Back in January, Bones, Frank Bonanno's noodle house in Capitol Hill, celebrated its fifth anniversary with a smashing seven-course dinner, and at least one of those dishes, namely the soy-braised pork belly ssam, a duo of pork belly and hoison-glossed duck mounted in a bamboo basket and served with glistening leaves of bibb lettuce and beautifully pickled vegetables, still stands out as one of my favorite dishes of the year. It wasn't on the regular board then, but when Bones executive chef Johnny DePierro rolled out his new menu a few weeks ago, he wisely added it to the roster, switching out the duck for chicken in favor of a lighter preparation. And that lighter touch, says DePierro, is indicative of the way that his menu at Bones is moving.
"We're moving outside of the notion that Bones is just hot ramen and noodles," explains DePierro. "We've lightened up the menu quite a bit, and the focus is on shareable small plates and more playful larger plates -- and it's all about energetic ingredients that speak to the season," he adds.
In addition, Bones now trumpets a selection of yakitori, grilled skewers of chicken, pork, shrimp, Wagyu beef or the chef's choice. "I love grilled meats, especially in the summer, and we just invested in a cast-iron grill, which really opens up what we can do in the kitchen," says DePierro.
The menu, which still retains some of its heritage (the steamed buns and lobster ramen are just too good to give up), celebrates the season, honing in on English peas, fava beans and morel mushrooms, for example, to bolster a plate of grilled octopus and squid ink; halibut collar, compatibly paired with a vibrant Thai-inspired green curry, benefits, too, from a gently spiced spring slaw with wisps of fresh herbs. And I love the escargot, its chimichurri sauce breathing deep with black garlic.
"I feel really confident about this menu," says DePierro. "It's food that speaks to us, and we've got a really talented kitchen that's cooking with conviction," he adds.
And tonight, beginning at 6:30 p.m, you can try some of the spring dishes at Bones during a sake tasting that features Rumiko Obata, a fifth-generation sake brewer who boasts Master of Sake Tasting accreditation from Nihon Jouzou, aka the "Brewing Society of Japan." The five-course dinner will be paired with award-winning Manotsuru sakes, and seats are $75 per person, exclusive of tax and tip; you can make reservations by calling 303-860-2929.
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In the meantime, here's a sampling of some of DePierro's new creations.