Saturday, November 6, 2010

701 Restaurant - 10/11/2010

701 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington D.C., DC 20004
(202) 393-0701

701 Restaurant made it on my dining list solely based on its position on the Washingtonian's top 100 restaurant list. The restaurant apparently underwent substantial renovations about a year ago replacing the tired faded decor with an upscale supper club feel. At the time owner Ashok Bajaj tapped Adam Longworth to helm the kitchen but by the time I arrived he had been replaced by Ed Witt. Chef Witt, a New York native attended the CIA and spent time in both San Francisco (Jardinère, mc2) and New York (Restaurant Daniel, Nicole, River Café, Il Buco, Varietal, and Bloomingdale Road) before coming to Washington DC.

When I made my reservation for 701 I asked if they had a tasting menu. The host said they were implementing one that would be available by my arrival in October, understandable with the recent change at head chef. Turns out their "tasting menu" was really a prix fixe menu and only available at the bar. Fortunately there were enough interesting appetizers for me to salvage something from the menu.

Rockfish Tartare - green gazpacho, jalapeno-prosecco granite
Rockfish can refer to a number of distinct fish species but in this case I suspect it is some form of Striped Bass, the only Rockfish local to the area. The meat was fleshy and dense, with a toothsome heft atypical of whitefish. I enjoyed the green gazpacho's acidity and brightness while the prosecco granite adds a countervailing sweetness and disembodied heat to the fish. A wonderful starter, light, flavorful, and complex.

Grilled Baby Octopus - salsa verde, roasted breakfast radishes
The octopus soaked in some of the flavor from the olive oil it was cooked in but needed more char to give it some weight. Meanwhile the salsa verde added a peppery verdance and the bitterness of the radish served as a palate cleanser. Unfortunately, the octopus was riddled with sand and the disconcerting feel of it grinding beneath my teeth kept me from fully appreciating the flavors of the dish.

Prosciutto Wrapped Quail - grilled persimmons, collard greens, grits
Wrap just about anything in bacon and prosciutto and the results cant be too bad. The sultry smokiness of the prosciutto accentuates the unctuousness and salinity of the quail though I found the bird a bit dry for my tastes. The collard greens coupled with the creamy sweetness of the grits and persimmons help balance the salty one-two punch of the prosciutto and quail.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Terrine - milk chocolate sauce, cocoa nib crunch, chocolate tuille
Looking over the dessert menu, I was leaning towards the fried bomboloni but my waiter managed to talk me into the terrine. The "terrine" proved to be little more than a slab of hazelnut-tinged chocolate ganache (think Nutella) coupled with three other forms of chocolate. Given the monotony and richness I would have been sated with a third of what I was served. The dessert wasn't bad per se, just utterly boring.

With only four courses it's hard to get a clear read on the restaurant, there were some flashes of promise matched by an equal number of seriously flawed dishes.


Rich said...

I've never seen crushed ice directly on top of tartare before.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to alert you that Tony Conte has always been at The Oval Room and it was Adam Longworth who served was the executive chef at 701 before Ed Witt was tapped.  

Epicuryan said...

Haha is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Thanks for the catch I've corrected the post.

Rich said...

Lol, I don't know, but I imagine it might go both ways: the ice might add a texture, but it might also dilute the flavor. You're the one who actually tasted it. What do you think?

Epicuryan said...

I enjoyed it immensely. The ice was actually made from Prosecco so it added a sweetness to the dish and the temperature felt very appropriate for the raw fish.