Tasty, sustainable and healthy — high in iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, and low in fat — mussels are a fantastic dish for any meal.
Regrettably, finding good mussels in the nation's capital is no easy task.
To start, you have to find the right restaurant at an appropriate price point.
The problem here is that many Washington restaurants overcharge for a good mussel dish. At its Arlington and Bethesda restaurants, for example, the Mussel Bar and Grill charges $23.50 for its mussel dishes. It also charges a $2 premium if you want that with fries (which you do, if you have any respect for Belgium).
A secondary issue here is the size of mussels. Because they are small in size, you need to get a lot of them in order to be filled up, and too many Washington restaurants like to skimp on numbers. This causes aggravation to any connoisseur in that restaurants can buy mussels at very low prices.
That's why many Washingtonians (or at least your humble writer) make their own mussel meals.
Nevertheless, it's also a challenge in picking the right spot from which to buy mussels in Washington.
While some like going to the wharf in order to buy straight from the fishermen, I'm not so sure. Yes, the wharf's prices are always low, but the quality and freshness are sometimes lacking. My most recent wharf experience buying mussels ended up with a disappointed date and a somewhat unpleasant stomach bug.
A better option, or at least a safer one, is to find a reliable fish monger or attended grocery store fish section near your home.
Then you follow my culinary instructions and find Michelin-style majesty rather than misery.
First, assuming you're cooking for two, you should fill a pot with generous portions of shallots, onion, and some thyme. After these ingredients begin browning, throw in some garlic and half a bottle of cheap dry white wine and raise to a boil. A minute later, put in the mussels and some parsley, mix the concoction lightly, and cover the pot. Every 90 seconds, stir the mussels so as to ensure all are flavored.
In five minutes you'll thank me.
That said, if you are desperate to avoid cooking I recommend St. Arnold's near Dupont Circle. The mussels aren't cheap, but the quality is top notch and the service; as provided by the fantastic husband and wife owners, is unmatched. Also, they do not skimp on service portions!