Last night we headed downtown with Samuel and two friends of ours for our first trip to Del Campo's (www.delcampodc.)dining room. I've been several times before for events, but really wanted to eat there as Chef Victor Albisu is our honorary chef chair of this years March of Dimes Signature Chefs event (of which I am co-chair of the chef's committee) three weeks from now. Chef Victor is very generous to the DC community when it comes to charity and indeed all events, the least we can do is give back to him for that.
We arrived at 630pm and the restaurant was fairly empty, but the bar was heaving. The dining room was almost full by the time we left and the noise levels were high, but not unbearable. One huge arty of about 30 at the rear was quite loud, but we were way up front at the window. The dining room is elegant and warm and most comfortable as well. Our server, Dmitri took our wine order and quickly delivered a bottle of Muga Viura barrel-fermented 2013 from Rioja an earthy white that actually had little oak taste due to the barrel, but was superb as an aperitif alone, or with starters.
Some of us were attracted to the set $45 menu which has a choice of salad, the Provoleta melted cheese with bread and then a huge Asado selection from the grill of Short Rib, Flank Steak, Chorizo, Grilled Greens and a choice of Sweetbreads or Chicken with Chimichurri and Salsa Criolla. Sadly, the whole table must do this, so we have to go back again for that option which I am so game for.
Two starters arrived in the form of a huge portion of Hamachi Ceviche with Sweet Potato, Aji Amarillo, Radish & Brown Butter(well, thats' what the menu said online, but it also had a Leche de Tigre or citrus marinade that had a lemon curd consistency) which was superb, especially with the small slices of jalapeno for extra spice. A revelation was the Grilled Pear and Pecorino Salad with Arugula, Hazelnuts & Burnt Onion that was one of the best salads I think I have ever had. The vinaigrette was tasty and exciting and the pears were grilled to perfection.
We had moved on to a superb Valsacro "Dioro" Gran Reserva 2005 Tempranillo from Rioja as well that Dmitri suggested and was smooth and easy to drink. The starters were varied and the wine was divine with all:
Grilled Octopus & Crab Causa with Grilled Scallion, Piquillo & grilled Avocado (after a while you do realize that almost everything is grilled here!) which was also a huge starter (well, they all were)
Provoleta was a huge cast iron pan of seared provolone cheese with oregano served with lots of crispy country bread for dipping
My Seared Iberico Pork Loin was as tender as it gets and truly worthy of the name from which the famous Spanish ham also comes. It was served with Grilled Brussels Sprouts, Baby Eggplant, Smoked Yogurt, Salmon Caviar and a nice Romesco sauce.
While we waited for our main course we finished off the superb Valsacro and Dmitri suggested a lighter Malbec from Luigi Bosca D.O.C. Lujan de Cayo 2012 from Mendoza in Argentina that was much bigger than I expected but again superb with the grilled main courses, even the fish! Samuel had the 10 ounce Prime Hanger Steak with Steak Frites and Salsa Golf (aka Argentine Ketchup or ketchup with mayo, hence Russian dressing-ish, but with more oomph) which was a s tender and delicious as it gets. Two of us had the Grilled Tuna & Calamari with Smoked Tomato, Espalette and Grilled Olives, while the Peruvian Chicken with Crispy yucca, Aji Amarillo Alioli & Green Chili Puree was declared moist and superb. My Cast Iron Seared Prawns (photo on my FB page) were huge with head on and served with Chorizo, Mussels, Chillies, Ink Citrus Spaetzle and Mint (which I could not taste at all) as well as a Corn Salsa. It was perfect indeed and while a lighter dish, quite filling. Delicious green Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes arrived that were creamy and divine as was the Grilled Cauliflower with Raisins and Salsa Verde. Don't skip these fantastic sides as they are all superbly tasty and novel.
Desserts were inevitable so we tried several and shared, except for Samuel who would not let anyone have a bite of his Warm Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Toasted Cashew Ice Cream. He seemed full after eating about 1/2 and finally allowed us to taste the yummy dish. The one not so great dish all night was the Coconut Caramel Crepe Soufflé with Grilled Pineapple & Canela , but the Grilled Key Lime Pie with Lime Espuma made up for it and the even better Grilled Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Ice Cream & Dulce de Leche was beyond excellent. As if this was not all enough a plate of Nutella Donuts with Grilled Banana Ice Cream magically appeared which were easily the winner overall and simply decadent and oh so tasty.