1789, it was the year of the French Revolution, the Rights of Man were finally surfacing and Napoleon was still a young, obscure Lieutenant in the shadows. On the other side of the pond George Washington was President of the United States and the venerable Georgetown University was first founded. Fast forward to 1960 when a Georgetown Alumnus, Richard McCooey, purchased a federal home dating from the 1800's in Washington, D.C's historic neighborhood of Georgetown and the upstairs evolved into Restaurant 1789. The classic French menu and equestrian decor soon became a favorite with well-heeled Washingtonians and so it still is...The majority of diners during my visit last October were celebrating a Graduation from nearby Georgetown University or a Wedding Anniversary and as far as I could tell, there were many beautiful memories being made that night.
Today, the Restaurant's culinary future rests in the capable hands of Chef Anthony Lombardo as it has since August 2011. I had a chance to talk to him over the course of my dinner a few weeks ago at 1789. What interests me in a culinary artist is not the ingredients, the techniques or any of the technical details of the craft. I want to know what drives the spirit of the Chef, what sparks the passion in a dish. After all, when we go to a restaurant we are looking for more than just food: we're looking to make memories and we want food to be transcendant, so that it's no longer a form of sustenance but a work of art.
I was impressed with Chef Lombardo's passion for creativity and even more so by the discipline and love that go into his Kitchen. I found Chef Lombardo to be charming, in love with his work and eager to share his raison d'etre with his customers, and it shows! Every bite was infused with classic craftsmanship, quality ingredients and...oh yes, love, that elusive ingredient that transports a dish to the next level of culinary excellence.
The standout dish of my meal was the Appetizer of Nantucket Bay Scallops with roasted Parsnip Puree, Kale & Oxtail Ragu. The fresh delicacy of the scallops was in stark but delicious contrast to the rich, onctuous oxtail ragu.
My main dish was the Icelandic Cod with braised red cabbage which was equally excellent although by this point I was quite full and therefore not able to enjoy it as fully as I should have.
Prepare to spend the entire evening at 1789, it's an experience. You will leave sated and deliciously full. Especially after the chocolate profiteroles pictured below. They come in a group of three, each with a divine ice cream filling.
Trendy, hip, molecular gastronomy this restaurant is not. But if you want the Classics, food that doesn't try to be cool for the sake of it, Limoges china instead of minimalist decor then 1789 is for you. Everything from the equestrian decor down to the plates is very much as President Washington might have approved of himself. Restaurant 1789 is like a beautiful Chateau...it harkens back to a bygone era, remains faithful to its heritage and in an age of constant fluctuatons it clings steadfastly to its traditions with aristocratic restraint.