Thursday night I ventured into the heart of the city for dinner at Occidental with my friends Alex and Bridget. Restaurant Week sadly just ended here in D.C. for most restaurants (here’s a list of those still going, and it just started in NYC!), but it fortunately gave me the perfect excuse to eat at a restaurant where I normally could not have three courses for under thirty five bucks.
Occidental is a true D.C. spot. Featuring painted portraits of recent presidents at the entrance and adorned wall-to-wall with old, signed portraits of celebrities and patrons, its 100-year-plus history shows in design, but not on the menu.
We sat down in a cozy booth near the bar and ordered a bottle of their Restaurant Week Malbec to start at $35 for the bottle; you have to love a restaurant that also gives drink specials during this magical week! I quickly realized that my camera was about to die so Bridget let me use her camera to take photos throughout the night, thanks Bridget!
The restaurant week menu offered an excellent array of flavors– some Asian, some Italian, some American, etc.– and was a great showcase of the restaurant’s talents. Where some Restaurant Week menus will list only chicken and salmon (I know you know what I’m talking about), I started my dinner off at Occidental with Braised Pork Belly and Kandied Kumquats.
This was my first time trying pork belly and it was fantastic. The dish literally melted in my mouth, the kumquats were not too overpowering and the beech mushrooms served as a nice balance for all of that melty sweetness. Alex and Bridget chose the Roasted Sea Scallops with Squash Puree, which was also excellent and very fresh.
For her main course Bridget ordered the Grilled Stuffed Quail with Fig Jam. I was going to order this, but anything that involves fig jam is automatically loved by my palate, so I opted for something different. I did try a bit of hers it was very tender and delicious.
Alex and I both ordered the Grilled Bison Hanger Steak with Beet Coulis. Looking at the photo below you see a lot of red going on, but trust me the flavors were very versatile. The beets coulis was mellow against a sprinkling of sour red currants, a sweet blood orange reduction and a salty leek and artichoke ragout, which I dutifully swooped up with each bite of steak. Of course the steak itself was delicious and I did enjoy the blood orange with it.
For dessert Bridget and Alex both ordered the Apple Strudel with Buttermilk Ice Cream. Whoever designed this dessert did not take advantage of those little apple slices because you could taste them on their own despite the somewhat bold star anise reduction surrounding the pastry.
I was craving chocolate to go with those last sips of my Malbec so I ordered the Chocolate Roulade and was sadly not impressed. The cake was very dry, and even the macerated cherries on top of it could not bring it back to life.
Overall, I had a great dinner with great friends and I’m not the type of person to let one dish ruin an entire dining experience. Anyway, the cherries did go nicely with the wine! Also, we befriended the Maitre d’, Raasikh Muhammad, on the way out and he has promised to find my friends and I each a job in our respective fields. Now that I’ve put it in writing I hope he comes through with that promise. If not I’m coming back for apple strudel on Raasikh.