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Driftwood Kitchen, Mediterranean-Influenced American at 4th and H Street NE In the Former TruOrleans Space - Closed


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On 4/21/2014 at 4:54 PM, bettyjoan said:

Twitter was buzzing today about the 400 H Street NE (formerly TruOrleans) space being acquired:

Mark Eckenwiler (@20002ist):

Coming to 400 H NE, former TruOrleans site. MT @EricTollar American fare with Mediterranean influence, craft cocktails and local craft beer

There were some other folks tweeting about the news, but that was how I saw it.

I cannot even tell you how happy I will be if we have another legitimate dining/drinking option on the West side of H Street.  Boundary Road and The Big Board are awesome, but 4th/5th could definitely use some more love.  :D

I do know @EricTollar continues to work on opening the restaurant at 400 H.  Don't have many details besides something like 12 taps, plans for craft cocktails and a menu as stated above.  I believe they are "close" to opening.  I also think Mr. Tollar above has a pretty good craft cocktail background.

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Signage up at this location - "Driftwood" is the name. Still unsure of the concept, but word around our end of H St. is that the backers are foreign investors with little industry experience but lots of funds. Again, that's just what people are saying, I haven't confirmed this at all. I'll ask around some more and see about concept, opening dates, etc. Kind of a bummer that gorgeous patio missed an entire spring and summer of use.

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Last Wednesday I went with my wife and a friend to Driftwood.  We live close by and were glad something replaced the disappointing TruOrleans. Hoping for a good local bistro, we ventured in.  They bill them selves as American fare with a Middle Eastern influence.  Not enough influence.  I will caveat the review by stating that they had only been open for eight nights, so make of it what you will.  We sat upstairs which provides a good view of H St and the heaters in the ceiling were enough to stave off the cold leaking in from a blustery evening in DC.  We did wonder how comfortable that section will be in January.  The decor is welcoming and rustic.  The light fixture on the wall as you ascend the stairs is pretty interesting.   More importantly, what about the food?  The waiter described the plates as large enough to share but not small enough to be consider tapas.  So right off the bat, they need to figure out whether this is a sharing place or a one-entree per person place.  We ordered the charcuterie platter to start.  It was a generous portion for about $7 and included pastrami, cured pork, and belly with some pickled garlic and spicy peppers.   Overall, it was tasty, but lacked some accompanying mustards or even bread.  It amounted to a bite of pastrami, which is a bit odd.  Again, it was tasty.

We opted for the tapas interpretation of the menu and ordered five dishes.  The menu was a bit heavy on short ribs - and I like short ribs, but they were served with tagliatella as well as in an autumn stew.  The meat was tender, but both dishes lacked the depth of flavor you would expect with braised meat.  The sauces were a bit thin, somewhat greasy, and in need of seasoning.  The macaroni and  cheese with ham was tasty and the ham provided the much needed salt.  Most in need of salt was the heirloom tomato salad.  Tasty, ripe tomatoes, but they need to go across the street to DC Harvest to see how it should be done.  The desserts were the star of the meal.  We ordered the panna cota and a chocolate terrine.  They both stole the show and provided the necessary incentive to return.

Overall, a huge step up from the previous tenant and given that the restaurant was only eight days in, left us with the impression that we could deb back there much more often.  We are looking forward to seeing them make the necessary adjustments to become a formidable competitor on H St.

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I ate here on like day two, and then immediately went on a long trip, so never wrote about it. It's a huge step up from the previous occupant, and I enjoyed my meal there very much. The service was fantastic. I do think their "concept" isn't fully thought out, and I'd really like to see them put together a better and more interesting wine list. But it's a place that bears watching, and I'll definitely be back. FWIW, I enjoyed my meal here more than DC Harvest. 

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The original Chefs have left...thoughtfully taking most of the kitchen staff with them. But I have it on a good authority that the kitchen has been placed in more than capable hands. Psst...it's me

This is great news! :).

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The original Chefs have left...thoughtfully taking most of the kitchen staff with them. But I have it on a good authority that the kitchen has been placed in more than capable hands. Psst...it's me

Great news!

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The original Chefs have left...thoughtfully taking most of the kitchen staff with them. But I have it on a good authority that the kitchen has been placed in more than capable hands. Psst...it's me

Are you making any changes to the menu?

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In related news, there will probably soon be some damned fine fried chicken on H St. NE.  :lol:

Not to mention fried Twinkies...?

Fried chicken ETA? Will not be fooled (er, miss it) again! :-)

Yeah, Antonio nails this dish, and notwithstanding my cardiologist's advice, I will be in line with you.

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I will have finished changing over the menu tomorrow. I'm taking a day off tonight to gear up for the weekend but almost 80% of the menu will have changed. I will be changing the brunch menu in the coming weeks. Also...there will be fried chicken, a spiced version with dill potato salad and zaatar honey

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Get thee to Driftwood.  Antonio is firing on all cylinders; we would order everything we enjoyed tonight when we go back.  And we will be back.  Soon.

We started with the lamb tartar, which I have been dreaming about since he first posted pics of it elsewhere as he prepared to take over the kitchen.  A generous sized portion, the seasoning of the lamb, which was on the spicy side, was accented by the micro greens that was scattered on top.

Next was the white asparagus Caesar with a 63 degree egg.  Perfectly cooked asparagus with Caesar dressing which you dip into the running yolk.  Delicious.

The beef ribs that arrived could have come from Wilma's kitchen and Fred would be happy.  I only had a few bites but those I did were tender, punctuated with pomegranate seeds.  The ribs were served with sweet potato puree and sweet potato and greens.  The potato and greens combo countered perfectly with the ribs.  I would eat a bowl of this without the meat accompaniment.  

Finally, the fried chicken arrived.  I love Antonio's fried chicken.  Crispy on the outside, succulent and juicy on the inside, the chicken was all that I remembered. Half a chicken served in two pieces, it comes with a creamy potato salad and honey with zatar.  I'm not sure why the honey is needed, but my friend enjoyed it so to each their own.

Service was attentive and happy.  Both our waitress and runner noted without prompting how much they like Antonio's food and watching their customers enjoy it.  I don't remember the last time that happened.  It says a lot about what is coming out of Antonio's kitchen.

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Get thee to Driftwood.  Antonio is firing on all cylinders; we would order everything we enjoyed tonight when we go back.  And we will be back.  Soon.

We started with the lamb tartar, which I have been dreaming about since he first posted pics of it elsewhere as he prepared to take over the kitchen.  A generous sized portion, the seasoning of the lamb, which was on the spicy side, was accented by the micro greens that was scattered on top.

Next was the white asparagus Caesar with a 63 degree egg.  Perfectly cooked asparagus with Caesar dressing which you dip into the running yolk.  Delicious.

The beef ribs that arrived could have come from Wilma's kitchen and Fred would be happy.  I only had a few bites but those I did were tender, punctuated with pomegranate seeds.  The ribs were served with sweet potato puree and sweet potato and greens.  The potato and greens combo countered perfectly with the ribs.  I would eat a bowl of this without the meat accompaniment.  

Finally, the fried chicken arrived.  I love Antonio's fried chicken.  Crispy on the outside, succulent and juicy on the inside, the chicken was all that I remembered. Half a chicken served in two pieces, it comes with a creamy potato salad and honey with zatar.  I'm not sure why the honey is needed, but my friend enjoyed it so to each their own.

Service was attentive and happy.  Both our waitress and runner noted without prompting how much they like Antonio's food and watching their customers enjoy it.  I don't remember the last time that happened.  It says a lot about what is coming out of Antonio's kitchen.

I live just southwest of Driftwood; reading this review makes me reflect on how lucky we on the west end of H St. are to have made the 180* change from the atrocity that was TruOrleans to, now, an increasingly improving restaurant with a proven, outstanding chef. Any idea on when they'll open up the outdoor seating on the west side of the restaurant?

Great writeup!

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I won't give a full review, because Antonio is a personal friend, so I know there's bias. At the same time, for lack of a better way of wording it, he's always cooked the way I like to eat. Every gig he's been at, through different cuisines, I love to eat what he puts on the plate.

--------------------------

I went with a group of 5, and there wasn't a miss on the menu.

Lamb tartare, tuna tartare, crispy brussels sprouts, mac & cheese w/tasso, spiced caramel corn, (and one I'm forgetting) for apps. Mains were ribs, scallops, seafood pasta, and fried chicken x2. I'd order every one again.

Some good cocktails too, though a few of them were unbalanced towards the sweet side.

So that's an app and entree per person, and 1-2 drinks each, and we still got out for $60pp after tax and tip. A few blocks west of the "main drag" on H St, but worth the detour (and easier to find parking on that end!)

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A coworker appreciates the chef

                        

My new chef, Antonio, was working his first brunch with me last Sunday morning. Things were a bit shaky at first, much like all transitions. Our brunch menu is not terribly complicated but it is certainly labor intensive and people expect their food in a timely manner, so it was a bit difficult to get into a groove. Chef was plating a pork belly Benedict, which requires you to balance a poached egg on top of the meat and then put hollandaise on top. We had not yet gotten our immersion circulator, so he was poaching the eggs the old fashioned way.

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He cracked an egg, and it was under cooked. He cracked another and it wouldn't balance. Leaning over the plate, the deafening silence that comes when you have hungry guests and no food leaving the kitchen dropped into the room like a sewage soaked blanket. I saw frustration begin to bubble into his face. Anger was right behind. Then he stopped.

He straightened up and looked up at me across the line, took a deep breath, smiled, and said "I'm not going to let an egg ruin my day."

I looked at him perplexed for a moment, and just started to laugh. As I did, he grabbed an egg, it cracked perfectly, and suddenly food was flying out the door. "That's a true Chef," I thought to myself. You see all of these silly Chef's on TV with hair trigger tempers, but when Antonio is in the kitchen he is smiles, laughs, and all business. His line is happy too cook with him. He really loves his food.

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