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Washington DC & Baltimore Trip Report

Trip report - Vidalia (twice!), Kinkead's, DC Coast

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Trip report - Vidalia (twice!), Kinkead's, DC Coast

Tha Groovin' Gourmet | May 10, 2004 09:51 AM

Man oh man...did we do some fine eating. Can't wait to return…and next time we won’t have family to deal with so we can stay in town longer and enjoy even more fabulous sights and meals.

First dinner (Wednesday night) was at Vidalia, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The room itself is lovely...you'd never guess you were in a basement. The magnolia leaves/blooms behind the frosted glass in the entry staircase are an especially nice touch.

Our server was personable, knowledgeable and did a great job, as did the bus staff. This is a top-notch place all the way around.

First oohs and ahhs were for the bread basket and accompanying onion marmalade. Awesome stuff. The focaccia is literally overflowing with onions, and the cornbread is perhaps the finest we have tasted anywhere, with a texture almost like a fine spoonbread. According to the server their secret is a special brand of creamed corn. YUM!

We started by splitting their Shady Lane salad...very nice, would've enjoyed more of the julienned country ham and a bit more dressing, but it was light, refreshing and a good way to get started.

On to the appetizers...I went with the Grillades And Grits. OH. MY. GOD! Easily the best dish we enjoyed the entire trip...one that I would be happy to be force fed through a funnel ad infinitem. The veal cheeks were like the world's most tender pot roast, the grits were totally smooth, creamy and sublime. The bits of tasso and onion made for some nice textural contrasts. Awesome dish.

The lovely Denise went with the Foie Gras (what a surprise), and was quite pleased. I got my usual little bite (have to act quickly or she'll make foie gras disappear in a nanosecond) and was most impressed.

Entree choices for me were Shrimp And Grits, while she chose a special that evening, a short rib dish prepared with foie gras (what a surprise she would choose that!) My dish was the only mis-step of the evening...the shrimp were just a tad overdone. Not so much that they needed to be sent back, despite our server doing her best to get me to do so. The rest of the dish totally rocked...once again the grits were creamy and sublime.

The short rib entrée was really interesting…the meat was taken off the bone, cooked down with fois and then reformed into short rib shape. Served with some lovely baby vegetables and a fingerling potato gratin, this was hearty and rich. Only complaint is that we wish servers would announce the price of specials. This one came to $32, making it the most expensive dish on the carte that night, and made for a bit of surprise when the check came.

For dessert we went with the Chocolate Sampler and were pretty much blown away. The Valrhona Crème Brulee was a very close second to our favorite version in the world at La Frite in Sherman Oaks, CA. Texture was almost as dense as La Frite’s (we’re still trying to figure out how they do it), and the chocolate flavor was superb. The 3 other chocolate goodies were excellent as well. Along with really good coffee, served in a press, this was an excellent way to end our first meal in DC.

On to lunch Thursday at DC Coast. The room is lovely…lots of eye candy, just a really nice setting for a fine meal. We started by sharing the Split Pea Green Chile soup…and it was nothing like we expected. The dish includes English Peas, Corn, Tasso and Cumin Crème Fraiche, and it was served with just these ingredients in bowls…our server then poured the Split Pea Green Chile broth over everything and we were knocked out. The flavor of the peas and chile were in perfect balance, and the texture was nothing like you expect split pea soup to be. KILLER!

Whereas my appetizer from dinner was the star of the show at Vidalia, Denise’s appy choice at lunch was the hands down winner, the Crispy Buffalo Oysters with Fennel Slaw, Bleu Cheese and Hot Sauce Butter. YOWZAH! We could have eaten this dish all day long and then some. My appy choice was the lump crabcake with corn and pickled okra relish. Really nice, but nowhere close to the oyster dish.

Denise went with a half Caesar salad, topped with more of their crispy fried oysters…they do know how to properly fry seafood.

My choice was the Fresh Tuna Ravioli…a really different dish that we both enjoyed. Finely minced fresh tuna is stuffed into fresh raviolis, then cooked perfectly…the pasta was al dente, the tuna was still a bit rare in the middle. The accompanying herb broth, favas and morels added an excellent earthy contrast to the fish. YUM!

For dessert we split the Creole Pecan Tart. Sheer excellence. The pecan filling was almost as good as our favorite pecan pie from Brigtsen’s in New Orleans, the pastry shell was made with cocoa it would seem and had a perfect shortbread-like texture, and the bourbon butter ice cream topping it off was a touch of genius. Killer dish…the best dessert of the trip.

Unfortunately, such a fine meal left us in no condition to take full advantage of the menu at Kinkead’s later that night, but we still totally enjoyed our visit there. We discovered Kinkead’s on our last trip…chose it because the Zagat food rating was high and the prices seemed more reasonable than the other places rated for best food. We loved the place instantly and talked about going back all the time.

Having read some of the comments around here that Kinkead’s has slipped really made us want to check it out again.. All I can say to you naysayers is NAY, NAY, NAY! Kinkead’s still rocks mightily…the best service of the trip, and the food was once again totally top notch.

As we were still full from lunch, we decided to go with a couple of small plates each. I started the Green And White Aspargus salad and totally loved it. Served in an excellent vinaigrette, with chunks of smoked bacon and some deviled eggs for garnish, this was every bit as yummy as I expected.

I followed it up with the Jalisco-style tuna tartare, and was suitably impressed. The tuna itself was spectacular…gorgeous ruby red, with perfect texture and that unmistakable steak-of-the-sea flavor. The Mexican touches of guacamole and jicama/caper relish made this a unique rendition, one that I totally enjoyed.

Denise had the soft lettuces salad, in a lovely mustard chive vinaigrette, followed by the Ipswich-style fried clams. She had never had clam belly before, and thought she had been brought oysters given the texture. Unfortunately I was almost at the wall with my own dishes, so I didn’t go for a taste of the clams…there’s always next time!

We also split a side-dish, the creamy polenta with tomato fondue. YUM! Just as creamy and sublime as the grits at Vidalia, this is another lie-me-on-my-back-with-a-funnel-in-my-mouth dishes. Simply remarkable.

We did save some room for something sweet, and our server was most accommodating, bringing us single scoops of sorbet instead of the normal serving of 3 scoops. I went with the cherry and the missus had the guava. Both were excellent, and a nice refreshing end for a couple of totally sated diners.

While the room wasn’t that busy (we were seated at 9PM), our server got tied up with a table of foreign visitors next to us. Not a problem…the other server in the room zoomed right in to get our drink orders, answer questions and see to it that we were taken care of. The two of them worked seamlessly…much appreciated especially as we were not going all out that night.

The next day after walking around Mt Vernon all morning we were ready to eat! Back to Vidalia we went for one last sumptuous repast before heading for family events in Columbia.

No big surprise, the wife went with the Grillades And Grits this time, and was nice enough to share a bite with me. This will remain one of our fave dishes of all time.

My selection of the Barbecued Scallop Salad was excellent as well. The scallops were perfectly prepared, and the accompaniments made for an excellent overall presentation, the flavor of the Cheddar Cheese-Jalapeño Corn Cake could’ve easily overpowered the delicate flavor of the scallops, but in this case they were perfectly understated, providing support to the dish.

Entrees were the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast for her and the Spiced Pork Sandwich for me. The chicken breast was extraordinary…wonderfully juicy and flavorful, the batter fried perfectly, complemented by a nice peppery gravy, right up there with the very best fried chicken anywhere. The accompanying side salads were excellent as well…an awesome fingerling potato salad (with a touch of horseradish), and another featuring fresh butter beans and black eyed peas. Yummy stuff!

I was not disappointed with the pork sandwich…nice smoky flavor, good BBQ sauce drizzled all around, served atop a healthy chunk of that amazing cornbread. The avocado black bean relish provided some nice texture and flavor contrasts to the luscious pork. Yet another winning dish.

And we just had to split an order of the Truffled Macaroni with Goat Cheese. WOOHOO! Nicely cooked shell pasta, with a nice mild goat cheese and plenty of little dark truffle bits throughout. This a dish we will look forward to trying to recreate at home. So simple, yet wonderfully effective.

For dessert we split their Coconut Cake, and enjoyed some more of their excellent French press coffee. The dessert was the only dish that wasn’t quite up to snuff. The cake itself was nice…dense, rich and coconutty. The slices of rum soaked pineapple provided a nice contrast, and the chocolate bourbon ice cream was good too…but they just didn’t seem to work together as well as one might expect. Definitely back to the chocolate sampler for our next visit.

All in all, we had a great time. The more time we spend in DC the more we like it. And with 4 fine meals from 3 fabulous restaurants we were quite the happy campers.

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