Last night, in celebration of the purchase of our first house, my husband and I enjoyed a WONDERFUL evening at 2941, surpassing all expectations that I had of restaurants in office parks in the suburbs. ; )
Much has been written about the ambience of 2941. I had been there for the opening back in October, and was sort of overwhelmed by the visual stimulation as gusts migled around, cocktail party style. It seemed a little cold. However, last night, with all of the patrons planted at tables, it somehow grounded the style, resulting in a room that is charming, elegant, and warm. Hats off to the designer who considered how the room would look with people in it! (If you have not read the assorted reviews, the room is probably 20 feet tall, with 3 walls of glass overlooking assorted landscape effects. The fourth wall is bare for the lower 10 feet, with heavy wooden-framed mirrors and an incongruous but interesting Botticelli-esque canvas rimming the upper half of the room. A show stopping orange and white blown glass chandelier hangs floor to ceiling behind the host stand, and there are various architectual installations throughout. 2 fireplaces. Tables are dark wood with mango colored linens. Fabulous!)
The food, my friends, rivaled that of our previous "benchmark meal" for fine dining...a tasting menu we enjoyed at the kitchen table at Tru, in Chicago. We opted for a tasting menu last night, and it blew us away. (Disclaimer...we have some connections to this restaurant, and had arranged ahead of time to have a tsting menu. I imagine that anyone can do so; just be sure to ask when you make a reservation).
First came the bread. I have been tinkering with artisinal bread baking in my own kitchen for years, and have never come close to this bread. I really hope that a bakery is in their future, but I think it is unlikely, as the intrepid baker is the chef's retired-MD father (notably trained at Daniel and Bouley Bakery). This bread is crusty and dense without being heavy. In fact, it is incredibly light, especially given the wonderful flavors like apricot pistachio, and parmesan cayenne...we consumed 2 large baskets throughout the course of dinner, professing our collective deire to "leave room" but unable to keep our grubby mitts out of the basket.
Tuna tartare was served two ways, one minced with herbs and lemon, and one as a large cube, marinated with a pungent ginger sauce. Then we were served a perfectly seared sea scallop, just barely opaque in the middle, yet golden crusted on the end. The scallop was perched on a dollop of potatoes and a thimbleful of buttery spinach, and brought new meaning to the phrase "melt in your mouth." I have never enjoyed a scallop more...even just out of the ocean diver scallops in Maine.
The next course was one of the highlights for me: boned stuffed quail, served with an onion gratinee and sort of a red wine reduction. I had never eaten quail before, and was amazed at how rich it was. This was a wonderfully composed dish; I remarked to my husband that even though I consider myself a significantly above average cook, this dish was beyond me. The chef's understanding of taste and texture really shined in this dish. Every mouthful was incredibly flavorful. I will seek out quail in the future....
Next was fois gras, served seared with what I believe was a cherry-cranberry chutney, sprinkled with a blue cheese. I didn't deconstruct this dish the way that I usually do because I was enjoying watching my husband swoon...he is the biggest fois gras freak in the world, and he pronounced this amongst his favorites. I had three or four lovely bites of my dish, and passed the rest over to him. Ah, love.
The final savory course was a pairing of pork loin with a marmelade glaze and braised pork belly. The buttery spinch showed up again on this plate, but the repitition was fine, because the spinach was so good. The pork loin was perfect...I imagine it had been roasted at a very low temperature, because it was rosy at the edges as well as in the center. The uniform texture was very appealing. (Note to self...experiment with this at home. (I am a die-hard high-heat roaster generally, but this may change...)). Braised pork belly tasted like (delicious) southern barbeque to me. I didn't eat the fatty portion, and I am guessing that it would have been a real treat.
We finished our wine, a Rosemont Estate Reserve Cab (from their friendly-priced yet pretty esoteric list), enjoyed a glass of champagne from the house, and then dug into a procession of desserts. First came a mango soup with the most intense strawberry sorbet....wow. I wanted to lick my bowl. I may have done so... Then, a pineapple tarte tatin with hazelnut ice cream and caramel rum sauce. Then, butterscotch flan (oh!) with honey cake. Frozen passionfruit parfait. And then, the famous cotton candy, toffee nuts, and housemade marshmallows. My my my. I am not a "dessert person" but, well, wow.
Glazed over, we paid the check. The tasting menu was 65 dollars per person. As far as I am concerned, the food rivaled that of Tru, where our tasting was about 150 each, and the Inn, where I belive the tasting is also over 100 dollars. The service at 2941 does not (yet?) have the precision that you will find at some of the "greats" but it was certainly more than adequate. We hope to try Maestro (on Joe's vigorous nod) in the near future, and I'll let you know my sense of the comparison, but as far as I am concerned, the 6-month-old 2941 is one of Washington's Greats.