Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s green eyes flash with amusement as I launch into a tirade of questions about the DC food scene. Jean-Georges is holding a plate of appetizers during a tray-pass reception at the downstairs Wine Bar at the W Hotel Washington. I’ve captured his attention for a few minutes, battling other reporters and bloggers with notepads and cameras out, much like myself.
“So with all the celebrity chef steakhouses in DC, what sets yours apart?” I ask coyly. “Only half our menu is steak,” he responds quickly, “and our appetizer list is like a best-of from all my restaurants.” “So why DC, what made you choose DC?” I ask. “My relationship with the W, they approached me, it seemed like a fit,” Hmm, I thought, I wonder how he views DC, if this wasn’t a concept he came up with on his own. “So the DC food scene, has it arrived or is it on it’s way?” I ask. “Oh, Komi rivals any restaurant in New York!” Vongerichten responds, making a plug for his old friend from France. And suddenly Jean-Georges has a second reporter touching his arm and he is pulled in another direction. He shoots me a grin, and with that he’s off. (He returns later to pointedly offer me a mini-mini burger, only to dash off again.)
And so there I am, in the crowded basement of the W, sipping cocktails, ruminating on the hotel and making conversation. I’m here to try all of Vongerichten’s food, but also to check out the scene on the deck at POV, attempting to answer all the questions Jenn asked in We Love DC’s first post about the W, written when Jenn visited before it opened. What is the scene going to be? Jenn pondered, saying it will only be answered when the bar is filled with people. And last night, it certainly was full to the brim with all kinds of people, food and fanfare.
Once inside the W, the ceilings are high, the air abuzz, and the hotel echoes with a light, airy, romantic twist. The lobby is posh, with tile flooring, and the sleek interior Jenn described. I won’t wax poetic about it, because she already did. It is style to the extreme.
The party pass trays are filled with little delights, samples of the bar menu. I find it reminiscent, really, of the bar menu at the Ritz (that I may have preferred, actually) heavy on the fried food, but with lovely dips and pairings. My favorite was the Tuna, warm with a red center, covered in crispies, with a light slaw on the top and a mustard-based sauce pairing. I also loved the salmon tartare with avocado. The goat cheese and watermelon pairing was refreshing, with a great not-too-strong goat cheese bite. The buffalo mozzarella and pineapple was nice as well. They served us dessert on the roof (see pictures below) and my favorite was little sorbets in a caramel and chocolate cone. Mmm…
Now, the cocktails give me a bit of trouble, but I trust Jenn will check it out and report back with more authority. I rely on her, and all her wisdom, as I am the foodie, not the boozie! (Or whatever drink enthusiasts are called) I texted her as I was walking home, warning her how strong the drinks are. Now this could be for a number of reasons – during press events places are known to mix strong, get the writers tipsy and happy, generally works in their favor. I got tipsy and happy, but now I must do my civic duty and issue a warning – those drinks don’t joke! My ginger margarita was sip after sip of tequila, the Yellow Jacket was like an oversized giant martini glass shot, and I swear to you my mojito had no mixers in it, it was crushed ice with liquor. The bellini was nice, refreshing and snappy, as was the Elderflower Fizz, both of them softer, summer cocktails. I liked the strawberry lemonade (pictured) with vodka, with crushed strawberries mixed with tart lemonade. My favorite drink of the night was the dark and stormy, which I had been told was the best.
The view is as you would expect – really gorgeous vista, and a lovely place to watch the sunset. Jenn wondered what the vibe would be – and when I was there it was the after-work crowd, all relaxing on the porch under the ceiling fans. Some dates, and a few gaggles of girls chatting it up, I would say you need to wear your high heels. It’s got an energy, and whether that is from the newness of it all, or if that’s how it will stay, I’m not sure. They’re limiting the seating on a patio (someone guessed could easily hold 500) to only 105-140 people. Smart, in my mind, because nobody likes a bar where you’re battling elbow-to-elbow, especially not if you’re there for a view you can’t see for the crowds. But right now you feel like you’ve been let up into a private club, very Miami, very South Beach. Very Sex and the City does LA, except with views of Washington.
So I’ll leave you with pictures, since Jenn wasn’t able to take any to show you last time, I’ll give you a gallery to make up for it. So here are the details of my night at the W. (All pictures courtesy of Needlessspaces on flickr)
I love this city (I don’t know if you know that, or not, seeing the title of the Web site you’re on right now) and the W is the perfect place to be reminded. Truly, it just is what you expect – it’s precisely what it bills as. Posh, chic, trendy, gorgeous, who’s-who of young DC, high heels and cufflinks, with the best view in the city. To me, more importantly, it’s a place where you renew your vows with the city you love. I looked fondly on Arlington, the Potomac, and a kickball game on the mall while a motorcade formed leaving the White House, holding up traffic on Pennsylvania Ave. All of it so DC, all of it my city, laid out in front of me. Cheers to that.
The W Hotel is located at 515 15th Street NW, 20004