Beuchert’s Saloon, Capitol Hill

I stopped into Beuchert’s last night, and grabbed the 9th and rightmost seat at the “Chef’s Table” – the bar right in front of the cooks. On Tuesday through Thursday, a separate tasting menu is available in these nine seats.

A full bottle of 2008 Domaine de la Chique Côtes du Rousillon ($30) only cost triple the by-the-glass price, so I sprang for it, and took the undrunk portion home with me. (I’m not sure how many people employ this strategy, but it makes *so much sense* that I hope people are taking note). This domaine at one time had the largest olive grove in all of France (!), and still maintains 40 hectares (about 100 acres) of olive trees which surround and protect their vineyard that produces (for this wine, anyway) 50% Grenache (giving the wine a lovely red color and aromatic), 20% Syrah (lending depth) and 30% Carignan (not my favorite grape, but one which certainly adds tannin and structure).

It was Andrew Markert’s night off, but Sous Chef Tim Rowley (formerly of Tallula) was expediting in perfect form, and it was a pleasure to observe both him and the lightning-responsive line cooks in action. It was very hot in that kitchen (which might explain why the red wine needed to be chilled), and these cooks were *exercising*, and I mean they were *working*.

I asked one of the cooks if the Porter-Braised Bison Short Ribs ($29) were cooked sous-vide. I’ve become so paranoid about seeing “braised” and “slow-cooked” on menus that I ask each-and-every time now, and it is a rare occasion that I’ll spring for meats cooked sous-vide. The cook said no, turned around and pointed at the stove, and said “they’re done right here.” As it turns out, they’re pot-braised in porter for 4-6 hours – a true braise, and one that reveals itself on the palate. A wedge of three ribs with a *huge* amount of meat on them, it’s served atop sweet potato dumplings and red-eye jus, and topped (yes, topped) with a little fennel and beet salad. Short ribs are everywhere, but this was an excellent rendition that was worth every penny – there wasn’t a single scrap left on my plate after my leisurely, hour-long excursion through this fine entree.

It’s impossible to be in my position and not become sensitive to just how hard cooks work, and I’m well-aware of how little they get paid. After the meal, I handed Tim a twenty, and asked him to buy his cooks a post-shift beer. Yes, it was a lot of money, but at this particular moment, I wanted them to have it instead of me. It is more often than not awkward to do this type of thing, but it’s the only way to get real money into the pockets of cooks, dishwashers, and AGMs – three of the hardest-working, most underpaid jobs there are. I hope more people will seek out a manager, or the head bartender, hand them a five, or a ten, or whatever they’re comfortable with, and ask them to make sure it gets to the cooks in one form or another. It can be done discretely and without fanfare, and I suspect it’s very much appreciated – I certainly appreciate everything they do for me.

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