Reverie: Dreams Come True

It is my nine-year blogiversary this month.  It is mind-blowing, surreal, and to me even laughable that I have sustained Been There, Eaten That for this long.  Dining out as my preferred form of entertainment has been a thing for most of my life.  But how does one turn a passion into a blog? Looking back, I’m not sure how I started.  I was at a computer and next thing I knew poof…I had a restaurant review blog.

Through the years I have experienced pure joy through food.  I’ve met amazing people who are part of DC’s vibrant food community.  I have also been plagued with serious FOMO and anxiety.  And, I’ve watched in fascination as the rise of the Instagram influencer begins to make blogs somewhat obsolete.  

Still I forge ahead. My goal is to post once a week.  I’ve slacked off in the last year or so, admittedly succumbing to Instagram where it’s so much more expedient to share a few photos, some brief thoughts, and move on. Yet I’m dedicated to maintaining a blog where I can tell a story and ramble on if I’m so inclined.  To those of you who have followed my journey, thank you.  If you are a new reader, I hope you’ll return. Every time I’ve considered giving this hobby a rest, something propels me forward.  So here goes.  Another restaurant.  Another blog post.

Reverie (opened October 2018) Chef/Owner: Johnny Spero

The first food-related interview I conducted was with Johnny Spero, when he was executive chef of Suna on Capitol Hill. I was a fan of Suna and the 27-year old talent in the kitchen.  Sadly, the restaurant closed after just four months. I reconnected with Spero later, reveling in his cooking at Minibar and Columbia Room.  I was delighted when he opened Reverie in Georgetown.  It was time for the chef to take center stage at his own restaurant.

Reverie Chef/Owner Johnny Spero
Reverie Chef/Owner Johnny Spero

Reverie is clearly Chef Johnny Spero’s dream come true. It gives him a platform to play and showcase unexpected ingredient pairings alongside upscale takes on fast food burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. You can dine at Reverie for a special occasion meal with Nordic and Japanese accents, and return soon after for a quick bite and a scintillating cocktail like “It Takes Two to Mango” with mezcal, mango, and espelette.

If its action you seek, sit at the counter.  It’s a treat to be an eyewitness to Spero and the team as they apply an intense focus to their creations.

The Danish-inspired décor at Reverie has a minimalist, modern appeal, which makes a fine background for the dramatically plated dishes.  The tables are spaced widely apart, which facilitates conversation, even when there’s a crowd.

Reverie counter
Reverie counter

I can’t resist the burger on my first visit to Reverie.  Who doesn’t want Spero’s take on “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, picklesonions – on a sesame seed bun?”  Miso-marinated pickles, patties constructed from dry-aged ribeye, the fluffiest of buns, smoked cheddar and Spero’s own special sauce makes this a destination burger. Eater DC recently included it on its list of 15 Essential Burgers.

Reverie burger
Reverie burger

Matcha the burger up with something more exotic like a stunning plate of thinly sliced mango spiced up to the hilt with espelette pepper, pistachio, and lime or imaginative kanpachi with green tomato, habanero, and matcha and you have yourself a pretty special feast with an array of complex flavors that surprise and delight.

Reverie mango with espelette pepper
Reverie mango with espelette pepper

Pickled Asparagus. Potato/Idiazabal and Truffle Cheese/Uni. This dish is an apparition. A grey blob really with dark speckles and textural wisps of potatoes, the asparagus is hidden under a thick cloud of gooey cheese. Interesting to be sure. Memorable for being quirky. It’s not currently on the menu. But it’s an example of how the chef tinkers with ideas. Sometimes a dish sticks around, other times its replaced by another concept.

Reverie pickled asparagus
Reverie pickled asparagus

My fascination with Reverie’s duck begins on my first visit, when I witness its assemblage and catch a whiff of its licorice scent. It’s a craving that intensifies as I stumble upon photos on Instagram. The $115 dish is designed for three to four people, so I need dining companions and a plan.

It takes me six months before I finally return to Reverie, ready to get ducked up. I sip my cocktail, delight in some starters, and catch up with my friends. And then it arrives, a platter of sliced roasted duck, splayed out to showcase the perfection of its pink insides and perfect outer crust which is dusted with fennel pollen. Beet-licorice juice provides a pungent finish. Duck liver and a savory serving of duck confit completes the dish. 

Chef Spero has created a seductive duck dish. I can almost recreate the taste memory as I peer dreamily into the photo.

Reverie duck
Reverie duck

Desserts at Reverie twist savory into sweet. An early offering was granita lovage (which is a plant). I wasn’t a big fan of the vegetable-forward dessert. Now appearing on the menu are two concoctions I can get stirred up about. Birch ice cream (in the foreground) with Spruce/Root Beer/Charcoal is quirky to be sure. My first taste gives me pause, but the dessert gains traction with every smoky, herbaceous bite. I also love the effervescence of Cherry with Granita/Marshmallow/Berries.

Reverie desserts
Reverie desserts

Reverie offers a tasting menu- a 5-course meal for $95 that I’m yearning to check out. Also popular are Spero’s collaborations with high profile guest chefs both local and national. Tickets sell quickly so you must act fast. I was dismayed to miss a dinner with Chef Jeremiah Stone from Contra in New York. Stay tuned by following @reverie_restaurant on Instagram.

Dreams do come true. Mine include sustaining a blog where I can write about DC restaurants in my spare time. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate nine years of doing so than writing about Chef Johnny Spero’s own Reverie.

Reverie, 3201 Cherry Hill Lane NW
Washington, DC

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