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres that showcase classic Art Smith dishes.

Good luck Chef Smith!