Passed down through crabbing families along the Chesapeake, local MD lore says that if Testudo the Terrapin emerges from his Maryland dormitory and sees his shadow, it's six more weeks until soft-shell season. Or we just made that up, and it's actually soft-shell season now, which is why we've put together a crawl of the best restaurants in the city to take down those pinching b*stards and hopefully spread our made-up legend to gullible tourists from Kansas. Stop #1: KAZ Sushi Bistro1915 I St NW; 202.530.5500 The Japanese small plate hot spot does two soft-shells: one with Brussels sprouts and a carrot vinaigrette, and another that's tempura'd and topped with ponzu sauce. Also, seaweed. Also, dried bonito flakes. Als -- you know what? Just get this one.
Acquired Taste: Blood Rice Cakes With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Justina Valentine
Stop #2: Equinox 818 Connecticut Ave NW; 202.331.8118 Day or night, Todd Gray and company are sautéing up Eastern Shore soft-shells and adding English sweet pea puree, minted tomato butter, and Spotsylvania sunflower shoots, which totally don't sound made-up.
Stop #3: Woodward Table 1430 H St NW; 202.347.5353 Now, make your way over to the newest spot from the Vidalia & Bistro Bis crew, who're doing a special soft-shell BLT w/ Benton's bacon, Boston lettuce, tomato, and Old Bay aioli.
Stop #4: DC Coast 1401 K St NW; 202.216.5988 Now that you've definitely walked off those first three crabs, you'll want to get involved with Coast's Mini Tower of Crab, which just may require a tiny construction crew and miniature crane to help you pick apart the crisp soft-shell, jumbo lump crab cake, pickled okra & corn relish, and Tabasco lemon butter.
Stop #5: Occidental Grill & Seafood 1475 Pennsylvania Ave NW; 202.783.1475 Considering it's half grill and half seafood, the OC better do a soft-shell right, and, luckily, they do: sauteed jumbo soft-shell with haricots verts, shallots, and an Asian pear/grenadine coulis.
Stop #6: The Hamilton 600 14th St NW; 202.787.1000 Before your next show downstairs, grab a quick Spider Roll w/ soft-shell crab tempura, spicy Napa cabbage, and cucumber upstairs. Then look at yourself in the mirror and confidently assure your image that you can take down just one more crab.
Stop #7: Bibiana Osteria & Enoteca 1100 New York Ave NW; 202.216.9550 Your grand crab finale comes courtesy of the Italians, with a pair that's served in a tomato-shellfish puree and hit with a bit of Olio Santo olive oil.