If you want to create excitement in the DC food community, have a distinguished chef with national name recognition announce they are opening a restaurant here. This is guaranteed to garner hype on all forms of social media, and is indeed what happened when Chef Daniel Boulud announced his opening of DBGB Kitchen and Bar in the new City Center.
I join the throngs of enthusiasts for a Boulud outpost in DC, having had thoroughly satisfying meals at Boulud Sud, Cafe Boulud, and DB Bistro Moderne in NYC. I am elated when I receive an invitation to the opening, and deflated when I realize I am unable to attend. It takes me a couple of months before I am able to dine at DBGB DC. In the meantime, I envy the numerous selfies posted by early visitors, as Chef Boulud circulates through the dining room, posing with patrons.
DBGB Kitchen and Bar is a casual bistro featuring American food with a French accent. It is one of the early occupants of City Center, a shiny new development featuring high-end stores like Burberry and Longchamp, luxury condominiums, a pedestrian plaza with dazzling lights, and exciting new restaurants. Since we don’t frequent this part of town, we are stunned at how this all appears to have sprung up so quickly, and how unlike DC it feels.
DBGB Kitchen and Bar is now mostly in the hands of Executive Chef Ed Scarpone. We are curious about how it is faring, since it’s much less likely to include a sighting of the well-known Chef Boulud.
The menu at DBGB is diverse. A foie gras terrine appears alongside burgers and fried chicken. Most entrees are under $30, which is a plus. The atmosphere isn’t showy or particularly unique, but it’s a lively place that buzzes with activity. Decorative plates perched on bookshelves line the walls, with artwork created by well-known chefs from around the world. I’m tempted to take time to view each one, but this would mean awkwardly peering over other diners to do so. Instead, I admire them from afar.
My first bite at DBGB is from a slice of bread that is burnt and dry, and my heart sinks. The food perks up considerably once a duo of housemade sausages show up. Thai sausage featuring pork, lemongrass, red curry and green papaya is sprinkled with peanuts, and includes basil fried rice topped with a quail egg. The zesty flavors wash over my initial concern.
Tunissiene sausage combines lamb with mint, nestled on lemon braised spinach with chickpeas and dots of harissa. I find that it reads slightly better on the menu than on the plate. My fork keeps returning to the stronger flavors of the Thai sausage.
My husband declares fluke grenobloise a “showstopper.” Accented with cauliflower, grapes, and dandelion greens, the dish is a beauty. I don’t swoop in for a taste soon enough, and it disappears off the plate before I can say “save me some.” This serves as a ringing endorsement for the dish.
I have a hankering for fried chicken, which I have been daydreaming about all day. The DBGB version comes with collard greens, frite de grit (grits slow-cooked with chicken fat), a secret “DBQ” sauce, apple, and pickled quince. The coating on the chicken is extremely thick and crispy, and if the meat were a touch more juicy, this would be perfection. The accompaniments elevate the dish, and serve as a reminder that this isn’t your neighborhood diner.
I have been told not to miss the ice cream sundaes at DBGB, and I always do as I’m told when it comes to dessert. I dive deep into a pumpkin-cranberry sundae, and don’t really want to come up for air. This concoction of pumpkin ice cream, cranberry compote, graham cracker, orange marshmallow, and whipped cream is a sinfully sensational autumnal treat.
As DC’s restaurant scene continues to expand, we can experience food from new chefs, as well as from experienced chefs who are new to DC. We can venture into neighborhoods that are emerging as food destinations such as Bloomingdale and Petworth, and those that are reinventing themselves like City Center. While DBGB Kitchen and Bar doesn’t exactly expand our culinary borders, it helps create an inviting new dining destination in the center of town.
DBGB Kitchen and Bar, 931 H Street, NW, Washington, DC
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema: “DBGB Kitchen & Bar in DC: Dinner and an Evolving Show”
Washingtonian review by Todd Kliman
Washingtonian 100 Very Best Restaurants 2015, #82
My Related Reviews
New York’s Boulud Sud: Refined Reality