With a gift certificate to use and already one dinner reservation canceled there by an event (replaced with bad effect by Mio), Official Friend of DCWD Kelly joined me for dinner at Scott Circle's Nage.
Located in the Courtyard Marriott, Nage embodies the typical hotel restaurant. Set off to one side of the hotel lobby, its set-up and decor is designed to appease every sort of traveler. There's the decor which is at once too trendy by half for the fly-by-night crowd, and leaves you with the impression that the entire restaurant covers the full spectrum of red. This is reinforced in every way, from the tiny alternating scarlet tiles on the bar to the carnelian hanging candle-like lamps above each table, to the terra cotta-colored walls. Added to the overhead music of 70s music (epitomized by the one song I paid mind to, Shirley Bassey's version of Diamonds are Forever), it makes it feel very lounge-y.
And yet the seating arrangement is almost designed for families. There are booths everywhere, full ones around the edge of the restaurant, and half-booths around its center divider. Between the red and the seating style, it gave it a feel of a trendy Chili's. Not a huge fan.
Despite the extension of the Restaurant Week menu to our week, we decided to forgo it (though only one of the dishes we had was off the RW menu, so maybe we made a poor choice). For her appetizer, Kelly got a crispy soft shell crab served on top of watercress and a bell pepper confit with tamari almonds and a papaya vinaigrette. I will say this, Nage is certainly not shy about the portions they give you, which is always a plus. That being said, the crab was aggressive with its amount of breading. I love the fry as much as the next guy, but you barely got any of the crab, and when you did, you got mostly the taste of the stuffing. If anything, the vinaigrette was the winner here.
I ordered the braised mussels with chorizo, corn, celery, soybeans, in a summer wheat beer stew. I might have eschewed the mussels altogether if not for the corn, which I thought was an interesting addition. And perhaps I would have been better off that way. There was no difference for me tastewise between the braising and normal steaming. And the chorizo, which might have otherwise was the hard firm kind, and sort of a letdown. I said to Official Friend of DCWD G (one of my frequent companions on mussels adventures), that I always get tempted into ordering mussels at non-Belgian/French restaurants... and am almost always disappointed.
For the main course, Kelly ordered the hanger steak, which came in triangular chunks on top of a mix of rapini, sundried tomato, pine nuts, and fingerling potatoes, with a smear of boursin and all in porcini jus. The steak was well-cooked, and the components were well placed. About the only problem I had was with the smear; if you're gonna tease me with the word boursin on a menu, give me a full piece, not just a little smudge I'll have to embarrassingly lick if I want to get a taste. Still, a fairly good dish.
For my part, I got the smoked pork spare ribs with a honey-ancho gastrique served with a sweet corn succotash and crispy onion tempura. I had several minor problems. One, as I suspected, "crispy onion tempura" was just code for "big-ass onion rings" (eyeroll). Two, I don't know about this gastrique, because frankly all I could taste was barbecue sauce. Still for all the groaners on the names, there were some really good parts to the dish: the way the ribs fell apart because of how well they were the cook, and just how sublime the succotash was. Seriously, I don't know what they put in it, but I loved it.
For dessert, we got talked into the goat cheese cheesecake flanked by some lemon zest and blueberry compote. Standard is the only word that comes to mind when I recall the dessert. Not bad, not noteworthy, pretty much the middle of the road in terms of cheesecake. Official Co-Writer of DCWD CC always likes to say that she almost never orders dessert at restaurants because she's always underwhelmed by them/feels she can make them better. This was one of those desserts that underwhelmed me.
Good entrees, but pretty standard and unimpressive appetizers. Still, a few good dishes does not a good restaurant make, and given the price of the meal, I probably wouldn't head back.
Food Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Quiet Drinks
Cost: $$$ (out of 5) ($50-$7 for two)
Pairing: Grab an after-dinner drink at another hotel hot spot, Bar Rouge at Rouge Hotel. It's the one with the slightly tacky Roman statues out front, which made it a personal favorite of our circle of friends a couple years ago.