Another dull August in Washington, another Restaurant Week! Such a nice holiday. No religious or patriotic meaning. Just eats.
A recap for those not in the know: Restaurant Week is a chance for restaurants in a particular locale to get customers in a dull week in August and diners to save some dinero by ordering from a set, price fixe menu (in D.C. it’s $20 for lunch, $35 for dinner). I always use Restaurant Week as an opportunity to eat at a restaurant I could absolutely never afford otherwise!
This year, it was 1789. Right by the Georgetown campus, it is a D.C. institution (having been around since 1962), and, as a matter of interest to me, as a huge focus on local meats, seafood, and produce. It’s interesting cause they definitely don’t seem to have hippie dippy motives. According to the website, 1789’s owner was out among the farms in Virginia eating delicious produce and then returned to D.C. to one of his own restaurants and ate some lousy fruit. So all that drove the locavore push was good flavor! What a win-win.
So, a bit of a wag of the finger to 1789 for being extremely stingy with the reservations offered. We ended up going at 6:15 on a Tuesday, which I guess would have been forgivable except we were let into a half-empty dining room.
My charming sister, a youthful rose in a garden of OLD MAN.
The atmosphere was kind of like… if you were an alcoholic English earl who came in from a fox hunt and wanted your brandy and your rack of lamb cooked exactly the way it was made for your forefathers, damn it. A bit stuffy! A lot dim! George Washington all over the place!
Flying eagles on one’s menu!
Fortunately, there was also food. GOOD FOOD.
We began (this being a classy place and all) with the amuse bouche. My sister made fun of my mother and I for our complete inability to act blase and blend in based on our freaking out over the amuse bouche. But then of course my sister was the one who later put bread in her purse.
I lack a menu description for this wower, so I will do the best I can:
This adorable baby spoon (which I fancy resembled a women’s shoe) contained beautiful fresh sweet corn, a delicately slivered spear of okra with a balsamic drizzle, and best of all little strips of BACON! It was a smashing, smashing bite.
Then the bread, a selection of tomato-topped focaccia (pleasantly olive oily!) and a lovely soft sourdough.
A selection of butter! Love when fancy places do this :D Left to right, an arugula pesto; regular salted butter; and (best!) vidalia onion butter. SO DELICIOUS. Tangy sweet.
We received our menus and promptly turned to the Restaurant Week section. I put this here both because it was classy looking and because if you click on them you may read the descriptions and decide what you would have ordered.
I was absolutely delighted to discover a kindred spirit in Patricia’s friend Bailey, with whom I had a spirited discussion about how fun it is to read restaurant menus (though you may never eat at the place) and plan what you would order. I thought that I was the only weirdo on earth who did that. Fellow Fantasy Baseball Meal Planners, you’re welcome.
We all received appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and tried to have a bit of selection for maximum sampling from one another’s plate.
My mom ordered the tomato salad: Smokey blue cheese, toasted pine nuts, aged balsamic vinegar and garden herbs
Mmmmmmm blue cheese. Really really really good blue cheese. The tomatoes were a bit scant, though! I felt slightly guilty stealing a bite.
My sister and I each got the squid: Summer squash, crispy squash blossoms and smoked paprika
The squid was grilled, imparting a wonderful smoky flavor and also perfectly tender. The squash was incredibly fresh and delicious. The squash blossoms (which were basically the reason I ordered the squid, as I cannot turn down squash blossoms0 were hit and miss- one of my three pieces was perfectly fried, the other two were a bit greasy. However, the absolute, unquestionable highlight of this dish? THE OLIVE OIL.
Oh my graciousness. My sister and I started talking about it at more or less the same time: we were both in awe of its utter deliciousness. As she put it, it was like “someone squeezed an olive on the plate”. So rich, so flavorful, SO GREAT.
In an excellent display of customer service, when the manager came to our table to check on us and I mentioned the awesomeness of the oil, he returned from the kitchen with a bottle of it for me to see! He said they have to order it specially from Italy and have it shipped to Maryland (since apparently DC has odd import laws). And it’s organic! Website here. I may have to order some. It was divine!
For my entree, I ordered the halibut: braised green cabbage, Carolina fresh shrimp, sungold tomatoes, baby carrots and young garlic
The presentation of it was lovely, the firm white fish topped with (tragically) a single shrimp, on a bed of gently cooked veggies.
As for the taste, the halibut was a bit too cooked for me (but my mother thought it was perfect, so there’s some variation there). The sauce was rich and buttery, and the shrimp was PERFECTLY cooked. As for the veggies, they were definitely the highlight of the meal for me.
The carrots were cooked just right, tender to bite into but still giving you some toothsomeness. They were sweet and tender, just barely glazed to let their flavor shine through. The cabbage was wonderful, gently braised, sweet, and buttery. The cherry tomatoes were so great that all I didn’t like was that there weren’t more!
Malindi opted for the Border Springs lamb leg: braised kale, roasted turnips, sweet and sour pearl onions, surryano ham and lamb jus
And my mom got the Eco Friendly Foods fresh ham: braised collard greens, roasted local peaches, white onions and Virginia maple syrup (who knew Virginia had maple syrup?!)
I thought both were beautiful and tasty, if a bit more autumnal in flavor than seems appropriate for August.
Each of them gave me a taste of their respective dessert: a ham/peach/sweet onion trifecta bite from my mom (a delicious taste combination! We all agreed we had to roast more onions cause these were SO GOOD)…
… and a lamb bit from my sister. Those two separated pieces are (right) a piece of the lamb itself and (left) a piece of the lamb’s CRUST which was actually made of HAM. Ham-crusted lamb. I know. The crust was mustardy and lovely. The lamb was perfectly medium rare.
For my dessert I got the Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream
(Sheesh I am tan! I was also sort of just hot and sweaty and tired after a day at work that included the pool. Also parched. It is a testament to the restaurant’s service how promptly and frequently they refilled my water glass!)
Ice cream sandwiches.
The pluses: adorable idea! Nice presentation. Wonderful bittersweet fudge sauce. And the strawberry ice cream. Ohhhhhhh the strawberry ice cream. It basically tasted like they took unbelievably fresh and sweet strawberries and magically transformed their chemical properties into frothy whipped frozenness.
The minuses: the vanilla ice cream was just icy, the wafers were soggy, and look at THIS:
Yo, there’s freezer burn on my chocolate ice cream!
I can handle the old man paintings, the blinds blocking the sunlight on a gorgeous August evening, the drapes and things. But freezer burn at a classy place?
Suspect they went, “Eh, the proletariat is coming for Restaurant Week. Just make a bunch of ice cream sandwiches and chuck ‘em in the back of the freezer.”
A bit disappointing, though many of the elements of the dessert were quite nice.
My mom got the 1789 Chocolate Coin, with whiskey mousse and milk chocolate ice cream.
I thought the presentation was super clever. On the chocolate coin was a picture of the omnipresent George Washington, which I found bizarre. But just look at the cake! It’s like a candy bar! So cute! The inside was nougaty, whiskey infused, and totally delectable. And my mom usually doesn’t care for chocolate ice cream but loved this stuff.
The meal concluded with a decaf espresso for both my mom and I, our favorite way to end a classy dinner. They served it with lemon rind, which I love. I am such a sweet fiend but I like my espresso dark, bitter, and in this case tart as well!
Didn’t need the cup of brown OR white sugar cubes, but I admired their beauty!
And the meal concluded with complimentary biscotti, which were not particularly dry and were quite sweet, so really weren’t like biscotti at all. Stick cookies!
Note: this dinner was also a bit of a celebration of my penultimate day of Americorps service. Due to my general shell-shocked state I may not post for a few days. On the other hand, now I’m unemployed so have nothing better to do.