Restaurants & Bars

Wolfgang Puck's The Source: Chinois East?

Joe H | Oct 13, 200709:11 PM     28

My wedding dinner was at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica twelve years ago. We sat at the food bar in the rear-after I tripped face first over Kareem Abdul Jabaar's extended leg-supervising the sacrifice of several lobsters for my wife and I, among other Pagan rituals celebrated in then, Puck's greatest restaurant. I have returned annually since then while also searching for a hint of excellence at his other restaurants ranging from the "new" Spago to San Francisco and Seattle's Postrio, Vegas' Spago and Chinois and other outposts.

The Source, a block off of Pennsylvania Avenue, on the bottom three floors of a rental apartment building a football field behind the soon to be celebrated Newseum, today is his best restaurant. It also has the potential to be one of the best restaurants in the United States. Yes, it is THAT good. And, perhaps, that cutting edge. Here. In D. C.

I have not met Scott Drewno but I have read his resume: Chinois, Spago, Jean Georges at Vong. He "specialized in Asian cuisines" working alongside Puck and Lee Hefter to create the menus for The Source. Here it is also an attempt to capitalize on local ingredients featuring the Chesapeake Bay as well as "local and organic produce" of the mid Atlantic. This is featured in a "tasting of Maryland crab: sauteed crab cake and crab salad, mango, Thai viniagrette with aromatic herbs." Also, "blue crab and shrimp su mai with Shanghai curry lobster-uni emulsion."

The over the top first courses were an outstanding "seared Big Eye Tuna, Wasabi peas, Yuzu shallots, hot garlic-balsamic ponzu" (as fine of a version of tuna tartar/sashimi/carpaccio that I have ever had anywhere) along with "roasted suckling pig with plum chutney, pickled cippolini and sweet bean." A friend who tasted this refused for five minutes to try a bite of anything else: he insisted he did not want to obscure the flavor with anything less.

Spicy tuna tartare with sesame-miso cones, shaved nbnito and tobiko is an impressive presentation that appears to be miniature ice cream sugar cones filled with tuna tartare. Several around us who tried this appeared to swoon.

Kobe beef short ribs with "slow cooked" Indian spices, Masoor Dal lentils and Raita was outstanding. Fall apart, meltingly tender flavorful this bested Central's excellent version while pan roasted Red Snapper with small, fresh red Thai curry shrimp and pineapple-chili sambal was explosively delicious. As so many other dishes at The Source the combustible flavors had a great deal of depth with layers upon layers opening one after another. Even an amuse of Szechuan string beans was almost profound: after a taste I crunched the beans in my mouth and waited for the bite to open on my tongue. This was multilayered food that Paul Prudhomme once extoled. Taste that went on and on, discovery that just didn't end with the first spoon or forkful. The Source tonight went one on one with K-Paul's on Chartres street in 1980. That unique, that creative, that good.

The single best dish, the single best taste and texture and contrast of the night was a Fabio like presentation of a dessert known simply as "Cherry Blossom." A huge, oddly rectangular bowl held a multilayered dessert that that I didn't take notes on. But it was world class: texturally with contrasts of cold ice cream and warm cherry streudel but also with crunch and creaminess. One last reprise for a primary theme of the night: contrasting taste and texture with layers of flavor almost endlessly opening. Well over the top, a defining moment in a great dinner that was not expected-certainly not in what I had thought would be just another variation of a Wolfgang Puck clone.

The wine list is extensive. The sommelier is from Danko. Gary Danko which, for me, is San Francisco's best restaurant. And now she is here. And she is the equal of Mark and Vincent. Knowledgeable, correct, polished and a real credit she was justly "recruited" to The Source and already an asset for it. The staff? Another credit to the restaurant and the concept. From South Beach and Penn Quarter those who we met were knowledgeable, all stoked with the vision that they presented. Smooth, Michelin correct and "foodie" enthusiastic they were honored to be part of The Source. A staff that sincerely and warmly asks this city to embrace it and their restaurant as our own.

And we will. The Source. Thank you Wolfgang and Scott for opening your best yet...here in my hometown.

Joe Heflin

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