Tue 25 Aug 2009
Living in DC, our culinary cup runneth over. There is absoluely no shortage of sophisticated restaurants for the perfect ladies’ night dinner. Every few months, the stars and blackberry calendars align and I’m able to get together with my favorite former co-workers La La, Mrs T, and Prison Becki for drinks and a nice meal. Wolfgang Puck’s The Source has been on the ”we’ll get to it one day” wishlist since it opened this winter. However, when La La brought it up as one of her favorite restaurants in DC, it shot to the top of the list.
The Source is known for an Asian-fusion menu, combining familiar flavors from our friends across the bigger pond with Puck-inspired executions (brought to reality by Executive Chef Scott Drewno). Walking into the The Source’s soaring lounge with sleek, clean lines and more white that a blizzard in a Q-tip factory, I suspected we were in for a treat. The scene was set for a meal that was fresh, modern, and precise. After enjoying a few cocktails on the lounge level (including Mrs T’s favorite cucumber martini), the hostess led us to the dining room upstairs.
The Source is all about glass. Even the ubermodern wine rooms are on clear display and for good reason: I thumbed through 20 pages of wine options before hitting the abbreviated beer list. I left the wine selection in the competent hands of La La and Mrs T and when our pinot arrived, we were treated to drinks and a show. The server, who is also a manager at the restaurant, ”prepped” each of the wine glasses. This process included decanting a small amount of wine into a glass, swirling, and pouring it into the next glass to repeat the process. “It’s an Italian tradition,” the manager explained, “Wolfgang brought it back with him.” I don’t recall ever seeing this on my trip to Italy but then, I was in college at the time and probably drank wine in less savory environments than Mr. Puck. The efforts seemed to work – the wine was already full bodied in our glasses at the first sip. It should also be noted the red was served at the perfect cool (not room!) temperature.
Appetizers, entrees and a slaughtered dessert after the jump.
One of the biggest pleasures of dining out with like-minded women is all four of us are into food and eager to try something new and exciting. Double ordering is a cardinal dining sin. We started off the evening with four distinct appetizers. La La’s stir fried Colorado lamb was rich and flavorful, with the crisp fresh edge provided by the lettuce wraps. I know The Source isn’t the first to come up with this appetizer, but I always find the warm, savory meat against
the cool, crisp lettuce a delightful contrast. Plus it makes me feel less guilty about the dish. I mean, four lettuce leaves! It’s practically a salad!
After one peek at the first course, Prison Becki had no trouble settling on the organic chicken and wild mushroom dumplings, which she devoured with abandon. Still it was Mrs T who won the round with the much-lauded tuna tartare. Served “up” in sesame-miso cones, the spicy tuna dish was offset with a touch of sweet from the sesame-miso cones.
Mrs T kept the seafood theme alive with her entree of sauteed sea scallops and drunken noodles, served with a shimmering gloss and drizzled with microgreens. Prison Becki, always out for blood, opted for the Szechuan fillet au poivre with wild mushrooms. The thick cut filet was served crusted in a thick layer of crunchy spices, mingling nicely with the beef and sauce. La La’s laquered Chinese duckling was the surprise hit of the table, not only for the simultaneous flavors of earthy and sweet, but the lo mein noodles served, sweet Lord could it be?, al dente.
My crispy General Tso style quail was both a delight and a challenge. The poultry was crispy out the outside with a moist, flavorful taste of game on the inside, coexisting in perfect harmony with the General Tso sauce and Szechuan chili sauce. Sadly, the tiny bird bone still in the pieces was a distraction. Despite my best maneuvers, I found myself picking small pieces of cartilage and bone out of my mouth, grateful I wasn’t on some romantic date.
For dessert – what is a ladies night dinner without dessert? – Prison Becki called the shot before the rest of us even had our menus open: “oooooh, warm chocolate souffle…. I mean, um, whatever you guys want.” Who could say no that? Turns out Prison Becki was our dessert sherpa. The soufflet, served with whipped creme fraiche and chocolate sorbet, is every bit as indulgent and rich as we could imagine. It sat trembling in the center of the table, all gooey chocolate and warm cream. Like throwing a lamb into the coliseum, the poor thing didn’t stand a chance.