The Inn at Little Washington, man, I don’t know. Below I’ve laid out my Inn experience under three categories: 1) Food, 2) Service, and 3) Ambiance. I remember growing up and always hearing about the Inn. And I wonder, just wonder, if 10 years ago the Inn was hot because it was the best place to eat in the area, but as new restaurants move in and fine dining is just a metro stop away, if the Inn isn’t struggling to find its identity and its place in a burgeoning Washington, D.C. culinary scene.
The food. We arrived early and ordered some drinks while we waited for our table. We sat in the “living room” – a wonderfully cozy and sumptuous room with large pillows and quiet corners. The drink? A rosemary infused gin with champagne and other various pre-prohibition ingredients. It was delicious.
After being seated at our table, we opened our menus to find they were personalized. A nice touch. While perusing the menu we were given bread. It would have been better if it was warm. Maybe next time. We ordered some more cocktails and then were given a plate of amuse bouche – made with ingredients featured in many of the dishes on the menu. They were wonderful! A beet puree, a parmesan cream, a bite size lamb carpaccio, and a piece of black cod. We drank, we ate bread, we tasted the bouches, and ate more bread. They bread girl kept re-loading the bread dish. Eventually, I had to say no more. I didn’t come to the Inn for rolls.
Our first dishes – a Big Eye tuna, avocado, and mango salad with a saki-yuzu sorbet and some Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar Salad ice cream. The tuna was good, but nothing I couldn’t find at a top-notch sushi restaurant in the city. And, honestly, it probably would have been better elsewhere. But the sorbet was tasty. The Carpaccio was flavorful and the Caesar Salad ice cream was inventive and interesting – the winner of the first course. Both dishes are pictured above.
For the second course, we ate macaroni and cheese and a homemade boudin blanc. Both were tasty, if not awesome. The mac and cheese consisted of nine ziti pieces covered in cheese with some black truffle grated on top. A bit absurd I think, and trying a tad too much. The boudin blanc was good. But really, when is sausage ever bad? Jimmy Dean is a millionaire for a reason! During this course, we also popped open a Petit Verdot – still my fav of all time.
For the mains, a delicious short rib and filet mignon combination and some medallions of rabbit. The rabbit – dry…sec…can I get a glass of water over here? It was the disappointment of the evening. And it was wrapped in pancetta! There was a collective sign of “ehhhh” heard from Washington, Virginia to Palermo, Sicily. The beef two ways was fresh, succulent, and tasted of the quality we were expecting.
Dessert…the Seven Deadly Sins – a little sampling of everything on the menu. The vanilla panacotta and the molten lava cake were stupendous. The rhubarb crumble, I could make. And the vanilla and butter pecan ice cream should be illegal to make. Frozen ice.
All in all, we were on a food roller coaster. Some definite highs and some lowly lows (for a place of this mythological caliber)! While mostly delicious, I don’t know if I’d go the distance for another try. I’ve got The Source only a few miles away and their duck is worth the price of a metro ticket.
The service. Attentive. Punctual. On point. Our personal server seemed aloof, chatting and laughing with other tables but serving us as if we were sitting in a Soviet-era pancake house. The bread girl was very sweet. And the water filling person deserves a raise. And we’d like to give a shout out to the Ginger who walked the dining room like a ballerina with a mission.
The ambiance. Take one part Grandma’s living room, one part Martha Stewart Living, and a healthy teaspoon of fine dinnerware, et voila, you have the Inn. It is what you’d envision the Mansion on O Street to look like… but then you see the yard sale. It was both classy and comfortable. The fringed lampshades worked, but barely.
In the end, the Inn at Little Washington experience: it lived up to the expectation, but didn’t surpass it.