Nippon nachos ($6)
Fried gyoza in nacho clothing—cheddar and chipotle gouda and sour cream (infused with jalapeño-steeped masago) and a tart, fresh pico de gallo; the simple soy-spinach filling doesn't add much, but that's not the point, is it? We wish our cheese had been a bit more melted, but something this well-fried is still plenty tasty.
Escargot to hell ($8)
There's a peach-mint yogurt smoothie that's intended as a chaser; the escargot themselves are wrapped in a chorizo-breadcrumb blend that's actually quite tasty but texturally unappealing. As an illustration, it's somewhat charming; as a plate of food, a little head-scratching.
Shishito peppers ($7)
They flew off the table, paired with four salts flavored with green tea (mellow), seaweed (ditto), yuzu (tart, if not strongly yuzu-flavored), and wasabi (awesome).
Quite good on their own, though the baby octopus they're crowned with was more novel than delicious. The octopus heads are cut off and slid on top of cornichons.
Tako taco ($6)
Tako translates to octopus, taco; well, you get it. The octopus is tender and a little bit charred, pairing nicely with a tomatillo salsa; the corn tortilla was a little dry on the edges, but not enough to bring the dish down that much.
Pork and wasabi shumai ($6)
Shatter-crisp skins around a salty, juicy core of pork flecked with wasabi. Whether they needed the extra layer of coconut milk at the bottom, we didn't know, but anything this porky and crunchy will win us over.
"Cold-smoked" corn soup ($8)
"Cracker Jack on top," said Justin; "No, except we're budget. I think it's Crunch and Munch?" Either way, the garnishes couldn't distract from the overwhelming smoke flavor that permeated the soup. As befits guys who like to use blowtorches tableside, they use a "Smoking Gun" handheld smoker to infuse the soup with smoked hickory flavor. It works, but it works too well; we couldn't taste corn or much of anything else.
Foie gras doughnut ($11)
A beautiful, barely crisp-edged yeasted doughnut from nearby Dough is filled with a silky foie mousse with Sauternes that's as improbably light as the doughnut itself. It's served, according to Justin, with "whatever Smuckers preserves I feel like filling it with." A little tartness does pick up the palate, but honestly, foie plus dough is a combination that needs no improvement. Best as a shared starter.
Maryland-style jellyfish ($12)
Basically, a crab cake—a good, appealingly crisp-edged (they know how to fry here), mayo-creamy but crab-heavy crab cake—over a tangle of carrot and jellyfish, with its neutral taste and distinctive chewy crack and crunch.
Beef tenderloin ($18)
As tender as a person could want it, if without a sear that could've contributed more texturally; the fingerlings, on the other hand, were remarkably good, their golden crisp hiding a fluffy interior. Over arugula and a mustard-laced creme fraiche, it's a simple plate of food but better for it.
Roasted half chicken ($15)
Impressive skin (crisp, golden, the kind you cut off and eat first) and juicy meat, those juices running into a buttery tomato-corn succotash that makes eating your vegetables easy.
District D9NE ($14)
The prawn-aliens were a little mushy, as it's easy for head-on prawns to get, but the broth is silky and rich and fennel-y, the cherry tomatoes popping the mouth with sweet juices and borrowed salinity.
Toasted and squished tableside.
Doughnut bread pudding ($6)
Made with leftover Dough donuts (the ones that don't get foie-stuffed) and topped with whipped strawberry cream, it's an awful lot less decadent than it sounds; for whatever reason, the doughnut flavor doesn't translate, and it just seems like a slightly spongy pile of sweet.