(For the Jan 4, 2016 Review, click here.)
“Oh, my *God*!”
Earlier in the day, I had told my young dining companion that I wanted to take him to a super-deluxe, special meal to celebrate his first semester in college. He said, “What about Corduroy?” (we’d just been to the bar on Christmas Eve), and I replied, “Something even more fancy – it’s been a long time.”
So he cobbled together whatever he could from his suitcase, and we drove down to Georgetown on an empty Sunday, late afternoon, and pulled up only a block away from the Capella Hotel. As we walked into the lobby, I saw Matt look around, and as we passed The Rye Bar, I heard him say, under his breath, “Oh, my *God*!” – he had never really been into a five-star hotel before, and he felt like he had been thrust into The Twilight Zone. We walked up to the host stand, and were seated at a two-top near the patio, where the heated torches were burning – at this hour, we were the only people in the restaurant.
Our server asked us if we wanted still or sparking (both come in a carafe, and both are gratis), and we told him we’d both like a non-alcoholic cocktail, whatever they felt like making. We both got very similar drinks to the one I’d enjoyed the night before – with ginger and citrus being the primary flavors. The prior evening, mine came in a highball glass on the rocks; this time, they came in a cocktail glass with one of those giant, fancy ice cubes you sometimes see (I love these things, and think they make a definite difference in the quality of the drink – they may sound incredibly pretentious, but they really do work).
I urged Matt to get the Boudin Blanc ($20, see the previous post for details of the dish), which he did at my entreaty, and he loved it. I only got a couple bites, but the dish seemed very similar to what it was the night before – I didn’t get any oyster mushrooms, but Matt said they were in there. He, too, thought the chestnut ravioli were outrageous – these ravioli are so good that a legitimate, evil perv-fantasy would be to take a bath in them, eating your bathwater as you lie there.
I got all sentimental about Palena and ordered the Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi ($17) with Honshimeji mushrooms, wild rice, sweet potato, and fonduta. I *loved* this gnocchi for several reasons, not the least of which is that there was so much of it. It seemed a bit denser that what I’d use to enjoy at Palena, but not in a clumsy way at all; just a style choice, and with the mushrooms? This was a killer gnocchi that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It was just so elegant, while at the same time being so, so satisfying.
For the mains, Matt ordered the New Zealand Venison Loin and Pipe Dreams Pork Belly Duo ($32) with stewed hominy, Honey Crisp apples, and roasted kale buds. This was a busy dish (in a good way) whose ingredients were like turning the pages of a book you just can’t put down – every bite found something new and interesting to ponder; unfortunately, by the time it got to me, the lion’s share had been consumed, and I got mostly scraps, but enough to see what this was all about – the pork belly was *extremely* fatty, which acted as an offsetting force to the deeply charred, lean, venison, and it was possibly the most complex dish being offered on this evening (from a diner’s point of view) – it was the only one with co-stars, and the somewhat unique ingredients made this a dish you almost need to order twice in order to really appreciate.
I kept it simple and ordered one of the items off the “From Our Grill” section: a Thick Cut Berkshire Hog Chop ($36). All the grilled items are served with oven-roasted potatoes, Fall vegetables, spiced red onions, and with a warm, anchovy, balsamico vinaigrette. As advertised, this was a *thick* cut of pork – I’d say over an inch thick in parts, and what’s interesting is that just from a taste perspective, the saucing bore a strong resemblance to the teriyaki sauce I had the other evening at Hula Girl. This was arguably a more Hawaiian dish than what I’d had in Shirlington last week, and I have no doubt this was intentional.
Oh! The bread plate! This time it came with focaccia-like slices, but also some sweet cornbread and, most importantly, some of the best biscuits I’d ever eaten. Matt took one bite of his biscuit and made an audible hum; I had my first bite maybe five minutes later and made a similar sound. They were buttery, flaky, cubical, correctly seasoned, and awesome. So much so that we asked for an extra order to help us through our main course. However, entirely due to the biscuits, I ended up with some pork to take home (with which they generously added two *more* biscuits). Somewhere in the middle of all the fun, I had a second non-alcoholic cocktail -Â perhaps because I was recognized as having been there the night before, and perhaps because I was fine-dining with a teenager, our beverages were not on the bill.
We were stuffed, but dessert was mandatory – not just one to split like we usually do, but one each: We were *dining* this evening, and we could not have ordered two more diametrically opposite desserts, both equally great.
Daily Dose of Vitamin C ($12) was something of a cold citrus soup (or, at least it turned into one). Made with Meyer lemon sorbet, candied kumquats, yogurt snow, black pepper meringues, and champagne sabayon, it gave off the illusion of being a bowlful of health. Not decadent at all, but wonderfully refreshing after the hog chop, my only regret is that it was physically impossible to get every last drop of this without a finger swipe, and that can’t be done here (although I did pick up the venison and gnaw on the bone).
The Chocolate Dessert ($12) is a composed plate (they’re actually all composed plates) with a rarely (if ever) seen Manjari torte, cashew blondie, passion fruit caramel (isn’t this sounding good?), caramelized white chocolate crema, and coffee ice cream. It doesn’t really sound all that chocolatey, but it was, and other than the temperature (it seems like most desserts here are small, collections of items served at room temperature or slightly below), was vastly different than the citrusy bowl of delight which sat across the table from it.
I wanted to surprise Matt with the mignardises, and they were slightly different on this evening – we both bit into our pÃ¢te de fruit, on this evening shaped to look like a giant nonpareil (remember those things you used to buy at a movie theater?), and immediately looked at each other and started smiling, the Pop Rocks exploding inside of our heads as we just shook our heads in awe.
This visit was a mere formality – The Grill Room is raised to Bold. Once again, I stress that this is a Michelin one-star dining experience, and can safely say that The Grill Room is one of the very greatest restaurants in the Washington, DC area.