One of the latest comers to the expanding Washington corridor scene, this new wine bar and restaurant was packed on a recent Friday evening. Some smart thought went into designing this place. There’s a long bar with lots of seating, as well as bar-style tables. Appropriate to a wine bar that focuses equally on food, there are a number of regular tables for those who prefer not to perch on bar stools. The room opens onto a large patio. The retail wine area, housed in an adjacent room that’s divided from the bar area by large glass windows, also has bar tables and areas for small private parties. Whether you’re dining or just wining, you can sit anywhere.
The wine list offers a number of choices, all of which are available at the same price in the retail and bar areas. While there are a few of the usual suspect high-end California cabs, for the large part the wines are moderately priced, with choices from around the world. As a nice touch, wines are served in the appropriate glasses. And decanters are readily available.
The menu is somewhat limited but offers a number of choices, depending on your taste and hunger level — everything from truffle salted popcorn and edamame (for snackers) to salads, sandwiches, grilled fish and steak. We tried a yummy “pork feast” flatbread, topped with sausage, prosciutto and fresh herbs. The roasted beet salad was nicely done. The pulled venison, barbecue sauced sandwich (dubbed on the menu a “sloppy giuseppe”) was good but not great, more in the style of a pulled-pork sandwich than a sloppy joe version. The garlic fries would have been better if a little hotter, but the sweet potato fries were as good as any we’ve tried. The coriander-cured hamachi was too salty for our taste (and we love salt), but management graciously removed it from the bill. We look forward to returning to try some of the other menu items.
This place attracts a diverse group. All age groups were drinking and dining and having fun. The music was loud and equally varied. Dress is casual, pretty much anything appears to go, within reason. Although the parking lot is good sized, complimentary valet parking is also available.
UPDATED NOVEMBER 2009:
We were back in this area recently and tried some new restaurants —
Washington, D.C. —
Blue Duck Tavern — located in the Park Hyatt hotel, this highly regarded restaurant was our favorite in DC; warm contemporary setting, although not particularly tavern-like; there’s an open kitchen, wood burning oven turning out various grilled and roasted meats and fish, with an emphasis on family style dining; we enjoyed a starter of smoked sturgeon rilettes; moved on to the salt roasted whole pheasant (presented tableside in the salt dome, then carved in the kitchen, wonderfully moist for a lean bird) and the beef short ribs; tried the much lauded apple pie, which we found unremarkable and not warm enough; the ice cream (we tried pistachio caramel) is cleverly served in a very cold glass bucket with a big wooden spoon
JG Steakhouse — Jean-Georges Vongeritchen’s new restaurant in the W Hotel (formerly the Washington Hotel), a block from the White House; quite the popular place, with a d-jay spinning tunes in the lobby for those waiting in line for the elevator to the new, ultra trendy rooftop bar; had to get pass a velvet rope wielding bouncer just to get in the hotel; lovely contemporary dining room with banquette seating, tables are well spaced, not noisy; specialty cocktails were good; service was friendly and accommodating but needed some polishing; menu is more expansive than the typical steakhouse; started with nicely done calamari with a tasty, creamy yuzu dip ; moved on to rack of lamb (particularly good), grilled beef fillet, roasted tile fish, and seared halibut; tried a few sides — roasted mushrooms, creamed spinach, and grilled asparagus; everything was appropriately cooked and well sauced; there’s a decidedly Asian twist to many of the menu items
Scion — a new entry to the casual dining scene in the Dupont Circle area; friendly, knowledgeable service; started with fried pickles with ranch dressing (very tasty as judged by how quickly they disappeared in our group of four) and moved on to generous portions of steak frites (garlic rosemary fries) and crab cakes
Woodberry Kitchen — this is a must try for foodies; car required (even then, you’ll get lost) as it’s unlikely a taxi could find it in a art-focused, developing warehouse area in North Baltimore; warm, casual, lively, open kitchen, wood burning oven vibe; handcrafted cocktails; friendly, attentive service; focus is on fresh, farm to kitchen local ingredients; wonderfully varied menu, with many specials; enjoyed buffalo style fried soft shell crab, roasted oysters and clams, and suckling pig (topped with a fabulous piece of crispy skin); finished with a lush, chocolaty dessert.
Charleston — Zagat top-rated restaurant; contemporary setting, somewhat formal but jacket not required; tasting menu style, with a twist, as you select from three to six of any of the menu choices (priced based on number of dishes, not dishes selected), with dessert included; you could have three soups or three meat dishes; all servings are sized the same, regardless of how many dishes you order; our table particularly enjoyed the lobster bisque (with large chunks of lobster), seared foie gras, crab cakes (minus the bland black bean sauce), and lamb chops
FIRST REVIEWED, NOVEMBER 2006:
We are remiss in reporting on our trip to the East Coast in late September —
Washington, D.C. —
Old Ebbitt Grill — had brunch and a snack at this venerable DC eating spot, only a block from the White House; we didn’t see any of the political types who allegedly dine there regularly; the food was o’kay but not great, although the location couldn’t be beat
Kinkead’s — tried this very popular, upscale seafood restaurant; food was very good (cod with crab imperial and halibut) although not outofthisworldly; avoid the side room upstairs as it has limited atmosphere
Bistrot LePic — upper Georgetown area French bistro; very good food (cassoulet, altho we still vote for Cafe Rabelais’ version); small, quiet dining area; friendly, casual service
Phillip’s Harborplace — touristy seafood restaurant on the Inner Harbor; historically, food has been very good; famous crab cakes continued to shine but everything else was quite marginal, including the service; significant price increases over the years
Five Guys Burgers — regional fast food chain with fabulous hamburgers; not as cheap as McDonald’s or BK but a whole lot tastier and greasier; worth a visit
Aldo’s — Zagat top-rated Little Italy restaurant; very good food (veal chop and tournedos rossini) but somewhat stuffy atmosphere (yes, it was romantic, as billed, but quite formal) and very high prices suggests other places in the area might be a better choice (try Da Mimmos).