(See the Jan 22, 2012 Minibite here, and the Jan 22, 2011 Review here.)
We had our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and stayed with the tried-and-true: Corduroy.
They were full, of course, but I knew that Matt and I would be able to walk right up to the bar and get a seat; what I didn’t know is that, in addition to the $65 three-course Christmas Menu, Tom Power was offering his standard $30, three-course bar menu – so, because we sat at the bar, we were able to dine like kings at a pauper’s ransom.
I began dinner with a glass of 2014 Haut Marin CÃ´tes de GascogneÂ ($9), a medium-bodied, somewhat aromatic white made with a blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, and Gros Manseng – it’s a “humble” Vin de Pays which punches above its weight class. Normally, I would carp about paying $9 for a glass of wine from a bottle which you can buy for $9, but not in this situation – Corduroy continues to use excellent stemware (offering the diner a taste of wine before serving it), proper temperature control, and an extremely generous six-ounce pour. This, plus the fact that to find this wine required tasting through a hundred others – I’ll pay nine dollars for this anytime, and a second glass took me the entire way through dinner. Matt got a non-alcoholic cocktail made with Ginger Beer and Lime ($4) as a base, and although I didn’t taste it, he said it was wonderful.
After some waffling about whether to spring for the $65 three-course or stick with the $30 bar menu, we decided it made no financial sense to go with the Christmas menu – even though it offered more intricate and interesting courses, there was some overlap, and the primary difference for us would have been in the main courses – we were sitting at the bar, so we went ahead and took advantage of that fact. By the way, it’s nice to see that some things don’t change: Pete, the tall, handsome GM, is still at Corduroy – I’m not sure how many years it has been now, but it’s been awhile.
We both started with Kabocha Squash Soup, which was also on the $65 menu. Essentially a pumpkin bisque, there was some type of bacon-like undertone coming out of these piping hot bowls, poured from a pitcher over some small garnishes – this simple gesture adds such an elegant touch to hot soups, and costs a restaurant almost nothing to do (except for prepping the garnishes). Every time I come across a restaurant that pours or ladles soup tableside, it warms my soul. As usual, Tom Power proved himself the peerless bisque-master – between Corduroy and Baby Wale, I almost can’t imagine having a meal without soup, or chocolate, or both. Corduroy continues to have bread service, probably with Panorama baguettes, sliced, and served with lightly salted, high-quality butter. Needless to say, there was scarcely a droplet of soup remaining after the obligatory bread-swipe.
One big mistake I made was ordering the Filipino Spring Rolls ($6) in addition to the menu. It’s certainly never a mistake to order these, but it was somewhat thoughtless because they weren’t being served downstairs, and because only one other couple was at the bar (pssst – it’ll probably be empty on New Year’s Eve as well), we obligated the restaurant to use their deep fryer. It wasn’t until after we were served that I realized: We were probably the only customers of the evening that got anything deep-fried, and Corduroy most likely lost money by serving these to us (sorry, Tom – I wasn’t thinking). Well, anyway, they were just as wonderful as they always are, and Pete brought up two separate plates for us, each with a single Spring Roll, and he’d waited until after we had finished our soup, so it was like having another course each for *six dollars total*.
Matt got the Pork Belly with Tarbais Beans (from Tarbes, by the way), a scaled-down version of a cassoulet, and I got the Pan-Seared Salmon which was served just like Tom prepares his Big Eye Tuna – atop hijiki and sushi rice. We both traded small amounts, so I can verify that both of these courses were simple and delicious, the salmon in particular having a good, hot, crispy skillet-sear on the skin.
For dessert, Matt got the Flourless Chocolate Cake and I ordered the Pistachio Bread Pudding. I’ve had both of these desserts numerous times in the past, and I swear they were better on this evening than they’ve ever been. The cake was decadent, but weightless – for an eighteen-year-old not to finish all his chocolate cake during a holiday meal speaks volumes about just how much of a bargain this bar menu is – the pork belly in particular was an ample portion, weighed down by the tarbais beans. The bread pudding was just amazing – more like a soaked pound cake, I don’t care how much you *think* you don’t want bread pudding – just get this the next time you come. It’s served with homemade ice cream and sabayon.
Corduroy’s $30 prix-fixe bar menu is the best $30 meal in the DC area, and there is no real competition for this honor. To think that people still flock out during Restaurant Week to pay $5 *more* than this for inferior cuisine, well, the key word in this sentence is “think” – think about it. This meal was such an incredible value that I almost feel guilty for having ordered it. Almost.