Cashion’s Eat Place: Game to Try New Things

photo by Washington City Paper, Young and Hungry

“Been There, Eaten That” has made me a bit self-conscious when it comes to ordering. Now that I publish what I eat, I wonder if my health-conscious friends will scoff at me if I eat an entire dessert by myself.  Will my Kosher friends be put off by my consumption of pork and shellfish on a regular basis? And what about the fact that I can’t control my obsession with lamb or beets with goat cheese?   It is with this in mind that I scan the menu at Cashion’s Eat Place in Adam’s Morgan on a recent Saturday night out with two other couples.  I am on a mission to travel outside of my comfort zone.

Cashion’s Eat Place is described as “funky elegant” on the website.  It is a quote from New York Times writer Jan Benzel.  I am not going to take on a writer from the New York Times.  It’s funky elegant. We are at a table closest to the door, and I literally have to climb over an exposed gas main to get to my seat, which skews the atmosphere to the funky rather than the elegant.  On the positive side, it’s a bit more private and the volume is better over here.

Starting a meal off with a good bread is key in my book.  If the bread is crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside my heart rate increases and I’m going to be primed for a positive experience.  Obviously the reverse is true if the bread is unsatisfactory.  Cashion’s passes the bread test with flying colors.

The menu draws me in and I am intrigued by a number of appetizers, soups and salads, as well as main course offerings. I am focused on my pledge to try new things.  For my starter I settle on berber-spiced duck soup with late summer vegetables, and a feta borek (phyllo dough filled with onion).

Berber is a spice mix of fried chilies, paprika, garlic, ginger, all spice, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cloves, and fenugreek. I must confess that these are spices which I regularly use when I make soup (with the exception of fenugreek). I guess this means I have failed in my mission to try new flavors.  It’s a good fail.  The broth is surprisingly light and the combination of spices are bold but not overwhelming.  Bits of duck meat and vegetables are perfectly apportioned and the borek provides an interlude of crunch.

My husband and a friend each order local red Kuri squash soup with a grilled Tallegio sandwich and basil. oil.  The server delivers the soup with an apology:  no more Tallegio cheese sandwiches.  They are both dismayed that this isn’t mentioned when the soup is ordered.  Croutons have been substituted for the sandwich.  My husband has a particularly difficult time recovering from the loss, although later we laugh at the speculation that the “sandwich” is probably quite small and not worth the disappointment.  Still we can’t help but feel a little resentment towards the server for failing to tell us this.

where’s the sandwich?

My main course is Pennsylvania-raised Goat, spit roasted and pulled, with caramelized onions, chilies, cilantro, black eyed pea salad, grilled flat bread, and tzatsiki.  This is my venture outside of the box.  At first, I am put off by the idea of goat.  It’s not that it is so exotic but I am concerned that it will be too gamey for my taste.  My friend is considering it as well.  I am encouraged by her willingness to try it.  The server praises the dish as one of the best choices on the menu so I go for it.

The verdict:  the meat- at least this version of it- is a bit crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside.  It’s actually quite innocuous.  I don’t taste any discernible flavor at all. My friend agrees. The star of the dish is the flatbread which the pulled goat goes on, and the tzatsiki which goes on the goat. I enjoy the Mediterranean flavors but I am a little underwhelmed by the dish as a whole, perhaps because I have built up the anticipation.

My friend’s order of housemade seafood sausage with truffle’d potato puree, white beech mushrooms, sautéed spinach, burgundy truffles, and a vin blanc sauce has an interesting flavor but the portion could be a touch larger.

There is a repeated sentiment among a few us toward our dishes.  We got what we ordered as described on the menu, but we were expecting just a little bit more from the delivery. This applies to the sardine appetizer and an arugula salad with mission figs and goat cheese, as well as the goat dish and the seafood sausage.

My husband has a fish dish which I am considering but dismiss in favor of the goat.  He reports that the tilefish marinated with miso is perfectly seared and the accompanying stir fry of red pepper, bok choy, pea shoots, shiitake, zucchini, and basil is just the right combination of textures and Asian flavors.

For dessert we order a dried cherry and Asian pear crumb tarte with buttermilk ice cream and a cheesecake.  The server comes back to tell us they are out of the cheesecake.  This is the second time we are denied cheese.  We are a bit disgruntled once again.  Shouldn’t the server be telling us these things before we order?  We end up sharing the tarte six ways and are satisfied with a couple bites for each of us, because it is good but not great.

This is one of those meals that is better than the sum of its parts.  I realize that while I am describing many of the dishes as less than stellar, I still like Cashion’s Eat Place for its casual/fun vibe and creative offerings.

As far as this outing goes, I have only been partially successful at my effort to bring more variety into my dining choices. But my mission is not over.  Game on.

Cashion’s Eat Place, 1819 Columbia Rd., NW, Washington, DC 
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):  3.8
Zagat rating: 24

Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants 2011

Washington Post review from Spring 2011 Dining Guide

Cashion's Eat Place on Urbanspoon

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