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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Mintwood Place / 1813 Columbia Rd. NW

In Mint Condition.

Not at all surprising, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington recently announced its finalists for this year’s RAMMY awards, to be handed out in late June. Among those listed is Cedric Maupillier as Chef of the Year. And enjoying his cooking at Adam Morgan’s Mintwood Place would convince even the fussiest eater that his food is extraordinary: American with various French twists and one or two Italian inserts.

Take the very short “nibbles” selection. What could be more southern American than hush puppies? But at Mintwood, these succulent, crispy bites are actually escargots dunked into a batter and fried. Then among the starters, hungry patrons can ponder about ordering the bacon and onion flammekueche, or known more plainly as a thin crust pizza moistened usually with crème fraîche. So that’s a bit of American with a touch of French, another one of Maupillier’s culinary treats.

And so the menu goes on, with tempting appetizers and entrées that clearly demonstrate why this chef gets such raves from the press and public. While it would be impossible to consume everything offered on the menu in one seating, for sure in my books a return visit would have to consist of the starter kale and burrata salad that features crispy-fried kale leaves that almost explode with each bite, releasing a burst of apple-like liquid. Most unusual, utterly divine, and who can forgot those scoops of burrata, Italy’s creamy, rich  mozzarella?

With that, of course, a must is the suckling pig croquettes, spiced with a rich mole sauce. And this leads to the entrée choice. Counting calories? You may wish to sidestep the immense artfully arranged mound of tagliatelle Bolognese, a pasta-meat dish that is really enough for two or possibly three. Of special interest is the shredded cheese on top.

Your more slimming choice would be the grilled dorade, a native of Mediterranean waters and a fish that has been roundly welcomed in American and other Western kitchens. Noted for its tender flesh and snapper-like flavor, the dorade here is grilled and served with roasted fennel and piperade, a sauté of green peppers, onions, and tomatoes. A garnish of a dollop of mustard completes the dish.

As the meal winds down, you may look around at other tables and watch in awe as a waiter torches a wedge of baked Alaska. That does look dramatic, of course, but the hero of the dessert choices is the Key lime and speculoos (a kind of shortbread for the crust) pie that may be the best version of a Key lime pie ever created. Good, but not on the same par, are the bread pudding and the vanilla crème brûlée.

Once dinner ends, wander to the back of the restaurant, where an open and well-staffed kitchen confirms what you have known all through dinner: Maupillier certainly can cook, and has cleverly surrounded himself with a worthy group of cooks who can deliver. Note: Chances are that dropping in without a reservation may cost you a wait time; just call ahead to be sure.

Mintwood Place / Dinner, Tue.-Thu. 5:30-10pm; Fri. & Sat. to 11pm; Sun. to 9:30pm. Brunch, Sat. & Sun. 10:30am-2:30pm. Closed Mon. (202) 234-6732; www.mintwoodplace.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.