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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

First Look: Edgar Bar and Kitchen

Neighborhood: Farragut

The Setup

On this First Look, we visit the revamped bar at the Mayflower Hotel, Edgar Bar and Kitchen. On this trip: Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas, and Official Friends of DCWD Burgh and Flo.

The Vibe

If there's a prototypical picture of 1950s Washington and its dealings, it goes something like this: a group of huddling men in a corner booth; an austere room where the cigar smoke rises up the wood paneling to dim lights; handshake deals and all manners of spycraft happening over tumblers of whiskey and fingers of bourbon. These days, as our city starts elbowing its way into the upper echelon of epicurean cities, bars and restaurants like these are increasingly falling by the wayside; old standbys like Kinkead's shutter while 14th Street flourishes with the next round of craft cocktails or small plates or exposed brick/refurbished barn wood decor. Don't get me wrong. I love these things. But that's why the Mayflower Hotel's refurbished bar intrigues me so much: it's like a high-speed collision between the old and the new.

Take the decor. The old Town and Country, the bar that Edgar replaces within the Mayflower Hotel, was a monument to the days of its replacement's namesake and frequent patron, former FBI director/Leonardo diCaprio title role J. Edgar Hoover. The re-design and re-branding has jettisoned with the old while keeping some of the prettiest design elements intact. To wit, the feel remains generally the same: here, on one side of the bar, are black leather riveted booths below dark wood paneling. In front of you, a backlit bar ensconced in art-deco-style mirrored columns framed in polished silver. To your side, a wall of emerald brick tile that frames the doorway; in some ways, it feels like a cleaned up 1920s cigar lounge. Still, it's the cleaned up parts that bring some modern nuance, from the exposed brick on the restaurant side, to the light gray granite tile that decks the bar, to the globe lighting that hangs overhead.

The Food

The menu is generally what one expects, except for perhaps the steak offerings. A slate of sandwiches and burgers and salads is flanked by an interesting list of small plates and flatbreads and charcuterie, another nod to the new and trendy. On this trip, my four companions and I order two plates to share and a round of cocktails.  The cocktails are on the sweeter side, and are enjoyable, though could use some better punch. My pom-blackberry balsamic bourbon tastes exactly like what it sounds like: bourbon with a splash of tart and sweet, though at times, it leans toward watery. A play on a Tom Collins injects the traditional lemon-gin combo with some cucumber, basil, and Chambord, producing a grenadine-like flavor finish, though Texas notes that it leaves a slight bubble gum taste on the mouth.

Our dishes are similarly straightforward bar bites: a set of crispy artichokes with a hint of lemon, paired with a parsley aioli dipping sauce; and cheddar potato croquettes filled with Benton's smoked bacon and placed atop a chive aioli. Neither, however, is anything to call home about; the aiolis are bland and the flavor contrasts meek. Like many of the other small plates, it's optimally designed for a post-work grub grab: drink here, dip here, eat this. But it lacks the critical imagination needed to be anything other than the hotel bar.

The Verdict

I'd skip it, unless you really want to pretend you're in Covert Affairs.

Food Rating: * 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)

Edgar Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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