Each month for Eat Like Me I tend to write about a theme I’ve been pondering for the month. I spend a lot of time in restaurants, and tend to focus on specific aspects of the business over time. Sometimes I just wonder in awe of the whole concept of a restaurant, sometimes I spend time thinking about the concept of resting at a restaurant and what you get when you pay for a meal. Other times I worry about myself, in specific, my snob factor. This month, I’ve been pondering dish composition.
It may sound trite, but I’ve been paying special attention to plates I love, and plates I find to be too complex. First and foremost for me, a restaurant can only be as good as it’s ingredients. They are a baseline to start from, we hear this straight from the Chefs time and time again in our Capital Chefs series. But once you’ve got quality ingredients to work with, the whole plight of a chef is putting them together in a way that brings out the best in each of them. This month I’ve been subjected to a few over-kill dishes. Dishes that have too much on a plate, where a subtraction of one thing could have made a balanced composition. It’s a delicate balance for a chef to walk, you don’t want the diner to be bored, but overfussing a plate can kill an order for me as much as a bland dish with too little going on. So this month’s Eat Like Me is all about dishes that pair the elements on the plate in harmony, balancing perfectly, simply, and letting well-chosen ingredients speak for themselves.
Oh, before I launch into this – I couldn’t fit Masa 14′s brunch into the list but it is fantastic. My new favorite brunch in the city. Consider yourself informed.
courtesy of ‘InspirationDC’
Where I’ve been: Matchbox, Sticky Rice, Tarbouch, Bistrot Lepic, Georgia Brown’s, The Source, Bibiana, Urbana, Poste, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Kaz Sushi Bistro, Rasika, Bond 45, Birch & Barley, Old Ebbitt Grill, Masa 14, Minh’s
Cocktail: Pom-fili at Zaytinya. This Greek take on sangria is a lovely mix of white wine, vodka, Triple Sec and pomegranate juice. Zaytinya serves these sweet but not too-sweet cocktails for half price at happy hour, as well as by the pitcher.
Bread: Cornbread and Biscuits at Georgia Brown’s. You know the bread basket at a place is good when I look forward to it when I plan my trip to a restaurant. Georgia Brown’s biscuit and corn bread combination served with peach butter is just a classic bread basket for me in DC. The right balance of savory and sweet, but also southern comfort food for me, I’m glad they will even serve it to you at the bar with an appetizer. It is not to be missed.
Appetizer: TIE: Grilled Octopus at Birch & Barley and Palak Chaat at Rasika. Both of these appetizers are unbelievable. I wrote up the Grilled Octopus from Birch & Barley for the column I do at Washington Life, waxing poetic about the accompanying pickled eggplant. The fingerling salad makes the dish inviting to tuck into and the fried capers add a spark. It is a perfectly composed plate. But its January brethren, the Palak Chaat at Rasika battles it out for first. Fried spinach with a yogurt sauce and date chutney doesn’t sound like it would be so fantastic, but (and forgive me for this phrase, it is the first time I’ve ever written it, but never has it been so appropriate) it is like a firework show of flavor.
Entree: Paccheri Pasta at Bibiana. Served on the restaurant week menu, I can’t stop thinking about this dish from Bibiana. Oversized house made Rigatoni is tossed with a light oil sauce and Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, and Roasted Pine Nuts. The texture and flavor combination are fantastic – the light oil has a kick to it and the sweetness of the raisins and the starch from the cauliflower balance out the spice. This is a destination dish worthy of a visit to Bibiana for.
Dessert: Chocolate Bread Pudding at Poste. I forget how much I like Poste between visits. I don’t know why, the place is gorgeous, and the food is impeccable, but somehow, each visit, I am thrilled anew at the fussy presentation and complicated dishes that come out of the kitchen. I love the unique presentation, egg served in an eggshell, small bites served in a bowl atop sugar. It is a fresh awe each time, and I’m never disappointed. The warm bread pudding with milk chocolate ice cream and toffee is a dessert that fills you up, sticks to your bones, and sends you out into the winter night still glowing.