Grandma Hazel’s Zucchini Bread – Foie Gras Mousse, Chamomile Gelee, Bee Pollen
Gnocchi Bokki – Pork-Kimchi Ragu, Sesame Seeds, Smoked Pecorino
Sticky Crunchy Ribs – Roasted Peanuts, Cilantro, Five-Spice Glaze
Orange Chiffon – Popped Cranberries, Ginger Spiced Sabayon
Expectedly a restaurant garnering mixed reviews from diners as well as critics, a menu that more-or-less screams “fusion” or “gastropub” always a risk in a time when many have chosen to champion the idea of local-seasonal cuisine, it was as a warm-up to dinner at The Dabney on Halloween that a seat was taken at Hazel just minutes after opening, the space completely empty save for a sizable waitstaff with the unenviable position of being bombarded with exceedingly loud rap and hip-hop from overhead speakers throughout the evening.
Toqued by Rob Rubba with an address in rapidly developing Shaw, an area that locals suggest was fairly rough just five years ago, those approaching Hazel from V Street will recognize the Restaurant from its wooden panel featuring cursive script, a sign pointing towards the door leading would-be diners through a covered patio decorated in Christmas Bulbs over comfortable furniture, the inside a much moodier space with a bar on one side of a divider and the dining room decorated in pop-culture collage.
Focused on ‘global’ flavors with a clear Asian influence, the decor provided by D.C. based artists an additional source of pride pointed out by servers who prove to be both pleasant and professional in an environment where they could just as easily get away with the nonchalance of David Chang’s spots, it was after perusing the Autumn menu for several minutes that the decision was made to order just three plates and then make further decisions, the portion sizes larger than anticipated and thus making the server’s recommendation of 2-3 dishes per person more than adequate for most diners.
Owned by Neighborhood Restaurant Group and named after Chef Rubba’s late grandmother, his inspiration to start cooking seeing one of her personal recipes incorporated into the menu as three moist slices of Zucchini Bread alongside a jar of Foie Gras whipped with Cream and topped with fragrant Gelee plus crunchy grains of Bee Pollen it should be plainly obvious to any who enjoy terrines or pates that the dish offered on both the main and dessert menus is every bit as good as it sounds and then some with plenty of both Bread and Spread for sharing.
Coursing out plates one at a time by choice, the Restaurant slowly filling to about 1/2 indoor capacity by 6:30pm though the combination of chilly weather and Halloween festivities had servers suggesting things were ‘slower than usual,’ suffice it to say that anyone in need of a warm-up would be well advised to take a look at Robba’s transcontinental “Gnocchi Bokki” pairing tender Potato Dumplings and Smoked Cheese with a Sauce of Pork and Kimchi plus toasted Sesame Seeds used as much for flavor as they are for texture.
Rounding out the savories with a Jenga-style stack of “Sticky Crunchy Ribs,” the sweetness and Cilantro unfortunately a bit overwhelming though tender Meat and Roasted Peanuts still manage to peak through from time to time it was from just two actual Desserts – in addition to the Zucchini Bread – that the choice was made to try a $12 slice of Orange Chiffon Pie, the Cream light but not overwhelmingly Citrus and nicely paired to sweetened and reduced Cranberries plus Ginger Custard.