A great dinner out shouldn't just send you home feeling sated — it should transport you, and make you feel like you've had an experience, not just a meal. Lucky for you, we've got the scoop on two hometown spots that do just that, albeit to two very different destinations.
Casa Nonna's Tavola 12 might just be our new go-to spot for special occasions. How it works: Tavola 12 is not a table, in fact, but a series of 12 counter seats lined up in front of Casa Nonna's open kitchen. Available only on Fridays and Saturdays, spots book up quickly for the $55 12-course meal, but the wait is worth it.
Executive chef Amy Brandwein prepares the meal in front of guests, explaining the process behind each small dish and showing off her first-rate culinary skills in the process. Wine pairings for the meal cost an extra $30 per person, and the pours are plentiful and varied. Want a sneak peek? The menu (rooted in Italian cooking) changes daily based on what chef Brandwein wants to make, but a recent lineup included fresh spaghetti with calamari served in a sea urchin shell, to-die-for cauliflower soup, and housemade twisted pasta with braised rabbit. If you're into the idea of sampling adventurous small plates in a dynamic setting, this is for you.
Where: Casa Nonna, 1250 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-629-2505.
Meanwhile, at Masa 14, chefs Richard Sandoval and Kaz Okochi are exploring the cuisines that have emerged as a result of the overlapping of cultures, starting with Spain's influence on the Philippines. The special Melting Pot: Manila menu features traditional Filipino dishes such as lumpia (we're obsessed!) and pansit palabok (a version of pad thai), and some too-good-to-pass-up cocktails, staying true to Masa 14 form. The special menu isn't set, which means you can pick and choose your favorites, and the dishes are small but substantial enough to share. Our picks? The bangus, a steamed whitefish wrapped in country ham, and the calamansi shandy, a nectar-lager-sours concoction that tastes like summer.
Where: Masa 14, 1825 14th Street NW; 202-328-1414.