Image: What if Humpty-Dumpty was really tasty?
Last Updated: 6/10/2020
Current Status: Closed for Good. A story in Eater about the make-over of The Oval Room into La Bise mentions in passing that the space will be converted into an Italian spot.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: August 2019
In the greater Washington, D.C. area, there are about a dozen restaurants that are worth a big splurge. Places the 1% seek out with some frequency or where those a notch or two below in the average family income percentiles wait for a special occasion to visit. These restaurants are not cheap and may be quite expensive, but they produce an experience that is worth taking the better part of the night and a cut of your paycheck. There is consensus about several of these destinations: Inn at Little Washington, Pineapple & Pearls, Masseria, minibar, Komi. Others may not get the same degree of recognition but deserve a spot on the list. Mirabelle deserves a spot on that list.
Chef Keith Bombaugh is dedicated to his craft. There is no question he has talent. Even Sietsema conceded the guy can cook. The dishes reflect – sometimes with direct quotes – his influences and mentors. That includes time as Sous Chef at Alinea and as a young apprentice under Barbara Lynch in Boston. At Mirabelle, he is running his own kitchen and having fun doing it. The cooking is anchored in the French tradition, but with many other currents swirling around it. A recent lamb dish was loin and belly done in classic French style combined with pureed eggplant and tiny dolma, highlighting the moment when the French and Ottomans both had empires. “Shrimp Through the Eyes of Salvador Dali” is two different preparations of shrimp – one spicy, one cool as a cucumber broth with yuzu-filled bubbles. The showstopper is the chocolate egg containing foie gras surrounded by a meadow of elements. The egg is cracked and mixed to be spread on sourdough toast. It is a stunner for the eyes and palate. Bombaugh is currently doing the desserts with equal sophistication.
The service is proper and sharp, but a step down in formality from a temple like Marcel’s. The wine list is deep on France and the United States. It was developed by Jennifer Knowles (who was GM for the first iteration, left and came back to do the relaunch) and now under the daily care of Brent Newman. There are so many interesting bottles on the list, anyone but a encyclopedic connoisseur should not hesitate to ask for guidance. The bar is led by the award-winning Zach Faden. The bar also has a snack-oriented menu that is not quite as imposing as the dinner menu.
The décor is straight out of Mad Men, with leather booths and mid-century modern aesthetics. Just walking from the door to the bar will plant a seed to order an Old Fashioned. There is a sizeable outdoor seating area. Lunch service has always been a base of support for this place. The bar draws from the surrounding K Street crowd.
Mirabelle continues to fly under the radar. After some early instability, it is achieving its potential. It may seem absurd to say that it is a bargain, but three well-portioned courses plus dessert can be had for $95. That deal goes toe-to-toe with any menu in this city for value with this degree of quality. For a special occasion – go. To treat yourself – go.
Other Guidance: The feel is after-work nice, meaning coats are appropriate but ties may be ditched. Jeans are not out of place, but shorts and flip-flops are. As noted the menu is complex and multi-layered, but the kitchen and service are conscientious, so GF and vegetarians should ask and will likely be accommodated enough to have a fine meal.
Rating: Splurge Worthy
Cuisine: New or Old American
Location: 900 Black Lives Matter Plz, NW, Washington DC
Reservations: Opentable via Restaurant Site
Washington Post: 2 stars. Remember what Sietsema did to Honeysuckle? That injustice cannot be rectified, but you can prevent it from happening again.
Washingtonian: #35 in 2019. #59 in 2018.
Tyler: “at the very least it is better than most of the other fancy places in town.”
Note: both Zagat and Michelin have not updated to note the rollover from the opening team to the current team. Another reminder that they don’t do D.C. well.