Jul 12, 2011
IPAs And Indian Food: Like Peas And Carrots (In Mumbai)
Fact: Indian food is incredibly flavorful and can be quite spicy.
Fact: India pale ales are incredibly flavorful and can be quite bitter.
Fact: It's difficult to pair beer with Indian food.
Fact: It's difficult to pair food with IPAs.
Fact: Indian food and IPAs were made for each other, literally.
That last fact should be self-evident, but if it was Indian restaurants (at least the ones around here) would stick a few Loose Cannons, maybe an Avery IPA on the menu. But that's not the case. Instead, your beer options are limited to a redundant list of light lagers whose labels might invoke thoughts of India - Kingfisher, Taj - but are otherwise indistinguishable from the light lagers made in St. Louis and Golden, Colo.
To be fair, lagers have been the beer of choice in India for more than a century. In fact, lagers are the beer of choice in most parts of the world. There was a time, though, when bitter, hop-forward ales from England were all the rage on the subcontinent (and then the Indians booted out their British overlords and switched to the German stuff).
Travel to England today and you'll be hard pressed to find a pub that doesn't have curry on the menu. For a people known for fried fish and sausages, they have fully embraced an Indian staple as their own (thanks to their old Asian holdings). But travel to India, and the culinary cultural exchange doesn't stand up, at least where beer is concerned.
That's a shame because there may be no better beverage to pair with a spicy curry than a hoppy India pale ale.
As craft beer has become more popular over the past decade, so too has the idea that beer can be paired with more than burgers and pizza. Thomas Keller commissioned Russian River Brewing and Brooklyn Brewery to make special beers for his restaurants The French Laundry and Per Se. Here in D.C., Chef Eric Ziebold's tasting menu at CityZen has included a beer course, and Michel Richard imports the Belgian pilsner Blusser for his restaurant Central. And then there's Birch & Barley, which offers a beer pairing with each course of Chef Kyle Bailey's tasting menu.
Once the domain of wine, beer is being recognized as an ideal accompaniment to food. Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing and author of The Brewmaster's Table, has gone even further to say that beer offers a wider range of flavors and styles, making it the ideal accompaniment to food. (The Brewmaster's Table, as it happens, is a book about pairing food with beer.)
That may be true, but when it came to Indian cuisine, I never gave it much thought. As oafish at it may sound, I viewed curries and kormas as ethnic food made by people from foreign lands. So if the people running the restaurant wanted to offer a few light lagers with their dishes, so be it. Their food, their beer. After all, you go to Indique for the food not the drink. Well, a cold Fisherking may be common in Mumbai's curry houses, but it's not the ideal beer for the food. The ideal one might just be a California pale ale. (I know it's not an IPA. I'll get to that.)
I got thinking about this particular food and beer pairing after reading Pete Brown's latest book, Hops and Glory. In it, the British beer writer explores the development of the IPA and England's colonization of India, and chronicles his journey from Burton-Upon-Trent (the birthplace of IPAs) to Calcutta with a keg of IPA in tow. It's a good book, and in it Brown makes the point that IPAs not only go well with Indian cuisine, they taste like they were made for it.
"[The IPA he brought from England] really was dangerously drinkable, and when the tandoori canapés came round it went beautifully, cutting through the heat and harmonizing with the spices so perfectly it was as if the beer had been designed specially to go with the cuisine, and perhaps it had."
That sparked my interest. While Oliver and other beer writers have made the point that IPAs can go well with very flavorful dishes and spicy foods, Brown's 450 page treatise on the matter convinced me to try the pairing myself.
Because Indian restaurants don't offer India pale ales, I conducted my tasting at the next logical location: the Iron Horse bar in Penn Quarter.
I like the Iron Horse, a lot. Not only does it offer a great selection of craft beers and is home to bartender extraordinaire Scott Stone, but it has a tavern license. What that tavern license means is that they don't serve food, so you can bring in food from anywhere. As long as you're drinking, that's no problemo. You can even have food delivered and never leave your barstool. That's turned the Iron Horse into my go-to bar for watching college football (Pattison Avenue and pints, people) and in this case, my go-to spot for lamb vindaloo and IPAs.
The vindaloo, which I picked up from nearby Mehak, was great. Chunks of lamb and potato swam in a pool of fiery red curry. It was delicious, and completely overwhelmed my pallet. The onion kulcha, a doughy flat bread filled with onions, was good, but no match for the vindaloo.
For the pairing, I ordered Flying Dog's Double Dog imperial IPA, which clocks in at 11.5% A.B.V.; Flying Dog's Snake Dog IPA, which comes in at a more modest 7.1% A.B.V.; Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (on the theory that English IPAs aren't nearly as high in alcohol as our IPAs), which runs 5.6% A.B.V.; and Sierra Nevada's new Juniper Black Ale, a hoppy 8% A.B.V. black IPA.
Of the four beers, the two with the lowest alcohol levels paired the best with the spicy Indian dish. The Double Dog (a personal favorite) was much too sweet for the dish and the heat of the vindaloo overwhelmed whatever hop characteristics the Juniper Black Ale had, making it taste like an ordinary stout. On the other hand, the IPA and pale ale were spot on.
Although the IPAs didn't compliment the curry in the same way the dark stouts compliment chocolate and coffee flavors, the Snake Dog IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale stood their ground with the vindaloo. A dish with the much flavor and heat would turn a Taj to water, but the IPAs remained bright, hoppy and citrusy deep into the bowl.
Between the two beers, I favored the pale ale. Both went well, but the bitter bite from the Snake Dog and the spicy of the vindaloo were a bit much for me. The Sierra Nevada, though, was refreshing, and the subtler hop bitterness helped restore my taste buds between bites.
These results shouldn't have been surprising, even if they were. This food and this style of beer should be easier to find together, even if it's not. But the fact is, IPAs pair well with Indian food, even if you have to bring the food to the beer.
And if Indian isn't your thing or you want a few more pairing options, you could try Thai (which Scott suggested) or fried chicken (which my wife suggested). I think they're both right. If it's spicy enough or fried enough, it can be matched up with an IPA. Brooklyn's Oliver has suggested pairing IPAs with fried fish, Mexican and calamari. Point being, IPAs go well with spicy and greasy food. When it comes to pairing Indian food with beer, though, I don't think there's a better option than an IPA (or pale ale).
Iron Horse Taproom
507 7th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
817 7th St. N.W.
Washington D.C., DC 20001
, Book Reviews
, Chinatown/MCI Center/Verizon Center
, Food and Drink
, Penn Quarter
, Washington, DC
Link To This Post
Mar 30, 2011
The Queen Vic: A New Restaurant On H, An Actual Gastropub For D.C.
Ryan Gordon knows what a gastropub is.
"It's a place you go to have a drink, first."
That's absolutely right. But if you want to eat, there's a menu that combines traditional pub fare with plates typically scene in white tablecloth dining rooms.
Ryan knows this, too. He should, he's opening a gastropub next week.
On April 4, Ryan and his wife Roneeka will open The Queen Vic, the newest addition to the H Street dining corridor. On paper it looks good: 20 beers on draught and 20 bottles, soccer and rugby on the flat-screen TVs hanging behind the two bars, and a menu that hits the U.K.'s greatest hits while managing to work in enough culinary flourishes to put the gastro in gastropub.
The restaurant's name is even a nod to the long-running BBC soap, EastEnders.
But just because a restaurant calls itself a gastropub doesn't mean it is. Frankly, most of the gastropubs in D.C. aren't gastropubs, and some of the ones that were eventually dropped the concept.
CommonWealth opened as a gastropub in 2008. Offering cured pork belly, oyster pie and house-made head cheeses along side fish and chips helped establish the Columbia Heights restaurant as a solid example of a British gastropub. In time, however, the menu became more "continental Europe" and less creative. CommonWealth closed in February.
This begs the question: can The Queen Vic succeed where CommonWealth failed? Does D.C. know what a gastropub is and is it a concept people are interested in?
We're going to find out.
The Gordons, and silent partner Kevin Bombardier, brought in Adam Stein as their executive chef (on the right next to sous chef Blake Aredas). Stein -- who worked under chef Matt Jennings at La Laiterie in Providence, R.I., before returning to the area -- is a farm-to-table adherent. He plans to butcher in-house. He plans to source locally and cook seasonally. Even the British staples will be sustainable. So while the fish and chips may be standard fare, the fish Stein will use will change based on its availability and sustainability.
For inspiration, Stein cited April Bloomfield and Fergus Henderson. Henderson might not have invented nose-to-tail cooking, but he picked up a Michelin star revolutionizing it in his London restaurant, St. John. Bloomfield's New York restaurant, The Spotted Pig, is widely considered the best gastopub in the country. So when you say that your restaurant's cuisine will tack closely to Bloomfield's and Henderson's, the world knows what to expect ... and where you fall short.
Signs of Bloomfield's and Henderson's influence are tucked into The Queen Vic's inaugural menu. There are the fried oysters on the half shell - a trio of fried oysters served with foie gras, duck confit and cornichons. There are the rich, roasted marrow bones, an appetizer Stein said he is lifting directly off St. John's menu.
The chefs' influence will also be seen in the daily specials, which will showcase the benefits of butchering on-site, such as house-made head cheeses, braised beef cheeks and sweetbreads. Stein said the specials menu is where he will react most quickly to changes in seasons and ingredients.
While Stein clearly wants The Queen Vic's menu to be thoughtful and progressive, it's some of the traditional items that stand out. Certainly, you can't open a British restaurant without fried fish and french fries, but the traditional English breakfast (beans and all), pork scratchings and curries show an attention to detail that most of the British (and Irish) themed eateries miss.
(I can't overstate the significance of a good Cornish pasty. They're like a large empanada without the egg. Absolutely simple, absolutely fantastic. However, most of the ones I've had here in the states are sorry. More often than not, they're like doughy wontons straight from the frozen food isle. Stein promises the real thing. If he delivers, I'll trust anything he puts on his menu.)
As for the bar, the opening draft selection isn't all it could be. The taps are dominated by familiar names: Guinness, Harp, Kronenbourg 1664 and Smithwicks (none of which are British). However, there are a few bright spots, including Fullers ESB, Wells Bombardier, Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil and Old Speckled Hen.
Ryan admitted the beer lineup was the best he could do in a short amount of time. By the end of April, he expects to replace many of the beers with more interesting offerings.
In the mean time, thirsty punters can check out the Vic's bottle list, which includes Young's Double Chocolate Stout, St. Peter's Organic English Ale, Manchester Star and Skull Splitter scotch ale.
Although the gastropub doesn't have a beer engine behind the bar (a real shame, especially as so many beer bars around town now have one or five), there are four nitrogen taps behind the upstairs and downstairs bars. So there may not be the hand-pulled beers so typical of British pubs, but there will be eight taps pouring plenty of smooth, creamy pints.
It's not hard to understand where the level of detail that's gone into The Queen Vic came from: Roneeka was born in Britain and raised in Wales. Her parents own and operate a hotel and restaurant in Bridgend, Wales. Before she was a teenager, Roneeka was already working in her family's restaurant. The Queen Vic isn't so much a concept as an extension of the cuisine that she grew up with. At least it should be.
Just to make sure Stein is clear on the concept, Ryan and Roneeka sent their chef on an eight-day tour of Britain and Wales. The tour began at her parent's restaurant, the Bokhara Brasserie. It was there that Stein learned how to make murgh makhani, a butter chicken dish Roneeka grew up with. From there, Stein headed to a butcher shop in northern Wales and spent time in London, dining at The Bull & Last and St. John.
If the gastropub concept doesn't fly, it won't be for lack of effort.
Like the menu, the restaurant looks the part of a traditional British pub. The red and black exterior opens to a cozy bar and dining room. The layout is repeated on the second floor, which leads out to an outdoor deck on the back of the restaurant.
Ryan said The Queen Vic will accommodate a little less than 100 people, a couple dozen more if you count the deck.
While the gastropub may be small, it took a sizable effort to get it ready for its debut. The building burned down, twice. Before work could begin to turn the building into a restaurant, it needed to be gutted and rebuilt. The façade was out of alignment and had to be screwed back into place, and much of the roof was replaced. The deck was a new addition.
To give the rehabbed restaurant an older feel, they used as much recycled and refurbished materials as possible. Doors came from old schools, the phone booth is, well, an old phone booth. The roof may be new, but the exposed beams, stained a dark mahogany, help add a rustic, old(er) pub feel.
The Queen Vic will be located along the ever-more popular and ever-more crowded H Street corridor. Ryan, who's an investor in the neighborhood bar The Pug, says the gastropub should fit right in. Although H Street has an increasing number of bars and restaurants, it's an eclectic mix. So rather than being lost in the myriad of options, The Queen Vic do well situated between the sushi and tater tots joint and the Philly style sandwich shop.
Besides, Ryan said, the cadre of new bars and restaurants that have sprung up on H Street over the past few years tend to support one another (Teddy Folkman, executive chef at Dr. Granville Moore's, introduced Stein to the Gordons). It's the rising tide lifts all boats theory: the more traffic and positive attention one bar or restaurant can attract, the better off all the neighborhood bars and restaurants will be.
But positive press and big name inspirations will only help so much. The British gastropub is a great concept that most people misinterpret or simply don't understand. If The Queen Vic is a success, it'll be because Ryan, Roneeka and Chef Stein find a way to give D.C. a true gastropub, one that will hopefully stick around a while.
The Queen Vic
1206 H St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
, Food and Drink
, H Street
, Restaurant Openings
, Washington, DC
Link To This Post
Mar 10, 2010
A Restaurant By Any Other Name Is Not a Gastropub
Gastropub: (British) A public house that serves high-quality food.
This Wiktionary definition is the best I could find for gastropub, but it's illustrative enough. A gastropub is generally understood to be a public house (read: bar) that serves equally high-quality food and beer. In other words, a place you're just as likely to go for a few great beers as a nice meal. The concept hasn't been around all that long, but it has certainly found traction here in D.C.
Well the term has found traction, the establishment of actual gastropubs, not so much. Jamie Leeds (above) is the co-owner and executive chef of one of D.C.'s two gastropubs, Commonwealth. Granville Moore's on H Street, is the other. I would be just as inclined to visit either for a few quality ales as I would their upscale dishes.
Yet, a Google search of the terms "gastropubs" and "D.C." pulls up a number of restaurants that either refer to themselves as gastropubs, or are referred to as gastropubs. Againn is clearly a restaurant. So is Brasserie Beck. Both have good beer selections (Beck's selection of Belgian beers is excellent, in fact), but the small bar areas, large dining rooms, showcase kitchens and raw bars (is that a new trend, too?) indicate that these places were designed to be restaurants, not drinking establishments. Rustico, which was named D.C.'s best gastropub in 2008 by the City Paper, could be a gastropub, but Beer Director Greg Engert and the management of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns Rustico, are very clear about the fact that it is very much a restaurant.
This also goes for the NRG's beer palace, ChurchKey. One floor below is Birch & Barley, ChurchKey's sister establishment. Executive Chef Kyle Bailey offers several dishes that could be served in any white tablecloth dining room in the District, including pan-roasted skate and braised pork cheeks. But because burgers and flatbreads are the focus up stairs, ChurchKey is not a gastropub (though, the deviled duck eggs with duck pancetta and sweetbread dishes nearly do the trick). And though Birch & Barley diners have access to all of ChurchKey's 555 beers, the six seats at the bar are an excellent indication that this is a place geared toward diners, not drinkers. Fortunately, no one at NRG refers to either establishment as a gastropub, so there's no issue here.
Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped Urbanspoon. The restaurant review Web site lists ChurchKey and Birch & Barley as gastropubs. It also lists, Againn, H Street Country Club (you know, the place with the mini golf) and Scion in Dupont Circle as gastropubs.
Therein lies the problem; the more people misuse the term, the less meaning it will have. As Leeds puts it, the term gastropub is becoming the new bistro. Beer is trendy now, and the gastropub concept is closely aligned with it. And like the term bistro, gastropub is the exotic new concept. It's British, and right now things that are British are nearly as trendy as beer. So why call your restaurant a restaurant, when you could call it a gastropub?
On the other hand, it's fair to ask what difference does it make what a restaurant calls itself. Without a true definition, gastropub is more of an adjective than a noun, so it describes establishments rather than defines them.
The thing is, I like gastropubs. Back in 2004, my friends Emma and Tom turned me on to gastropubs during a trip to London. They lived around the corner from The Junction Tavern, a beautiful old pub in London's Kentish Town neighborhood. The Junction specializes in real ales from local breweries and offers an upscale seasonal menu. It's a model gastropub, and a fantastic one at that. Ever since then, I've been very interested (maybe a little giddy) when a new one opens up in D.C. -- and disappointed when it turns out to be just another restaurant.
To gain some clarity on the subject of gastropubs, I e-mailed David Bulgar, a reviewer for the British pub review Website, Fancyapint. David has visited his fair share of gastropubs.
So David, what's a gastropub?
"I think most English drinkers would define a gastropub as a pub that focuses on restaurant quality dining, often serving modern British cuisine. Some gastropubs manage to operate as a good place to simply go for a pint as well as food, while others kill the drinking experience by looking and feeling to much like a restaurant, not a pub."
Maybe Brasserie Beck does fit the definition. But as he said, the establishment should be as much a pub as a restaurant.
When Commonwealth opened in 2008, D.C. finally had its own gastropub. The decor is a nod to the concept's British roots (though not necessary for a gastropub), but more importantly, the beer list is solid, with a respectable mix of British and American craft beers on draft and in the bottle, as well as pair of handpumps mounted on the bar. Keep in mind, Commonwealth came along a year and a half before ChurchKey and its five handpumps opened its doors. Like the Junction, the food coming out of the kitchen struck the right balance between traditional pub fare and smart, upscale cuisine. Given all the Irish bars we have around D.C., I know not to expect anything more interesting than the perfunctory shepherd's pie or fish and chips, and an ice-cold Smithwicks. Leeds, however, offers a menu of local, organic, sustainable dishes and pints of real ale.
And it's because of the attention Leeds and her business partner Sandy Lewis pay to the beer program that makes Commonwealth as much a drinking destination as a dining spot.
As David said, this is what separates gastropubs from restaurants.
A gastropub, he said, is "first and foremost a pub. It will have all the features of a pub, i.e. a bar, an area for simply drinking, without the need to order food. An English drinker will be able to distinguish between a bar, a pub and a restaurant a mile off. Pubs are generally older, serve a range of ales and lagers on tap, and have simple wooden chairs and tables, maybe a pool table and or dart board, and sell crisps and nuts as snacks; bars tend to be newer buildings, the often do not serve draught ale, and commonly only serve bottled lagers, they will have more modern furnishings, and would not have darts, pool, the crisps and nuts etc, in their place will be a cocktail menu and louder music. A gastro pub is distinctive because it will look more like a dining room than a drinking room, with tables set with menus, wine glasses, etc."
Walk into Commonwealth or Granville Moore and the bar is the very first thing you see. At Againn and Beck, the first thing you encounter is the hostess stand, followed by the raw bars.
Now that the gastropub trend is gaining steam in D.C., in name at least, I went back to Commonwealth to talk to Leeds. Commonwealth was envisioned as a gastropub that would have a robust beer program, casual, but elevated cuisine, and ultimately a place that would be responsive to its neighborhood clientele. Leeds said Lewis developed the beer program, while the menu was her design. Wanting to do something besides seafood (Leeds and Lewis also own Hank's Oyster Bar), Leeds decided a gastropub would give her the chance.
To be honest, even Commonwealth wouldn't fit David's strict definition of a gastropub. In Britain, he said, most gastropubs are old pubs that decided to upgrade their menus. Well, London has a lot more old pubs than we do, so unless Leeds had taken over the kitchen at the old Mr. Eagan's, Commonwealth and Granville Moore are the closest we're going to get to true gastropubs.
Although beer was always a focus of Commonwealth, Leeds said she's surprised that her gastropub has become such a destination for area beer enthusiasts. Leeds said Commonwealth remains focused on catering to its Columbia Heights neighborhood, but its beer sales are "through the roof" thanks to all the regional traffic the bar gets.
Now, compare Commonwealth to Againn. I don't mean to pick on the place, but it's the latest restaurant to call itself a gastropub. Its beer selection is fairly large, but it's heavy on the familiars (Harp, Stella, Dogfish Head, Heineken), and has several multiples from a few breweries. Mind you, it's great that they carry five or six different beers from Founders and Brewdog, but it also shows a laziness or ignorance about beer. Rather than taking the time to select a few beers from a variety of breweries, Againn has padded its beer list by selecting many beers from a few breweries. Also, the staff is either too new or too indifferent to know much about the beer list. If you're going to run a gastropub, the staff should be knowledgeable about the beer. Situated between the raw bar and the dining room, Againn's bar seems like most restaurant bars: a place to have a drink while you're waiting on your table. It just doesn't feel like a place you want to spend an afternoon or evening drinking.
Does this mean Againn is a bad place? No, it just means that it's a restaurant, not a gastropub. In fact, it has all the makings of being a good restaurant, and it doesn't have to call itself a gastropub to achieve that goal.
So if I want to go out for a nice meal, I may go to Againn. If I want to try a few quality beers, I may head to ChurchKey. But if I want both, I'll go to Commonwealth or Granville Moore's.
, Columbia Heights
, H Street
, Local Food
, Washington, DC
Link To This Post
Sep 03, 2008
CommonWealth Gastro Pub - First Impressions
About one month ago, Jamie Leeds and business partner Sandy Lewis opened CommonWealth Gastro Pub in the up and coming (or perhaps already came) Columbia Heights neighborhood. Conveniently located at the top of the steps of the Columbia Heights
metro, it's an quick metro ride from anywhere in the DC area.
For a "pub", CommonWealth is quite large and offers 35-seat outdoor
patio. While the decor is trying to make it look rustic and worn out,
it needs a bit more breaking in before it will have that neighborhood
pub feel. I don't mind either way though because I tend to focus on the
food rather than the decor, but be warned that if you're looking for a
quite evening meal, this is not the place for you. After 6 PM, the
happy hour crowd is in full swing and it gets loud and boisterous. The
cement walls don't help much with this either.
Much to our liking here at D.C. Foodies, the menu concentrates on
local ingredients for a majority of it's menu. Many of the pork
products come from the local vendor, Eco-Friendly.
In fact, half a pig gets delivered each week for use in the regular
dishes on the menu like the cured pork belly, head cheese, and
rilletes. The loin and shoulder cuts are used for other special dishes throughout the week as well. I can attest to the quality of the meat from personal experience at the local farmers' markets in Dupont and Arlington. The
grass-fed beef is sourced locally from a farm in Maryland, and most of
the vegetables come from farms local to MD, VA, and PA.
The bar at CommonWealth boasts two cask-conditioned ales. You'll find two on the menu on the chalk board with a US pint being around $7.50, and an English pint running you around $8.50. If you're wondering what the difference is between a US and English pint, and English pint is roughly 1.2 US pints. I had a Victory Prima Pilsner on my second trip after the casks were finally ready. The beer lacks the bubbly texture of a typical keg beer, but was all flavor. The cask beer is served a little warmer too which allowed the flavor of the beer to come to the surface.
So there are the facts...now lets see what we thought from our visits.
I am a great fan of Great Britain's beers -- for casual drinking, you can have your extremely hoppy American IPAs; I'll take a bitter, please. This was reason enough to compel me to make the trek to Commonwealth, and to drag along a couple of good friends. The promise of cuisine based on deep frying only sweetened the deal.
Since our party consisted of a good number of close friends, we wound up ordering a mish-mash of appetizers and entrees, and casually sampled a little of each. To describe everything I ate would take far too much space; suffice it to say the food ran the gamut from awesome to awful. The scotch egg from the "Snack" menu and the "Butcher's Plate" pork belly were the two standouts in my mind. The former was crispy and flavorful, and came with a great selection of sauces, including a parsley/anchovy concoction that complimented the dish beautifully. The pork was subtlety seasoned and beautifully textured -- it is obvious that Commonwealth puts a lot of stock in the quality of their charcuterie, and I wish we had ordered more from this section.
The biggest disappointments of the night were the Welsh Rarebit and the Yorkshire Pudding. These are both British treats I've enjoyed in the past, and I was rather let down with Commonwealth's dry, tough, flavorless offerings. I have a feeling that both were reheated, and therefore overcooked -- if such is the case, the chef still has a bit of work to do in the prep kitchen.
Everything else was good, but forgettable in light of our fantastic apps. All in all, everyone was satisfied and completely stuffed. When the check arrived, and we found that we owed only about $50 per person, food AND drink included, no one found any reason for complaint.
Loved: The fantastic quality of certain dishes, the warm and welcoming service, and the undeniable value per calorie consumed.
Hated: The inconsistency between dishes, especially on those well known British classics.
If I lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, Commonwealth would be my go to place for a pint and a bit of meat over a game of football (American or otherwise). If you are a fan of British fare, I heartily suggest you visit, as you are unlikely to find anything more authentic in the DC area, especially at so reasonable a price. That said, if you are not an ardent Anglophile, I cannot advise you go too far out of your way yet, as the food is a little inconsistent still.
Shortly after I received the press release about the soon to open CommonWealth, I found out that the chef de cuisine would be none other than Antonio Burrell, previously of
Viridian in Dupont Circle and Eleventh Street Lounge in Arlington. I've
been a big fan of Antonio Burrell as he's not only an amazing chef, but
he's also been a frequent commenter on DC Foodies.
I eagerly awaited the opening of the restaurant and I had the opportunity to make two separate trips, both with significantly different outcomes. On my first trip, I stopped by without reservation on shortly after opening day with a friend of mine. The service was warm and embracing and the food exactly what I expected. Our server made a point to make sure that our questions about the dishes were answered. I had the bangers and mash with onion sauce. The dish only came with one large sausage, but the sausage was juicy and perfectly cooked with great flavor.
My friend also had the fish and chips which was crispy but not over fried and and the chips (or fries) were crispy as well. While I know that's not "traditional", I despise oily chips. You can also order sides of chips for $5 with cheese and/or gravy for an extra $2 each. While that might sound a little steep, I think they're worth it. The other starters or "Snacks" range from $5 to $13 and tend to be expensive for the portion size.
On my second trip, I went with a much larger group of people later in the evening. We were a party of 8 with two children. Suffice it to say, service was not as smooth as I would've liked between dishes that we ordered not coming out at all and dishes coming out cold, but I chalk that up to the size of our party and how soon it was after they opened. I had a roasted veal sweetbreads special that was slightly inconsistent at $23. The sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and tender on the inside, but the prawns that came with it were small and dry. My friends oyster pie was only lukewarm, but a couple of people in our party recently from England said they thought the food was very authentic.
Beer selection is still growing. When I was there last, all of the taps were not completely installed, but they still have a good selection of US and British tap beers. Beers by the bottle tend to run on the expensive side for my taste, especially the imports.
Loved: Great local food at reasonable prices; two available cask ales; good cheese selection.
Hated: Inconsistencies in the service of the food; expensive "Snacks", pricey beers by the bottle.
CommonWealth Gastro Pub
1400 Irving St NW
Washington, DC 20010
, Columbia Heights
, Restaurant Reviews
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