all photos: Sarah Gerrity, all words: Elizabeth Traynor
A drink at Provision No. 14 comes with a neatly pressed black napkin that bears the restaurant’s slogan – “Pro.vis.ion – supply with food, drink or equipment, especially for a journey.”
One quick glance at the menu, and a diner might wonder what kind of journey they’re about to embark upon. It runs the gamut from twists on traditional American comfort food to seafood to an entire suckling pig leg (more on that later.) But that was the point, executive chef James Duke and chef de cuisine John Leavitt said, to create a menu that can transport diners to different cultures and flavors in one meal.
It works more cohesively than I originally expected. We’re first ushered to the upstairs lounge, a space designed by Swatch Room that’s filled to the brim with cozy chairs and sofas that look decidedly Victorian.
What we nibble on, though, is much more America-after-school. Provision No. 14’s hot pocket is like your childhood staple on crack. A light, airy sweet bread gives way to a delicate lamb sugo filling. Dipped into the accompanying cilantro lime aioli, I could have easily made a meal out of this alone.
Downstairs, the parade of cocktails began, highlighting the French pressed drinks that are a hallmark of Provision’s menu. The grapefruit press – mixing Stoli, grapefruit, mint and basil – is tangy and refreshing. You also can’t taste the alcohol, which promises to be a dangerous development in the DC heat.
Tasting portions of the seafood ushered in perhaps the best scallop dish I’ve had in the District. Lightly seared and paired with crunch fennel and beet, as well as a taste of blood orange and pistachio, it was the sort of refreshing dish that would go well with a crisp glass of wine.
Switching gears, Provision’s team set down plates of a rigatoni alla romano with one behind-the-scenes detail: the recipe was one of the chef’s mothers’. Whenever she opens her Italian restaurant, I’ll be first in line. This rigatoni was that good. Soft folds of pasta hid the delicately crumbled lamb sausage, and the tomato cream sauce was so good, it may have inspired a hunt for a spoon.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough, the meat courses followed the pasta. The chili braised short ribs fell apart easily, and an apple salad provided a satisfying accompanying crunch. More of Provision’s sweet bread was served alongside the ribs, but it was almost unnecessary – the meat and apple salad were a strong enough combination on its own.
The unofficial star of the menu, though, is Provision’s pata: an entire suckling pig leg that’s braised for five hours, hung to dry overnight and then deep-fried (yes, deep-fried) to order. The dish is a little intimidating, served staked with a knife and ringed by three different dipping sauces. But all you need is one adventurous member of your party to start the carving.
The crispy, crunchy outside breaks to reveal the meat underneath. It’s a messy process, especially once the banana bbq sauce gets involved, but one worth the clean-up. The traditionally Filipino dish shines here, the perfect blend of crunch and tender and its slightly salty flavor is complimented well by the sweet dipping sauces presented alongside.
We ended the night with Provision’s croissant bread pudding, a rich take on the classic dessert that’s striped throughout with chocolate and served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. It was warm, sweet and comforting – everything you’d want a bread pudding to be. But it was also a rich way to end the meal. So next time? We may start with dessert and work our way backwards.