Loosen your belts: DC’s Summer Restaurant Week returns

Requin (Courtesy Greg Powers)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Requin, a French Mediterranean concept Location: The Mosaic District in Fairfax, Virginia Chef: Jennifer Carroll, in partnership with Mike Isabella Highlights: Throughout the week, chef Jennifer Carroll is keeping her prix fixe menus as close to her everyday menus as possible, offering diners a wide selection of choices — from eggplant tomato ratatouille to crispy lamb shoulder to wild Burgundy escargot (pictured). (Photo courtesy Greg Powers)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Convivial, French-American fare Location: 801 O St. NW in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood Chef: Cedric Maupillier Highlights: Convivial joined D.C.’s restaurant scene this past year, and ever since has been one of the most talked about dining establishments. During Restaurant Week, diners will be able to pick one item from three of five categories offered (nibbles, cold, hot, cheese and dessert). There are plenty of meat, fish and vegetable options. (Photo courtesy Greg Powers)
Personal bottles of Japanese whisky and shochu are lined up behind the bar at Daikaya. The D.C. restaurant's new bottle keep program emulates the tradition and hospitality of Japan's izakayas. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Daikaya Izakaya, Japanese Location: 705 6th St. NW in Chinatown Chef: Katsuya Fukushima Highlights: Above one of D.C.’s most popular ramen shops is a tiny izakaya, serving up some of the world’s best Japanese whiskey and authentic Japanese small plates. During Restaurant Week, diners can try dishes such as fried pig ears with smoked Kewpie-ranch, fried oysters with Japanese tartar sauce and donburi.  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
At Fiola, Chef Fabio Trabocchi prepares a Passover Seder inspired by the culinary traditions of Italy's Jews. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Fiola, Italian Location: 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Penn Quarter Chef: Fabio Trabocchi Highlights: During Restaurant Week, diners will get the opportunity to try one of D.C.’s best fine-dining establishments: Fiola. The fixed menu includes dishes such as burrata with sweet corn crema and Taggiasche olives, lightly grilled arctic char and vanilla panna cotta.  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Kapnos Kouzina, Greek Location: 4900 Hampden Ln. in Bethesda Chef: George Pagonis, in partnership with Mike Isabella Highlights: NOW’s your chance to try this new restaurant’s smoked lamb shoulder, chicken souvlaki, dolmades, tzatziki and more.   (Courtesy Kapnos Kouzina Facebook)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Kyirisan, Chinese-French Location: 1924 8th St. NW in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood Chef: Tim Ma Highlights: Choose from options such as sake-brined watermelon, raw royal sea bass, sous vide duck confit and soy braised short rib at this new restaurant in the heart of Shaw. (Courtesy Kapnos Kouzina Facebook)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Pizzeria Vetri, pizza Location: 2221 14th St. NW in D.C.’s U Street area Highlights: Run — do not walk — to D.C.’s newest pizza hot spot. No, seriously: Pizzeria Vetri does not take reservations, and you’re going to want to get a taste of what’s cooking at this 14th Street shop. During Restaurant Week, the eatery will offer antipasti, salad, four different types of pizza and dessert to its diners. (Courtesy Kapnos Kouzina Facebook)

A photo posted by Yona (@yonarestaurant) on

Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Yona, Japanese Location: 4000 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington Chef: Jonah Kim, in partnership with Mike Isabella Highlights: Critics have been raving about Jonah Kim’s Yona since it opened last fall in Arlington. If you haven’t tried it yet, now’s your chance. During Restaurant Week, Kim is serving up dishes like his famous dry-fried wings with Korean chili glaze, pulled pork steamed buns, chicken noodle ramen and green tea panna cotta. (Courtesy Kapnos Kouzina Facebook)
Centrolina Market sells grab-and-go items, such as coffee and pastries, as well as fresh produce, meats, cheeses and specialty Italian goods. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Centrolina, Italian Location: 974 Palmer Alley in CityCenter Chef: Amy Brandwein Highlights: Centrolina is half market, half restaurant and a whole lot of Italian goodness. The menu for Restaurant Week is not yet published, but based off reviews alone, we know the dishes won’t disappoint.  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
rasika.jpg
Top 10 restaurants to try during D.C.’s 2016 Summer Restaurant Week  Restaurant: Rasika, Indian Location: 633 D St. NW in Penn Quarter and 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW in West End Chef: Vikram Sunderam Highlights: This modern Indian restaurant is a three-time James Beard nominee for “Restaurateur of the Year” and is a must for fans of Indian cuisine. Both locations will be offering lunch, only, during Restaurant Week. Reservations are strongly encouraged. (WTOP File Photo)
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Requin (Courtesy Greg Powers)
Personal bottles of Japanese whisky and shochu are lined up behind the bar at Daikaya. The D.C. restaurant's new bottle keep program emulates the tradition and hospitality of Japan's izakayas. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
At Fiola, Chef Fabio Trabocchi prepares a Passover Seder inspired by the culinary traditions of Italy's Jews. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Centrolina Market sells grab-and-go items, such as coffee and pastries, as well as fresh produce, meats, cheeses and specialty Italian goods. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
rasika.jpg
February 27, 2024 | Working during D.C.'s Summer Restaurant Week (WTOP's Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON — Jennifer Carroll is about to have one of the busiest weeks of her life.

The former “Top Chef” star and current chef at Requin is gearing up for D.C.’s Summer Restaurant Week, which runs Aug. 15-21.

“It is a really pressure-filled time in the kitchen,” said Carroll, who is partners with Mike Isabella at the French Mediterranean concept in the Mosaic District of Fairfax, Virginia.

“Lunch, brunch, dinner — every day of the week. And it is nonstop, go, go, go, go, go, put your head down and work.”

Restaurant Week, a biannual event organized by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), started 15 years ago shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

RAMW President and CEO Kathy Hollinger says originally it was a way to get people out and back into the city’s restaurants.

Over the years, the program has grown tremendously. This summer, more than 250 restaurants in neighborhoods throughout the region are participating in the event, which offers diners multicourse meals for a fraction of the cost.

Three-course prix fixe lunches are $22 a person; dinners ring in at $35. And the deals work.

“We pretty much double, if not triple, the number of covers that we do during the week,” Carroll said.

To make sure the restaurant keeps up with demand, Carroll says nearly everyone on staff works double shifts all week long — especially in the kitchen.

“We need to do more prep, we need to get in a lot more food into our inventory, we need to make sure that there’s room in the walk-ins and to be constantly moving stuff around … and just being really super on top of it,” she said.

Her main priority is making sure the plates that go out to the dining room are up to the same standards they would be any other week. After all, it’s a chance for her to showcase her food — “what I put my heart and soul into” — to an audience that may never have visited if it wasn’t for Restaurant Week.

Because of that, Carroll does something a lot of chefs participating in Restaurant Week avoid: She makes sure her fixed lunch and dinner menus are a good representation of what’s normally on the menu.

Instead of limiting the diner to two or three options for each course, Requin’s Restaurant Week dinner menu offers six options for the first course, five for the second and four for dessert.

Favorites such as the eggplant tomato ratatouille, smashed fingerling potatoes, grilled swordfish with harissa, and crispy lamb shoulder all make the cut.

“Their experience will be a true experience. Even though it’s during Restaurant Week, it’s still the same food, the same menu, the same cooks executing everything, and I will still be on site,” Carroll said.

Requin is also offering a $55 four-course selection and its à la carte menu throughout the week.

If, in the past, you’ve been on the fence about participating in Restaurant Week, RAMW’s Hollinger says there’s a pretty good reason to partake this year: D.C. was just named Bon Appétit magazine’s restaurant city of the year.

“For those of us who have been in this region for quite some time, there are many who will say, ‘We knew that for a while.’ But really, to be recognized nationally as the best restaurant city in the country, it is such an honor, and it truly is a testament to the talent that we have in food service,” Hollinger said.

Carroll said she saw the recognition coming. After all, it was D.C.’s growing excitement for food that brought her to the nation’s capital from Philadelphia a few years ago.

She credits the area’s diners, who she says are adventurous and more excited than ever to get out and try something new.

“And [they] trust the chef, which is something that is really special that a lot of cities don’t have,” she said.

Restaurant Week runs Monday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 21. You can find a full list of participating restaurants and menus on RAMW’s website.

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