Thursday, March 23, 2006


A Thought Experiment

Brasserie Poste, the latest in the trendy D.C. dining scene, takes its name from the landmark building that houses it: the old General Post Office Building. With grand columns, marble floors and high ceiling, the main bar is dramatic, but a smaller dining room in the back offers a cozier ambiance.

I arrived several minutes earlier, which was good since the cab dropped my off by the side entrance. Through a regal doorway, into a courtyard that would provide extra seating in the warmer months, I approached a door. Peering in, I saw three women sitting at a table right inside the door. It seemed this could not be the main door, yet walking around I saw no other options. So I entered, and apologized for the draft I created. Immediately, one woman noticed my shoes: Luc Berjen, sold in Boston at my favorite shoe store, Cuoio. She had bought the same pair in London. And so the conversation began. They cleared off a seat and suggested I join them for a drink. Of course, I obliged since it was clear we already had so much in common. My new friends epitomized the diversity of Washington: a black, divorced woman approaching her 60th birthday, a single white woman, probably in her mid-thirties and a married, child-free woman in her mid-50s, married to an Indian man. They know each other through work, as research librarians for AARP. And as it turns out, they also know the one librarian I know. Many stories later, my dining companions arrive and I left my new friends. I had hoped to send them a Random App of Kindness, but by the time I had a chance to sneak away to read a menu they had gone.

I would have sent them the Hamachi with Grapefruit. Thin slices of perfectly fresh yellowtail topped with sweet grapefruit and cilantro sprouts. The soup of the day was Jerusalem Artichoke with American Caviar. Our server, with cherub cheeks that suggested he may still be in high school, did not know the difference between a Jerusalem artichoke and a plain artichoke and decided it was not important to clarify (a Jerusalem artichoke, also called sunchoke, has no genetic relation to the later. It is the root of the sunflower). The soup did not know the difference between cream and soup: it was thin and bland, and the caviar was not able to create enough sparkle. As my dining companion said, “it’s subtle.”

The Truffle Frite more than made up for the soup. So much so, that we ordered a second basket of the crispy fries perfectly seasoned with truffle oil and salt. The ketchup served on the side was superfluous. The Goat Cheese and Beet Salad was stylishly served with perfectly round slices of red and golden beets, nestled under crisp frisee. The goat cheese created the classic pairing. The Arugula salad was uncomplicated with roasted figs and parmesan.

The Poppy seed Tagliatelle was clearly homemade, but the chef forgot the poppy seeds and also to toss the pasta with sauce or olive oil. It clumped underneath the dry, but flavorful, red wine braised rabbit. The caramelized fennel that accompanied the dish was sweet and chewy, but almost seemed an afterthought. Overall the dish was good, but the execution needed refinement. The Crispy Striped Bass (also called Rockfish to native Washingtonians) was fresh and sweet with briny, crisp capers garnishing. The red wine poached egg created a bistro style dish.

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