Conduct a Google search for Volt, Range, and Chevy Chase, and the first thing that comes up is the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. This isn’t what I have in mind when searching for Range, Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s new restaurant in the Chevy Chase Pavilion. Although… I do find some of the dishes electrifying.
I am somewhat on overdrive when it comes to Range. I’ve been three times since the mid-December opening, and I would happily return tomorrow. This is about more than my chef crush on the former “Top Chef” contestant. This is about patronizing a restaurant that offers a wide range of beautifully-executed dishes in a setting where I’m starting to feel quite at home. (Home, home on the range? I wouldn’t dare go there. I’m sticking with automobile references.)
What is it about Range that I find so appealing?
1. The food. Obviously. The small plates menu at Range is divided into sections including wood oven, wood grill, pan roasted, pasta, bakery, accompaniments, and specials. The choices seem overwhelming at first glance, but on the other hand this can be easily resolved by ordering a few extra dishes. This is the reason small plates were invented.
There are exciting new flavor combinations and unfamiliar territory to conquer here. Kimchi linguini, uni, bay scallops, and nasturtium is one of my favorite dishes among the twenty or so I’ve sampled.
Another favorite is striped bass with hazelnuts and sorghum, from the pan roasted section of the menu. This is saying something since I don’t even like hazelnuts. But the sauce makes up for it.
Bacon-lovers should not miss the skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade. You’ll want to slather this stuff on everything. The bakers basket and spreads are all pretty marvelous. For $10 you get to try every bread and spread on the menu. Don’t ask questions. Just do it. Indulge.
Many people in the know when it comes to pizza would name Edan McQuaid as one of the most competent pizza makers in the area (if not the most). He is currently manning the pizza ovens at Range. He has plans to open his own place in the near future, so catch him here while you can. He’s making a sublime pizza with goat’s milk ricotta, meyer lemon, and arugula. This is a recent addition to the menu. My non meat-eating companions are grateful and so am I.
A few more of my favorites can be found in the vegetable and legume category: the fried brussels sprouts compete with the best around, and the oven roasted sunchokes with watercress and lemon stole my heart. I don’t hesitate to order more when I’m undecided. It’s just vegetables. Cauliflower with golden raisins and za’atar is worth it.
This is a meat-centric restaurant, so I have to mention the luscious leg of lamb with root vegetable puree and sea beans and the roseda beef rib cap steak with horseradish puree. I wasn’t as enthralled with the pan roasted chicken. There are many more interesting options worth exploring.
2. The buzz. I admit that I am attracted to restaurant buzz, and Range opened to a great deal of it. On a weekend my food-blogger-heavy Twitter feed is certain to consist of multiple tweets about visits to Range. It is now nearly impossible to get a Saturday night reservation, unless you’re planning months ahead. (I booked mine before they opened, and it wasn’t easy). Buzz doesn’t always translate to good food nor does it usually last long, but I think it’s safe to say that Range will be buzzing for a good long while.
3. The setting. Not everyone likes it. It’s an expansive space, with seating for nearly 300 people. It overlooks a shopping mall. It’s fairly stark. It’s brightly lit, which some people complain about. It’s noisy. There are open cooking stations throughout the restaurant, so you can peek in on the action. I find all of this interesting and exciting. There is a large dining room in the back that is away from the action. It may provide some relief from the noise, but in walking through I find it just as loud as the rest of the restaurant. I much prefer being seated in the main dining room so I can see what’s going on (and yes, if Chef Voltaggio is in the restaurant I’ll have a better view). He’s only been there on one of my visits, which I admit is a bit of a disappointment.
More details about the interior at Range can be found here.
4. The dessert cart. At the moment I am enamored with Range’s dessert cart on wheels mostly because it’s fun. There is a dessert menu with appealing choices (although I didn’t care for the bananas and brioche at all). But the chocolate crinkle cookies are good and there is a selection of truffles and bon bons that are stunningly beautiful. If you miss the cart, head on over to the candy counter. I put the brakes on and have not yet sampled any of these confections, but next time I’m going for it.
5. The location. I admit that one of the reasons I’ve been to Range multiple times is because of the location. I live and work in Montgomery County and I don’t always want to travel downtown to dine. And while Range has a DC address, it’s just over the border, so I can get there easily on a weeknight. The fact that Range is on par with many of my favorite restaurants downtown, fuels my desire even further.
I could go on and on about how I am driven to experience as much as possible on the menu at Range. But I’ve got to put the brakes on somewhere. And after all of this writing, I realize that I have probably applied the auto references to the wrong Voltaggio vehicle. Family Meal in Frederick is actually housed in a former automobile showroom. Oh well, it’s too late to turn back now.
Range, 5335 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
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