There is nothing like a bright and shiny new toy. Even the simplest of toys can be fascinating at first. If there is not enough to sustain interest, however, it’s entirely likely to be tossed aside for the next new thing.
The restaurant scene in DC is currently exploding with new playthings. Le Diplomate, Ghibellina, and BToo all on 14th Street. Del Campo, Daikaya Izakaya, Red Hen, NoPa. The list goes on and on and many more are on the way.*
When contemplating where to make a dinner reservation to celebrate the birthdays of my husband and son, the options are overwhelming. It’s tempting to try something new. But in the end, we return to a place we know and love…Mintwood Place. There is something to be said for familiarity, particularly when our past experiences have been stellar.
Mintwood Place has had its share of acclaim since it opened in 2012. Chef Cedric Maupillier was named The People’s Best New Chef Mid Atlantic in Food and Wine and was a semi-finalist in this year’s James Beard Awards. The restaurant was also a semi-finalist for best new restaurant. Mintwood reviews are consistently glowing. Last year’s shining star is clearly still burning bright.
We begin our meal with cocktails. “Smokin’ on the Bayou” is a potent mix of Benevá Mezcal Añjeo, grapefruit juice, Jack Rudy tonic syrup, and Bitter Truth creole bitters. This goes nicely with deviled pickled eggs. Starters are easy picks for this primarily pescetarian group. Goat cheese & beet mountain pie (we have had this before and will probably order it on every visit to follow). To quote my initial post from last year: The crispy on the outside pie is filled with creamy goat cheese. I was expecting the beets to be inside but instead the pie rests atop sliced beets and lightly dressed butter lettuce. I like the texture and the slow ooze of the cheese as I bite into it.
Burrata, kale, hazelnut, apple, and tamarind seems like an intriguing if somewhat unlikely blend. That is until we take our first bites. The combination of tart and sweet with the bitter notes of kale is balanced and bright. It disappears off the plate far too soon.
My husband and I are acquainted with Chef Maupillier. After ordering appetizers, I take advantage of this – and the open kitchen – and ask Chef for main course recommendations. I’m vacillating between salmon and soft shell crab. Chef extols the virtues of the fresh salmon with chorizo sauce. I’m not sure if it’s the description or his heavy French accent that makes me swoon. Whatever. I am happy to put the decision-making in his hands.
The salmon is lightly smoked, and topped with spring peas, spinach, vidalia, and a heavenly chorizo sauce. It surpasses my expectations with lively and intense flavors.
I have just taken my first bite when a soft shell crab is delivered to the table, compliments of the chef. Oh my. The crab is lightly fried and nesting in a sauce of pickled beets, daikon radish, and cauliflower. The colors swirling on the plate are almost too beautiful to eat. Obviously I get over this.
The birthday boys are engrossed in their own fish dishes. My husband is enjoying seasonal shad filet and roe. The roe is tender, sweet, and salty with a beautiful texture. My son and his GFGF (gluten-free girlfriend) are sharing the salmon (sans chorizo) and Mintwood’s popular whole boneless royal dorade, with braised fennel, and picholine olive.
Do we have room for dessert? No. Does this stop us? No. We’re celebrating birthdays! Our sweet tooths are satisfied with baked Alaska, key lime pie, and brownie sundae. Key lime pie wins the vote for favorite, perhaps because it’s the most refreshing.
There is no end in sight to the new restaurants being added to DC’s culinary toy box. This means that area chefs and owners must be on the ball to stay competitive. Chef Maupillier says that he likes to keep his cooking simple, focusing on fresh ingredients. I don’t think the food at Mintwood Place is simple. In fact, Chef Maupillier’s gift is that he really knows how to play with his food.
Mintwood Place, 1813 Columbia Road, NW. Washington, DC
Washington Post review
Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants for 2013 review