Friday, March 5, 2010 at 10:57AM
*Post by Angela.
Last night was date night for me and Mark, so we planned a whole dinner/movie combo (Shutter Island, which was very good) and decided to check off one more of the restaurants from Washingtonian's 100 Best Restaurants list, Poste Moderne Brasserie. I'd previously been to the restaurant, which is set in the original 1841 General Post Office (adjacent to the Hotel Monaco, right by the Verizon Center), for drinks in the summer, but had never eaten there despite hearing numerous rave reviews. Poste is a beautiful space, and while there were some flaws in the service, the staff was absolutely on top of them, and made every effort to make amends. More importantly, while not all elements of the food quite lived up to expectations, we had a very nice, solidly executed and creative meal - I saw enough potential in what we ate that I'd be willing to come back for one of Chef Robert Weland's special offerings, like the Poste Roasts offered last summer, or his Market-to-Market dinners.
We walked into the crowded and noisy bar area around 7 pm, and I quickly remembered that Poste tends to be a sort of happy hour hot-spot. Luckily, our smiling hostess led us to a dining room located in a quieter area... where a huge party was immediately seated beside us. Given how busy the restaurant was, it was understandable that our otherwise very efficient, friendly, and knowledgable server seemed a little rushed. The meal started with three kinds of bread, a country bread, a classic dinner roll (topped with sea salt) and a rosemary biscuit. All three were solid, nothing outstanding, but I liked the rosemary biscuit the best, and probably would have liked it even more had it been served a little warmer.
I had fully intended to order the steak tartare on brioche, an appetizer recommended to me more than once, but Mark talked me out of it (he's not a fan of tartare generally), so we ordered the house-made charcuterie board, with a rabbit terrine, fennel salami, porchetta, and coppa (a.k.a. capicola), instead. It was very good relative to the charcuterie I've had other places, and it always impresses me when a restaurant prepares/cures /smokes its own meats, but I think the problem is that meat (and cheese!) boards are just not my cup of tea. That being said, the flavors in the rabbit terrine (hints of apple and bacon) were really nicely developed, and the salami and capicola were perfectly salty and fatty. Mark liked the porchetta, especially when eaten with the accompanying cornichons and whole grain mustard.
House-Made Charcuterie Board
We tend to get a little obsessed with certain types/styles of foods for short periods of time, and right now we are all about dishes topped with a slow-cooked or poached eggs. So naturally, we also ordered the Beluga lentil salad, with a slow-cooked duck egg, pork belly and crispy shallots. The pork belly was really, really incredible, just the way I always hope pork belly will be when I order it - salty, fatty, juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The slow-cooked duck egg was pretty flawlessly executed and seasoned as well. The white of the egg dissolved on my tongue with delicious eggy flavor, and I would have been absolutely satified with an appetizer of just the rich orange yolk and a couple of slices of bread to sop it up. But, as Mark astutely noted, the rich goodness of the yolk was also kind of one of the dishes missteps - not so much the yolk itself, but the fact that the flavor overpowered the lentils. I agreed that the lentils could have used a little more seasoning (as well as a little more cooking, as they were a bit firm for my tastes). I did love the crispy shallot topping, they were like the most delicate, airy little onion rings you ever tasted.
Beluga Lentil Salad
For our entrees, I got the special, a cassoulet with duck confit, heirloom white beans, crispy pig tail, lamb tongue, pork belly and sausage. When I saw this dish on the specials menu, my first thought was, "Whoa, that is a lot of meat." My next thought was, "That is a LOT of meat! I'm getting it." And I'm really glad I did. The different varieties of meats in the dish were all fantastically cooked in the deep brown, full-bodied sauce, each adding to the complex layers of flavor. Again, I think my favorite was the pork belly, but the salty, juicy confited duck leg was a close second. The gigantic heirloom white beans absorbed all of the savory tastes in the dish and provided an almost overwhelmingly filling element to the dish.
Cassoulet Of Duck Confit
Mark got the "crispy envelope of pig's trotter," with hen egg (again with the egg! We may need help), frisee, and whole grain mustard sauce. This dish struck me as very unique and creative - the meat was wrapped in a dough of some sort, which was then cooked until crispy. Mark liked the dish, and particularly enjoyed the mustard sauce. He also liked the accompanying vegetable (not the frisee) which had both savory and sweet notes, but we couldn't tell what it was.
Crispy Envelope of Pig's Trotter
Finally, we ordered Brussels sprouts with crispy tesa (kind of like bacon/pancetta), and hedgehog mushrooms as sort of an afterthought, but the side dish turned out to be the star of the meal - the sprouts were gorgeously caramelized yet still tender, and I loved the earthy, meaty flavor of the mushrooms.
Brussels Sprouts With Crispy Tesa And Hedge Hogs
I wanted to hold off on discussing the service issue until the end, because we weren't really that bothered by it, and the staff really made an effort to make it up to us. Here's the deal: Mark's entree arrived first, and the server (not our server) who set it down assured us that my dish was following right behind it. We then sat there for a couple minutes, until our server walked by, noticed that I didn't have my meal, and let out an audible, "Oh!" She then hurried away to the kitchen, and upon her return, sincerely apologized for the wait and advised that the cassoulet would be ready in a moment (Mark theorized that it was probably about to go out when someone noticed that something wasn't quite right with it). The dish arrived a few minutes later. Again, it was a little hiccup, and while Mark and I had both noted it, it wasn't about to taint our whole restaurant experience.
After our entrees had been cleared, we sat for about 10-15 minutes. While we had fully intended to order dessert (well, at least Mark had), we had also planned on catching an 8:45 movie, and the dinner had already run much longer than either of us had expected. I saw our server talking to the floor manager, and wondered if she had maybe forgotten about us. She came over soon afterwards with the dessert menus, and enthused about the chocolate bread pudding, which did sound really delicious. Unfortunately, she also advised us that it would take about 10 minutes to prepare, and we were already cutting it pretty close with the movie time. We decided to pass on dessert and just asked for the check, which seemed to catch her off guard. I then saw her speak to her manager again, at which point he walked over to our table, apologized once again for the delay on my entree and said that the charcuterie board we had ordered was on the house.
Mark and I both really appreciated how quickly and smoothly the staff at Poste identified the problem and took steps to make it right. And while we didn't love it, it was a very good meal (that I suspect may have been made even better if we had ordered different dishes) - I could probably be pretty easily convinced to give it another try.