Food & Wine
Washington D.C. Is not just for politics: A review of Jardenea at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel
If the mere mentioning of our nation’s capital automatically brings up images of the Lincoln memorial and the White House, think again, because these days Washington DC has one of the hottest food scenes in the country. With places like Rose’s Luxury and Jaleo drawing the kind of hip foodies who are willing to wait hours for a meal, it’s no surprise that chefs are seriously stepping up their game.
The food scene is so strong in fact, that one hotel restaurant doesn’t even have a sign to lure diners in. And why would it? With food this good, advertising is unnecessary.
The restaurant in question is Jardenea, located inside the Georgetown Hotel, a classic and unassuming D.C. hotel where politicians, diplomats, and tourists all feel equally at home. Since its rebranding in January of 2016 Chef Nelson Erazo has been creating the kind of dishes that everyone wish they could eat multiple times a week – hearty, locally sourced, thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable. The menu is seasonally inspired but a few well-received classics always find themselves anchoring the new additions. Oh and the cocktail menu definitely holds its own with thoughtful updates on classics and a few unexpected ingredients.
Each meal at Jardenea starts with an assortment of warm breads and accompaniments such as sweet butter from Vermont and an exquisite sun-dried tomato and kalamata olive tapenade. If the lighting at a restaurant is the first step to setting the ambiance, I would argue that the thoughtfulness behind the bread basket is the first step to setting a diner’s expectations about the meal ahead, and the expectations at Jardenea were set very high. The meal that followed did not disappoint. We started our meal with crab cake made with flavorful chunks of crab meat, sweet fresh corn, red pepper and green pea sacoutash, and a delightful beet and whipped goat cheese salad that uses local Maryland goat cheese from Cherry Glen farms between stacked layers of thinly shaved beets, accompanied by arugula in a honey vinaigrette dressing and marcona almonds.
The restaurant really shines and comes into its own with its main course offerings which could not come at a better time because what could be better on a cold evening than smoked duck served atop slow cooked beans flavored with smoky bacon, or a filet of sea bass with blue grits. As a perennial favorite, the sea bass finds itself on every iteration of the menu, and it’s easy to see why. Perfectly cooked fish, beure Blanca sauce, and blue grits cooked with cream and butter that give a wonderful texture and weight to the dish. Another star on the menu managed to completely convert my Brussels sprouts-hating husband, with sprouts that are so crisp yet tender, that from now on all Brussels sprouts dishes are measured against those at Jardenea.
After leaving the restaurant, the words of Joe, our waiter kept resonating with me, “people come back here because nothing beats great food and comfortable ambiance.”
All photography by Sergey Mekhtiyev