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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ 1789 / 1226 36th St., NW

Stylish 1789!

No, not the year, but the restaurant 1789, located in Georgetown and resplendent with history from its earliest days. Yes, the restaurant’s current site was purchased in 1789, but the first owner did not convert the Federalist building into a restaurant until 1960. From that day forward, this high-end and uber-elegant setting has served Washingtonians with a grace that few other DC restaurants have achieved. On top of that, foodie chatter points out that 1789 was one of Julia Child’s very favorite dining destinations. What better credentials could it have?

Of course, 1789 annually earns awards and recognition from locals as one of their favorite restaurants. And it has just garnered another recognition as DC’s most romantic restaurant setting. How desirable it is to sit in splendor by a crackling fireplace and to be served by attentive uniformed staff?

The restaurant’s executive chef, Anthony Lombardo and pastry chef Ryan Westover have assembled a menu that certainly outdoes expectations. Although they make minor changes regularly to reflect the market’s freshest ingredients, you may be fortunate to sample such recent appetizer treats as the astonishingly delicious foie gras torchon brûlée (so what if this is goose liver?) with accents of orange and maple syrup.

Another to-die-for dish is Lombardo’s duck confit strudel with mascarpone cheese. The third choice —- light and slightly tart to offset the richness of the other two —- was the shaved Brussels sprouts salad composed of raw sprouts accented with toasted pine nuts, Pecorino cheese and a mustardy vinaigrette. Of course, the kitchen sends out a must-eat selection of breads with your choice of three different spreads, including a rich olive oil.

Dinner could have, and possibly should have, ended there. But on any return visit, I will always, always order whichever cut of lamb the kitchen is dealing with. Some years ago, the usual selection was a rack of lamb, and it appeared elegantly poised on a plate with a selection of accompaniments. But recently, Lombardo presented lamb two ways: one a loin cut that was nearly fork tender accompanied by a second cut that was folded around in a circle. While each 1789 lamb dish has been outstanding, that night’s version was just short of magical. No, actually, it was magical.

Recent desserts included a creative take on a peanut butter chocolate cream pie, and if you are thinking that this is a Southerner’s inspiration, chance are pastry chef Westover had something else in mind. Our other choices included a “Monkey Bread” twist that included small rounds of cinnamon-spiced brioche accompanied by butterscotch sauce. And finally, the chocolate pot de crème with devil’s food cake crumbs is a classic with a few modern touches.

All in all, a 1789 dinner is one of those special occasion treats that discerning foodies should turn in to a regular venture. True, the meal is not inexpensive but of all dining destinations in DC, 1789’s food is worth every single penny, and more.

1789 / Dinner, Mon.-Thu. 6-10pm; Fri. to 11pm; Sat. 5:30-11pm, Sun. to 10pm. Reservations are a must. Entrée prices: $28-$52. 1226 36th St., NW (202) 965-1789; www.1789restaurant.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.