Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fisk & Co. - What Austin Fausett has been up to in Chicago

Fisk & Co.
225 N. Wabash, Chicago IL 60602

DC misses Austin Fausett. At least I did. I've known him since he was at Citronelle and ran into him again while working for Trummer's on Main. He's a good chef. He drives towards perfection in the little things and it shows.
I was lucky enough to be able to spend a little time with him and try out his new place while is I was in Chicago for the National Restaurant Association show in May.
 In addition to spending time with Austin, I got to hang around with these two - Tom and Victor. I've known them for 15-20 years and finally got a chance to break bread with them again...and make them wait for this awesome food while I took pictures. They were good sports about it.
 Austin looking happy and in charge.
 We started out with the tower. It seemed like the right thing to do.
 A variety of oysters, clams, shrimp, and king crab.
 The arrangement got envious looks from around the dining room as it was delivered to our table.
 Love the crab.
 Remember when I was mentioning attention to detail? There is a difference between someone going high-speed/low drag and someone who takes the time to make sure there isn't a speck of shell in the liquor to take your attention away from the briny perfection. This is that kind of place.
 Gorgeous - and I don't usually like clams on the 1/2 shell.
 Seafood mortadella with smoke whitefish rillettes
 The whole seafood charcuterie board was excellent - the monkfish liver mousse was awesome.
 I can never pass up deviled eggs with roe.

 Nashville-style hot soft-shell crab. This heat was slow-build with a fiery finish. Excellent.
 Grandma's pierogis were a hit.
 The salted-caramel/espresso ice cream had a very powerful coffee flavor but none of the color you'd expect. Science I guess....
 Hazelnut Kit-Kat in a vanilla crème with crispy chocolatey bits...Seems familiar. 8)
Last but certainly not least, the rum cake. 2nd best I've every had..next to Martha's from the Whitehouse Press Pool parties, but that's a story for another day.

Overall, wonderful meal in a very nice spot. I'm sure they'll be successful and Kimpton Hotel Group is lucky to have a chef like Austin running a restaurant in their hotel.
Best of luck and see you next year Chef.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Chloe - Haidar Karoum - On His Way Up

1331 4th St. S.E.
Washington, DC 20003

Chef Haidar has been around the DC scene for a few years. I've eaten at other properties he was in charge of including Proof, Doi Moi, Estadio, Citronelle, and probably others that I'm unaware of.
If feel he really started to come into his own at Estadio, then at Doi Moi. Chloe is a culmination and confirmation of all of his past, and more.
There is no over-arching cuisine or theme at Chloe. What I came away with was a new-found respect for what this guy can do with vegetables and the flavors he can extract and throw at you with minimal added fats/oils.
 Pickled everything here with additional spices.
 The broiled oysters has an understated horse radish cream along with some unexpected crunch.
 The cobia crudo was a real eye-opener. Explosive, but beautifully balanced flavors and textures. Citrus, greens, fresh-as-can-be fish.
 Grilled ramps with Romesco and aged Manchego.
 What I didn't expect was a cup of absolutely kick-ass gumbo. Well played.

 While the sheep's milk ricotta looked nice, it was a bit on the bland side overall. Not my favorite dish, but when there is so much going on there is bound to be a dish or two that aren't faves.
Literallyy the best Pate Campagne I've ever had. 
So much goodness going on.
Roasted Sablefish with gochugan emulsion - I have no idea what that is but this dish was awesome. The sable was delicate and very slightly briny. 

Another view of that beautiful plate.

This roasted cod with curry was Cheryl's favorite fish. 

Roasted carrots and parsnips with labne and amaranth were flavorful and cooked perfectly.
Asparagus with hen of the woods mushrooms and Béarnaise. You wouldn't believe me if I told you how umami this dish was.
I don't want to give away any surprises, but this chicken is marinated in a flavor that will be very familiar to you if you're a fan of Vietnamese cuisine. I only got a little bite of this as the kids destroyed it in a few seconds. The sauces provided with this one were hot, hot, hot. 
Nothing but a perfectly created and prepared Bavarian white sausage with mustard spaetzli. Excellent.

Hand-crafted spiced beef hummus with extremely hot naan. 
Gnocchi with ramps snow peas, wild mushrooms and parm - heaven in a bowl. I finished this one and was looking for bread to mop it up.

Crispy whole fried fish - you don't see this every day. We picked it clean.

This one was pure Maryland - fingerling potatoes with malt mayo and Old Bay.
I loved this dish too...and it's vegan as far as I know. Cauliflower, tahini, lemon, garlic, mint, parsley and toasted pine nuts. The texture was excellent too.
Alex and Ellen picking the last of the crispy goodness off the bones of that fish.
For dessert....toasted meringue dots on top of Meyer lemon custard...at least I think it was a custard. 

I only got a small taste of this before it mysteriously disappeared. It was not your average Sundae though, I can tell you that. I tasted caramelized, dark flavors. I'm going to have to give that one another go-around.
The Chai panna cotta had pecan brittle chunks and spiced pears. Perfect combo and texture.
Last, but not least - the cheese plate. Usually I like two of the three cheeses you get on a plate like this, but there were all hits. A mild bleu, aged Manchego, and ash-skinned goat. All excellent. We were so full we brought some of this home in a go-box which I rarely do. Super lunch the next day.

In summary, this restaurant is not one to be missed. I'm seeing a Bib next time Michelin is in town if not a star. Service was right where it needed to be when you needed it and unobtrusive when you didn't. Congratulations Haidar. You deserve the praise you're going to get.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Honeysuckle - Hamilton Johnson's M St. Gem

1990 M St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Honeysuckle is pretty cool. I mean, it's really cool. It's low-key. It's down-to-earth, it's a restaurant guy's kind of restaurant. You can go in a pair of jeans and nice t-shirt, or a tie and jacket. Either way you'll feel at home.
Hamilton Johnson is cool too. He's a real human who doesn't put up a facade. He's out there living loud for everyone to see. His posts on social media are pretty much unfiltered. He shows his vulnerability, happiness, and adventures. I've been following him for a while, since his days with Jeff Buben at the now-shuttered Vidalia (which has been reclaimed by Hamilton and transformed into Honeysuckle) and it's been fun watching him.

Background aside, as some of you may or may not know I'm back working with independent restaurants again. I'd been working for a multi-national company for the past couple of years and didn't make it downtown too much during that time. Wow has DC changed. Was it always this bohemian? By 8:00pm there were people dancing in the streets and passing joints around on the sidewalk. Crazy.

Back to the subject at hand - 
The amuse that came to our table was a foreshadowing of things to come: tart, salt, herb, and umami.
I'm a sucker for fois gras, and this health-sized chunk of seared ambrosia came from Hudson Valley. There was some slightly-caramelized zucchini bread with a cherry-rhubarb jam, spiced peanuts and a CocaCola caramel.
My son Alex is a sucker for raw fish in pretty much any form. He started out with the Ahi Tuna Tartare. When you get everything on the plate together the flavors pull together for a very satisfying finish. There's a lot more going on than raw tuna with mustard. 
 This is the Citrus Cured Trout - the rye meringue was very neat. That being said, I wonder what this dish would have looked like with the meringue on the bottom? There was smoked roe and pickled onions under there. Very tasty.
 Perfectly prepared asparagus with lemon aioli.
 Alex got the Chicken and Dumplings. He's not a big fan of mushrooms so I was surprised he ordered it, but glad he did as I got to finish off the fresh oyster mushrooms in the sauce chasseur. The chicken itself was billed as a confit. It may have been, but not in the traditional crisp-skinned sense. The meat tasted as if it were, that's for sure. It was rich and very flavorful. 
 I ordered the Spice-Crusted Duck Breast. Wow that was good. Our server recommended mid-rare, so I went with it. Sometimes restaurants do that and what comes out is an inedible, tough piece of bloody poultry. Not the case here. It cut and chewed like a good steak. Perfection.
Last, but certainly not least, was the dish that enticed me to come to this restaurant on this night. Foie Gras ice cream. I saw a post on Instagram of Hamilton making this and I had to come try it. It was all that. Think very creamy ice cream with a hint of foie and grandma's spiced apple pie with crumbled brown-sugar goodness.

Bravo Chef. I apologize for waiting so long to try you out, but will certainly be recommending Honeysuckle in the future.

Thanks for reading.