We’ve been eagerly awaiting the official opening of Smith Commons at my house. There’s something about it that has made my husband absolutely certain that THIS is the bar he’s been waiting for — the place he can call home. To the point that he’s been stalking it a bit: walking by, peeking in the windows, asking around about it. He was rewarded last week when he made yet another detour to swing by and caught one of the partners, Miles, going inside and tagged along for a tour of the three-story space. This week is the soft open, with about half the dinner menu available in the downstairs dining room and drinks in the second floor lounge (but later they will serve small plates); the third floor will be for overflow and private parties.
They set a high bar from the moment we walked in for dinner Wednesday night. The aesthetic hit the mark for me: simple but not plain, with dark and light shades of grainy wood complimented by wrought iron accents. We sat at a table for two next to the stairs leading down to the kitchen, but never got that bustling “we’re sitting next to the kitchen” feeling. Though the menu is limited this week, there were still several selections: appetizers, salads, a soup, entrees, various cuts of meat and sides like frites and macaroni — you know, the fatty junk food for which the Hill is now world renown. They also have an extensive list of beer and wine to choose from, though only wines by the glass were available. For the domestic connoisseur, you’ll be pleased to hear they have the likes of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron and Ommegang’s Witte and Abbey Ale on draught. They also carry a selection of “Big Bottles” and round out the beer offerings with a list of mostly imports by the bottle.
We skipped the appetizers and went right for the main event. Having ridden the Bikeshare to get there, we were both in the mood for something warm and substantial to take off the chill. We ordered the penne carbonara and the half pound Angus beef burger. The penne had a heavenly texture: deliciously creamy and smoky. Perfect for a cold winter night. And the burger … oh the burger … I’d pretty much stopped ordering burgers because Chef Geoff’s makes one that I so adore, anything else is tasteless in comparison. But no longer. Served on a brioche bun with a portabello mushroom and miso mayo, the Smith Commons burger is mouthwateringly juicy and full of flavor. No more trips downtown for me! We finished up the meal with the Crepe Mikado, a sweet crepe with vanilla ice cream and Belgian chocolate sauce. It was the perfect size for sharing – two crepes with a good-sized scoop — and though I loved the texture and slight tinge of bitterness in the chocolate, I might have put a little cinnamon in the crepe batter.
The service, I am happy to say, was fantastic. No “considering it was a soft opening” qualification needed. When I wanted a different table, we were quickly relocated. Our server was friendly, asking us if we lived in the neighborhood and sharing that she’d just moved to DC two weeks ago, but not overly so. The food arrived quickly as did the drinks, and the server checked on us regularly but in a helpful, not intrusive, way. The dining room was full at the time, too, which bodes well for the full opening next week. The only drawback I noticed was when we saw some friends sitting at one in a row of tall tables for two between the bar and a row of booths. The tabletops were small, such that their two oversized dinner plates didn’t fully fit on the table. But that didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm for the food (confit of duck leg and tiger prawns to start, veal porterhouse and sea bass for the meal).
All in all I think my husband is right, I can see making this a home away from home. So it is perhaps appropriate that we went on the evening after the opening day of the 112th Congress, because we are thrilled to welcome this Mr. Smith to Washington.