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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cashion's Eat Place

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #53, Washingtonian 2009 #65, Washingtonian 2008 #31
Neighborhood: Adams-Morgan

The Setup

When the Living Social coupon came around for Cashion's Eat Place, it took me literally five seconds to buy it, but I always thought it would be used at brunch, as Cashion's Bison Burger (with poached egg and hollandaise!) sounded so tempting as to make me want to go there immediately. But Official Co-Writer of DCWD CC and I were up in Adams-Morgan already (we'l get to that part later), and since I always try to make a food situation out of every trip, we decided to have a dinner there. As is always the case with these meals, this is a co-written entry.

The Vibe

K: CC pointed out that she's sure a lot of restaurants are like this, but the vibe of Cashion's Eat Place is like the Cheers bar; it seemed like such a neighborhood place, and was a place where people certainly didn't mind bringing their dogs. This particular night being beautiful, we sat on the patio, which was decent sized and pleasant, but the inside was also pretty well decorated. The dining space was like a combination of Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, but not in a tacky way. More that it was that modern American decor style, with cushioned chairs striped with tan, salmon, and sage green. The walls are part light brown hardwood, part sandlewood, and dotted with old pictures of children and grandparents (maybe owner Ann Cashion's family?). With the weather so beautiful, the front wall was opened to allow the breeze to come in (a feature I always love about restaurants), and while the sunlight shone through, further light was provided by some low-hanging chandeliers and single box lights from the exposed ceiling. Like I said, like a Pottery Barn ad, but no in a cheesy way.

A quick note on the bar. Didn't get a good sight on the bar, but the bar area looked decently-sized, a well-stocked curved bar on a raised and separated part of the dining room with what looked like ten seats. Hard to say what kind of crowd it could draw, but I guess that's part of the nature of Adams-Morgan; depending on the street, it's an eclectic mix of people.

CC: The nice thing about Cashion's setup is how open everything is--and I know this is just because we were there on a nice warm day, but with the huge open windows in front, the indoors and outdoors kind of blended together, which was really nice. Even the bar was open, elevated as Kim mentioned, though set apart a bit.

The Food

K: With the liberty of the coupon, we decided to dig into a shared appetizer, and two entrees (and then obviously we were talked into dessert). I wasn't planning on the appetizer, but once we saw the restaurant's relatively small portions, I decided to order the ragu of wild mushrooms with rosemary, ramps, Tuscan liver sauce, and polenta. This all despite CC's apparent dislike of polenta (which couldn't be further from the truth for me; I was going to link all the times I've written about my love of polenta on the blog, but I think it's happened too often).

CC: I'm just not that into polenta, much like I'm not that into grits, but that doesn't mean that I haven't had good experiences too. This polenta was a good experience. The sauce helped, and who doesn't love mushrooms and ramps? I'm glad we got this because as Kim mentioned, the portions are a little small for the price. That said, almost everything on the menu looked good.

K: Anyway, I talked her into it, and it turned out pretty good. The polenta was wonderfully creamy, and I thought the whole dish worked pretty well, a nice amount of salty. Our server told us this meal had been on the menu for something like 11 years, and it was easy to see why; even as someone who doesn't like vegetarian meals too much, this was a pretty tasty one. I'll also take this opportunity to say, that I know foodies are very fad-oriented, but I just don't understand people's obsession of ramps; they're just like a smaller more bitter version of leeks (and I say this as someone who enjoyed the ramp jelly and ramp mustard his director bought him recently). Just like cupcakes and sustainable food, I just don't get the big deal (the former because of their weird ubiquity, the latter because I agree with Jose Andres that restaurants sometimes source locally at the expense of better ingredients just to say they sourced locally). But off the soapbox now.

K: For entrees, CC got the veal meatballs (which our server explained also had a mix of bison in it), served on top of polenta and broccoli rabe (CC actually ordered this first, which started our talk about polenta above). CC picked this over the whole roasted dorade, a dish she might have preferred but one she had had the week before, and so we went with variety. Anyway, the veal meatball in polenta was a close comparison to a dish I had at Bibiana. As a direct comparison, I thought this was one more "home-y" to Bibiana's refined presentation; but I thought this one was better; there was a nice spicy pepper kick at the end of the meatball, and I love rapini (my mom used to make us eat it at meals, so many times that it just got to the point where I actually started to love it).

CC: I love a good meatball, especially one made with not-your-typical ground beef. As soon as the server said bison, I was hooked. There was a little spiciness to the meatballs, but it was easily tempered by the tomatoes and the polenta, which combined to create a really creamy sauce that I was happy to slather the meat in. This was one of the more sizable portions, as the two meatballs presented were fist-sized. Generally I'm not a broccoli rabe fan--I find it is often too bitter and I'm not a huge fan of the shape (I know that's weird, but it's like all the bad parts of broccoli; I don't like the stringy toughness)--but this was a nice addition and went well with the rest of the dish. Overall this was a slightly more exciting version of something you'd want your mom to make, which was exactly what I wanted.

K: As for my entree, I immediately locked into the seafood sausage plate, served with a Madras curry, sweet potatoes, and a salad of savoy cabbage, golden raisins, pine nuts, and a jalapeno-scallion coulis. I don't know anything about where the coulis was, but the rest of this was exactly what I wanted when I ordered it. The sausage itself was delicious yet light, with surprising chunks of smoked salmon, crab, and lobster among other things. For my first seafood sausage, this was a great introduction. Add that onto a pleasant sweet potato paste, and my longtime favorite combination of golden raisins and nuts (though the cabbage was an interesting choice), and I would give my recommendation for this dish.

CC: I NEVER would have ordered this. It wasn't bad, but I am skeptical of combining seafoods, especially into a sausage form where nothing is recognizable. Seeing this on the menu screamed "we have leftover seafood and don't know what to to with it!", which is a scary thing for me.

K: I, unlike CC, have no qualms about this; after all, I love brunch which is a meal always full of, we have all this food we need to do something with.

CC: Sorry Kim, but nothing about this dish actually sounded appetizing in the least for me. The jalepenos and pine nuts are two things I am happy to live without, and the curry with the cabbage and the sweet potatoes just sounded confusing. The sausage was the only thing I tried on the plate, so I'll trust Kim's opinion that it all worked somehow. It was okay. I certainly wouldn't want to eat a whole plate of it. There was only one sausage on the plate and the presentation was horrible in my opinion, but other people ordered it as well so I guess there was demand. I'm all for interesting charcuterie, but when there's seafood involved, I want to recognize it, and I want it to be fresh.

K: As always, we were easily talked into dessert, and we settled on a mango claflouti served with frozen creme fraiche. My personal reasons for ordering this was both my failed attempt at making my own clafloutis (the reason I bought the small tins I used link here), and my dual love of mango and creme fraiche as flavors. With time to kill, we weren't deterred by the 20-25 minute wait time (but I thought I should note it for those trying to keep appointments afterwards). When it finally did come out, I was pleased with the dessert; I thought it was a little too charred on top, but the small chunks of mango in the claflouti were great, and the creme fraiche was a perfect complement. Solid ending to a good meal.

CC: I was pleased with this. I thought it was fresh and warm and satisfying, which is what dessert should be. I love mango, but because I have a ridiculous allergy to it, I have to be very careful how I eat it, so this dessert had to be dissected to some degree into tiny bites to avoid contact with any skin outside my mouth (TMI warning: it's a super weird reaction similar to the rashes from poison ivy contact, though not contagious, and afflicts people like me who are extremely susceptible to members of the poison ivy family--something to do with the chemical makeup). I loved the creme fraiche ice cream and it really complimented the tangyness of the mango, along with providing the hot/cold contrast. My only complaint is that the claflouti was a little burnt.

The Verdict

K: I thought the meal was going to be less expensive than it was, so the sticker shock compared to the portion size and my expectations for the level of the meal were little downsides. But it was a really solid meal, and just a slight touch above some 3-star restaurants on our scale, so that explains the half-star bump (I'll admit right now, that I am guilty of some major grade inflation).

CC: A solid, but not extraordinary meal. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here, but it is a great spot and if you're in the neighborhood, it's a guaranteed good meal.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating:
3 1/2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks to Classy Crowd
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$$$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing
: It's almost a silly pairing, because it's not really a true date idea, but the reason we were in Adams-Morgan to begin with was CC's day-of decision to get her oft-discussed tattoo; as a walk-in, we had hours to kill before they could pencil her in, so that's why we went to dinner. Both of us are fans of Adams-Morgan shop Tattoo Paradise, around the corner from Cashion's on 18th St next to The Reef (they recently moved across the street from their old location into a larger, much more simple and sterile though consequently less distinctive space). While we don't advocate getting matching tattoos on a date (as best friends, our own tattoos are not matching, differ greatly in size, and were gotten 5 months apart), we thought it was curious that a couple of people who did come in that night, looked like they were on dates, and were there just to look at the walls (which are covered top to bottom with framed pictures of sample tattoos) and people-watch. So we'll give that one our thumbs up too, haha.

Cashion's Eat Place on Urbanspoon

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