Jardenea Offers Fine Farm-to-Fork Dining
Jardenea restaurant, 2430 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Foggy Bottom, isn’t easy to find. Despite being located inside the Melrose Georgetown Hotel, there is no sign alerting passersby to its existence. Inside the hotel, it is hidden in a back corner of the lobby, again with no sign. Therefore, it is mostly a dining destination for hotel guests or in-the-know theater goers headed to the Kennedy Center.
Its relative unknown can be a good thing, however, if you are looking for an intimate, quiet spot to dine with family or friends. In fact, it would be the perfect spot for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, and the restaurant is offering a special Valentine’s menu featuring seared Hudson Valley foie gras, broiled Blue Point oysters, cherry wood-smoked venison, sorbet and espresso panna cotta for $85 per person with a wine pairing available for an additional $30.
The space is clean, crisp and airy, decorated in shades of whites and blues with ceramic and mirrored accents, and Victorian furniture. The lobby lounge is filled with tufted couches, books and two communal tables for after work happy hour. The main dining room is separated with framed, hanging glass etched with chandeliers. Tables are decorated with centerpieces of potted herbs.
Executive chef Nelson Erazo’s menu features an American farm-to-fork cuisine. The restaurant gets as much of its food as possible from local farms, purveyors and artisans. The menu is seasonally driven with a few mainstays available year-round. The menu also includes dishes that are gluten free or an be prepared vegetarian.
During a visit near the new year, a friend and I checked out the winter menu. We started with a few of the small plates Erazo sent out for us to share include the late harvest Brussels sprouts with soft Chevre crumble and truffle essence; a duck confit tartlet with fresh chives, forage mushroom duxelle, vol au vent and duck fat hollandaise; and a Maryland crab cake that was filled with big pieces of crab meat and served on top of the best apple cider braised collard greens that I had ever tasted along with Appalachian corn, roasted red peppers and smoked bacon. The collards were good enough to eat a whole bowl by themselves, and I don’t normally like greens. I ordered the Chesapeake Bay crab bisque, which was delicious with three jumbo lump crab corn fritters floating in the middle. My guest chose the fall spiced yam soup with gala apple and cinnamon Chantilly. Small plates range from $10-$15, but at happy hour, they are only $7 from 5-7 pm at the lobby bar.
The entrées followed. I chose the tellicherry (black Indian peppercorns) crusted strip loin with truffle mousseline potatoes, grilled asparagus, roasted plum tomato and cabernet shallots. The meat was tender and the potatoes to die for. My guest ordered the hand-picked diver sea scallops, which were served on butternut squash puree with Chanterelle mushrooms, smoked bacon, turnips and fresh leeks. It is another sure-fire choice. Main plates are priced from $27-$32.
We ended our meal with cappuccino and dessert. I went with the caramel crème brule with fresh berries, while my friend had the ward dark chocolate lava cake with vanilla bean speck ice cream. Both made the perfect ending to our meals. Desserts are priced from $6-$8.
It was a wonderful meal in a quaint setting. My only complaint was that since it was during one of this winter’s coldest spells, and since the restaurant is off the lobby with no doors and only framed, frosted glass hanging in open spaces to divide it from the hotel, the temperature inside was freezing. I could have eaten with my coat on and still been comfortable. Most of the time, that will not be a problem, but with the whipping cold winds that the DMV has experience this winter, the hotel needs to find a way to keep the cold air out of its lobby and the restaurant – maybe a revolving door or a tented entryway outside.
Jardenea is open for breakfast from 6:30-11 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner from 5-10 p.m. daily. It offers a pre-theatre menu with a prix fixe three-course menu for $44 from 5-7 p.m.