We park our car on 8th Street SE a few doors down from Rose’s Luxury, and stroll down the street to dinner. My heart pounds wildly. My senses are primed for a great dinner. But we stroll past the crowded restaurant and head to another Barracks Row spot that’s getting positive reviews… The Garrison. It’s crowded here too, but the good news is we have reservations. And there’s something to be said for that, particularly since we’re here with two other couples. I just have to get over the feeling that I’m cheating on my true love.
The Garrison opened this past summer. Chef Rob Weland, previously at Poste Moderne Brasserie and Cork, puts the focus on seasonal American cuisine and the utilization of products from local farms. These days seasonal/local is more of an expectation than a unique identifier. So to stand out in a crowded field a chef has to demonstrate creativity and quality.
A good cocktail menu doesn’t hurt. Garrison’s allures with selections such as “Siamese Fireback” a concoction of tequila, cilantro, lime, and thai-bird chili. I’ve been on a kick of ordering fiery cocktails, and this one doesn’t disappoint.
Local radish with house made butter and sea salt is a simple start, but it’s a worthwhile warm-up. More interesting is arctic char tartare a bite-sized waffle cone filled with char and topped with American caviar and crème fraîche. Poppy seed gougères arrive warm and extra crispy, and are gobbled up in seconds.
The vegetables at Garrison have been garnering attention from the critics, so we hone in on our selections. A pleasing plate consists of grilled mushrooms, tossed into a mix of greens, sliced avocado, thyme, and just the right touch of sliced jalapeno.
Roasted cauliflower appears pedestrian with a sprinkling of pinenuts and parmesan, but an addition of pickled vegetables and a surprising punch of heat makes the dish memorable.
Fennel gratin is a soothing ode to autumn, but my favorite of the Garrison vegetables is layered smoky eggplant terrine with a savory romesco sauce and garlic chips.
While the regard for vegetables at Garrison is admirable, I’m partial to delicate sweet corn tortellini with stracchino cheese and chives. It’s not the most generous portion in town- in size or price ($23)- but it’s simply irresistible. You probably don’t want to share.
The moist herb crusted hake is enriched by a zesty whole grain mustard sauce. It’s not the most attractive dish, but it definitely has personality.
We indulge in a duo of inventive desserts including pear and concord grape cobbler with crème fraîche ice cream, and warm date pudding with prune and armagnac ice cream.
I mull the potential for future dates. I can’t say that my heart’s aflutter. But still there’s a genuine appeal to Garrison, and it’s enough to turn my head in a surprising new direction.
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema: “Garrison review: A chef finds his place — and his groove– on Barracks Row”
Washingtonian review by Todd Kliman
Garrison, 824 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC