It's pretty rare that I write about a restaurant that I visit during Restaurant Week. Restaurants are so packed at this time of the year; they're often not in top form; and it's hard to tell if the hurried service and slow kitchen are a normal occurrence or just a result of...Restaurant Week.
When I was at Viridian on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (yes, all three days) during Restaurant Week, I didn't witness any of those complaints. Other than the "Restaurant Week" heading on the menu pointing out the special, you wouldn't know...and not only was the full, normal menu available, but there were no up-charges.
Servers were gracious each time we were there, even on the second night when we took Noah with us. Noah was in a rare (for him) cranky form and was being a complete pill -- impatient, squirming, and screaming out often. Despite this, every waiter or bus person that went by made it a point to say hello to Noah and smile at him. I know he's the most adorable baby in the world and all, but I've never witnessed this at any other restaurant.
We were rushed to finish our meal, and our server recognized that we were a little stressed. Our waitress handed us dessert menus while we still had our entrees: "Please don't take this as a sign that I am hurrying you out, but you look like you want to get out of here."
"Thank you! Yes we do!" We replied.
Our check was on the table soon after we received our desserts.
The following day for brunch, our server was again very friendly to Noah, and even took the time to make an origami crane for him...BWAH?!? What world have I suddenly been transported to? Some perfect world for diners with children?
Okay, so the service was great. Get it?
The food was refreshingly good, and fresh, organic ingredients are the highlight of the menu at Viridian. While so many other restaurants serve their steak with some combination of mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and/or spinach, Viridian serves theirs with cippolini onions, figs (not dried -- there's an amazing difference), crispy watercress and a sweet port mustard sauce. Ok, so it's not super dramatically different from what you can get elsewhere, but it's kind of like that change-up pitch that you get after three straight fastballs.
A barramundi with crispy skin like it came out of a deep fryer, beet risotto, lobster and an original beet-ginger reduction sauce was a highlight. Order the cool and refreshing (yes, I used that word again) watermelon soup if you like cold soups. It's given a creamy texture by adding a champagne sorbet to the bowl before pouring the soup in front of you.
I didn't love everything I ate at Viridian, though. I'd suggest ordering the tartare appetizer for the steak and not the tuna. While the lean raw steak is 100% creamy and salty goodness, the tuna is a letdown in comparison in its blandness. And while the beat salad sounds (and looks) like it should be a sure winner, it falls flat on the taste buds.
However, I have yet to try all of the dishes on the menu, and sadly the menu changes on the first of every month, so most likely I won't be able to try the trout with gazpacho and blue crab or the gnocchi with chanterelles. Or maybe I'll luck out and the chef will still have a variation of them on the menu again.
Either way, I don't think that Chef Antonio Burrell is trying to make every diner love each and every dish they eat, but rather he's trying to go for a wide variety of tastes. I'm sure when I return, and the menu has changed, I'll find something new that I'll love -- like the flat iron steak or barramundi -- and there will probably be dishes that I'm not as crazy about. But I imagine that I'll leave happy either way.
Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: Street: Street Parking or Park in the lot for $10.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: Dupont Circle or U Street. It's a hike from either.
Baby friendly rating: 3.5 Diapers. As I said before, the servers seem to love kids.