The Joyous, J-lo and I met for lunch at Vidalia at 20th & M Streets NW. I got there a little earlier than they did and as I was descending the stairs into this basement restaurant, I was greeted before my eyes adjusted to the light, so I have no idea who, out of five staff, said hello.
I checked my coat and was taken to my seat. I was a little excited when I was taken to a back dining area, as I was told when I made my reservation that we would be in the “wine bar” area and there might be smoking. Well, after ordering my beverage (Rosemary Lemonade), the head maitre de came by and apologized and said they should have waited for the other guy to get off the phone before sending the hostess with me to the seat…whatever, I didn’t care.
So now at my proper seat in the bar area (totally not smoky BTW, at least at that time), I was able to check out the menu. The left page was a full selection of wines…I was at work, on lunch, so no wine today…and for other reasons sadly. So I just went on with my lemonade and looked at what my restaurant week options were. Vidalia is nice enough to offer their full menu as a restaurant week special, for everyone. This was nice as those poor schlubs of us who are coming into the restaurant for the first time don’t have to timidly point out we’re on the cheap.
I decided on a Bibb lettuce salad with onion vinaigrette, capers, herbs and some aged/dried ham. It also came with egg, but I requested to not have that. I enjoyed the salad, but part of the herbs, well, most of the herbs were parsley and they did over power a few bites. Perhaps less parsley or chop it to let it integrate more. The vinaigrette was yummy…nice and tart. The ham reminded me much more of prosciutto than a country style ham…that was ok, I liked it.
For my entry I did the Pork Chop Cassoulette. It was a seared pork chop with a sauce of molasses and some rye whisky and maybe something else. YUM. It was a sizable chop, with a good portion that was very easy to get too, but there were also a few of the more unsavory parts of the meat-extra fat, tendons, etc, that had to be worked around. The chop rested on a bed of butter beans and sausage that had been cooked with some back fat! There was a lot of thyme in the beans that really jumped out at you. I liked them, but wouldn’t eat too many of them. There was also some sort of red saucy like stuff to one corner that I didn’t even see until the beans moved a bit. I didn’t like the looks of it, so I didn’t try it…It really seemed like it shouldn’t have been there…but who knows.
I also was wooed by the Cheddar Mac & Cheese with smoked ham. It was good, but I think mine is better. The ham was smoked too much and permeated too deeply into the rest of the dish. And the cheddar was extra sharp.
Dessert made me giggle and cry a little. I didn’t even realize my actions until the Joyous pointed them out. Sometimes simplistic things are the best! It was an apple pear crisp with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was warm, it was perfect. I almost licked the dish when I was done. The apples and pears were just cooked enough…a second longer and we probably would have had apple pear sauce. The crisp topping was delightful with the right amount of cinnamon and the vanilla ice cream was really spot on.
Over all I enjoyed my meal.
Joyous had a mixed green salad with goat cheese. Her entrée was shrimp and grits…some of the best grits I’ve ever had. And for the dessert, a lemon tart.
J-lo had a frissee salad with some ham and vinaigrette and something else. His entrée was trout and dessert was the chocolate cheesecake with cheeries.
I’ll let them leave some feedback on what they thought.
Lady Brandenburg just sent me a note from the Washington Post and I 100% agree:
WORTH THE TRIP
Wednesday, January 11, 2006; Page F05
PUMPKIN EMPANADA (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)
Restaurant-goers looking for cool and fine food regularly seek out Rice, the popular Thai restaurant near Logan Circle. Its unusual menu is rich with its own take on authentic Thai cuisine as well as unique dishes developed for 21st-century tastes. A customer favorite is the pumpkin empanada appetizer ($5) created by co-owners Sak Pollert and chef Phanarai Promprasert. Flaky pastry is wrapped around an Asian pumpkin filling and accompanied by a sweet vinegar dip. "It's sweeter and firmer than American pumpkin," says Pollert. "People really like it."
Rice, 1608 14th St. NW; 202-234-2400