If we listed some things on the menu at Hazel, you might get some ideas about what kind of restaurant this is. Bee pollen: Scandinavian furniture. Foie gras mousse: a minimalist but photogenic bathroom. Chamomile gelee: seemingly low-key hostess who won’t let you in even though there are eight empty tables.
But eating at Hazel doesn’t feel like being trapped in the Steven Alan across the street. In fact, eating at Hazel is really great. Even if the website says that every dish “has a story” and it sometimes takes itself a little seriously, this is one of the best new places to eat in DC - and we’d confidently send just about anyone here.
First and foremost, the food is great. The menu is divided into vegetables, breads, fish, and meat, and most of the dishes have some sort of Korean or Japanese twist. But unlike a lot of fusion food that feels like the product of a marketing team trying too hard, the dishes at Hazel are actually interesting, not gimmicky. There’s gnocchi with pork-kimchi ragu, monkfish with Szechuan duck jus, and mushrooms with bonito flakes. Hazel manages to make these unusual combinations work, and even makes them feel familiar. If you like gnocchi, you’re going to like Hazel’s version that packs a little punch from the kimchi. Same goes for the ribs, which come with an extra crunch from the peanut topping.
The second reason to come here is for the space. Despite the menu of buzzwords, it’s a place that feels like it will still be comfortable to hang out in 10 years from now. There’s a patio outback with firepits, paper lanterns, and a flowery mural, and two long bars inside that are great for pre-dinner drinks (there’s also a very long cocktail list). The main room has big booths, smaller tables, and another mural that’s an ode to the 9:30 Club next door. The different areas work for a lot of different occasions.
Use it for group dinner, a meal with your parents, a date, or anytime you feel like you’ve reached your spaghetti bolognese and steak capacity for the month. Chances are that you’ll eat something you haven’t had much of before, and you’ll probably want to come back and have it again. Apparently, chamomile gelee has that effect on people.
Either zucchini bread is extremely underrated or Hazel is doing magic with their recipe. This has the same consistency as banana bread, and is slightly sweet and really moist. The foie gras, chamomile, and bee pollen spread on the side looks like alien goo but tastes like a really light mousse. We want it for all future pieces of bread.
These come with quinoa and chile and they’re perfectly fine, but not the most exciting thing on the menu. Spend your time with the other vegetables.
A great, refreshing salad. It’s a nice break from the heavier dishes.
Our favorite thing from the meat section. These are saucy, crunchy (from the peanuts), and you will eat them without caring that you’re getting them all over your face.
This is the sort of pillow-y gnocchi you eat and then decide for ten minutes you’re going to move to Italy and become a pasta maker. There’s a kick from the kimchi, but it’s not overbearing.