Futoshi “Tao” Takazato got his first gig working at a sushi restaurant when he was 24 years old. From the start, he was mesmerized by how fish could be transformed into a colorful, delicious piece of art. It took Tao six months of practicing and learning before he’d make sushi for a customer; it took him five years to actually feel comfortable doing it. Eventually, Tao graduated to head chef. Rather than marking the occasion by etching an oven mitt into his driver's license, he decided it was time to open his own restaurant, and Maneki Neko was born.
Translated, Maneki Neko means “beckoning cat.” In Japan, a waving cat is a symbol of good fortune. In fact, the image is often propped up in the windows of businesses as a way to welcome customers inside. A similarly welcoming atmosphere pervades Maneki Neko, with staff members reaching a first-name basis with regular customers and customers who bring in notarized copies of their birth certificates. Niceties aside, it’s the cooking that turns first-time guests into regular visitors. Tao and his staff specialize in sushi, but they also craft other traditional Japanese dishes. They create savory pancakes called okonomiyaki and sauté pork with noodles to form the Okinawa Soba entree.
Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.
Bamian Restaurant gained the attention of The Washington Post in 2006 when its traditional Afghan cuisine drew in an Afghan ambassador and embassy staff from Kuwait and Qatar. Plates teem with housemade flatbread prepared in a tandoor oven and kebabs grilled over open flames, earning the restaurant a "very good to excellent" Zagat rating. Vegetarian items include the sautéed pumpkin with yogurt and mint and hummus dusted with paprika.
The interior of Bamian Restaurant is elegantly decorated with leopard-print chairs in the foyer and sparkling chandeliers in the dining room. Gayot describes the restaurant as "large-as-a-barn and gussied up like a deb ready for a coming-out party." The large space includes a full dance floor, which lends itself to hosting large parties, wedding receptions, and rehearsal lunches to practice for dinner.
At Jerusalem Restaurant, cooks take a thoughtful approach to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. "The kitchen works with a light touch?a must when it comes to such hearty fare as braised lamb shanks and lamb makluba," wrote a contributor for Washingtonian, which featured the spot as a "Cheap Eats" pick in 2012 and 2013. That light touch carries through to dishes such as Moroccan carrot salad, vegetarian kabobs, and shawarma sandwiches served on fresh, pillowy pita bread. Jerusalem Restaurant also pours a selection of fruit juices and sweetens meals with Lebanese confections such as sweet baklava, creamy om ali, and phyllo dough replicas of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Washington Post named Panjshir an Editors' Pick and Zagat rated its food and service as "very good to excellent." Six TripAdvisors give it an average of four owl eyes and 75% of Urbanspooners like it.
2941 Restaurant: A User's Guide
Modern French Cuisine | Acclaimed Duck Burger | Onsite Herb Garden | Meal with a View | French Wines
Small bite: crispy calamari, described as “luscious” by the Washington Post
Pasta: smoked-burrata ravioli with escarole and spicy duck
Entree: bacon-wrapped monkfish with syrah sauce
Dessert: salted-caramel brownie with buttermilk sherbet
Where to Sit: Ask for a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows, which look out over a sprawling koi pond and lush garden with an original Rodin statue at its center.
When to Go: Swing by during lunch, when the ever-popular Daffy burger is on the menu. This decadent sandwich showcases a patty blended with duck breast, duck leg, and foie gras. The patty is topped with even more foie gras, as well as a sweet-and-sour onion agradolce to cut the richness.
While You're Waiting
Stroll through the outside herb garden where Executive Chef Bertrand Chemel harvests fresh ingredients daily.
Ask sommelier Jonathan Schuyler to suggest an ideal wine pairing from 2941’s largely French selection, or pass the time with a classic cocktail.
Gaze into the crystalline structure of the giant geode in the dining room.
Dress Code: Come as you are. Although you’ll still see business suits and date-night dresses, 2941 shed its former special-occasion-only image with a complete redesign in 2012, incorporating a laid-back dress code to match its more casual culinary offerings.