Plaudits: Washingtonian 2011 #13, Washingtonian 2010 #12, Washingtonian 2009 #7, Washingtonian 2008 #8, Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry Top 50 2009
Neighborhood: K Street, Farragut/Dupont Circle
For our date night this Restaurant Week, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I headed to one of my favorite DC restaurants, Vidalia, former home of Rogue 24's R.J. Cooper, and owned by Jeff Buben of Bistro Bis.
On the flipside of a glass divider is the main dining area, a room bathed in cream and cocoa brown, full of clean and modern lines. Seating in this area is a row of half-booths along the divider, a row of twos, and then a set of half-circle booths. Off to one side is a side room, which seems to be completely orange and to the back is a raised level, where we sat for this meal.
To start, Texas and I each had a cocktail, her the Charleston tea (Firefly, hum herbal liqueur, ginger ale) and me a classic mint julep. Perhaps mine was true to form, but hers was absolutely to die for, just the right amount of sweet and sharp.
These came with our bread course, which was notable in that it was cornbread and an onion focaccia and was served with marmalade. This was followed quickly by a small amuse-bouche: a small and forgettable tartlet that struggles to stand out in my memory.
For my first course, I ordered the pork posole, a stew made with hominy maize, peppers, cabbage, cilantro, and lime, topped with pork cracklings. It was rich and unctuous while retaining some gritty texture from the maize base, with some nice heat and amazing textural contrast from the cracklings. Honestly, I wish I had more of them. Overall, it was interesting while being somewhat traditional.
Texas had the lemon ricotta ravioli, stuffed with summer squash and toasted almonds, and topped with basil and tomato butter. There was a lot to love about this dish. For one, it was a lovely summer bite: strong flavors from the lemon and the squash, creaminess from the cheese, but still overall very light. In contrast to mine, it was more refreshing than filling.
Texas ordered the chicken-fried quail with butterbean-corn succotash, tomatoes, okra, and scallions, with a sweet pepper relish. This was slightly better than the rib, by virtue of being more interesting, but was perhaps no more memorable. In this instance, the quail was a little stringy and the chicken fry didn't add much to the dish.
Dessert was slightly better. I had a grasshopper torte, a piece of white chocolate-mint mousse with a feuilletine crunch and bittersweet chocolate. It was pleasant, like biting into a chunk of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Though that was pretty much it. Enjoyable, but only in its small portion form.
Texas had the peach-blackberry crisp topped with a pecan-oatmeal streusel and peach-buttermilk mousse. This was a little bit better, fresh with some needed crunch. In a night where a few things missed the mark, it was at least "distinctly Southern."
Definitely down a notch after Cooper's departure. Still good and worth a visit, but not the treasure it used to be.
Food Rating: *** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Business
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Vibe: Calm to chatty
Cost: $$$$ (out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing: It's Shear Madness time at the Kennedy Center Theater Lab. Head over to the iconic theater, and finish the night on the rooftop with a beautiful Potomac view.