The Hot Plate: What’s New

Posted January 21, 2004 at 3:12pm

With the start of the new year, a handful of noteworthy restaurants have opened on and around Capitol Hill. Here’s a look at some fresh faces on the dining scene.

If the frigid temperatures have you craving a taste of warmer climes, the cooking at two new Penn Quarter restaurants will hit the spot.

Veteran D.C. restaurateurs Jimmie and Sharon Banks opened the Caribbean-inspired Ginger Cove at Eighth and E streets Northwest in early January. Its more upscale counterpart, Ginger Reef, is expected to open in early February below Ginger Cove.

With coral murals painted on colorful walls and reggae music piping out of the speakers, Ginger Cove has an unmistakable island vibe that continues on the menu.

Jamaican-born chef Sharon Banks cooks up jerk chicken “reggae” wings with pineapple chutney and pimento-

glazed spare ribs with cinnamon sweet potato mash. During lunch, a Caribbean version of fish and chips comes flanked by cassava chips and Haitian slaw.

Entrees include fried whole snapper, braised lamb shanks and the Kingston surf and turf (Jamaican jerk pork and shrimp served with crispy plantains).

A diverse selection of beers, including five from the Caribbean, and a specialty drink list with cocktail names like “tangerine tickle” and “dance hall diva” should have you kissing frostbite goodbye.

The couple’s previous ventures included the popular Hibiscus Café and Fish, Wings n Tings.

Around the corner at Seventh and F streets, Rosa Mexicano finally opened its doors at the end of December, serving upscale renditions of Mexican specialties and signature pomegranate margaritas.

Along with the standard tacos and enchiladas, offerings include chile tortilla soup, crispy chicken flautas, blue corn-crusted salmon and lamb shank marinated in tequila.

On the newly revitalized Barracks Row, Finn Mac Cool’s — Irish Publick House opened in December and has been drawing big crowds with live music and a convivial atmosphere.

The two-story pub offers traditional Irish fare, steaks, burgers and sandwiches. It’s the only place in D.C. to get Beamish Stout, which is similar to Guinness but slightly sweeter.

Live music Tuesday through Saturday and late hours have made Finn Mac Cool’s a popular hangout, but the nonsmoking upstairs and kids’ menu make it family-friendly as well.

On Pennsylvania Avenue, Meyhané replaced Anatolia Turkish Café in December, and though the cuisine is still Turkish, the focus has shifted to wine and tapas.

Bottles of wine are half-price from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon until 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tuesday nights draw a crowd with a live bellydance show.

Meyhané serves a variety of hot and cold tapas that reflect traditional Greek and Balkan cuisine, such as zucchini fritters, hummus, dolma and grilled kofte (Turkish meatballs).

Down on the Southwest waterfront, nightclub owner Abdul Khanu opened H2O Restaurant and Lounge at the end of December in the old Hogate’s space. And although Khanu is known for his trendy clubs, food is the focus of this latest venture.

Seafood is the menu’s mainstay, but you’ll also find pastas, steak and grilled chicken. And Hogate’s famous rum buns make an appearance in H2O’s bread baskets.

The lounge area of the restaurant is home to special happy hour events, and this weekend, the restaurant will debut a late-night international happy hour at 9 p.m. Friday and a soul food happy hour at 9 p.m. Saturday.