Neighborhood Restaurant Group has brought us many of DC's favorites over the years: Birch and Barley, Iron Gate, The Partisan, and Bluejacket to name a few. Their latest is the charming Hazel Restaurant which recently opened in Shaw. I was immediately taken by the colorful outdoor patio with an attractive floral mural, and the delicately strung lights which add a level of appeal when the sun goes down. Hazel is led by Chef Ron Rubba, who named the restaurant after his grandmother. His past includes an impressive lineup of acts including stints with Chefs Todd English, Gordon Ramsay, Charlie Trotter and Guy Savoy. Most recently, Chef Rubba was at NRG's sister restaurant Tallula in Arlington, Virginia before it closed in late 2014.
Hazel Restaurant's décor is inspired. There is beautiful tile throughout the restaurant, and even the bathroom has gorgeous floral wallpaper with dark hues of pink and orange that tie back to the outdoor patio mural. The bar is sizable, and is sure to be a popular spot for Shaw locals.
As explained by our waitress, the menu is comprised of medium sized dishes that are globally influenced and inspired. She recommended 2-3 dishes per person, and also talked us through some of her favorites. I started with a glass of Sicilian rosé made in the Provence style which was dry, crisp, and just how I like it. The standout dish of the evening was the crispy chickpea tofu with szechuan lamb sauce. It was hearty and had a lot of depth, texture, and flavor. We also loved grandma's zucchini bread which was served hot out of the oven with foie gras mousse. The sticky crunchy ribs were also a memorable item from the menu, although I would have loved more spice or heat to the sauce. They were served with a citrus glaze and peanuts.
The toybox tomatoes with cucumber and salted plum vinaigrette were beautifully plated, but weren't overly memorable. Same goes for the barbecued carrots with fennel kraut, hazelnuts, and buttermilk.
There are a lot of promising things about Hazel Restaurant, and I had a solid first visit. I'm looking forward to heading back to try one of the Lazy Susan dinners, and to enjoying the outdoor patio before the seasons change.