Image: Short Rib Bourguignon.
Last Updated: March 2023
NOTE: At the end of March 2023, Irregardless scrapped the tasting menu format and brought in a new chef. The Overview below is from January 2023 and pre-dates that.
Beverage preferences go through phases. After the swings toward cocktails and craft beers, wine is coming back. At Irregardless, it is the motivating and organizing force. The focus, though not exclusively, is on Virgina wine. It is paired with New American cuisine that draws heavily on on French and Italian techniques. While à la carte options are available at the bar, the dining room tables are tasting menu only, with one of the choices being vegetarian (no vegan option currently). There are two wine pairing options as well, one drawing from around the world and the other limited to bottles from Virginia wineries.
It may seem odd to say, but the tasting menu is a value proposition, coming in at under $100 per person with plates that are much more than mere bites. Fig with yogurt, balsamic sauce and za’atar was an early course on both menus. It brightened the palate and highlighted the kitchen’s embrace of seasoning. The third courses on both menus might be the highlight, with a hearty mushroom galette with ricotta on the vegetarian menu and a scallop “schnitzel” with lardons and frisee on the “omnivore” menu. The late-fall menus included pasta courses – lamb ragu with small cubes of meat or sweet potato gnocchi. The short rib Bourguignon was a delicious play on the classic, but too much to finish while still leaving room for dessert.
Returning to the wine, the pairings show the knowledge and passion for wine that drives the place. Mika and Ian Carlin were young lawyers who caught the wine bug while at law school in Charlottesville. After a few years they answered the fundamental question faced by nearly all lawyers: what will you do when you quit the law? Their answer was to take over the old Le Grenier space (the fading Coca-Cola advertising mural on the red brick remains) and open a place to celebrate the growing quality of Virginia wines. The list includes prominent names like Barboursville, Early Mountain, and Linden, but also smaller producers like Ox-Eye, Domaine Finot and Lovingston. Outside Virginia, the list shows a proclivity for less prominent regions like Jura, Lebanon, Canary Islands, and – a favorite of ours – Santa Barbara. Though it also has its fair share of Piedmont (Italy’s) and Rhone.
Despite this being their first place, they have done their due diligence. Both worked for a couple years in the restaurant world prior to opening Irregardless. They recruited Ben Browning for the kitchen, who did stints at Mintwood Place, Maydan, and Reveler’s Hour. Rounding out the team is bar manager Christine Cabatuan. The place is cozy and the tables a bit packed in. Service hums, showing no signs on our visit of opening kinks to work out.
Despite the splurge required for the tasting menu, it comes in a step below fancier spots and is a great option for those looking for a fancier dinner but not wanting to break (maybe just dent) the bank. It is also great to have a wine spot from wine lovers that can spread the passion.
Other Guidance: It is a neighborhood fancy spot, feel free to dress up a little, but casual is not out of place. Though it is tasting menu format, the website notes: “at this time we are unable to offer vegan tasting menus and may be restricted by some allergies, such as alliums and fructose. We are continuously working to provide more options for those with dietary restrictions. Please call us in advance of your reservation to discuss your dietary restrictions and ensure that we can provide you with the best possible experience.” The restaurant is located at street level, but half the dining spaces are upstairs.
Cuisine: New or Old American
Neighborhood: H Street
Address: 502 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002
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