With some trepidation Ian and I set our sights on Range for our anniversary dinner last week. Friday night of a holiday week and no reservations? The restaurant does seat 300, and from what I had gleaned during my internet research they do 60% reservations/40% walk-in. Open Table said we could have a reservation in mid January. After seeing the exciting cocktail menu we figured any wait would not be a hardship. To our delight, arriving at the unhip hour of 5:30 ensured our immediate seating. Chef Voltaggio was in the kitchen that night, and Ian caught a few glimpses of him at work. The restaurant is expansive with several different kitchens (including a candy shop), and the menu is organized by the kitchen of origin. The waitstaff was helpful in pointing out that some of the dishes were small plates while others are meant for sharing with a few friends. Cocktails are all $11, they have a nice selection of craft brews on tap, and an extensive wine list--including a good representation of wines by the glass. I started off with the "Wonder of Neglect"--gin/pineapple shrub/vermouth/oak and continued the shrub theme with my second cocktail, the "Inept Carnie"--scotch/pumpkin shrub/spice/averna. Both were delicious and complex, but the giant ice cube in the Inept Carnie stole my heart.
Here is how the food played out:
Yellowfin crudo with soy/lime/jasmine rice: pristine tuna slices gently brushed with sesame/soy and topped with preserved ginger. Fantastic. Best tuna I have had since Uchi, and that is saying a lot. The jasmine rice was actually a couple of rice crackers--didn't really add or subtract to the dish.
Bread basket: order this and you won't have to decide which of the homemade breads and spreads you will have to miss out on. My favorite was the cornbread with the bacon marmalade or maybe the cheddar chive biscuits with the pepper jelly. Just be careful not to over eat and spoil your appetite. Highly recommend ordering if you have more than two people or have two people who just really love bread.
Kale caesar: like it sounds, sliced kale dressed up with a shower of parmesan. Egg yolk/olive oil emulsion to apply to each bite or mix in as you see fit. The best argument for kale to remain on the "in" list for 2013. Definitely enough for two folks to split. With all that bread I didn't miss croutons.
Kimchi linguine with uni/bay scallop and nasturtium: the Lee family is always happy to see kimchi on the menu, but even folks of non-Korean descent will enjoy the very understated kimchi flavor. There were several choice morsels of briny uni, however, nary a nasturtium. Bread basket for the win--you will want to mop up this sauce.
Beef heart: I talked Ian into this dish--served with a garlicky chimichurri--thinly sliced heart grilled medium rare. The waitstaff provided a Shun steak knife that we didn't need to slice this tender dish. Lean/flavorful, heart is a great starter organ meat for the squeamish.
Sunchokes: oven roasted with watercress and lemon. We ordered because I have never had sunchokes. Not a standout dish but delicious in the way that root vegetables liberally oiled and roasted can be with toasty caramel notes brightened by the hit of lemon juice. Probably would have opted for the "everything mashed potato" if we hadn't already eaten ourselves into a diabetic coma with the bread basket.
We did save enough room for the two of us to split an order of the rice pudding that came with an assortment of condiments: chopped crystallized ginger, shaved Brazil nuts, chopped pistachios, chocolate and quince to gussy up each bite of your pudding. We brought home a gingerbread marshmallow and a sesame malted truffle for Sophie. You will have to take her word on their deliciousness because she didn't share.
Range is located in the Chevy Chase Pavilion. There is a parking garage. Range does not validate parking. If you are a Metro person, the Friendship Heights stop is the way to go. According to the hostess, Range may open for lunch in January. Looking forward to returning with a big crowd of adventurous eaters so we can kill that bread basket/try more cocktails/peel Sophie away from the candy counter.