Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lunch at Kinkead's

We wait for it excitedly and it comes twice a year. That's right; it's DC Winter Restaurant Week, the only time when a three course lunch at a well-reviewed restaurant is only $20.11.

This year, we decided to eat at Kinkead's. Kinkead's is described, on its website, as an "upscale brasserie-style restaurant specializing in fresh seafood." It's located in the Foggy Bottom area, close to George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.

Our reservation at Kinkead's was for 12:15pm, and we got there on time. After we told the hostess about our reservation, we were told to go upstairs, where another hostess was present to seat us. We walked past the open kitchen (which is right by the stairs) and then were seated in a large booth.

We ordered fairly quickly, and then while we waited for our food, we examined the bread basket. There were three different types of bread. First, we tried the corn bread. It was a little spicy and a little sweet, perfectly moist while retaining that perfect crumbly texture one associates with cornbread. Then we tried the Irish soda bread, which was studded with raisins and fennel. It was cake-y and lightly sweet. The country bread had a thick crust and was pleasantly warm. There was also whipped unsalted butter on the table to accompany the bread. My favorite was the cornbread, by far.

It wasn't long before our appetizers arrived.

My mom ordered the roasted Bosc pear filled with Gorgonzola cheese, with endive and radicchio salad. It was an elegant dish, and, as my dad said, cannot be judged against meat. The roasted pear was sweet and delicate and provided a nice contrast to the rich and bold cheese. The endive and radicchio had a nice sharpness to them, and the toasted walnuts added texture and an earthiness to the already beautiful dish. We deemed it a solid 9 out of 10.

For my appetizer, I ordered the Grilled Squid with Creamy Polenta and Tomato Fondue. This appetizer was the first time that I've ever been surprised by the small size of a dish at a restaurant. The portion was significantly smaller than either of my parents' dishes, but once I tasted it, I could see why. The grilled squid was just perfectly cooked so that it was tender and moist, not at all chewy. It didn't have any of the smokiness that I associated with grilled foods, but I loved the way the squid just melted in my mouth. The polenta was indeed very creamy and smooth, and felt like the perfect comfort food for a cold winter day, without being too rich. The broiled basil and pinenuts atop the squid provided a crunchy texture, and the tomato fondue added some brightness and acidity. I found myself amazed that the natural sweetness and flavor of the squid was still able to stand up to the bold cooking. I liked that the kitchen was not afraid to make a complex dish, and trusted that their star product, in this case the squid, would shine. A very solid 9.5 out of 10.

For his appetizer, my dad ordered the Housemade Bratwurst with Apple Celery Salad and Sauerkraut Strudel. The bratwurst was spicy, meaty, and smooth. I really enjoyed the full taste of the perfectly seasoned meat. The sauerkraut pastry was a little salty, but made up for it by being flaky, smooth, and rich; a very creative use of sauerkraut, which really did not taste sour at all. My dad really liked the pickled zucchini that accompanied the dish, but I was unimpressed. The cooking was bold, and the flavors were strong, but for some reason I just didn't find this dish that amazing. I thought it was an 8 out of 10, but my parents loved it, and deemed it a 9 out of 10.

For my entree, I ordered the Grilled Mahi Mahi on a Chick Pea Cake with a Blood Orange, Currant and Pine Nut Relish. I actually am not a huge fan of mahi mahi as a fish--I find it often to be too meaty and dry for me--but I liked the sound of the dish, so I put my faith in the kitchen. The Mahi Mahi was, as it generally is, meaty, but it was also flaky and moist. The chick pea cake was very interesting and perfectly seasoned. I loved the texture and the starchiness of it. The taste was original and the idea of making a chick pea cake was fairly creative. The relish was sour and refreshing, as were the orange segments. The dish was very complex in terms of flavor, and the tastes were elegantly layered, but not in a chaotic way. Everything melded together very well, and we felt it was a very solid 9.5 out of 10.

My mom ordered the Brioche Crusted Cod with Bouillabaisse Style Sauce, Croutons and Pickled Fennel. The cod was perfectly cooked, and was moist and delicate. The sauce delicious, truly a discovery. The fennel was slightly sour, providing a nice balance to the richness of the sauce, and the spinach was fresh, lightly blanched, and full of flavor. All in all, it was a perfectly executed dish. 9.5 out of 10.

My dad ordered the Sesame Crusted Skate with Peanut Noodles and Fermented Black Bean Sauce. The sesame crust was crunchy and fragrant, and the skate was perfectly cooked. The dish was clearly an Asian fusion type of dish, and while it was very bold, it was beautifully done and despite the strong flavors of the sesame, peanut, and black bean, the skate still managed to be the star. This dish proved that Kinkead's strength is seafood; few kitchens could be so bold and not overwhelm their fish. A 9 out of 10.

For dessert, my mom ordered the Pistachio Creme Brulee with Pistachio biscotti. To our great disappointment, the dessert was tepid and shy. The flavors were not at all the bold flavors that we had been exposed that entire meal; the creme brulee lacked the intense flavor of pistachio that we were looking for. Additionally, the creme brulee should have been served cold. Instead, it was served at room temperature, and honestly, the only word I want to use to describe this is "okay." I wouldn't order it again and I wouldn't recommend it.

For my dessert, I ordered the Warm Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel Ice Cream. While this sounded good, I was prepared for a disappointment. Chocolate cake desserts never tend to be as good as they sound; they are often too sweet or too heavy and their taste becomes altogether tiring after a few bites. But this dessert was not like that. It was intense and rich, yes, but it was made with dark chocolate, and thus the sweetness was perfectly balanced by the full flavor of the chocolate itself. The slightly crispy exterior (like the edges of a good cookie) gave way to a molted and melt-y interior. I loved it. I did not taste "underdone" as some [poorly made] molted chocolate cakes can taste, and it was not overwhelmingly "fudge-y." As for the ice cream, my expectations were also exceeded. It truly was caramel in ice cream form; it had a very strong "burnt sugar" (aka caramel) flavor to the ice cream and was just enough sweet, without being cloyingly so. I knew there was a healthy amount of salt in the ice cream to round out the flavors, because it all tasted perfectly balanced. Simple sounding desserts are often the most difficult to execute, but this one was a success. 9 out of 10.

For his dessert, my dad ordered the Local Apple Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream (we started to dig in before I took the picture above). There isn't much to say about this dessert. The apple cobbler was served slightly warm, had a nice top crust, a healthy amount of apples, and wasn't too sweet. It was a classic, done well, but nothing to write home about. 8.5 out of 10 (only because I have to penalize the lack of creativity a little bit).

Throughout the meal, our service was very polite, but also rather distant. The servers never lingered, never reached out, never did more than exactly what they were supposed to do. They were cordial and they did their job, and that was it. I felt like our waiter never truly smiled at us and that he honestly did not care that we were there. It was shockingly impersonal. I haven't been to a restaurant like that in a while. There was nothing wrong with our service, it was just I almost felt like we were unwanted and a bother somehow. It put a slightly blight upon the dining experience, but it was nothing huge.

Overall, it was a lovely meal for about twenty dollars per person, with a surprisingly large selection for each course. Kinkead's would be a place to return to for a nice lunch, and is certainly in a great location for planning a day of exploring the city.

2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel. 202.296.7700
Overall rating for the price: 8.5 out of 10

1 comment:

  1. I deem the $20 lunch at Kinkead's better than the $25 lunch at Volt. In fact, even if they cost the same, I find the Kinkead's lunch better than the one at Volt. I guess I like expertly cooked fish.