Do I rule my blog or does my blog rule me? Last weekend I absolutely had to order sticky toffee pudding at Proof because I realized I could then say “the Proof is in the pudding” in my headline. It was was a defining moment. My blog is starting to dictate my menu choices. Of course my preferences have dominated restaurant choices for years among friends and family. Most of them don’t care where we dine nearly as much as I do. Which is how I got into this blog thing in the first place.
I recently chose to visit Proof for a Saturday night out with friends. It’s on my list as #31 on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants 2011. This is my second visit to Proof, the first being a few years ago for a birthday dinner. My memories of the food are hazy, although I do recall enjoying the food and atmosphere. This time, of course, my experience will be recorded for posterity so I have to pay more attention.
The description of Proof on its website is as “a wine-centric restaurant serving Modern American cuisine…Proof showcases the best local, organic and sustainable ingredients in clean, beautiful, preparations, as well as an extensive international selection of cheese and charcuterie.”
We enter the dining room and recollections of its casual elegance return to me. Exposed brick walls, leather banquettes, pendant lights. There is an attention to detail that shows. The best part is that it is possible to carry on a conversation and hear each other. Radical!
I vacillate between wanting small wine tastes or sharing a bottle of wine. The sommelier helps us – with very little direction other than white wine and not too flowery. He brings us a Sancerre, Thomas Labaille, Les Monts Damnes 2009. Admirably, it comes in under our specified price and it is perfectly suited to our various tastes.
We order two starters to share between three of us: tempura of local asparagus, french beans and wild mushrooms and a Mediterranean flatbread with chickpeas, red onions, olives, pickled radish, and smoked eggplant emulsion. The tempura vegetables are somewhat soggy and the lemon truffle dipping sauce is unremarkable. The flatbread has a pleasing texture, but again there is no wow on the dish. It looks pretty and tastes ordinary.
My friend has pan roasted veal sweetbreads with pickled mushrooms, red grapes, bacon, spinach, amd poached egg. He is on his own for this one. I am not interested in even a bite. He likes the dish but notes that it is over salted.
For our main course, all four of us order fish. Here is where things from the Proof kitchen start to look up. Each dish is cooked to perfection.
I have Vadouvan spiced wild Alaskan halibut with fragrant jasmine rice, rainbow chard, and coconut curry emulsion. It is the coconut curry emulsion that attracts me and I am not disappointed. It is smooth and creamy with a nice amount of heat. The curry brings flavor but does now overpower the fish.
There are two orders for roasted Scottish Salmon with caramelized cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, potatoes, fennel cream.
There are a lot of “yums” heard around the table for this fish. It is nicely seared on the outside and pink on the inside.
The other fish dish is miso glazed wild Alaskan sablefish with mushrooms, baby bok choy and potato puree. This is a winner as well.
Blog posts and reviews have featured Proof’s crispy cauliflower with lemon, tahini, and mint. It is supposed to be a standout dish. So even though we don’t really need more food, it is a must have. This dish, like the tempura vegetables that precede it, is not crispy and the flavors are muddled. I am disappointed.
We regretfully skip the cheese course we have been contemplating.
I am compelled to order the sticky toffee pudding and we throw in the warm chocolate hazelnut cake with coffee gelato and espresso sauce for good measure. They are both good enough to qualify as a sweet ending to an uneven meal.
|sticky toffee pudding|
I puzzle over my conclusion. It has been an uneven meal with starters that are average, fish dishes that shine, a mediocre side dish, and two lovely desserts. Pair that with a soothing atmosphere, a competent server, a wise sommelier, and prices that are in line with DC establishments of this caliber. When all is said and done the Proof is in the pudding. It doesn’t blow my socks off but it’s a satisfying, sweet, even cool place to dine.