Monday, April 27, 2015

Quill at The Jefferson Food Review

Pork Banh Mi with French Fries

Thomas Jefferson once said, "It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness." Sounds good to me; but our third President, and primary author of the Declaration of Independence left out something even more important... great-tasting food. I can only imagine what he'd say after dining at one of his many namesakes... Quill at The Jefferson. Odds are, he'd love it just as much as I did.

The Jefferson Hotel, Washington DC is renowned for its luxury; so it's only fitting that one be able to dine like a king (or better yet, a president) on its premises. Rather than start off at the highly acclaimed Plume, the hotel's main restaurant, we decided to sample the cozier, yet no-less stately Quill. Despite its rich parquet floors, sweeping all-glass bar (very cool) and luxurious banquettes, there's an undeniable air of coziness inside the lounge area. There's an even more casual outdoor terrace as well; but my allergies started kicking in a few days ago, so why tempt fate?

Bison Sliders

Once seated, I couldn't help but feel transported back in time. Perhaps it's all those framed vintage maps on the wall behind me; or the subtle feeling that Mr. Jefferson's spirit is wandering the halls, a la nearby Monticello. For a presidential junkie like myself, it was nothing short of Heavenly bliss. Service is impeccable and very professional: You can tell the staff here, is used to catering to important people. Curious about a particular item? Ask, and you'll receive a full list of ingredients (whether it's on the menu or behind the bar.) Recommendations are provided as well; but I got the feeling that most Quill patrons know exactly what they want. Lord knows, I did.

That meant opening with a Monticello Mocktail ($12) a non-alcoholic blend of berries, honey, lavender, sage and Sprite! Talk about refreshing; although I'd be tempted to ask for a dash of something stronger (gin, vermouth) later in the day. Spirit lovers will rejoice at Quill's myriad of choices, including What Lurks Below ($16) a devilish mixture of cognac, dark rum and ginger syrup with lemon verbena in honor of the National Geographic Museum's Monster Fish exhibit, one of several clever tie-ins with the community.

Monticello Mocktail

Feasting seemed out of place; so I kept it simple with an appetizer and sandwich. Trouble is, there's nothing remotely simple about a trio of delicious Bison Sliders ($15) with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and a sinfully tasty blueberry BBQ sauce that should be canned and sold to the highest bidder. To be fair, two sliders could qualify as a full plate anywhere else. The bison was cooked perfectly... tender, almost moist (rare for bison) tucked inside a glorious, grilled brioche bun. Looking for something succulent? Your search is over.

Pressing on, I tore into Quill's Pork Banh Mi sandwich (served with your choice of French Fries or a side salad.) If there's a more perfect combination than roasted pork, carrots, cilantro and daikon radishes out there... please tell me, I'm all ears. Stuffed inside a sandwich-sized baguette, and cut in two, I devoured both halves in mere minutes. The marinated pork is to-die-for and the pickled daikons provide tons of crunch (ditto for the bread.) It comes with mayo, which I declined; but think about asking for a dab of mustard, to help keep it moist. The handcut fries were served hot and well-seasoned. They didn't last very long either.

Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing; although I still can't wait to visit Plume later this year. Given a choice between informal and formal dining, I'll usually opt for the former. Quill delivers that kind of food & atmosphere, only dressier than advertised. It fits the Jefferson to a tee, a hotel that dazzles with lots of individual rooms for individual tastes. No two rooms are the same; and the hotel's commitment to unrivaled quality is confirmed by its self-imposed limitations (to ensure its guests have as unique a stay as possible.) The same can be said for Quill, one of (if not the) finest lounges in the nation's capital.

The Quill is open 7 days a week until midnight, opening at 11:30 AM Monday - Friday, and noon on Saturday & Sunday. Click here to see the full menu.