March 20, 2014 | by Jonathan Howard
Navy Yard hotspots
Agua 301, Navy Yard, gay news, Washington Blade

Agua 301 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Navy Yard is fast becoming more than just a destination for baseball aficionados; foodies now have several reasons to flock to the waterfront. Restaurants like Osteria Morini (301 Water St., S.E. Suite 109), Bluejacket and the Arsenal (300 Tingey St., S.E.) and Agua 301 (301 Water St., S.E.) are all hoping to help redefine this neighborhood and make it a haven for food lovers and baseball lovers alike.

New York’s Michael White brings Osteria Morini to D.C. He also brings his hearty Italian menu to a grandiose 4,200-square foot space that is both modern and rustic in design. Executive Chef Matthew Adler doesn’t hesitate to fill the large space with dishes full of bold flavors; like the Cappelleti, which is truffled ricotta ravioli, melted butter and prosciutto; the Stracotta — sangiovese braised short ribs, whipped potatoes, and gremolata; and the Vitello — 12-ounce veal rib chop with pancetta cream from the restaurants wood burning grill are also big enough dishes to fill your stomach as well as the expansive room.

Bluejacket, a nickname for U.S. sailors, is a brand new well-appointed brewery down at the Navy Yard where Beer Director Greg Engert and Brewmaster Megan Parisi will be creating numerous concoctions. The beer is a solid mix with a variety of styles that will keep beer connoisseurs happy as well as some approachable, quick drinking beers. Examples include Scarecrow — a delicate saison with a dry finish; the Panther — a hop forward lager; and James & the Giant — a Belgian ale with local peaches. Accompanying restaurant the Arsenal, a nod to the buildings former function as a munitions factory, will constantly feature 20 rotating Bluejacket brews and five Bluejacket cask ales. Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIssac are the husband-and-wife team that will be overseeing the menu at the Arsenal. The focus will be on dishes that pair well with the beer, including pasta made in house from the spent grain.

Agua 301 is one of the recent additions to the Navy Yard, and is a 150-seat restaurant from owners Amanda and Stephen Briggs. They selected Chef Antonio Burrell as the head chef; Burrell helped open El Centro D.F. on 14th Street. The idea behind the cuisine at Agua 301 is to take contemporary Mexican cuisine and infuse it with modern flair. Burrell will take the traditional flavor profiles and Mexican ingredients and tweak them with experimental ingredients and flavor combinations.

When you first glance at the menu, you notice that while tacos appear, items like burritos and fajitas are absent. There are, however, three kinds of guacamole, including guacamole de jaiba, which contains jumbo lump crabmeat and fresh corn; the correct Spanish word to describe this creation is riquisímo. Of the seven types of tacos, the pork belly al pastor with crispy pork belly and a spicy habanero salsa is the one that caught my eye, but I do love heat. The carnitas taco with shredded pork and habanero salsa, as well as the hongas taco with sautéed mushrooms, squash, chilies and goat cheese also looked delectable. One could simply spend the evening dining on tacos; I thought about it.

But I couldn’t just focus on the tacos when my eyes jumped down the menu to see mahi mahi, and these beautiful words were followed by one glorious word — bacon. May I please have six? Add an order of the short rib mole chichillo, the bistec al parilla with tomato salsita and corn casserole, and a few orders of yucca frita and that should suffice. If it doesn’t I will simply return to the beginning of the menu for the white fish ceviche and the chicken tortilla soup. Did I mention mahi mahi and bacon on the same plate?

It’s rare for me to lose track of food I have eaten in a night, let alone attack a menu out of order, but this night was an exception. Just the thought of some of the inventive takes on some of the dishes served at Agua 301 is delightful. Sadly, not all dishes are home runs, with some of them being a bit salty. If Agua 301 isn’t what you are craving but you’re looking for a place to dine in the Navy Yard, don’t fret Osteria Morini and the Arsenal at Bluejacket are still excellent options. Will the Navy Yard soon become the next Penn Quarter or 14th Street Corridor, with a new place to eat on every corner? At this rate, anything is possible.

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