[from September 1998 issue]
You must try DC Coast, said a friend recently, who had suggested that this brand new downtown restaurant has a certain California cachet. What she really did not explain was that meals at DC Coast also come at a price, the cost for which left us rather breathless recently.
Located on the site of a former McDonald's, this classy place with its gallery seating and art deco splurges will capture its DC after-hours dress crowd. And its food will be part of the draw: Chef Jeff Tunks' cooking is fresh, slightly funky, and very sophisticated. It's also filled with undeniable creativity and charm, but all this costs more than you might reckon on--if budgets matter at all.
Take the dinner appetizers, for example, which ranged in price from $5.95 for a roasted red pepper soup to $11.95 for an elegant-sounding Tahitian tuna tartare sparked with lime juice and softened by coconut milk. Counting coins, Robert and I decided that even sharing an appetizer would run up the tab and exclude desserts, each of which come at $6.50 a piece, $7 if you want the dessert soufflé.
And by the time we had slowly and deliberately savored our meal, desserts, even coffee, taxed our wallets. So what did we eat??? Good, crusty bread with plenty of sweet butter and outstanding entrees, forsaking even the side orders--from truffled whipped potatoes to steamed asparagus with orange glacage--priced separately.
Tunks must enjoy drawing up the season's menu--the present one is due to change soon, said the waitress--and his imagination obviously runs wild. A Chinese-style smoked lobster? Mushroom-crusted halibut? (The crust, said the waitress, is composed of dried porcini and crumbled brioche.) Hong Kong-style whole crispy striped bass? Tower of jumbo lump crabcake and crispy soft-shell crab? We debated the choices, weighing the merits, and reckoning on the costs, finally selecting the Peking-style glazed poussin (very young chicken) with its bed of soba noodles and stir-fried bok choy ($15.95). In a rather poetic presentation, Tunks carefully balanced the bird halves on its underpinnings. The results: color contrasts of the soy-colored bird, the dusky noodles, and the green veggies. Besides, the flavors were flawless, the textures, intriguing. Seems that Tunks double or triple cooks the bird with a final flourish through the deep-fryer so that the skin is delicately crisp.
The companion entree, the double-cut pork chop ($15.95) has its excess fat trimmed to the bone. What you get is pure pork with a crusty surface paired with pureed sweet potatoes--a hint of country ham for flavor?--with a fruit relish and glistening green beans. Instead of something heavy and greasy, this medley proves that pork is lean, mean, and succulent.
We longed for dessert--you'll see samples by the front door, and if you like sweets, you'll dream of something all throughout dinner--and pondered over the choices, so arty, so tempting. But even the temptation of the vanilla bean creme brulee or the chocolate pyramid crunch with a cafe au lait sauce and pralines could not overcome the reality of our dinner budget. We smiled a polite no and asked for our check. Perhaps we should consider lunch here--much more within our price range. Besides, best bets would say this is the place to see and be seen.
DC Coast, 1401 K St. 216-5988.. Hours: lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner, Mon.-Thu., 5:30-10:30pm & to 11pm Fri. & Sat. Dinner entrée prices: $15.95-market price. Major credit cards accepted.
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