Sunday, December 13, 2009


E. and I were leaving a cocktail party to go have "a dinner". For as long as I have known E., she preambles meals with an "a," which, at least in my mind, makes it more of an event. We turned on N, heading to the Tabard Inn, one of our usual haunts. The Tabard Inn has a well-deserved reputation, but after such a long week I wanted to have a relaxing time as opposed to a 45 minute wait. Out of the corner of my eye I spied some flickering votives on bar tables, and this act of seasonal defiance made me cross the street.

A sign outside proclaimed that one could sit outside in the summer and around the table in the winter. We walked past the outdoor bar with its coy votives and found a dormant garden, patiently awaiting the spring. The light coming from a door drew us in, and we were welcomed by a kind man who promptly had us come in from the cold. The dinning room, a converted carriage house, is all dark wood and shades of crimson. I don't know if the lit stars are there year-round, but they were just enough of a holiday decoration. E. and I were sat by the fireplace, kept alive by a diligent busboy.

Along with the menus came the bread basket, crunchy baguettes baked in-house, with a side of hummus. Upon inspecting the menu I realized that many of the dishes were Middle Eastern, and that's when I noticed the lamps hanging from the ceiling, juxtaposed with the more traditional plates on the wall. Once we ordered an appetizer, we got word that G. would join us. The waitress put our entrees on hold and, after waiting a few minutes, we were moved to a larger table right in front of the fire. Though the dinning room was packed by 8 PM, it was mostly smaller tables - Iron Gate is a great place to go on a date, and the servers seemed used to this. A young man next to us tried to impress his date with his non-existent knowledge of Pinot Noir, and her adoring face and their server's amusement kept our snarky comments away.

The portions at Iron Gate Inn are quite large, and this includes the grape leaves, which are as big as a spring roll. They were at just the right temperature, and came with some very well-seasoned tomatoes. Unlike many grape leaves, these where not overwhelmingly vinegary and went well with our light-bodied Grenache, one of several affordable options on their wine list. G. finally joined us, and was as appreciative of the fireplace as we were. He ordered the outlier on the menu, a Cuban-Style pork served with rice and fried platains. The pork was briny and lightened by the presence of lime juice. E. and I shared two entrees, the lamb shank and the salmon. The lamb shank is their signature dish and it falls right of the bone. I found it lacking a bit of salt but that was easy to remedy - either by adding it myself or by eating it with the feta-topped orzo next to it. The salmon was delicious, fully cooked but not overdone, and with a distinct taste of both lemon and butter, with a side of green beans that somehow managed to still crunch.

There are several desserts but as we had made our way through two full bread baskets, we opted to share the Almond Flan. I am a flan snob, and found that this one passed muster in both color and consistency. The almond note was there, as discrete as the light caramel on top and to the side. Oddly for a Middle-Eastern restaurant, they only had drip coffee available.

We left at 11 PM, a long meal even by my standards. The evening had been the perfect combination of atmosphere, company, and food. We'll have to go back to try that beautiful garden.

Iron Gate Inn on Urbanspoon
Irongate Inn
1734 N St NW
Washington, DC 20036

No comments: