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The Hot Plate: Prime Time in Penn Quarter

It’s been a good year and a half for diners in Penn Quarter. A barrage of buzz-worthy restaurants opened in the latter part of 2002 (Zaytinya, Poste, Zola), followed by a new crop earlier this year that included Matchbox and Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza. The latest addition, La Tasca, opened just a few weeks ago.

So what’s next?

In late December, Rosa Mexicano, a popular restaurant with two locations in New York City, is slated to open right across the street from the MCI Center.

The restaurant is taking over a three-story space in the old Hecht’s building at Seventh and F streets Northwest. The interior will feature a tile wall of cascading water and a large bar and lounge area.

Diners can look forward to small plates, such as Yucatan spiced chicken wings and fried calamari sprinkled with chile de arbol, and Rosa Mexicano’s fresh guacamole, which is prepared tableside.

A taqueria will turn out fresh tortillas, tacos and quesadillas that will be stuffed with slow-cooked pork, chicken and steak.

Signature cocktails include a frozen pomegranate margarita made with fresh pomegranate juice.

Return of the Rum Bun? The talk on the Southwest waterfront has been centered on who will occupy the former Hogates restaurant space at 800 Water St.

Hogates closed in October 2001 after decades of business, during which time it became famous for its rum buns.

Nightclub owner Abdul Khanu (of megaclubs Platinum and the VIP Club) leased the space from the National Capital Revitalization Corp. and plans to reopen it as H20 restaurant, possibly at the end of November.

Rumor has it that H2O, in a nod to its predecessor, will offer the famous rum buns. Watch this space for more details.

International Relations. In a gesture of international hospitality, Taberna del Alabardero has invited chefs from its sister restaurants in Spain to come cook in D.C.

Taberna is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a series of “gastronomic weeks” featuring the visiting chefs.

The first gastronomic week is scheduled for Nov. 19-22, when the executive chef of Alabardero Club de Playa in Marbella, Spain, will be manning the kitchen and creating specialties from the southern region of Spain.

Diners can feast on short-grain rice with prawns and green onions, sea bream baked in sea salt, fried eggplant and fig carpaccio with manchengo and hazelnut ice cream.

Taberna is located at 1776 I St. NW.

The Grill Goes Green. Austin Grill was busy this summer switching all of its

restaurants to wind-powered energy. And for its efforts, the company was recognized Nov. 4 by the Environmental Protection Agency with the Green Power Leadership Purchaser Award.

Austin Grill is the only restaurant chain in the country to use 100 percent “green power,” according to the company.

The EPA award recognizes organizations that are helping advance the development of renewable energy sources.

In addition to its downtown location at 750 E St. NW, Austin Grill has outposts in Glover Park, Bethesda, Baltimore, Alexandria and Springfield.

Meet Ming. Ming Tsai, the personable chef who built his reputation at the acclaimed Blue Ginger restaurant outside Boston and as a Food Network personality, will be in D.C. next week promoting his book “Simply Ming: Easy Techniques for East-Meets-West Meals.”

The chef will be at the National Press Club on Nov. 20 to discuss and sign his book and answer questions. A five-course meal with wine pairings will be served.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $60 for Press Club members, $70 for nonmembers. To reserve a space, call (202) 662-7638.

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