Right in the middle of Adam's Morgan at Columbia Road (near 18th Street, NW) Chef Cedric Maupillier (www.mintwoodplace.com) has name his brilliant bistro after the small side street behind the bright cheery location on the main drag. While the name may confuse, nothing else here will be amiss; our Restaurant Week experience last night (which can often be a recipe for disaster) was a most satisfying one.
The dining room is large and airy which can get a bit loud when full, but luckily there is no music that is bothersome. There are window booths with lots of pillows to recline on if you want to people watch outside and cozy leather booths as well. The light tone butcher block tables make for a rustic feel as well.
The only thing that went wrong was when I ordered the Robert Egger Cocktail (tequila, aperol, lime, agave nectar) our server said it could be made less sweet. It was a cloying cocktail and I had to send it back. Will fared much better with the Garden Preservation usually made from Green Hat Gin (he asked for Grey Goose instead), Cucumber, Basil, Lemon and Soda. The wines were novel and exciting with a very menu. We missed our Spanish wines, so we started with VINYA SELVA De MAR BLANCA from Mas Estela with a blend of white grapes, but mostly white Grenache, from the Costa Brava 2010. It was a perfect acidic and dry refresher with our varied starters. The menu offered some extras and we could not resist ESCARGOT HUSHPUPPIES. These are crispy little nuggets and come perfectly fried with a divine dipping remoulade which we were told contained tarragon, chili and even pernod (that French licorice liqueur we so detest, but it was not apparent). Samuel even tired one, but hit a dead end when he found the dark little fella inside! Instead he gobbled up the delicious crispy bread which came with soft quality butter. He said he missed the olive oil from Spain!
Our charming server Yanigni (she is from Provence and explained her name with a little story) said that the set menu had some amazing option and boy was she right. While Will started with the CUCUMBER & WATERCRESS GAZPACHO with CRAB and AVOCADO which is about as refreshing one can get on a 90+ degree evening. Speaking of temperature, were the folks eating outside in the humid heat insane? I felt sorry for the servers who had to deal with that!
My Wood Grilled Confit of CALVE's HEART and BABY COLLARD GREEN SALAD may go down as one of the best salads in history, not to mention one of the best offal preparations. The small pieces of meat were cubed and had a stewed feel to the confit. The meat was tender and soft and came apart with each bite. The dressing was superb and the greens were the perfect foil to the meat's intensity. At the bottom was a runny poached egg, a great surprise when I found it and I quickly mixed it in for maximum flavor. Small pieces of grilled cauliflower and other delights all won me over instantly.
Samuel ordered from the kid's menu as he spotted BUCATINI BOLOGNESE and this $10 kid's menu dish was a huge bowl of pasta laden with the rich meat/tomato sauce which he loved. A Pomegranate Lemonade was okay, but quite pricey for the non-alcoholic and small size which he said was a bit too sweet.
We asked the sommelier about a red Spanish wine and ended up trying CELLER ESCODA's SANAHUJA, Coll de Sabate 2006 from Conca de Barbera which was a Cabernet Franc blend (not something you get from Spain often) loaded with earth notes, green peppercorn and tons of fruit, so little acidity or tannin. What a treat. It was hard to pair a wine as Will ordered the Wood Grilled SWORDFISH with Puy Lentils and Crudite which was a big enough dish to stand up to the red for sure. It was perfectly cooked and a real winner. I went for the PORCHETTA of SUCKLING PIG, CHARCUTERIE SAUCE and a choice of sides which Yanigni insisted had to be the PUY LENTILS; she was right. The lentils were different from Will's as they were heavier in a thickened sauce. While not our St Pau beans from Spain, there were superb, but my portion was so large I had to take 1/2 home along with the remainder of the juicy pork roulade which was crusted with very crunchy cracklin' skin; Will thought he was going to loose a tooth biting one piece! Lots of love went into this dish which apparently appears only on Sundays, due to the intense preparation.
Since dessert is included in the 3 course unrealistically low Restaurant Week price, we indulged. Will chose the light small portion of KEY LIME PIE which he liked for its intensity. Samuel had the BROWNIE SUNDAE, which disappeared quite fast and I adored my Warm PEACH CROUSTADE with Nougat Glace. The pastry shell was a gorgeous mille feuille butter style but flatter and filled with sweet cooked peaches, clearly the freshest around now and then the foil was the nougat filled glace, lighter than ice cream or gelato, but heavier than sorbet. IDEAL to finish a heavy meal.
We know that when a restaurant can pull off Restaurant Week this well, it must be amazing ALL THE TIME!