Bar Charley’s “Stepdad” Cocktail and More

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Bar Charley opened last week in the space formerly occupied by Cajun Experience. The what? Yeah, that’s the usual reaction, which is why I’m hoping it will be more successful than its predecessor. One thing Bar Charley has going for it are some interesting and creative cocktails, some of which are better than others.  First, there’s the Stepdad — a drink that takes smoky to a whole new level. The drink comes with smoke, but, at a whopping $18, it’s too much gimmick and not enough booze. It requires the bartender to pull out a cedar plank, light a small section of it for a few seconds and let the embers burn enough to create smoke, which is then trapped under a rocks glass. Next, a large ice-cube is placed in the center of the plank and, finally, a small glass pitcher filled with cognac and tobacco (in liquid form) is placed on the other end of the plank. The plank is then pushed towards you to complete the last step: assembly. Flip over the glass, throw in the ice-cube, and pour in the liquid.  The result is about a finger’s worth of smoky booze.

I wish I’d loved it.

My recommendation is to skip the Stepdad and order the Suffering Bastard, which reminds me of a Moscow Mule with a twist, or the Quack-Quack-erac, which contains St. Germain washed in duck fat and mixed with aged rum, rye, bourbon, and burlesque bitters.  Both are easy to drink, tastier, and more affordable (than the Stepdad).  Charley’s cocktail menu is fun to read and I look forward to tasting some of the options which include many classic, throwback cocktails.  There’s the sloe gin fizz, orange crush, and the always–in-style old-fashioned.

As for food, I haven’t been won over, but I have tried only three dishes so far. The deviled eggs with fried oysters would have been excellent had the oysters been seasoned well. The anchovies, served on crostini slathered with marrow butter, were solid. The roasted lamb crostini were also fine but a little expensive given the small portion.  The menu is mostly small plates like fried eggplant balls, smoked chicken thigh with chicken livers, and shrimp and pork belly dumplings nestled in a little broth.  There are also sandwiches, such as a lobster roll and bison sloppy joe, and salads featuring romaine and kale and carrots and lentils with bacon.

Bar Charley
 1825 18th St NW
 Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-627-2163
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 4pm-11pm
       Fri: 4pm-midnight
       Sat: 10am-midnight
       Sun: 10 am-11pm

Early look at Thally

 

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad

 

 

After its first full week of operation, Thally is plagued with notable hiccups in the front and back of the house.  I hope for Thally’s sake that it finds its footing in the next few weeks or months given the stiff competition in the Shaw neighborhood it calls home.

 

 

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Re: Maketto at Hanoi House

Pig's blood cake

Pig’s blood cake

I’m back, baby! As summer winds down, I’m back with a new post about the latest pop-up restaurant, Maketto  (at Hanoi House).  Chef/Owner Erik Bruner-Yang, also of Toki Underground, and his crew have been testing out dishes at Hanoi House to see which will be featured on Maketto’s menu once the restaurant opens in its permanent location — somewhere on H Street NE — later this year.  In that regard, let’s call this post an open letter to the chef, containing my views on which dishes I think are keepers and which seriously need to be reconsidered.

The Maketto pop-up offers a pre-fixe menu ($30) of dishes served family style.  Diners may order additional dishes a la carte ($2 each) via the roving dim sum cart.

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Early look at Azur

Octopus & pork belly

Octopus & pork belly

Open for just over a week, Azur seems to be getting off to a mediocre start.  Who hasn’t been looking forward to the opening of Frederik de Pue’s second DC restaurant (Table, being his first) in the former Cafe Atlantico/Minibar space?  (Read my write-up on the Daily Meal here for more background.)

Azur has many ingredients for success.  Among other things, there’s the chef’s experience at acclaimed seafood restaurants abroad; the seafood-centric menu, which includes a raw bar replete with a variety of East and West Coast oysters, house cured salmon, and caviar; and the lack of seafood restaurants in DC.  So far the reality has not lived up to its potential.  In the words of a young girl in an often-played ad about a cellular provider, “We want more, we want more.”  Overall, the food was fine, the portions were too small, and the price tag was too hefty. » Read more..

Table: Don’t be fooled by mellow flavors

Table's pork belly and clams

Pork belly and clams

Much like chef Frederik de Pue, Table’s dishes are low-key and high quality.  I recently visited the Shaw-area restaurant for a friend’s birthday dinner. The dishes we sampled were delicate in flavor and seemingly simple in preparation, yet there was no mistaking Chef de Pue’s skillful execution in each bite.  Part of me really yearned for some bolder flavors. Perhaps I was just expecting the dishes to be more in line with de Pue’s classical French training.

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