Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #38, Washingtonian 2009 #27, Washingtonian 2008 #33, Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's Top 50 Restaurants 2009, Washington Post 2009 Top 50 Restaurants
Following our epic dinner with Official Mentors of DCWD DoubleL and DoubleS at 2941, the two of us felt enough residual guilt that we decided to take them out. After a survey of places we hadn't written up that they wanted to go to, we settled on the Hotel Monaco's Poste Moderne Brasserie.
Poste is best known to people probably as the "restaurant in the amazing courtyard." This is a title that is well-earned. The patio is indeed sizable and beautiful, in the center of the hotel, and very much its warm heart during weekday happy hours. Beyond the HH scene, the seats outside offer a nice but private experience in the summertime. From here, you walk through a glass-walled bar area into the main dining area.
The dining area is split up into what can be best described as two rows of tables, one set of regular tables on the floor by the open kitchen, and then another row on a raised platform next to it composed of booths. On the far side of this platform is a side room with more conventional two-tops and round tables, and incidentally where they stuck us (I mean, really? Really?)
Decor is seasonal and attempts at rustic. The color scheme is an ecru with tan and dark brown, and the familiar orange glow mimicking candle light gives the room and intimate feel. This stands in contrast to the marbletop bar near the open kitchen, but it's an otherwise cohesive room with a very relaxed but neat upscale vibe.
As is our wont, we ate a lot. Both DoubleL and DoubleS kept it simple with classic brasserie food: a French onion soup topped with aged comte cheese for the former, and escargot in garlic butter. I tried neither dish, but they did look fantastic, as evidenced at left and right.
CC on the other hand ordered something more on the original side: a heirloom pumpkin soup with duck confit, red onion marmalade, and toasted pumpkin seeds. She wanted the soup to be creamier, but thought it was okay. It was certainly a beautiful presentation, though not as full of seasonal flavors as we would have expected or as she would have liked. From my vantage point, the ingredients were there; it just didn't put it together.
As for me, I ordered a duo of steak tartare and carpaccio, with a roll of brioche. The carpaccio which came with a black garlic aioli and some fried fingerlings was pleasant, but it was the tartare that really made it, served on top of some sort of cream-cheese-like substance, diced potatoes, and topped with an egg. Fantastic on all levels.
In my normal spirit, I polished off everyone's entree so I got a chance to taste everything. Win.
DoubleL went with the featured entree of the night, a wild king salmon on a bed of mushrooms, salsify, leeks, and black garlic. The chef recommended the salmon medium rare which made the salmon tender. The consomme that was poured over the dish tableside also gave the meal a saltiness and an umami that I liked a lot. Plus, you know, salsify + leeks = awesome.
DoubleS got the chicken, which came with house-made chorizo on top of heirloom white beans, escarole, and tomatoes. This dish screamed standard: chicken? White beans, escarole, and tomatoes? I mean, I'm fairly certain my mother has put together these combinations before. And like I've said before, when it comes to those dishes, I have high expectations. That being said, it was cooked very well, and might even have been my favorite of the night.
CC ordered the red wine braised rabbit, stacked on top of caramelized fennel, poppy seed tagliatelle, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. The rabbit was beautifully cooked, tender in that stringy way, while the tagliatelle was nice and unctuous. Usually I'm the hyperbolic one, but this time it's CC. I'll quote her directly: "The rabbit is the reason I love food. Everything about that dish was perfect. You didn't even try the mushrooms... wow."
As for me, I went with the crispy envelope of pig's trotter made of whole grain phyllo topped with a slow-cooked duck egg on a red onion marmalade. It was actually very nice, the phyllo obviously lending a good textural balance to the pork inside. The egg was a very nice touch, giving it that silky richness that only cracking an egg over something will add (see: mopping up egg yolk at diners with toast). Even the marmalade added something.
Both DoubleL and I had the housemade waffles served with pumpkin ice cream and what was described as Indian ice cream (but tasted very much just like cardamom). These were actually fairly decent, light Belgian style waffles. But really it was the ice cream that took the win... though my pumpkin was a bit more ice than cream.
The lone non-waffle dessert for the table was a heirloom apple tatin, with streusel, yogurt, and a caramel ice cream. While CC appreciated how the tatin was constructed, sadly the ice cream was the best part of the dessert. The apples were smoky, which was interesting but not what she was looking for. Once again, the presentation was very nice though.
A surprisingly good meal, sometimes touching on great, capitalizing mostly on good seasonal flavors with beautiful presentations. I've been before, and I will definitely be back.
Food Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Cost: $$$$ (out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing: You're already eating at the Hotel Monaco, so why not go full tourist? Buy two disposable cameras at Penn Camera on E St a block away, and have a contest who can take the best pictures with the cheapest technology.