I wrote on Instagram that I had no idea what this quote meant and that I needed to find out. After eating there, I think I have a grasp at what this means. I led with the quote again because it's what captivated me in wanting to try out Hazel. I mean, the reviews have been good to great and the menu looked alluring but a quote like this really captured my imagination. Who doesn't want to go to the right restaurant at the right time? It was an irresistible proposition.
When we went to Hazel, it was one of those unbearably hot summer days in DC so while the patio looked amazing, just bright, vibrant and evoking fun, there was no desire to even try sitting outside. The inside was a combination of dark, rich wood with the in-style industrial look of exposed ceilings and pop art on the walls. "Sophisticated but not stuffy" it is indeed.
The menu was the best kind of menu. It was littered with indecision and decision at the same time as in, "I don't know what I want, but I want all of it". This brings me to my most important piece of advice, when you go, go strong, go with a group of four minimum. This gives you ample opportunity to try several selections on the menu. The restaurant will tell you that they believe in serving medium plates which I think is code for "enough to share" as opposed to small plates which is "enough to nibble on".
After choosing our selections which were the Hamachi Crudo, Seafood Pancake, Steak Tartare, Charcoal Grilled Branzino, Steamed Little Necked Clams, Charcoal Grilled Quail and Stick-Crunchy Ribs. The food was excellent and I'll share my highlights later on but the best part of this meal was what comes next. The waitress tells us that based on what we ordered, she decides which dishes come out when so the flow of the meal would be optimal. Is it weird that I thought that was an excellent and bonkers idea, that the idea of a restaurant determining what fits best together was so cool to me?
Oh, I forgot, before all this food came I started off with a drink called All Good Things...Yes, the dot dot dot is important because now the drink can mean anything. What it meant to me was a complex and satisfying drink that could be enjoyed through the meal. Bourbon, gran classico, sherry and coffee liqueur. It really did include all the good things in one glass. It was the kind of drink that I could have drank another one but happy that I had one at all.
As for the food, the hamachi crudo is something I still dwell upon. The fish was clean and fresh, smoking yogurt is something everyone should do, and the black rice gave it a special crunch. Perfect little dish. The steak tartare was smooth and clean also. The egg yolk and onion wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be and really complemented the tartare. The star of the dish, though, were the tater tots. I know! Tater f*cking tots. But, they had a unique crispiness to them that were perfect and really added some well needed texture to the dish. Two other things everything should have are the smoked potatoes and the miso-brown butter broth that are served with the steamed clams. Smokiness is just a guaranteed trip to flavor town and that broth is so rich that you forget anything else comes with it. Finally, the crunch ribs came as advertised with their sticky-sweetness present in every bite. Nothing is more satisfying than the crunch you get from eating these ribs right off the bone.
While the food was great, a note has to be made about the service. Our waitress was incredibly knowledgeable and knew just how to describe each dish. On top of that, she just seemed to really enjoy herself and enjoy our company. No question was too small and no question was too dumb. It really did feel like some casual, fancy, down-home, eclectic type of dinner party. We, unfortunately, didn't have room for dessert but that's just a good excuse to go back.
Hazel, 808 V Street NW, Washington, DC, 202.847.4980