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Poca Madre (Formerly Del Campo), Upscale Mexican in Penn Quarter in the Former PS7s Space - Closed


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I tried Del Campo a few days after opening. I think the place has great potential. The space is very pleasant -- warm decor, nice soundtrack, and a faint smell of the grill. The cocktails were very good. The food has great potential. Almost everything on the menu has components that have touched the grill (including crudos and salads). I love smokey flavors, so this was quite pleasing. To start, I had a crudo of hamachi, sweet potato and corn. The dish had good flavors but tasted a bit flat. I think they needed to amp up the acid and possibly salt. I also had an appetizer of grilled scallop, with soy citrus, and smoked uni. This dish was less successful but I think can be tweaked. The scallop was served on sushi rice, like a nigiri. The soy flavor, unfortunately, was overpowering. It basically tasted like soy sauce with a bit of smoke mixed in. For an entree, I had the seafood stew. It was excellent (and a stark contrast to a similar item that I got at Mio a few weeks ago, which was actually unpleasant to eat). My only nit is that it was quit expensive -- $32 -- for a fairly small portion. I look forward to returning.

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I went with a group of four on Saturday, and had a very good experience. I'd recommend it. Here are a few thoughts while things are still fresh on my mind:

  • The place is much more open now than when it was PS7. The bar here feels much more a part of the rest of the restaurant. It remains, however, a massive space, and it wasn't close to full, even during prime hours on a Saturday night (we were there from about 7:30 through 10:30).
  • Pretty much everything on the menu has been on the grill. Obviously steaks, fish, etc. But also grilled, charred bread, smoked olive oil, smoked salt, charred beets, etc.
  • The menu is designed for sharing, pretty much across the board, so that's what we did, splitting three appetizers and three entrees and three sides for four people.
  • Our appetizers (Burnt Tomato and Grilled Bread Salad, Charred Beets with Goat Cheese and Grilled Octopus Causa) were all fantastic. Portions seemed appropriate for appetizers.
  • Bread is complimentary, but a $2 charge is added for refills. This seemed completely reasonable to us, although each refill was progressively smaller (seven pieces with the original order, five on the first refill, four on the second). Not a complaint, just a comment. We kept ordering refills because the bread with the smoked salt is really good.
  • For our entrees we ordered the 16 oz Dry-Aged Prime NY Strip ($44), the Grilled Jumbo Head-On Prawn ($22) and a smoked pork shoulder special (we didn't know it until the check arrived, but the cost of this was $24). When we asked about the volume of food we had ordered we were talked into also getting the Del Campo Chorizo ($9). You can pick sauces to come out on the side, and on our waiter's recommendation we got the Traditional Chimichurri and the Salsa Criolla.
  • The food comes out on a giant cutting board, with smoked herbs underneath, and is a real show-stopper of a presentation. When it arrived it became very clear that we had ordered a ridiculous amount of food. This was in part because the kitchen sent out a complimentary massive marrow bone, but even without this we had way too much food.
  • Everything was between good and excellent. The pork shoulder, with the Salsa Criolla, was the star. It was bursting with flavor. Everybody loved it. The steak was very good, and cooked perfectly. The prawn was a single prawn. Yes, it was large, but we all pretty much agreed that we could have cut that out and wouldn't have missed it. Same for the chorizo. It was good, but we certainly didn't need it.
  • Service was fantastic throughout the night (with the one exception of the waiter suggesting we add chorizo to our order), including wine service.
  • I'd like to come back and try the drinks at the bar.
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  • the Grilled Jumbo Head-On Prawn ($22) ....The prawn was a single prawn. Yes, it was large, but we all pretty much agreed that we could have cut that out and wouldn't have missed it.

How big does a single prawn have to be to be worth $22?

I want to try this place, but I think I'll skip the prawn.

:)

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  • Bread is complimentary, but a $2 charge is added for refills. This seemed completely reasonable to us, although each refill was progressively smaller (seven pieces with the original order, five on the first refill, four on the second). Not a complaint, just a comment.

You're more forgiving than I am, that's for sure.

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How big does a single prawn have to be to be worth $22?

I want to try this place, but I think I'll skip the prawn.

:)

To be fair, the menu does present it as a singular (no 's' at the end of prawn).

Was the shrimp similar to this?

prawns-hand-size270w.jpg

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To be fair, the menu does present it as a singular (no 's' at the end of prawn).

Was the shrimp similar to this?

prawns-hand-size270w.jpg

No complaints on how it was listed/sold, we were informed of this when we ordered. It was described as a six ounce prawn, which might well have been the case, although a significant percentage of that was the head. It was very good, but we all essentially ended up with one bite of shrimp for $22.

Again, I don't want to get too caught up in the nitpicking, we enjoyed our experience across the board, there were just a few things we didn't enjoy quite as much.

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Grilling is such a manly thing to do and sounded like a wonderful concept for a restaurant. For that reason, we went Cro-Magnon last night.

Unfortunately the concept hit the wall before the first dish even arrived. The olive oil that accompanied the bread smelled smoky but otherwise had no flavor. I did try the bread, which reminded me somewhat of an arepa.

Our first dish was the grilled scallop sushi ceviche, soy citrus, smoked uni for $12. The scallop was fresh, the sushi rice seemed to have the right flavor, and the uni, what little was there, was lovely, however, the soy citrus had a bitter and sour flavor that kind of ruined the entire dish. Arriving at the same time was the grilled octopus causa, tuna confit, ramps, potato, grilled avocado for $16. The presentation was very pretty but I didn't really care for the cold causa (the yellow one had a nice kick from aji pepper). The main components of octopus, tuna confit and avocado were lovely, although the octopus was on the verge of being mushy.

For our main course, we ordered some of their cheaper cuts. Short ribs for $22, hangar steak for $28, and sweetbreads for $22. Buried beneath the short ribs was a tiny piece of bone marrow of which we each got a tiny spoonful. Not pictured were all 5 sauces on the menu. So the good news is that you don't have to order the sauces and you can sample all 5. The sweetbreads were wonderful without sauce. I also liked the sweetbreads with the malbec sauce. The hangar steak was wonderfully tender and could've passed for a more expensive cut. The short ribs were fatty, under-seasoned, overcooked, and no amount of sauce could save it.

Meatheads should definitely go gorge themselves at Del Campo.

post-4391-0-41997600-1371902156_thumb.jp

post-4391-0-83798200-1371902167_thumb.jp

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The hanger steak was very good, but I think that I might be over hanger steak at the moment – not sure why, I like the first and second bite, but after that I am just done. But those sweetbreads, I would go back just to have another order. The only other offal they have on the menu is a beef heart appetizer; I would love it if they had a grilled beef (or veal) liver as well.

Be warned if you try to order one of the South American beers on the menu you will likely be out of luck. It took me 4 tries before I finally found one that they had in stock.

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So, Bob and I are headed here tomorrow night for our anniversary (#15!). What's the best way for two people to order here? I was thinking of maybe sharing a couple of appetizers, one or two of the asados (rib-eye and chorizo?), a few sides, and maybe one of the other specialities or street food items? Or is that too much?

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So, Bob and I are headed here tomorrow night for our anniversary (#15!). What's the best way for two people to order here? I was thinking of maybe sharing a couple of appetizers, one or two of the asados (rib-eye and chorizo?), a few sides, and maybe one of the other specialities or street food items? Or is that too much?

My guess is that this would be way too much. I've over-ordered every time I've been there, so I may be a terrible judge, but I'd probably do two appetizers, one steak, and a couple of sides.

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My guess is that this would be way too much. I've over-ordered every time I've been there, so I may be a terrible judge, but I'd probably do two appetizers, one steak, and a couple of sides. 

I think that would be perfect amount for 2. I recently went for lunch (first time visit) and the 2 of us shared the yellowtail ceviche (very good, but smallish portion - maybe 4 bites), steak empanadas (really good, extra meaty with romesco sauce to dip/add) which are two smallish pies - perfect for 2 (for those familiar with Julia's - these are each about half the size of one of their savory empanadas), and split the 10 oz hanger steak and added a side of roasted mushrooms (which was a rather ample portion).  The steaks are all presented on a cutting board in the center of the table with bits of vegetables (we got 2 excellent slices of smoked red pepper and 2 so so small wedges of corn on the cob),  The hanger steak was good and made a bit better with the addition of the sauces (they have 4 that are included with the meal, you ask for which ones you want).  I insisted on trying all 4 sauces (I love options) - the best was either the rosemary or the malbec. The rosemary I thought had the right hit of aromatics and acid to elevate the meat flavor.  The malbec is a sweeter wine sauce which also went well. 2 very different sauces so you probably can't go wrong if you get both and sharing amongst people who each have their own taste preferences (savory or sweeter).  The other 2 sauces were only ok - the salsa criolla was kind of flat tasting, didn't add much but oil.  The chimichurri was probably only ok in my book because I'm not a huge parsley fan. I found the rosemary to be similar but with a much more pleasing taste.  My only complaint was the bread.  I didn't like it - it is like a rather dense pillow that mostly tastes of smoke and becomes smokier when dipped in the smoke infused oil and salt.  I also didn't like that while the first serving of 3 small slices was complimentary you had to pay $2 for an additional serving than then only came with 2 slices. I understand this is some type of South American bread, but I would have preferred something crusty to sop up the good sauces and sides.

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So, Bob and I are headed here tomorrow night for our anniversary (#15!). What's the best way for two people to order here? I was thinking of maybe sharing a couple of appetizers, one or two of the asados (rib-eye and chorizo?), a few sides, and maybe one of the other specialities or street food items? Or is that too much?

Happy Anniversary and congratulations!  How was your meal?  We're looking forward to making our first visit here soon, so please let us know what you recommend.

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A good "formal" restaurant often creates a serene experience through unobtrusive service, so effortless and unobtrusive you hardly notice it. A good casual restaurant, on the other hand, can put diners at ease through the warmth and skill of its service staff, engaging you in the spirit of the place without drawing undue attention to themselves. I state that as a premise, since last night I experienced neither of these at Del Campo, and I've been trying to figure out why that is. Part of it, in my mind is that it's not entirely clear how Del Campo sees itself or wants the diner to regard it. There's a tension between the rustic menu, the proposed sharing of dishes, and the somewhat formal setting that the service staff seem unable to ease. That is not to say that they are incompetent or unfriendly; I got neither sense last night (and tipped accordingly). Rather, I experienced a sort of awkwardness in the restaurant throughout the evening that left me in a state of dis-ease--it always seemed on the verge of going off the rails, of accidents waiting to happen (some of which, in fact, did), of details missed or unattended to.

Despite that initial note of ambivalence, let me say that there is much to like here. The drinks (mine the A La Once, which has an unexpected anise undertone, and Bob's Pisco Sour) are well-made. The Burnt Fall Vegetable Salad ($14) is insanely good--a large portion of buttery bur rata surrounded by charred squash, sunchokes, carrots and greens), and the beef empanadas are as good as others have reported (the appetizer portion has four small empanadas, so plan the rest of your ordering accordingly, as they can be quite filling for two. We ordered the prime hanger steak to share, which, despite others' praise, I found rather flavorless. We ordered it medium-rare, and it definitely erred more on the rare side, but the outside was rather leathery, without the flavor of a good char or sear. But it's a decent-size portion for two and a reasonable choice on the more economic side. Skip the chance to add chorizo--the Argentinean version we tried was coarse, dry, and just uninteresting. For dessert, the Pound Cake French Toast with grilled blueberries is good for sharing; it reminds me of a featured dessert I had years ago at a place in the Twin Cities whose name escapes me. And we were delighted to receive complimentary glasses of cava to celebrate our anniversary--a nice, unexpected touch.

But, despite decent food and a fair price, I came away sort of dissatisfied. Despite being seated immediately at a two-top in the midst of the middle dining area (beyond the noisy front room and bar), we waited nearly ten minutes for any water or menus to be delivered. When our drink order was taken, it took another fifteen minutes or so to get them; the server said that the bar was slammed from people ordering their end-of-happy-hour drinks (sorry, but that's not our problem; find a way to deal with it). The whole time, I saw lots of staff running all over the place, but it was never clear who was there to do what (and sometimes they didn't seem to know, either); they were distracting. The server's lengthy intro to the menu was tedious (and with the fairly closely placed tables and iffy acoustics, we heard it multiple times through the evening). The steak, when it did arrive, was not served on a grill or wooden platter, as other reports might have suggested, but on a white china platter. A dumb detail, but it made sharing a little more difficult than a raised board or grill would have on the relatively narrow two-top; I constantly feared knocking over my wine glass. The server gave us no option on the sauces, but only received the chimichurri and the salsa criolla (if that's the policy with the hanger steak, the menu or the server should say so). As we were wrapping up the evening, I got up to use the restroom. The table, while not off-balance, had an annoying tendency to swivel easily. Resting my hand on the top as I got up, it made a 15º spin and spilled our glasses of water all over my lap and the floor. Embarrassing, yes, but not as bad as the bus boy at the neighboring table who knocked over a woman's glass of red wine (fortunately, it didn't land on any of the diners or their belongings). These are all the sorts of little annoyances that add up and make for a less-than-relaxing experience.

So, back to my opening thoughts. Del Campo feels caught between two worlds. It has the sort of menu and dining philosophy that would lend itself to a much more relaxed atmosphere--more in keeping with the vibe of the bar area. As is, those seem at odds with the white-tablecloth milieu in which it is served in the main section of the restaurant--and the servers aren't geared to providing the service which that atmosphere suggests. Maybe at its price, Albisu and his investors felt a need to provide a more rarified aura to attract expense-account customers--in which case, it needs to step up its game to compete on that level. But that doesn't seem to be where Albisu's heart is; his best efforts skew toward the street, the convivial, the more relaxed. It's a young restaurant, but I'd love to see him do an early makeover that takes the place more in that direction. The food is (mostly) there, but the rest needs to be rethought to be a more complete, authentic experience.

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Happy Anniversary and congratulations!  How was your meal?  We're looking forward to making our first visit here soon, so please let us know what you recommend. 

Youngfood--don't let my mixed report above discourage you; if you order one of the asados, I suggest asking your server how they are served, and take the initiative on asking about the sauces. Don't let them up-sell the chorizos. Or, focus on the non-asado specialties, all of which looked very good. Oh, and the brussel spouts with smoked honey, bacon, and raisins are pretty good, though they may be smallest sprouts you've ever seen!

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FYI Del Campo is no longer offering their 14 course tasting menu at the 9-seat Asado Bar. The person I spoke with said that the restaurant was going to start offering a tasting menu in the main dining room sometime in the next few weeks. He was pretty sketchy on details, sounded like they were still figuring things out. Too bad - I was looking forward to the Asado Bar experience at the end of the month.

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Really enjoyed my first dinner experience here with my wife last night.  Scallop and Tuna Ceviches to start set the bar high and my wife and I shared the Skirt Steak and Short Rib from the asados section along with sides of brussel sprouts and braised lentils.  Nothing left us disappointed.

Support service was solid.  Howard, our server who told us he's been there since Day 1, was exceptional.  When he let us know the Willamette Pinot Noir I ordered was unavailable, he suggested Salton Volpi PN from Brazil as comparable.  Knowing nothing about Brazilian wines, I deferred to Howard and was thrilled with the substitution on its own merits.  I was blown away when he dropped the check and the substitute was almost exactly 1/2 of the price of the wine I had originally ordered.  Only thing even close to a complaint was for the price point ($150 for two on food alone without desert), you are right on top of the tables around you (my wife's coat and purse was intermingled with the woman at the table next to us and we were easily able to answer the questions of the friendly party of four on the other side us as they ogled our food; support staff knocked (but fortunately did not knock over) items on our table multiple times as they served the tables around us.  Our server regularly needed to relocate if at our table for more than a minute or two at a time.

I'll be thinking about the food long after I forget those petty quibbles though.

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HIGH-LEVEL SUMMARY



Some good and interesting things. Some less great things.  Expensive. Apps generally better (and better value) than mains. Great concept not well enough executed to merit the premium pricing.  Agree with Tujague upthread that Del Campo seems a place uncertain of what it is:  casual and accessible or premium fine dining?  Service was nicely attentive but also somewhat annoying with overly aggressive upselling and a dash of pretentiousness.  Basically this doesn't quite pass the value meter test for me.  LIkely wouldn't go back without it being repositioned either on pricing or on food to offer better value.  All explained below.



FIRST, THANKS TO THIS TOPIC'S POSTERS!



Usually, but not always, I make sure to check the relevant DR.com thread before a first visit to a restaurant which isn't an obvious target on my to-try list. Did that here and it was a big, big help in two respects. First, most of all, I really appreciated all the warnings about order quantities.  We ordered three apps, two mains and two sides for four people. Had we followed our waiter's guidance, we'd have gotten two apps and four mains; maybe a couple of sides also"¦with a ton left over and a bill well north of $350 pre tip.  Second, in spite of the warnings about avoiding the chorizo upcharge, we ordered one anyway because two at the table were big chorizo fans and hadn't read the thread as I had. Those warnings were right; again as explained more fully below.



VENUE



Typical downtown, expensive build-out.  Elegant, comfortable and every bit fine-dining/expensive in decor. Two long bars bracket the restaurant.  Those and the wine & spirts list lead me to think this is a place more about profit than about the food.  Not to say that the food is bad. It certainly isn't.  But the place lacks the kind of real passion to share a cuisine as the dominant sentiment. That's here but it feels secondary. Investors to satisfy and all that.



BEVERAGE



As has been well established on this site, I'm no wine, beer & spirits expert.  But, I know a little and, like anyone else, form views about what I drink, see and pay.  Given the focus on South American grilling and smoking, we turned right to the tinto section of the wine list.  I was a bit surprised to find 45 bottles from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay (usually lower priced than old world wines) and only one priced under $40 with just six others less than $50.  We ordered one of those 7 least expensive bottles, a Bonarda with an approximate 4X markup, and it was fine.  Obviously nothing wrong with the restaurant pricing its list however it likes and feels necessary.  I'd just prefer a few more lower priced options and imagine they might sell more wine with that kind of more diverse and accessible mix.



SERVICE



On one hand, our server deserves credit for coordinating a perfectly attentive level of service involving several team members.  We never felt neglected. Water glasses were filled (with tap after we'd been given a choice of either bottled flat or sparkling) and refilled. Pacing was excellent feeling neither rushed nor slow.



On the other hand, our server made a big point to offer us a "brief/succinct" overview of the menu and then proceeded to detail roughly half of the 36-item menu (not including sides).  He also emphasized the most expensive dishes as "best" or "most flavorful."  Again, no laws violated there. Just a transparent attempt to upsell and check pad which may not always be the best way to drive ticket size and return visits.  He took a bit of offense when I asked who the coffee provider was but did find out when I repeated the request a second time as the dessert order was taken.



FOOD



Here's the detail on what we ordered and reactions.  This was more than enough food for four of us (all adults) and two self described as "famished" at the outset.



Appetizers



Grilled Octopus Causa, Tuna Confit, PIckled Leeks, Potato, PIquillos, Grilled Avocado ($18).  One of the two best dishes of the night. Though a couple of the ingredients (tuna?  pickled leeks?) weren't discernible with the charring, the octopus was cooked perfectly and was a reasonable portion given the price. Everyone enjoyed this.



Empanadas Del Campo, Wagyu Skirt Steak*, Caramelized Onions, Romesco ($16) Agree with a previous poster that the pastry on these is a bit heavy/thick but the beef and onion filling was satisfying.  I'm not sure fancy "wagyu" (whatever its questionable provenance)* makes a difference in a ground filling mixed with onion and romesco but good enough dish.



Charred Beets, Boucheron Goat Cheese, Beet Greens, Burnt Onion, Balsamic ($12).  Another good-enough dish but representative of a mini theme.  The emphasis on grilling and charring sometimes destroys lesser and more subtle ingredients and flavors that might otherwise shine.  This was mostly finished at our table but tasted mostly of sweet something with too much goat cheese that overwhelmed.  Too much "charred" and "burnt" and not enough melding and vibrancy of flavors.



Mains ("Asado" and "House Specialties" Sections of the Menus)



Here, again, is where thanks are due. We'd surely have ordered the four mains our server encouraged had it not been for this thread.  We ordered just two as a result and that was more than enough with the apps and sides.



12oz Rolled Creekstone Farm Prime Skirt Steak* ($48).  First, the price on this given the 12oz portion and usually-less-expensive cut was a bit eye-popping when the check arrived. We hadn't paid close-enough attention to pricing when we ordered. The dish itself was very rare (we weren't asked cooking temp preference when ordering), probably due to the rolling which yielded charred edges but very (too) rare interior. The herbs and seasoning dominated the overall flavor profile for a cut that usually has good flavor on its own.  Just okay.



Grilled Halibut*, Spaghetti Squash, Black Garlic, Chorizo, Sage ($36).  Roughly the same-sized (and sufficient) portion as the skirt steak but oddly priced more than $10 lower.  This dish made me feel better about my own failed effort with halibut at home two nights prior.  Some parts of the fish were moist and well cooked while other parts were dry.  The fish itself, due to its nature, was bland so the dish mostly just tasted of salt and garlic; less so the squash, sage and even chorizo.  Probably not the best choice on the menu.



Del Campo Chorizo ($9).  Those warning against ordering this upthread are right though no tragedy at nine bucks and not bad per se. Relatively small portion of oddly mild sausage given we ordered the one (of three) described as most spicy.



Sides



Brussel Sprouts, Bacon, Smoked Honey ($10).  A great version of a now-very-cliched dish.  The sprouts are very small but this is a good portion with all three main ingredients prominent in the flavor profile. One of the few non-meat dishes where the smoking seemed to really enhance the outcome.



Fried Yuca or Steak Fries Salsa Golf ($10).  I'm not a huge fried yuca fan, usually finding them too dense, fibrous and heavy.  These were that to some degree but our dining companion who ordered them and is a bit of a yuca connoisseur pronounced them "excellent." They were nicely browned and crispy.



Desserts/Coffee



Tres Leches Twinkies with Grilled Mango Sorbet ($10).  This was the more enjoyable of the two desserts we ordered.  Lighter with more interesting flavor profile between the three cakes, torched meringue topping and sorbet.  Almost refreshing.



Dulce de Leche Doughnuts with Coffee Ice Cream Milkshake ($10).  Are zeppole the new cupcakes?  Is a zeppole shop the next trend to sprout on 14th or in Shaw?  Not sure but these, while freshly fried and large, seemed too much with the dense caramel filling. The "coffee milkshake" had decent coffee flavor but, served in a very small (~ 2oz) pitcher alongside the big bowl of donut holes, wasn't the best accompaniment to an already heavy dish.



La Colombe Cappuccino ($4.50).  La Colombe is a fine roaster/retailer founded in Philadelphia in the early 90s and with roughly 10 shops between PHL, NY, CHI and Seoul (!). It's served in a few restaurants around town.  This was a great example of what happens when you mix possibly good beans with insufficient staff training.  More steamed milk than a proper capp.  Too high a milk-to-espresso ratio.



BOTTOM LINE



Again, this doesn't make the minimum value meter bar for me though we definitely enjoyed some of the dishes with the apps and sides standing out more than the mains. We probably could have ordered a bit better also; beef is the way to go here and I'd be curious to try a crudo/ceviche if I went again.  Seems like a restaurant still getting its sea legs to some degree despite being open seven months. We spent around $250 for four, pre tax and with one bottle of their least expensive wine.



* This is also a place that could benefit from more transparency on ingredients, especially given the premium pricing and detailed promotional language on the menu. It shouldn't be an affront to ask about the roaster providing the coffee and wait staff should know rather than being defensive about it.  Skirt steak ground for the $16 empanadas is "Wagyu" of unclear provenance whereas the 12oz prime version at $48 is from Creekstone Farms but not prominent on their website. Pacific halibut has been out of season for 3 weeks and wild Atlantic Halibut is endangered unless farmed. Would be nice to know what Del Campo is using.


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Grilling is such a manly thing to do and sounded like a wonderful concept for a restaurant.  For that reason, we went Cro-Magnon last night.

Unfortunately the concept hit the wall before the first dish even arrived.  The olive oil that accompanied the bread smelled smoky but otherwise had no flavor.  I did try the bread, which reminded me somewhat of an arepa.

Our first dish was the grilled scallop sushi ceviche, soy citrus, smoked uni for $12.  The scallop was fresh, the sushi rice seemed to have the right flavor, and the uni, what little was there, was lovely, however, the soy citrus had a bitter and sour flavor that kind of ruined the entire dish.  Arriving at the same time was the grilled octopus causa, tuna confit, ramps, potato, grilled avocado for $16.  The presentation was very pretty but I didn't really care for the cold causa (the yellow one had a nice kick from aji pepper).  The main components of octopus, tuna confit and avocado were lovely, although the octopus was on the verge of being mushy.

For our main course, we ordered some of their cheaper cuts.  Short ribs for $22, hangar steak for $28, and sweetbreads for $22.  Buried beneath the short ribs was a tiny piece of bone marrow of which we each got a tiny spoonful.  Not pictured were all 5 sauces on the menu.  So the good news is that you don't have to order the sauces and you can sample all 5.  The sweetbreads were wonderful without sauce.  I also liked the sweetbreads with the malbec sauce.  The hangar steak was wonderfully tender and could've passed for a more expensive cut.  The short ribs were fatty, under-seasoned, overcooked, and no amount of sauce could save it.

Meatheads should definitely go gorge themselves at Del Campo.

BTW, agree with Eric about the olive oil and arepa-like bread. Also, in the way of a mildly interesting price comparison between his visit above in late June and mine now in late November, a few side-by-sides:

Eric's June Prices:

Scallop Sushi Ceviche ($12)

Griled Octopus App ($16)

Short Ribs ($22)

Hangar Steak ($28)

Sweet Breads ($22)

Prices on those Five items now:

Scallop ($14, up $2)

Octopus ($18, up $2)

Short Ribs ($38, up $16)

Hangar Steak ($28, no change!)

Sweet Breads ($24, up $2)

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Had a terrific late dinner here last Saturday. We started with the tuna, which was served in large chunks atop a bed of chopped avocados. There was something savory in the avocados (soy sauce, fish sauce?) that really gave this dish a deep note of flavor. We also split the chicharones, which were like a combination of delicious bacon with the crisp of a potato chip. I'd order both again.

For an entrée, we split the 18oz ribeye and ordered the bacon and chorizo on the side. We did not need to finish everything, but we did anyway. I would probably skip the chorizo if we went again, but the bacon was smoky and delicious as was the steak. Friends who were there and dining separately raved about the pork shoulder.  Maybe next time.

For cocktails, it's hard to skip the Limonada Sucia, a smoky lemonade that could get deadly after more than two.

My only knock on the meal was the pacing. We were seated 15 minutes after our reservation which isn't a big deal, but then waited a long time before seeing a waiter. And because the waiter has to bring the menus and give you the spiel about the restaurant, we sat at an empty table for a long time. We then waited another long period before getting our appetizers. The server was gracious and friendly, so I'll just chalk it up to a busy Saturday night. I would definitely return to explore menu further.

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My first visit to DC after leaving in September began with dinner at Del Campo's bar. It was hopping! We didn't want to eat too much so we split the hangar steak and got the fries and thr greens. The bread and smoked olive oil and smoked salt is delicious. I could polish off quite a bit of that bread with a bottle of wine. Great start. The steak was cooked to a rosy medium rare with a smoky exterior char and was served with a piece of bone marrow. The portion was perfect for us...we got a good beef fix without going overboard. The greens just tasted burned, like something left on a skillet too long. They were helped by a splash of the chimichurri sauce, but the overall product was not very tasty. The fries were the thick, steak-cut kind, and were just ordinary.

Here's my beef (ha ha): a fairly small portion of fries is $10. That's not a good value in my book. Perhaps I have a skewed perspective because the night before in Columbus (home) I had a lovely order of thin, crispy, delicious fries at a new, happening restaurant for $2 which was regular menu pricing. I am not comparing Columbus and DC, but really, at a place like Del Campo do people expect and accept $10 fries?

So with a bottle of wine our bill was over $100. For a shared inexpensive cut of meat and two ho-hum sides. I guess I am entering old curmudgeon territory, but the weak value proposition here would keep me from rushing back even though the service was great.

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I have been working on a pretty scathing review of this place, but I don't think I am ever going to post it.  I will just provide cliff notes.  For the first time in my life, I nearly got up and left before the meal.  I've never even considered doing that before.

The service was the worst service I have had at a restaurant of this price level, ever.

The mediocre food was not enough to overcome the service.  Nothing was awful other than some completely burnt vegetables (I know that's their thing, but the recipient's comment was "I think this tastes like what the stuff you scrape off of your grill after a cookout must taste like") but nothing wowed either.

The bread and some of the cocktails were great.  If I were dragged back there, I would eat the bread and drink my drink and then feign an emergency or illness and leave.

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Having read this thread and the notes in the latest Washingtonian, we decided to approach this restaurant as a fun place, rather than a serious one. Yes, it's a "steak house," but it is pretty different and somewhat whimsical, compared to more traditional "steak houses." The bottom line is that we had fun with the food.

We were seated at a lovely 2-top banquette facing the rest of the dining room, giving us space, relative quiet, and a great view of everyone else.We felt kind of sorry for the other diners who were almost bumping elbows with their neighbors as they ate.

I loved the grilled oysters with chorizo and butter, although I take more than a few points off for there being shell fragments in the oysters. I accept no excuses for sloppy shucking, especially on cooked bivalves. My husband prefers his oysters raw and unadorned, so I had these mainly to myself. In spite of the shell fragments, I enjoyed the flavor of them.

Then we shared the "Burnt Beet" salad with grilled feta. We both enjoy caramelized foods, so this worked well for us (though I understand not everyone feels the same--if you don't like "burnt" food, best not to order it). The fresh greens and vinaigrette were a nice foil for the main ingredients, and it was a refreshing salad.

We each ordered a main dish. I had the hanger steak--a perfect medium-rare--with the Malbec reduction sauce. The steak was delicious, but I found myself wishing for a nice bearnaise sauce to compliment it.  My husband had the grilled sweetbreads with the "smoked citrus" Hollandaise. I managed to get one bite and it was wonderful! I'm ordering that next time!

The sides were good: grilled maitake mushrooms and grilled cauliflower (although Pizzeria Orso's is much better). I just wish the menu were clearer about whether a side is included with the grilled mains. We were confused by the wording, and wouldn't have ordered two sides, as one would have sufficed, and at $10 each they seemed a little puny.

Service was prompt and attentive. Our waiter arrived within seconds of us being seated to give us our menus and take our drink orders.  He brought up the subject of which dishes were gluten-free without me asking (It's engraved in my Open Table notes that I have celiac disease). I appreciated his checking with the kitchen about which dishes were safe for me to eat (not my first choice, the braised pork shank).

My biggest complaint with the restaurant was the lighting. As happens in too many restaurants these days, the lights are so dim that it is difficult to see the food. We used my cell phone flashlight to read the menus and the wine list, but once the restaurant filled up I had to forego photographing my food because the bright flash would blind folks.  No problem--we'll go back to Del Campo when the sun is up until at least 7:30--probably after Daylight Savings starts in the spring--but we will be back!

So glad to have yet one more choice for safe gluten-free dining!

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Ate lunch here during extended Winter RW.  Pretty favorably impressed with the place.  The grilled scallop sushi ceviche was the best dish and the grilled short rib was very tasty.  The other dishes were all well made and well seasoned, and I like how they incorporated smoke and char into every dish.

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Any recent experiences here?

 

Went back a few weeks ago. Hoped it wouldn't be so dark because of daylight savings, but between the thunderstorm and the tinted windows it was almost as dark as in the winter.

I had the sweetbreads, and I could eat those all day every day from now to eternity. They were delicious! Husband had the Peruvian chicken, which he really loved. I think sauces are a weak link. The grilled citrus hollandaise I had with the sweetbreads didn't add anything in terms of flavor.

The basics seem to be very good. Grilled meats: delicious. Grilled veggies: really good.

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Grilled Seafood Smoke Box - Mussels, Clams, Shrimp, Calamari, Chorizo Butter Oysters, Alaskan Crab, Spiny Lobster with Horseradish Chimichurri, Spicy Ketchup, and Aji Amarillo Aioli.

The website says $72, but they changed it to $36 (for brunch, still $72 at dinner), and made it smaller.  I didn't get any shrimp, but I got everything else.  Only the lobster was overcooked, everything else was superb. Well seasoned already but you can BAM kick it up a notch with the chimichurri or aji amarillo aioli.  I never touched the spicy ketchup.

With shitty yet expensive raw bars all over town, this is different, better, and cheaper.

IMG_2576.JPG

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28 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Seafood smokebox was really lackluster today.  Overcooked lobster, mealy shrimps, and stringy crab leg.  The oysters, clams, mussels, and calamari rings were still good though.

The sweet breads were still very good.

Say hi next time!

(We were part of the private party in the bar area)

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On 2/13/2017 at 9:18 PM, reedm said:

Do you like smoked meat? Smoked olive oil? Smoked cocktails? We went a couple of years ago and loved everything about it. 

I'd return in a heartbeat. 

Had a really good meal here this past weekend except for some nits (some of which were in control of the restaurant, some not).

The grilled octopus was quite good, though I think the rest of the preparation around it was getting slightly in the way of the delicious octopus itself. Still a very good diash. My wife had their version of a burrata salad that was quite good. Cocktails preceded that, and despite my misgivings of their list being littered with drinks with 'smoke' in the ingredients, they were quite good.

Then we waited. A while. Probably 30 minutes before we flagged down our guy (in the meantime our water was refilled and we were rationing our wine because we knew there was a lot of meat coming). But within maybe 3 minutes of asking for status, our entrees arrived. Delicious stuff, just a bummer the ticket got overlooked (it was a Saturday at prime time and they were packed). Wagyu bavette with chimichiuri, veal sweetbreads with salsa criola (I'd ordered the smoked citrus hollandaise but I was not bothering to point it out), blood sausage (morcilla), brussel sprouts sides (good but not revelatory) and mushrooms (quite good) rounded out by a grilled pineapple crepe souffle (very good and tart).

The wine was a Gigondas that was our plan B when the baby Numanthia was sold out (the sommelier did not try to upsell us, perhaps partly because I think it was clear I knew my way around a wine list, as the two plan B's I'd asked about, one was maybe $10 cheaper than the bottle I intially ordered (this is the one I ended up ordering) and the other was 10 or 15 more than the original bottle I ordered.  So...nice.

The only other thing that was a bit of an annoyance was the noise level. They had two eight tops and at least one, possibly two six tops going. Given the presentation of the meat nature of the grilled and smoked meats, I get that it makes for great sharing and large groups but man alive it was loud in there. The bar was louder still. Oh well.

I'll be back - probably for the smoked seafood box next time. Anyone had it?

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On 3/21/2017 at 9:41 PM, Pool Boy said:

I'll be back - probably for the smoked seafood box next time. Anyone had it?

My husband and I have shared the seafood box as an entree, and it was delicious, though my husband wished it had been larger. We also shared the sweetbreads . . . as an appetizer. These things made for a delicious meal.

I don't remember having any dishes there that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. The sweetbreads are a perennial favorite of ours. The hanger steak has been a big hit, too.

Yes, the restaurant is noisy when full. We usually go at 5:30 or 5:45 on a Saturday, and request a quiet table. When we've done that, we've been seated in an unpopulated section that gradually filled up during our meal, but gave us some respite from the cacaphony. We're heading back in a few weeks and I can't wait!

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Del Campo changed their brunch format to a buffet.  $35 for just food, and $10 more if you want all you can drink booze.

Here are the things I tried.

Meats:

Smoked Beef Brisket - not very fatty, a little dry, tender, flavorful but not very meaty (I like gnawing on bones so I enjoyed them)
Roasted Pork shoulder - moist and tender
Peruvian Chicken - nicely done but not better than Crisp & Juicy and its ilk

Empanadas - I think it was filled with just chorizo - pretty tasty

Frittata - ok

Savory Pie (Pasqualina Tart) - fillings had mushrooms and other things - very tasty

Grilled cauliflower - ok

I didn't see any fried yucca, mashed potatoes, steak, charcuterie & cheese or pancakes, but I did see homestyle hash browns and a bean salad.

 

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Yes it does, and IMO it's the right step for the space.  I know that people love Del Camp, but I've been here a number of times for lunch and have never been that interested or impressed with anything that I have had.  Looking forward to trying out Taco Bamba.

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