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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Iron Gate / 1734 N St., NW

“Inn” Love with Iron Gate.

DC old-timers may have all mourned the closing of one of the city’s most iconic and beloved dining destinations, the Iron Gate Inn. Located just east of Connecticut Avenue in busy downtown DC, Iron Gate Inn had a gloriously romantic setting with a vine-covered courtyard and an elegant interior reminiscent of a stately Italian abbey. While the Inn may not have always offered epicurean fare, it did offer an elegant ambiance that shut out DC’s eternal hubbub.

When it closed in 2010, many of us who had treasured its remarkable setting mourned what might have been the end of an era. Thankfully, that did not happen. A farsighted restaurant group and an exceedingly talented chef, Anthony Chittum, have reopened the restaurant simply as Iron Gate, and refurbishing the then vacant setting.

The result is a renewed and re-energized establishment that offers a stunning menu in a familiar and tidy setting. The entranceway —- or carriageway, as it was once used —- houses a bar and some casual seating, a safe place to hang out, to sip beverages, and to feast on Chittum’s food when the dining room is full. Enclosed by plastic strips and heated with overhead lamps, the passageway seating may not capture the interior’s charm, but at least it offers comfy seating for a delicious repast —- even in chilly weather.

While the original menu, which used to tilt towards Mediterranean flavors, did not leave lasting impressions, Chittum’s does. While drawing on various influences from Greece and Italy, the food is decidedly something of his own making. As he did when working as the chef at Alexandria’s Vermilion restaurant, Chittum uses farm-fresh ingredients whenever possible. As a result, the menu offers such intriguing dishes as roasted chicken veloute with caramelized ricotta dumplings, a flank steak with roasted sunchokes and bitter greens, and a walnut cake with whipped mascarpone for dessert.

But his inventive spirit has put forth an appetizer like no other: Parmesan fritters stuffed with salami and a cherry tomato marmalade. But these are not typical flat, fried fritters. Instead, Chittum has somehow devised a version of cheese gougeres (or pastry puffs) and has forced a savory filling inside and crusted each puff in grated Parmesan.

Even with several interesting meat and pasta entrées, it’s hard to pass up a hamburger, especially one topped with Italy’s famed burrata cheese, a rich and creamy cousin of mozzarella. Added to that is a layering of spiced broccoli rabe to kick up the flavor a notch. Sigh.

Dessert choices are minimal, but on any return visit, I would certainly always order the Greek “donuts” — fried rounds of dough that are served in an orange blossom syrup. The dough acts like a sponge and soaks up the syrup, so that each bite, especially of the balls at the bottom of the mound, exude a delightful squirt of liquid.

Run, don’t walk, to the new Iron Gate. But best to make a reservation if you are with more than just yourself and wish to sit indoors; outdoors and in the carriageway is first come, first served. Dinners include a four-course or six-course tasting menu in the dining room; a la carte outdoors.

 Iron Gate / Lunch, Tue.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm; Dinner, Mon.-Thu. 5:30-10pm, Fri. & Sat. to 11pm, Sun. to 9pm. Lunch entrée price range: $12-$24. 1734 N St., NW; (202) 524-5202; http://irongaterestaurantdc.com.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.