Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Little Taste of History: Edgar Bar & Kitchen

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Before we get into my review, let's recap what I recall about J. Edgar Hoover. First, he was the director of the FBI. Second, he HATED political subversives. And third, thanks to HuffPo, I know he loved eating white toast, half a grapefruit, cottage cheese and Bibb lettuce every morning at the Mayflower Hotel. Thankfully, Edgar Bar & Kitchen decided not to serve J. Edgar's favorite meal. 

In honor of this brilliant yet tenacious spy hunter, the Mayflower Hotel recently redesigned their ground floor restaurant, allowing current power brokers to raise a glass to their esteemed leader. 

It's hard exactly to describe what I mean when I say a place is "so DC". I am confident that long-term District residents will know exactly what I mean; it's a certain je ne sais quoi. I suppose the best way to describe it is a place where you feel like Hill interns stuff their badges in their pockets in an attempt to bend the ear of a politician or his chief of staff, the kind of place where there's more American-made whiskey than any other liquor on the menu, and the kind of place where you would feel out of place in anything other than business attire. 

It is also the type of place where, as evidenced by exhibit A below, you are never too old, white, or male to sidle up to the bar in a bow tie at 6:00 PM on a Tuesday. Yuppies, beware. 

Exhibit A

You will notice, however, that the Mayflower spared no expense in creating an absolutely beautiful space. The two main dining areas are separated by a single bar that is accessible from either side and lit from within. The soft glow from the bar is an incredibly lovely space to imbibe what I imagine to be an incredibly large selection of whiskeys.

Edgar opened in December, and I met a former co-worker in early January to check out the Mayflower's new digs. It being Happy Hour, we ordered wine and a couple of appetizers. Unfortunately, there were no happy hour specials and, I have to admit, the food was the least notable part of my Edgar experience. 

First, we ordered the Crispy Artichokes with Preserved Lemon and Herb Aioli. The first thing you might notice is that this lemon looks more grilled or roasted than preserved. I am not sure exactly what preserving techniques they used in J. Edgar Hoover's time, but I am relatively certain this would not qualify - even in his day. That said, the flavor of this appetizer was actually pretty good. I am usually not a fan of deep fried items, but this was a light batter - like tempura - that I enjoyed. The flavor would have been lacking without the aioli and the "preserved" lemon, but altogether it was a decent appetizer. 

Second, we ordered the Charred Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Bacon. Again, I have to take issue with the menu description. To me (and to my little friend Merriam Webster), to "char" something is to burn it slightly - so it gets a blackened crunchy exterior. As you will notice, the Brussels sprouts we received were really missing that char. I might even venture to describe them as under-cooked, given the menu description. Sadly, they were also a little bland. We salvaged them by dipping them in the leftover aioli from the artichokes. 

Here's the thing about Edgar. I wouldn't come here for the food. While the prices were not unreasonable, you can find much better bar food for the price. (One of my personal bar food favorites is the Darlington House). That said, because we didn't try any entrees, I wouldn't write this place off entirely. 

Despite the agitated temperament of its namesake, and the inaccurately described appetizers, there is still something charming about this space. The next time I get in the mood to schmooze up a lobbyist, I am thinking this will be a lovely setting to do so. 

Do you guys know what I mean when I say a place is "so DC"? What is your favorite bar food spot in DC? Elsewhere? 

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