I wasn’t going to write up my meal at The Dabney, because it was on October 31st, the very first night they opened for business, and I was an early customer, so that quite likely means I had both dishes I ordered the very first time they were ever prepared.
Nevertheless, this restaurant seems to have some interest in it, so I’ll contribute my experience – with the caveat that that this was the first night they were in business. However, I should mention that the “normal” things that go wrong on the first night (i.e., service), didn’t, so this is probably pretty representative.
I grabbed a seat at the end of the bar (on the left when you walk in). I asked my bartender to make me a Gimlet with Hayman’s Old Tom, and it was not just good – it was perfect. Perfectly poured, perfectly shaken, perfectly served – whoever this girl was obviously knew what she was doing. It was remarkable to watch, actually, and it turns out this was Tyler Hudgens, who is not only running the bar at The Dabney, but also ran the bar at The Columbia Room for several months. Yeah, she knows what she’s doing.
As a side note, I overheard that Version 2.0 of The Columbia Room (which is opening directly above The Dabney) will be opening soon. The precise word Angie Salame uses is “Novemberary,” so you can take that for whatever it’s worth.
I enjoyed my Gimlet as much as any I’ve had since Dwayne Sylvester shook me one at BourbonSteak awhile back – these drinks were both peers. I *love* tiny ice crystals in my Gimlets, as they add a thrilling textural nuance to the drink (even though some purist bartenders refuse to create them).
Anyway, after I unwound with my 10-out-of-10 Gimlet, I decided to do something a bit odd: I created an Egg Tasting dinner, with wine pairings for each.
For my first course, from the “Dishes” section of the menu (which falls in-between “Appetizers” and “Family Style”), I ordered the Baked Farm Egg ($18), with creamed celeriac, farro verde, kimchee, and herbs. With the dish, I ordered a glass of Sherry (which delighted Tyler to no end), an El Maestro “Sierra” Amontillado 12-Year ($13) which was pretty much a perfect Amontillado, and I would urge Sherry drinkers to spend the extra dollar and get this instead of the (also very fine) Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla “En Rama” – as good as the La Gitana is, this is better, and more suitable for this type of cuisine. Speaking of which, this dish was an obvious riff on Bibim Bap, even though I’m pretty sure that’s going to go over the heads of the vast majority of diners here. I know the ingredients aren’t typical for such a thing, but it was “strongly influenced” by this Korean classic. Surprisingly, I thought the Sherry would go with this even better than it did – maybe this needed soju, I don’t know – the pairing was good, but not the dazzling brilliance I’d hoped (and thought) it would be.
Next up: a step backward to the “Appetizer” section, where I ordered a Buttermilk Biscuit with fried egg, foie gras, country ham, apples, and maple ($15). And with it, I opted for a glass of 2014 Bernard Baudry Chinon “Les Granges” because I wanted the green-pepper stalkiness of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc with the ingredients in this dish – I waited awhile, and was told they had to bring a bottle up to the bar; I told them not to worry about it, and instead ordered a 2014 Chateau Cambon Beaujolais ($14) which I figured would be the next best thing, and “close enough,” and sure enough, it was – it went beautifully with the dish. Two components in the dish itself needed work: the egg was slightly overcooked (I wanted runny), and there was no discernible foie gras, anywhere I looked or sniffed – there might have been a thimble-full mixed into the sauce, but none that I detected. So I would suggest the restaurant either up the ingredient, or the diner should not assume it’s going to be there.
This was an extremely light meal, although I did manage to down three drinks, and I decided to keep it that way – it was a really good showing for the first night of a restaurant, and I have souvenir menus from The Dabney’s first night in business (yes, I asked). Especially with The Columbia Room on top of it, and with Rogue 24 next door for now, The Dabney, and Blagden Alley in general – with La Colombe coffee (which The Dabney serves, btw) seems poised to be a shining star pocket of cuisine. Keep an eye out for it.
My, how cuisine has changed in this town over the past thirty years – my, how it has changed just in the past five years.
The Dabney is initiated strongly in Italic in the Dining Guide, and should be on your list of places to try.