It’s mid-January, which is the start of my annual Month of Eating Dangerously. You might want to mark your calendar.
The combination of various Restaurant Weeks, multiple seasonal promotions, and trips to warmer climes to escape Washington’s dreary winter gives me a great excuse to dine well, as if I needed one.
First stop this year is Persimmon, a charming little restaurant in Bethesda that calls itself “An American Bistro”. That’s a good description, because the menu offered a mix of American standards like Crispy Fish Tacos and Chicken Club Sandwiches, and French bistro classics like Steak Frites and Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee.
Persimmon serves a very good Bouillabaisse, with mussels and clams and shrimp and salmon and whitefish, etc. I liked the crunchy crostini.
Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
My neighbour at the next table asked me what I was eating for dessert. It’s that kind of relaxed, unpretentious place.
This was my first visit to Persimmon, and I’m adding it to my list of restaurants I want to try again. It was comfortable—the clientele was on the mature, well-dressed, and quiet side. The food was good, and the price was, too.
My last lunch of the week was a disappointment. I went to Barcode, which is one of those places that changes identities depending on the time of day. It’s a restaurant at lunch, a Happy Hour hangout—the best in DC, according to the Washington Post—and a bar and lounge from dinner until 2:00 or 3:00 AM.
The Blue Crab Chowder. with bell peppers and corn, was a fine starter.
I’d arrive early, around noon, and found the cavernous restaurant nearly empty. By the time I finished the chowder, it was half full, and the servers were in the weeds.
Steak and Fries
Much later, when the Steak Frites made it to my table, the grilled skirt steak was only moderately warm. I suspect that was because the plate had rested too long on a kitchen countertop waiting for pick-up while my overwhelmed server attended to other tables. I thought about sending it back—something I almost never do—but decided against it, simply because it would take too long to get a replacement.
Meanwhile, the noise level in the now nearly full restaurant had reached stadium levels, and I just wanted to get out of the place ASAP.
I stayed long enough to eat the Cheesecake topped with strawberry and rhubarb marmalade.
I left Barcode with no interest in returning.
The Monocle is a Washington Institution. It opened in 1960—that’s 59 years and 10 Presidents ago—as the “first table cloth restaurant” on Capitol Hill. It’s still the closest restaurant to the Senate side of the Capitol building, and its clientele reflects its neighbourhood.
The walls of the main dining room are lined with large photographs of some of the Congressional powerbrokers who dine here. If you’re of a cynical disposition, that might remind you of the days when pictures of FBI’s “The Ten Most Wanted Criminals” hung in every post office lobby. It’s really not exactly the same, though. The Monocle’s photos are in colour, and signed by their
Image found on the Net
Fried Calamari with a red pepper aioli. Perfectly fine.
I wasn’t sure what I’d get when I ordered this Wagyu Chopped Steak. The definition of “Wagyu” has been stretched in any number of directions, to the point where it can mean whatever a restaurateur wants it to mean. And…was I really just asking for an expensive hamburger?
I needn’t have worried. The core of each of these meatballs was filled with melting bleu cheese, which gave the tender beef a welcome and unexpected kick.
As you can see from the sides—String beans and carrots, and mashed potatoes—The Monocle is an American restaurant.
The nifty thing about my cheesecake dessert is that it came with rum-roasted pineapple instead of strawberries or blueberries.