Pennsylvania 6 Excels at Seafood
Pennsylvania 6, 1350 I St. NW in the former Tuscano West space across from Franklin Square, opened for dinner Nov. 20. They added lunch service in mid-December and will begin serving weekend brunch on Jan. 16.
The restaurant, designed by Maggie O’Neill of SwatchRoom, is a take on a modern day supper club and bistro incorporating the 1940s Hollywood glam. However, the large restaurant is mostly hard surfaces so the noise levels are high when it gets busy, even in the private rooms. Also, either O’Neill did a poor job with the lighting or they keep the lights too low, making it hard to read the small type on the menu. (I had to use my cellphone for light.)
The restaurant, from the people behind City Tap House in Penn Quarter and Pubic House and Harrington’s Pub & Kitchen in National Harbor, serves contemporary American cuisine. It even has a separate gluten-free menu with Udi buns and Glutino crackers. The one area it falls short on is vegetarian options, which are limited to a wild mushroom toastie sandwich, a few salads and a handful of appetizers meant to be shared. This is puzzling since the New York City and Philadelphia locations serve a vegetable hot pot entrée with yellow chickpeas, kale, butternut squash, baby turnips and coconut curry sauce as well as Vidalia onion soup, appetizers like warm leeks and baba ghanoush and a wider selection of pizza and flatbreads like tartufo with mushrooms and eggs, potato leek and honey-goat cheese. Maybe the vegetables missed the truck down I-95.
But I regress. Let’s get back to what IS on the menu. Pennsylvania 6 excels at seafood. One of the best dishes on both the lunch and dinner menus is the charred Spanish octopus with gigande beans, fennel, ‘nduja and salsa verde. Executive chef Marc Plessis marinates the octopus in white wine over night to make it tender. The crab croquettes with gribiche sauce and the Louisiana fried oysters with hot and source sauce and herb aioli are also excellent dishes.
The restaurant also has a large raw bar with east and west coast oysters, top neck clams, shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail, lobster and crudo. For entrees, it offers yellow fin tuna with Benton’s prosciutto, celeriac puree, spicy broccolini, and peppadew chimichurri; monkfish osso buco with maitake mushrooms, carrots, baby Tokyo turnips and truffle jus; scallops with black cardamom honey, puy lentils, apples, mustard greens, Meyer lemon and curry; and bucatini & clams with roasted garlic, palacios chorizo and black kale. Pennsylvania 6 also has an awesome lobster roll made with a full pound of poached lobster tail and claw meat, celery, green onions and mayonnaise on a buttered roll with duck fat fries. Unfortunately, when I had lunch there, it took three tries for them to send me an order of crispy fries. The first two were mushy, and I sent them back, although another person in our party got great fries the first try.
I’ve visited twice since the restaurant opened, both time for media dinners. Both times, we were served a large sampling of the individual appetizers as well as the shared ones to try. In addition to the seafood dishes mentioned above, the dry-aged beef carpaccio with shaved celery, violet mustard, crispy shallots and grana padano was very tasty as was the fresh ricotta with olive oil, black pepper and thyme served with grilled bread and an orange-fig jam. I wasn’t as keen for the foie gras mousse with apple cider gelee, red onion jam and pommery mustard or the wild burgundy snails with bone marrow butter, garlic, parsley, lemon, mushroom duxelles and grilled bread, but I don’t normally order either of those, so it was no surprise although others raved about the snails.
For dinner, I ordered the 14-ounce dry-aged N.Y. strip steak with bordelaise sauce, fried Brussels sprouts and wild mushrooms. The steak was average and cooked perfectly, but the fried Brussels sprouts were definitely the best item on my plate. They were crispy and salty – perfectly prepared. I would order them every visit.
When I returned for lunch, I had the strip steak sandwich with broccolini, agrodolce onions, fontina and truffle aioli on a hoagie roll with the aforementioned duck fat fries. While the sandwich was fine, I’d recommend the lobster roll instead. A surprisingly delicious dish is the Berkshire pork chop with mashed sweet potatoes, candied pecans, the fried Brussels sprouts and a bourbon lacquer. Jason from the DC Füd blog shared a bite of his, and it may have been THE best pork chop I’ve ever tasted. It was one of the best dishes of the day and is available on both the lunch and dinner menus.
For dessert, Plessis’ specialty is eclairs, which currently come in maple bacon with a maple-bourbon pastry cream, candied Benton’s bacon and a vanilla glaze; mocha praline with chocolate-coffee pastry cream, a praline glaze and roasted hazelnuts; and the lemon meringue with lemon curd pastry cream and burnt meringue. However, the only one I even remotely liked was the lemon meringue. A much better choice, and my favorite, was the bread & butter pudding. It is a bread pudding made with black currants and butterscotch topped with chocolate gelato. It was warm and buttery, and not overly sweet. The spiced apple cake, with butter-toffee pecans and caramel sauce topped with bourbon-vanilla gelato was a close second. There is also a trio of seasonal mini crème brulees. Currently the offering includes bourbon-vanilla, spiced pumpkin and dark chocolate-coffee. There is also a Bolivian chocolate terrine with caramelized bananas, peanut brittle, chocolate ganache sauce and espelette chili pepper if you like death by chocolate.
Overall, the restaurant is a good, but pricey, addition to the Franklin Square neighborhood. It stands to replace D.C. Coast, which closed on New Year’s Eve, as the place for power lunches for the K Street lobbyists and the staff of the Washington Post, who just moved into their new digs across the square from the restaurant. The kitchen still has some bumps to work out, especially the consistency of the duck fat fries and needs to step up the pace, since our lunch took about 45 minutes to be served when an unexpected group of 15 showed up for lunch.
Pennsylvania 6 is open from 11:30 .m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m-11 p.m. Friday and 5-11 p.m. Saturday. Brunch is scheduled to begin Jan. 16 along with Sunday hours.