all photos: Jeff Martin
Over the last five years mentioning Daniel Boulud’s name and the possibility of him opening a DC restaurant became almost a game of the “is it true? is it really going to happen? oh, it was just a rumor? but i heard it was true? really?” in Washington’s food press and fan circles. Well, the wait is now officially over because DBGB opens this Saturday at 931 H Street as one of the crown jewels of the CityCenterDC project.
Described by Chef Boulud as half brasserie, half bistro, this upscale casual restaurant was, he felt, the perfect Boulud concept to bring to DC. The food, overseen by executive chef Ed Scarpone (who has been working with Chef Boulud in NY for seven years) is based on a strong “burgers, bangers and beer” trifecta (though it soon becomes obvious that Sundaes have to be added into that mix as well, as the love of ice cream is seemingly everywhere you look) and the vibe is fun and convivial (“We’re not trying to reach a specific business clientele. DBGB is not an expensive dining proposition, it is supposed to be enjoyed by everyone“-the chef says).- a place where you’d WANT TO hang out.
Speaking of hanging out, Daniel Boulud, on top of his cooking is probably best known as a great host and a maybe an even greater dining partner, and so we thought it was as good of a time as any to ask him the most important question about DBGB:
–If we were to sit down at a table with you, what you YOU order?
–What kind of a table are we talking? Are we a group of six, eight? – chef Boulud asks
–Sure, yeah, lets make it a party – we concede, looking forward to this fantasy party already.
–Ah, yes, a party – his eyes flicker instantly. He grabs the menu, settles himself into a booth and off we go.
For starters, he says, lets get some BITES TO SHARE plates. Definitely the Tarte Flambee (with fromage blanc, bacon and onions), Curried Herring (Oh, I love herring, he gets clearly excited), one of our charcuterie plates naturally, you know we’re famous for our charcuterie (Boulud’s Pate de Campagne with whole grain mustard and country bread is a must-try classic) and maybe some Crispy Calamari (in red rye beer batter with spicy pickled peppers and kaffir lime cream).
Then, onto the appetizers, his eyes go up and down the menu: Lets get some Tuna Crudo (with cucumber radishes and crispy rice), the Sweet and Sour Eggplant (honey baked with sumac yogurt, mint, chickpea socca), Escargot Fricasee, Maryland Crab Persillade and a Crispy Egg.
A lot of seafood, we note. I know, he smiles, but if I eat the Hand cut Steak Tartare, then well, I’ll eat nothing else. (we make a note that we definitely HAVE TO try the Steak Tartare)
Ok, it is sausage time, he says. You have to have the sausages. I would get a Boudin Blanc (truffled pork with apple) and Boudin Basque (blood sausage with epelette peppers and scallion mashed potatoes) and then go a little spicy: the Tunisienne (lamb & mint merqueze pictured below with lemon braised spinach and chickpeas) and our Thai sausage (lemongrass, red curry, green papaya and chili sauce all come together for a unique kick). So we can all taste all of them.
For the main courses, he forges on (this is clearly a marathon of a meal, and we have no complaints). Definitely the Coq Au Vin, the Truite Au Lard Et Sauge, the Roasted Duck Breast (with beets and horseradish) and then the burgers – maybe we can split and share some of the Crabbie (their Maryland crab cake burger) and the Frenchie (beef patty with confit pork belly, tomati-onion compote, morbier cheese and cornichons)? Does that sound good?
It really sounds great (for the record, for super burger fans, the restaurant offers the ultimate in BILB experience with their Menage a Trois, a combo pack of their Yangie, Crabbie and Frenchie burgers with ALL THE WORKS. Wear your eating pants).
As we are prepping for dessert, Chef Boulud tells us that “the menu is about 40% DBGB classics (like the Frenchie Burger), 30% classic dishes from other Boulud establishments (like their salmon or their pate de campagne) and 30% locally inspired (note all the Maryland crab dishes and the locally caught Trout)“.
Drinks wise, maybe some Sauvignon Blanc (he recommends the Santa Inez one), a nice Beaujolais with the sausages, and then some beers? he offers. You have to have the beers, he smiles. YOU.HAVE.TO.HAVE.THE.BEERS, we repeat. His favorites on the list right now: Balt Alt from Union Craft in Maryland and DC Brau’s corruption.
For those of you curious about what other beers you have to have, here is what else is on tap right now:
And for dessert: ICE CREAM. Daniel Boulud loves his ice cream. On the menu the dessert menu he marks off their Baked Alaska (for two, with pistachio & vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet and fresh meringues flambed with chartreuse), the Soufffle Chaud and his Rocky Road Profiteroles. And at least (AT LEAST, he emphasizes) one of their two-scoop-sundaes (Apricot Pistachio and Blueberry Lemon seem to edge out the Chocolate-Chocolate in his book, at least a little).
As we are fantasy digesting, we take in the decor. The most interesting part: Chef Boulud sent notes out to 150 of his favorite chef friends and asked them to pain red & black sketches on white plates. The results of what he got back are all around, making those minutes between your MANY dishes a perfect time for a game of Where’s Culinary Waldo?
CBGB, Chef Boulud notes, was a place where rock stars loved to be. DBGB plays off that idea with the twist that the chefs are the rock stars. We want them, and everyone to be comfortable here, and have a little bit of them in the restaurant along as well.
We may not be rock star chefs but we cannot wait to hang out for lunch, dinner, small bites in the afternoons, and yes, starting the end of September, brunch as well. Orderly line starts here: