Friday, August 29, 2008

Celebrate Architecture Week at Proof

On September 16, the American Institute of Architects, DC Chapter will host 'Dinner With the Architect' at Proof, featuring owner Mark Kuller and Architect Griz Dwight for a behind the scenes look at this restaurant and wine bar.

The event will begin at 5 PM and end at 7 PM. The cost is $80 per person including the special dinner menu and selected wine parings.

RSVPs are required (ask for 'Architect Dinner' reservation).

775 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Friday, August 22, 2008


What is it about Summer Restaurant Week that makes it so different from its winter counterpart? Is it the fact that the city is mostly empty as summer ebbs? Fresher ingredients? People in less of a hurry to warm up? I pondered these and other questions as I made my way up King Street (on the first truly hot day after a stint of glorious weather) to have dinner at Vermilion. I'd heard good things about it, and I go to Buzz, part of the same restaurant group, at least once a week.

As a space, Vermilion takes advantage of its location, a few blocks up from the King Street metro station. The converted house (all red hues, by decor and design) has a beautiful bar that looks like an updated saloon, and the upstairs has a wine wall that has probably tempted more than one patron. Window seating is sparse but readily available. If this bar were smoke-free, I'd make it a staple for Happy Hour.

The Restaurant Week menu also included wine specials. Though I often crave white wine during the summer, I find red to be a better choice for a heavy meal. We ordered a bottle red Côtes du Rhône, probably a Syrah/Granache mix (I have noticed that the French are now labeling by grape and not by terroir, but this was one of the old time bottles). The wine was lovely - bright, but with a bite.

As a first course, I had the chilled roasted pepper soup, which came in a very dramatic bowl that made the best use of the fiery orange on white contrast. The soup was garnished with pine nuts and a dollop of cream, and the texture was grainy - a way to preserve the consistency of the peppers. T. had the Eastern shore scallops - a dish I love but that I've had to stop ordering, as I always wound up eating the same thing. They looked perfectly cooked and considering the speed at which they were eaten, were probably quite good. I had read great things about the kitchen's handmade pasta, but we both chose the bistro fillet. Potatoes would have put this steak on another seasonal menu, so the garnish was blue cheese (maytag, as a crisp) and enough cherry tomatoes (red and yellow) to be a salad on its own, cut into halves and sprinkled with salt.

After an ill-advised staring contest, we took on dessert. The pasty chef had a chance to show off, showcasing the ingredients in two and three ways. The Peppermint Pattie featured two types of chocolate (as a cake and as a liquid) and three types of mint (sprig, cream, and the best mint ice cream I've ever had). The goat's milk cheesecake, a fluffy concoction hovering over strawberries mixed with wine, was a refreshing bite.

I look forward to trying their bar menu, smoke and all.

Vermilion Restaurant
1120 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
703 684 9669
Vermilion on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 15, 2008

Boys Don't Cry

The best part about going to Restaurant Week with E. is that I know I will try twice as many dishes - ever since Y. got us started a few years ago, demanding that we approach this celebration of eating out with the discipline of samurais, we have an unspoken rule of exchanging plates midway. I've been sorry to part with my dish on several occasions, but this way I don't have to wonder what I am missing. E. is also getting a degree in Decorative Arts, so my random musings on the color of walls or the choice of lightning are vastly improved by her keen eye and eloquence.

After a slight confusion with our tables - we wound up waiting for each other for over 25 minutes, on opposite sides of the partition wall - we settled down for a lovely meal (to make up for the wait, our waitress got us extra onion and dill rolls - not to be missed, even if you are in for a three course lunch).For appetizers we ordered Tuna Sliders (spicy tuna tartare on mini rolls with a cucumber salad) and a salad called "The Wedge," a crafty presentation of iceberg hearts, smoked bacon, tomato confitures and buttermilk blue aioli. The sliders looked delightful, arranged as happy mushrooms, and the salad had a great balance of textures. Aioli is seldom prepared the way it ought to be - with raw egg - due to health regulations, but the creaminess of the buttermilk was a great contrast to the acidity of the pepper vinaigrette. For main courses, we had the beef shortribs and the braised pork. Both dishes were pulled - no bones on the plate, which gave them the appearance of a very high-end barbecue (the pork even came with coleslaw). The shortribs were very well cooked and perfectly seasoned, over a bed of frites. The polenta cake that came with the pork was fluffy, even with the onslaught of braising jus and slaw dressing. The pickle chips were mostly an afterthought - they added nothing to the dish and though they looked pretty, the taste was too briny to be harmoniously incorporated into the dish.

When dessert came (a souffle cake with solidified creme anglaise for me and beignets for E.) we both came to the same realization - the navy blue/brown/white décor, menu and even the Spartan presentation of the desserts gave off a decisively "Gentlemen Who Lunch" vibe, which makes perfect sense in a restaurant in the middle of so many offices. Though PS 7's is not trying to be the Caucus Room or The Palm, you would hardly expect a gaggle of women to come in through the door on any given day. Luckily, the balanced menu, fresh ingredients and cordial service makes this a great place to visit, even for a powerless-lunch.

For those of you who want to pace yourselves with Restaurant Week - rejoice. PS 7's has extended it for the entire month of August. Details here.

PS 7's Restaurant
777 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001