After a long week of not eating very well, thanks to my cold, I was thrilled to wake up on Saturday morning with only a minorly stuffy nose. I didn't want anything to get in the way of our Saturday night plans: dinner in DC with my brother and his girlfriend.
Our drive down to DC was rainy and otherwise typically miserable, but as we parked the car outside Cail's building, the clouds parted and the rain subsided, if only for a minute. Unfortunately, when we left for the restaurant a few hours later, it had picked back up. By that point, though, I didn't really care. I'd been eating cheese and heart of palm (GOD, I love heart of palm) for a few hours and was on my way to Corduroy.
Located in a decidedly unsexy part of town and in an even more decidedly unsexy Four Points Sheraton, Corduroy is an unlikely hot spot. It's a favorite, though, of WaPo restaurant critic Tom Sietsema and has gotten great reviews all over the place. At the very least, worth a shot. (Cail and I really want to go to Minibar, but figured that might be a little too precious for the boys to deal with.)
Anyway. As the hotel location would suggest, the decor is...unsexy. It looks like a hotel restaurant. However, most of my hotel restaurant experiences have been less than satisfactory on the whole: mediocre fancy-ish expensive food served by an indifferent waitstaff.
Not at Corduroy. It was really, really good.
First, the service. It was just about perfect. Prompt and understated and detail-oriented.
And then there was the food. Some bits were better than others, of course, but overall, our meals were great.
To start, Tom selected a very nice, very reasonable wine from the Languedoc and we moved in on the bread, which was warm, crusty and yeasty. An excellent introduction.
Then we really got started with a simple Caesar salad (Cooper), a salad of goat cheese and beets (Tom), oysters on the half shell with apple mignonette sauce (Cail) and the buffalo mozzarella porcupine (me). Everyone was pleased, though it took us all a minute to figure out where Tom's goat cheese was (in a thin layer on the bottom of the salad) and Cail wished her sauce had come on the side, instead of already on her oysters.
I ordered the porcupine (which, no, is not actually porcupine) in part because DCFoodies said it was great and in part just because I was curious. I really wasn't sure exactly what to expect. When it arrived, I wasn't surprised by it's look -it was a large ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella that had been (I think) rolled in grated Parmiggiano and fried. It was served with a pale red sauce outlined by a pale green sauce, both of which I think were tomato sauces. Definitely tomato in some way, but the taste was subtle.
I realized, then, that I was eating fancy fried mozzarella sticks. Which was just fine. We're not talking about Applebee's fare here.
Anyway. Entrees. Cail and I both ordered the scallops, which were just as amazing as we'd hear they would be. Five perfectly pan-seared scallops, each presented on a small pillow of (amazing, smooth, perfect) garlic mashed potatoes and a rich, sauteed shiitake mushroom. The scallop scultpures were surrounded by a rich, savory, mushroomy brown sauce streaked with a lighter green sauce. I couldn't get a good read on the green sauce by itself - it was beautiful, but between the brown sauce and the potatoes, it was hard to distinguish the flavor. Overall, fantastic.
The boys each opted for meat, but not of the traditional red sort. Cooper ordered lamb, which arrived perfectly pink and accompanied by creamed spinach so perfect we all agreed it might've been the best we'd ever had. The cream-to-spinach ratio was just about ideal, and it didn't lose it's heat (which is always Cooper's biggest spinach complaint.) He was very happy.
Tom ordered the pork belly with cabbage, which was absolutely enormous. It looked good - if daunting - and he liked it...but mentioned that he might not have ordered it if he'd realized it would taste so much like pulled pork and sauerkraut. Not that he dislikes pulled pork and sauerkraut, but there are lots of great places for barbecue near his house in Richmond. No need to go to a white tablecloth restaurant for that.
So Tom's was the disappointment, and even that wasn't really disappointing.
After dinner, we were stuffed, but what kind of food blogger would I be if I didn't order dessert? Tom passed on dessert, citing his need to maintain his girlish figure, but the rest of us dug in. Cail had a delicious-looking pistachio bread pudding and I had a perfectly tart-sweet Alsatian apple tart and both came with a scoop of incredibly good, rich, smooth vanilla ice cream. Cooper also ordered dessert - I'm not sure what his was called, but it was so chocolatey after one bite I could barely speak. Good...but way too rich for me.
And following all of that, we retired to the tiny, very hotel-ish bar to gather up the courage to head back out into the cold (and to eavesdrop on the Sex and the City wannabes at the table behind us. None of us have any self-control when it comes to listening in.)
Oh - and I should've mentioned the cost. The quality of the meal and the service (and the city) would suggest a super pricey meal. But it wasn't. It wasn't cheap, but it certainly didn't break the bank. That was definitely a nice surprise.
Verdict: I'd go back. It would be a great location for a dinner with parents and grandparents -it has the right sort of gravitas without being dull.
At the same time, DC has so many great restaurants. As someone who only makes it to the big, powerful city occasionally, I'll have to try something new on my next trip. Something new like Minibar...