I am not a fan of pubs or pub food, which explains why McGinty’s Public House in Silver Spring has never been on my radar. I initially overlook an invitation to try out The Room at McGinty’s. But there is a link to a new menu and concept, and I’m intrigued. The Irish pub has dedicated some of its space to create a restaurant within a restaurant, and there’s a an eye-popping list of dishes that I can see myself sinking my teeth into.
Executive Chef Nico Amroune has an interesting resume. He got his start working for the well-known DC chef Roberto Donna. He’s worked at Tosca and Teatro Goldolini (closed). Despite the fact that he hails from the Mediterranean, Amroune has been cooking classic Irish food at McGinty’s since 2011. Now he’s stepping outside the box to prepare innovative dishes inside the busy pub, which to my surprise offers far more creative cuisine than the standard fish and chips or corned beef and cabbage.
I admire the owners of McGinty’s for giving Chef Amroune the chance to scale new heights. The upstairs Room gives him a forum to display the full range of his talents.
A craft cocktail menu is an important first step in creating buzz. You can do that literally with Blueberry Buzz, a stirring blend of Stoli blueberi, lime, grenadine, ginger beer, and Creme De Menthe float.
Our dinner is a five course tasting menu, but the menu is normally a la carte. Starters range from $8 to $14, with mains from $16 to $32.
Chilled spring gazpacho is a pleasant puree of vegetables, topped with black brioche croutons. A wedge of grapefruit adds panache. This is one of a few dishes we sample that doesn’t appear on the current menu. I’m hoping some accolades will change that.
Veal tonnato with caper berries, lime segments, and olive croutons has a salty undertone, but its also well-balanced and luxurious. It’s featured on the menu as an appetizer, but could hold its own as a main dish.
Savory lemon-asparagus panna cotta exhibits the chef’s knack for creative preparation, and his love of citrus fruit as accents.
Lobster ravioli with romesco sauce and fried leeks is a standout seductive dish, which deserves a spot on the current menu. If it appears, snap it up while you can.
Venison loin with leeks, red cabbage and brandied sour cherries doesn’t quite hold up to the other dishes. I find the cherries overwhelming, and the venison a little too gamey for my taste.
The chef makes his own desserts. Maple budino with orange sherbet and praline flakes is an impressive and uplifting finale.
McGinty’s hasn’t sunk a ton of money into redecorating The Room. It feels like the upstairs pub that it is. But don’t let that fool you. The food is definitely a step up.
The Room at McGinty’s, 911 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring, MD