Friday, February 27, 2009


[Ed. note: A shorter version of this review appears on Wonkabout, where I am doing a weekly brunch post.]

Residing in a former nineteenth century post office, Poste, an aptly named New American brasserie serves up inventive, though ultimately middling brunch. The pleasant decor features high ceilings, skylights, and simple but elegant tables, contrasted against the exposed original outside walls of the old post office. Like some other upscale brunches in this city such as Brunch DC favorite Tabard Inn, Poste features truly excellent homemade doughnuts. One order features doughnuts filled with the assorted flavors of chocolate ganache, lemon curd, and fig compote, alongside a warm chocolate sauce. The crispy outside is dusted in sugar and gives way to a soft and light interior with decadent flavors. Unlike the brunch at Tabard Inn, however, the rest of the dishes at Poste's do not stack up to its doughnuts.

Poste's take on Eggs Benedict, Eggs Hussarde -- poached eggs in hollowed potatoes with bacon served with merchand de vin sauce (a rich butter/wine sauce) below the eggs and hollandaise above. This was an interesting combination (though not exactly unique, even Emeril makes it). The eggs were unfortunately inconsistently prepared -- some were overcooked, despite what should have been an unnecessary request to the waiter that the yolks be runny. Further, the attempted separation of the sauces fails once you attempt to cut into the dish, which results in an odd hollandaise-merchand de vin mix that was rich but not entirely enjoyable.

Another interesting dish was their scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, and caviar. The eggs were soft and the salmon was nice and mild. This was a good dish when placed on top of their toasted baguette accompaniments but by itself it was just a little bit too many soft things together. When the crème fraiche was mixed into the eggs, it resulted in a consistency that can only be described as "mushy."

The French toast was prepared from large slices of fairly ordinary brioche. It was tasty but there was nothing particularly special about this dish, and you can get better (and cheaper) French toast elsewhere, such as at La Fourchette. The Croque Madame was also a good dish, though nothing spectacular. It's esentially a French ham and cheese sandwich with mornay sauce, a sunny side up egg, and fries. This filling dish is a decent choice but it's also nothing special and certainly doesn't warrant its $15 price tag.

Finally, Poste offers a variety of fresh, though expensive ($11), brunch cocktails. We tried the "Poste Mary," which had an interesting orange color. While it tasted fresh and was obviously made in house, it was conspicuously lacking in heat, which was a big disappointment. It was refreshing though.

The service was very accomodating. If only their entrees were as good as their doughnuts.

Contact information after the jump. Continue reading.

555 8th Street, NW
Washington DC 20004
(202) 202-783-6060

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bar Pilar

Bar Pilar is a small Ernest Hemingway-inspired bar between Logan Circle and U St, owned by the same people who own the popular cafe/dance club Cafe St. Ex. "El Pilar" was, as devoted Hemingway aficionados such as me know, the name of Hemingway's fishing boat that he kept at his home in Cuba. Naturally the place contains a photo of a fishing boat. While Bar Pilar is mostly known for its inventive drinks and small sharable plates for dinner, where the same bartender who served you and your drunken friends a G&T at St. Ex the weekend before might be here serving you a small plate of pork loin with red cabbage slaw or blanched radishes with Amish country butter. For brunch, however, Bar Pilar still has some kinks to work out.

Unlike its dinner menu, its brunch menu does not feature small plates. Its menu is notable for including "Bulls-eye Toast" also known affectionately as "egg in a hole" and at least a dozen other names including my personal favorite "yolky pokey." This dish consists of a fried egg within the hole of a (thick) slice of bread. The result is an egg and bread combination with the yolk protruding from a hole in the center of the slice. If done well, this is excellent comfort food. Unfortunately, it was inconsistently prepared at Bar Pilar. Half of the eggs were overcooked, which cannot happen for this dish to be successful. The other dishes were also fairly mediocre.

The chocolate chip pancakes with walnut butter was an interesting idea but was dry and did not come with maple syrup. In fact, Bar Pilar would not provide us with syrup when asked -- a seemingly bizarre concept since they are serving pancakes. The eggs benedict were decent albeit a little salty. The bloody mary was well-garnished with a lime and three olives, but it could have used a little more kick.

The service was also spotty. Our dishes came out at different times. The waiter claimed that the kitchen is not used to making sure that each table has all of its food at one time because the kitchen is more used to making the dinner's small plates which they evidently just churn out and leave them under a heat lamp until they are ordered. That was an odd admission and should certainly be remedied for their brunch service to be put on the path to success.

Contact information after the jump. Continue reading.

Bar Pilar
1833 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 265-1751

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Beyond the Beltway: Barney Greengrass

Update: For an updated review see New York Food Journal.

On a recent trip back north, I headed to my local 100-year-old culinary institution: Barney Greengrass. Barney Greengrass, a.k.a. the "Sturgeon King," is a Jewish deli, breadshop, fish shop, and restaurant. Unsurprisingly from their self-selected nickname, and my admitted bias for smoked fish, I was inclined to make a recent appearance. Barney's is known for incredible house-smoked fish, slightly spendy prices, extremely gruff employees and wait staff, and delicious bialys. (My understanding is that they serve H&H bagels. I do not know where they get their bialys from. They taste different/better than Kossar's or Bell's, the two major NYC bialy powerhouses. One of life's great mysteries)

Barney's is both a store and a restaurant -- with many of the tables for the "restaurant" situated in the portion of the establishment ostensibly devoted to the store. Predictably, you don't want to sit there. The back room is solely devoted to the restaurant. On this most recent visit, I was there with two out of town friends. Naturally our waiter picked up on this and treated us with an appropriate level of gruffness. He also tempted us with some excellent looking latkes by repeatedly bringing over a plate to our table, but we were unmoved.

The best dishes at Barney's naturally involve some combination of bialys and smoked fish. Past favorites include their Eggs Leo - Nova Scotia Salmon scrambled with eggs and onions. On this occassion, we had their gravlax, white fish salad, and a pastrami omelet. The gravlax and white fish were predictably superb; the white fish was well-suited as a schmear for the bialy. The gravlax was a similarly good complement -- the salt-cured fish had a tender and smooth texture. The eggs were also nicely done, but obviously they were not the main attraction. The pastrami omelet got mixed reviews. It is served open-faced. The pastrami itself was crispy and delicious but the omelet had an enormous amount of oily cheese, which was excessive.

Overall, it remains a staple on the NYC brunch scene. Be sure to pick up some bialys for the road on your way out.

Contact information after the jump. Continue Reading

Barney Greengrass
541 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10024
(212) 724-4707

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brunch-Hating Reporter at Washington City Paper

I have just become aware of this brunch-hating screed published in the Washington City Paper this past October. City Desk reporter Jule Banville complains that she doesn't like brunch because she doesn't want to get dressed in the morning to "sit for hours over breakfast." The other main points of her diatribe are:

(1) She doesn't want to go outside with a "put-together outfit" as is supposedly required.

(2) She doesn't want to be tempted to drink "eight cups of coffee just because it’s there."

(3) She doesn't want to "listen to you and people I don’t know gab on about politics because it bores me."

(4) She doesn't want to "pay $20 for pancakes."

(5) She'd "prefer not to drink Champagne unless someone I know is celebrating something more significant than eggs"; as for bloody marys, they are "gross."

Finally, Jule concludes that "I must admit I don’t get brunch."

Well you know what, Jule, brunch doesn't get you either. First of all, it's D.C. not New York. You don't need to "shower" and put on a nice outfit to go out to brunch in this city (though it is preferable.) Nonetheless that complaint makes it seems like you just don't want to leave your house, it has nothing to do with brunch. You don't want to drink eight cups of coffee because they keep refilling your cup, and then be jittery? Amazingly there is an easy solution to that. Don't order coffee! Incredibly you also complain about listening to people in Washington, D.C. talking about politics. Again, nothing to do with brunch. That is all people in Washington talk about. Don't like politics, don't live in D.C. Sure, this supposedly $20 pancakes is probably a rip off. Order something else. There are plenty of reasonably priced and excellent brunch places. Like my top brunch list and brunch awards. Can't help you if you don't like mimosas or bloody marys. Obviously you've never taken advantage of their hangover-curing properties and, of course, their inherent deliciousness.

Though at the end of the diatribe, Jule finally reveals her true reason for hating brunch. Her "go-to is The Diner" in Adams Morgan but she can't get a table because it's too crowded. As I've repeatedly maintained, the Diner doesn't have very good food. Obviously her brunch tastes aren't up to par. Go somewhere else in Adams Morgan like the excellent La Fourchette, Bourbon, or L'Enfant.

D.C. Brunch Culture: It Sucks [Washington City Paper].