the snowballing popularity of food-driven tv has lent an air of celebrity to being a chef. former top chef and top chef masters contestants have tens -- if not hundreds -- of thousands of twitter followers: dc's own mike isabella (@mikeisabelladc) and carla hall (@carlahall) currently number a whopping 62,382 between them. anthony bourdain has almost a million. i'm sure some would disagree with me, but i think this has largely been great for food. sweetbreads and pork belly, both weird and delicious, are now common menu staples. chefs have latitude to say to their customers "sorry, i know what i'm doing...no changes or substitutions", and they increasingly drive both their restaurants' cuisines as well as their atmospheres. take my mike isabella example. the former executive chef for josé andrés's zaytinya and top chef allstars and season 6 contestant now owns two dc restaurants, graffiato and bandolero. fans of the show would likely describe isabella as loud and affable, approachable with an edge. so too are graffiato and bandolero -- it's no mystery he's pulling the strings. many of dc's best places are exactly this kind of restaurant: places that assume the personalities of their chefs.
many, but not all. for a handful of dc's elite restaurants, even as chefs come and go, tradition still reigns. georgetown's 1789 is one such place. there are few restaurants in the city more classically elegant, more storied and stately. and i really mean stately: president obama, for example, took german chancellor angela merkel here for dinner. i saw no heads of state during my visit, but i wouldn't have been surprised to. long taper candles pervade an intimate dining room and light antique furniture and walls covered in illustrations from the restaurant's namesake year. service is refined and flawless. and the whole experience is incredibly romantic. if someone asked me where i'd stage a proposal? celebrate a golden anniversary? i'd answer 1789. my meal there was lovely. luxurious without feeling ostentatious. and while not the most daring, the food is beautiful and tasty. 1789 is a dc treasure, and it's one of the places that i hope holds on to its own personality, regardless of who mans its (now 50-year old) kitchen.
2012 marks 1789's 50th anniversary, and in celebration, the restaurant has made a fantastic offer: on weeknights through september, you can get five courses for $50. yes, you read that correctly. five courses. fifty dollars. it's a helluva deal, and one that i was all too happy to take advantage of. pictured above left is my first, the "BLT" soup: chilled tomato soup, house smoked bacon, mayonnaise croutons, and baby mâche. given that dc's ambient temperature was roughly that of the sun's surface when i visited, i was more than enamored with my chilled tomato soup. i was spellbound. pictured to the above right is the cauliflower soup with crispy yukon potatoes and curly scallions, which i was only less enamored with because it was hot, rather than cold.
onto seconds. i'm a perpetual sucker for duck; if it's on the menu and i judge by my surroundings and the food on nearby tables that it will be done tastily, i order it. above left is the duck confit strudel: marscapone cheese, cherry compote, and foie gras creme. to the above right, the tagliatelle black and white pasta with maryland crab fritters, house-smoked bacon, florida white shrimp, and english peas. both were delicious.
thirds. above left, the francobolli: slow roasted pork, royal trumpet mushrooms, housemade ricotta, and natural lamb jus. above right, the wild mushroom crepes: mixed wild mushrooms, goat cheese, english pea velouté, and aged sherry vinegar.
perfectly cooked mains. to the above left, the 35-day dry aged strip, served with yukon potato gratin, swiss card, roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and bordelaise. a flawless, photo-worthy medium rare. and to the above right, the halibut. with lobster farro, baby carrots, and rosé lobster beurre blanc.
and finally, the desserts. above left, the ice cream profiteroles: cream puff pastry filled with hazelnut, brown sugar, and espresso ice creams and served with candied hazelnut and warm, bittersweet ganache. above right, the 1789 chocolate coin: whiskey, chocolate, and caramel mousse, served with a whiskey dark chocolate ice cream and whiskey caramel sauce.
a lovely meal indeed.