January 11, 2023

When you discuss restaurants in DC, you don't hear about this one. Minibar, Inn at Little Washington, Jont - these are the stallwarts. I'm not sure why this flies so far under the radar. I haven't been to Jont (yet), but this place is better than the the other two. By a lot.

PNP (as it is referred to) was a typical fine-dining restaurant before the pandemic. 10-12 courses, formal, etc. COVID had them question "Why do we need to do that? Why can't fine dining be a party? Why can't we make this super fun?" So that's what they did.

With an early 80s nod to a Studio 54-ish party scene, they bill the night as "THIS IS A PARTY. Every night. You just happen to get an amazing meal while you are here." Dress code? Nope. But "if we did, it would be fancy. Something along the lines of emerald green tuxedo dinner jackets and gold sequin dresses (or your best New Year’s Eve outfit)."

You get the idea. They pull this brand off so well. Everything - from the space (see the first photo below), to the glass of champagne poured from a huge Magnum right when you arrive, to the servers who are actually wearing suede dinner jackets (with t-shirts underneath) and bedazzled shoes. This is a place that knows who they are an invite you to join in fully. 

From the playfully fun menu to the friendly, informal service - it all speaks the same thing. I sat at the bar up against the kitchen and was directed "to bother chef for the entire meal". Heck, the first bites are to eat with your hands behind your back! They go all in to assure that you understand that this experience is NOT traditional fine dining. And that it requires your participation.

It is supposedly a 4 course meal. They lie. It's a ton of food. Sure, I ordered both appetizers, but there was so much extra food and gifts and extras that I was at "hate myself" level full at the end of it. I didn't love every dish, but they were beautiful and so well conceived and executed. Really enjoyable. 

I also got the non-alcoholic pairing which was creative, versatile, varied and perfectly accompanied the dishes. Really impressive. Lots of thought went into that.

In addition to both appetizers (side note: I offered to pay for the extra, which I always do. They did indeed charge me for it. Not really a negative, but a missed opportunity to really show generosity, as The Inn At Little Washington had. Particularly at this price point.) That said, they gifted me the 2nd pasta dish "because you're a solo diner. And solo diner's are our favorite." Impressive sell.

Service was really outstanding. My two main servers were just SO good. Friendly, easy, fun, present. I can't say enough about them.

This should be your target if you come to DC. It's a special and unique place, and the food is at a super high level. I'll be back, without question.

The dining room. Completely on brand for a party.
The menu is a booklet with fun and interesting pages, including signature pages containing writings from previous diners.
This is a sample page. Interesting, fun and with a huge dose of tongue-in-cheek humor.
The woman next to me, who was finishing as I sat down, insisted that I get the "If a martini, an aviation and a bee's knees had a threesome'.
I obliged.
You choose one from each section. I insisted they bring me both appetizers (offering to pay for the extra one, which I did)
The dinner starts with yet another drink made with this contraption. Absinthe, apricot liqueur, champagne, sugar cube. (I was in trouble...)
The resulting drink. I opted for the non-alcoholic pairing, which began after this and was simply outstanding - every single one.
First bites - "Beggars' Purses". Instructed to eat them with hands behind your back, leaning over and grabbing each with your mouth. If they see you cheat, they'll come handcuff you. This was an homage to a restaurant in NYC called The Quilted Giraffe
Beet crepe, filled with red onion creme fresh, caviar and gold leaf. It was so delicious!
Saffron crepe. Same filling.
"Souffle of the Year". "Because this is definitely the best souffle you will taste this year (and likely next year as well)"...
Adding parsnips and stinky cheese. "Complete opposites sharing one little silver pot. A match made in heaven."...
The resulting dish, which was indeed the best souffle I've had. Flaky and fluffy just as a souffle should be, with delicious savory filling.
"Scachos." Surprise nachos. White bean, black mole and a 3rd (I forget). Take some and see what you get. It's a surprise.
Roast squab and boulangere. Served with caramalized figs and cocoa sauce. "A little bit old school. a little bit new school, and a whole lot of flavor." Really well done. I mean...
Just look at the cook on that squab breast! It's freaking perfect.
"Jasmine on jasmine"...
A cold tea presentation. Jasmine tea, foamed rice milk. Lemongrass and honey. PERFECT complement to the rich pastas. (Yes, I said pastas - plural.)
Shaving an absurd amount of truffle onto my gnocchi...
I don't like gnocchi. But was ordered to by that same woman who told me about the drink. Let's just say that I like gnocchi now. This dish was insane.
I had earlier mentioned to a chef (presenting a previous dish) that I struggled with choosing which pasta. She said "Let me let you in on a secret", leaned in and said "You're getting both." Which I did. Didn't love the agnolloti, but generous just the same.
"Eastern Shore Crab Feast". Crab Fritters, Maine bay scallops, razor clam sauce, potatoes with old bay. Those scallops were also cooked so perfectly. Really stunning cooking and a beautiful plate...
Adding the "mumbo sauce", which my friendly neighbor insisted she wanted to "bathe in".
The resulting dish. The sauce was a bit too spicy and balanced with a bit too much sweet for me. Didn't love this one.
Arpoisse ice cream (stinky French cheese) ice cream, espresso buckwheat crumble, local Grayson cheese fondue. Contrasting hot and cold (ice cream and the fondue, which was poured tableside.) This was delicious. Instructed to eat a few bites only...
They then came by and added Dom Perignon champagne to it. "This will completely change the flavors." And it did. Really inventive.
A selection of desserts awaited. I went with "Fall in a (very fancy) bowl"
A gin fizz. The full glass had something (the gin?) poured in at the end. I think it was supposed to be more dynamic an effect than actually happened.
"Fall in a (very fancy) bowl". A number of servers and chefs said this was by far their favorite. "Flan-ish" egg custard infused toasted pumpkin seed, orange gelee, ginger caramel, toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin sorbet, honey twille. So good. I couldn't finish it because I was so stuffed, though I really wanted to.
Warmed Truffle amaretto nightcap. Dude. Where has this been my entire life?? Yum!!
Taken to the front of the restaurant to serve yourself house made ice creams - pineapple (of course) and Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream. Man was that delicious!
One of the nicest take-away gifts I've seen. Just a beautiful box. I was told to refridgerate what was inside.
The box was so on brand. A party in a box, complete with a book of matches. (So 80s.)
You also received the menu, with a polaroid they take of you after you get your ice cream.
So what was in the box? This. Unwrapped like a pineapple...
It's a full on wagyu burger. Carmelized onions, bright pickles...this was a killer burger! (I had it for lunch a few days later.)


What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.

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