Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Review - Restaurant K

K St. isn't exactly known for its cuisine. Lawyers? Lobbyists? Expense accounts? Maybe. But they made a TV show about K Street featuring political pundits, not culinary masters. However, after giving the newly opened Restaurant K a shot, I might be willing to reconsider.

First, it must be said that the location of the restaurant is fantastic. Incredibly close to both the Farragut North and West metro stops, the restaurant is very convenient to those who will inevitably end up being its biggest clientele - those paying with corporate credit cards.

It seems that the restaurant and its menu was designed with this in mind - at it's core, it's a safe, convenient place to take a client or coworkers. Looking at the menu, you're not going to be scared by any one item - tuna tartare, small salads of various types, and marinated hanger steaks can be found in almost any restaurant these days.

Yet, what makes Restaurant K stand out, is Chef Allison Swope's ability to take seemingly safe food and somehow make it exciting.

Wild Mushroom Baklava baked between layers of phyllo pastry with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction was described by one of my eating companions as good, "comfort food", and was very well seasoned - not to mention quite visually appealing on the plate.

One side note before I go too far - I want to say that I was quite happy that there were multiple vegetarian dishes on the menu (that weren't salads), which makes it nice when you're dining with a friend who is a vegetarian (Agatha).

Another appetizer success was the lamb sausage on a fried plantain and goat cheese. You wouldn't imagine that the sausage and plantain would work well together, but the plaintain was perfectly fried (not at all greasy) and was complimented perfectly with the goat cheese.

The entrees were also a pretty big success. Tweaks got the Pork Osso Buco which was very tender and had an incredibly large portion.

Steve got the ribeye which was cooked perfectly and served with a nice potato gratin. It wasn't an incredibly inspired dish, but again - this was safe - designed literally for the meat and potatoes crowd.

Ags got the Vegetate - a grit cake with a bunch of other vegetables around it. I wasn't incredibly impressed by it, but she seemed to enjoy it.

The rockfish fillet I had, which was served on a bed of cheese grits and smoked tomato broth was nicely cooked, and it was great to have a decent serving of grits for once; but the skin was too soft (a couple seconds with a torch would have firmed it up nicely) and Tweaks felt it was slightly overcooked.

The real star of this meal was one of the desserts - making her own ice cream, Allison Swope's basil ice cream was one of the best I've ever had. So much so, that the rest of us put our respective desserts aside to dig into the basil deliciousness.

Sadly, the chocolate malt ice cream I got was pretty bland and almost without taste, and the banana fritters, according to Steve, was a little too "McDonald's".

It's hard to say for sure if Restaurant K will succeed. It's only be open for a week and a half now, but it seems like the problems that usually plague new restaurants are non-existant there. The service was fantastic, the food, with a few exceptions, was on the mark, and the dining experience as a whole was first rate.

I don't know if Restaurant K on its own is enough to lift K St. into the top tier category for food, but it's giving it a good shot, and I hope it stays around long enough for us to see just how good Allison Swope and this concept can be.

Restaurant K
1700 K St. NW
Washington DC 20006

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