If the mere mention of our nation’s capital automatically conjures commemorative images of Lincoln and the White House, think again, because today Washington DC has one of the hottest culinary spots in the country. With places like Rose’s Luxury and Jaleo attracting the kind of foodies who are willing to wait hours for their meal, it is no surprise cooks are seriously upping their game.
The food scene is so strong in fact, that one hotel restaurant does not even have a sign to entice diners. And why is that? With food this good, advertising is unnecessary.
The restaurant in question is Jardenea, which is located inside the Georgetown Hotel, a classic, low-key DC hotel where politicians, diplomats and tourists alike feel at home. Since rebranding in January 2016 Chef Nelson Erazo has created the kind of dishes everybody wants to eat a few times a week – hearty, locally sourced, thoughtful and downright lovely. The menu is seasonally inspired but some well-received classics all the time find themselves anchoring new additions. Oh and the cocktail menu absolutely has it is own with thoughtful updates on classics and a few unforeseen ingredients.
Every meal at Jardenea begins with an assortment of warm breads and accompaniments such as sweet butter from Vermont and sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olive tapenade. If lighting in a restaurant is the first step to setting the scene, I’d argue that thoughtfulness behind the bread basket is the first step to setting diners’ expectations of the food up front, and those expectations at Jardenea are set very high. The next meal didn’t disappoint. We started our meal with crab cakes made with flavorful chunks of crab meat, fresh sweetcorn, red pepper and green bean sacoutash, and a delicious beetroot and whipped goat cheese salad that uses local Maryland goat cheese from Cherry Glen farms between a heap of thin layers. shaved beets, accompanied by arugula in a honey vinaigrette and almond marcona sauce.
This restaurant really shines and comes into its own with its main course offerings which could not come at a better time because what could be better on a cold night than smoked duck served over slow cooked beans seasoned with smoked bacon, or sea bass filet with blue grits. A perennial favorite, sea bass finds itself in every iteration of the menu, and it is easy to see why. Perfectly cooked fish, beure Blanca sauce and blue grits cooked in cream and butter which gave the dish great texture and heft. Another star on the menu managed to utterly convert my Brussels sprout-hating husband, with sprouts so crunchy yet tender, that from now on all Brussels sprout dishes are measured by those at Jardenea.
After leaving the restaurant, the words of Joe our waiter continue to resonate with me, “people come back here because nothing beats good food and a good atmosphere.”
All photography by Sergey Mekhtiyev