There’s a lot to be said for consistency. Especially in today’s restaurant environment, it’s becoming more and more rare to see an establishment that’s lasted the test of time.
Firefly is one of those long-termers. A Dupont Circle mainstay for the past 20 years, Firefly has continued grinding along, providing from its home in the Kimpton Hotel Madera the type of soulful, modern American cuisine that serves as a comfort in today’s ever-changing service industry trend machine.
Firefly recently snagged a new Executive Chef, Rich Falbo, and all early indications point to his steering a ship that will continue to feed both hotel guests and DC denizens alike. Chef Falbo, a veteran of restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Resorts family, has a strong focus on charcuterie and butchery, sustainable game and seafood, and garden-fresh ingredients. Firefly’s new Fall menu additions make this abundantly clear.
Take, for example, the Pig Wings, wild boar riblets with a spicy glaze, tender as can be and falling off the bone; or the Fall Harvest Soup, locally-sourced (often incorporating ingredients from the hotel’s rooftop garden), and ever-changing based on what produce looks best that week.
Chef Falbo indicated his desire to focus more on underutilized flavor profiles and little-used spices; a winner incorporating both is the Charred Shishito Peppers, tossed with both green harissa and benne seeds. African, Mediterranean, addictive.
Even better is the Charred Hamachi Collar, buttery and rich, and offset with a Vietnamese-style shredded salad that combines fennel, (gorgeous) watermelon radish, and chilies. The Chef’s deft seafood touch is again made evident with a dish of Atlantic Sea Scallops, the best dish we tried, which were nearly upstaged by the accompanying hominy and root vegetable hash with smoked bacon and a parsley pesto.
Increasingly colder nights mean increasingly heartier dishes, and one needs to look no further than the insanely rich Braised Lamb Shank. A beautiful cut of lamb, kept on the bone for flavor, is glossed in a lamb stock reduction and cut with the acidity of lemon and labneh. Beluga lentils help mop the sauce, and slivers of crunchy celery give texture and balance.
Chef Falbo also recognizes the winds of change, however, leading him to offer more and more vegetarian mains and starters. Tops on the list is a Trumpet Mushroom Bolognese, made up of a mushroom-based red sauce tossed with heirloom rigatoni and sour pickled fennel and mushrooms. Strange-sounding combination, sure, but this dish killed.
I’d be remiss discussing Firefly and not mentioning the outstanding cocktail program headed up by Lead Bartender Brendan Ambrose. Each cocktail on the built list includes at least one ingredient from the aforementioned rooftop garden, and each is gorgeous. To wit: the 10th Floor Dream, a tequila-based drink that combines jasmine-infused cantaloupe juice with Aperol and lemon. Or the Transformation, a stunning drink that serves as two cocktails in one: Tanqueray gin, a basil-lime cordial, and lime concoction is poured over an ice cube made of an Aviation cocktail – blue fades to purple as the drink is sipped. (There’s a reason this drink won an award as one of the top cocktails in America in 2017.)
And if you really must take in Fall in all its glory, there’s the seasonal The Great Pumpkin, a drink that mixes Jack Daniels Rye, moonshine, organic pumpkin and carrot juice, and pumpkin spice. All of the season, in one easy glass. Plus, $1 from each cocktail sold goes to No Kid Hungry, a DC-based organization focused on ending childhood hunger.
Firefly has been around for a long time; in the capable hands of Chef Falbo and Brendan Ambrose, it’s likely to be around for many more.