Jump to content

1789, Georgetown, 36th & Prospect St. - Chef Tracy O'Grady Replaces Samuel Kim


Recommended Posts

Their 3 course meal for $36 (went up a buck this year) is back on now through September. A link the coupon is on their website.

I recommended this deal after a great experience there last year. This year's experience failed to justify the meal even at these substantially discounted prices.

First, a couple things they did well. I asked to be seated in a particular room and was. The new lamb preparation ("pancetta crusted") is interesting and quite different than the 'traditional' version of the prior chef and came a perfect medium rare. Finally, when one of us ordered a dessert wine, a complimentary dessert pairing was presented with the other's dessert. This was a nice touch.

So what went wrong? Well, for starters I definitely did not expect the Rockfish to come charred to a crisp on the top surface. I mean it was nothing but black. Open to the possibility that it was supposed to be as such or was some dark ingredient that hadn't been listed, we tried it and found that it simply was a layer of char. When asked if it was supposed to come this way, our server quickly removed it without answering. It was promptly replaced, but its replacement was 55-60% the size of the original piece of fish. I hate to cast aspersions, so I wont speculate as to why the size of the dish changed so radically, but the combination of a dish arriving visibly burnt to a crisp and subsequently varying in size by nearly 50% indicated to me that at least over the long weekend something wasn't clicking right in the kitchen. Anyway, I don't know what happened and I hate to post anything negative, but I think with 1789 part of what you are paying for is not a wild culinary adventure, but some assurance that they will get all the little things right and assure you a luxurious and romantic evening. Last year, they did and I posted that we "felt like royalty." This year, between being rushed, being served something that clearly should have never left the kitchen, and having received a less than adequate replacement without anything akin to an apology or explanation, we ended up leaving without getting what we'd come or paid for.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hate to cast aspersions, so I wont speculate as to why the size of the dish changed so radically, but the combination of a dish arriving visibly burnt to a crisp and subsequently varying in size by nearly 50% indicated to me that at least over the long weekend something wasn't clicking right in the kitchen.

ARTHUR:

Consult the Book of Kitchens!

BROTHER MAYNARD:

Kitchens, second course, pages seventy-one to seventy-two.

SECOND BROTHER:

And the Apostle Bourdain raised the
yanagi
up on high, saying, 'Turnover. Rotation. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best nights to order fish in New York. The food that comes in Tuesday is fresh, the station prep is new, and the chef is well rested after a Sunday or a Monday off.'

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sorry to be so full of piss and vinegar lately, but I've been on a bad run of expensive meals, and I need to get this out my system.

On a fortnight full of caprese salads, 1789's Heirloom Tomato Salad ($12) was the only one I wouldn't order again. The tomatoes were merely okay, the basil was cut into confetti-like squiggles of nothingness, and the mozzarella was a large, cake-cut wedge that was dense and dry.

My high hopes for the Sardines ($14) were quickly dashed, two cut-and-flattened fish, bland, inexplicably served with green beans, and saved by the lemon and parsley. Like the tomato salad, this dish was desperate for salt, and I wonder if this may have something to do with 1789's customers having a preference for blander food.

A Veal Short Rib ($16) was passable but skimpy, served with grilled corn, smoked paprika, and the highlight of the dish, some pickled shallots.

I have to say that I've never loved 1789, although I've only been perhaps three times. They do a deceptively high amount of covers, and I think that my one recent experience here doesn't speak volumes about the restaurant, but speaks about the restaurant's volume. There's no question that Nathan Beauchamp is a talented chef - and people said the same thing about Ris Lacoste - but I don't see this venue as one which can fully reveal the gifts of any one individual, no matter how good they are.

"Say something nice, Don."

Okay: Wines by the glass are good, and refreshingly inexpensive.

Tonight? Gosh I hope something downscale and cheap, but who knows where the wind will blow me.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure why I'd never been to 1789, maybe in the back of my mind knowing that it was a Clydes restaurant kept me away (I'm not hating on Clydes, but I don't love them for this price point). So I can't really compare to Ris or Nathan, but based on last night's experience the kitchen is in very good hands with Daniel Giusti.

Started with an amuse of cucumber sorbet with a thin watermelon sauce and itty bitty lime peel, followed by Sweetbreads over creamed corn - maybe not a dish I'd often order in August but a nice preparation. The lamb... well worth every penny of the $15 upcharge for the summer special. I wasn't as big of a fan of my shortcake for dessert, but the rest of the desserts at the table were all spot on - I especially liked the chocolate covered mint leave on the sundae.

The summer coupon special from their web site runs through mid-September - I thought for 37$ this was a great deal (plus upcharge for the lamb, steak, and veal entrees)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My SO and I had an early dinner on Saturday evening at 1789 in order to get to the Kennedy Center. The staff was incredibly accomodating and promised to get us on our way by 7:00. And we were. But in the interim, we had an excellent dinner. I had the white sweet potato soup, which arrived as a delicious puree with a whole chestnut. My Black Grouper was moist and not too salty. My SO had an extremely well prepared pear and fig salad with three huge and thinly sliced pears. Her lobster was less inventive, tender but not very interesting. I almost never have dessert but opted for the vanilla/ cranberry sorbet. It was very good, especially the cranberry which was just a tad tart (that's good).

On the other hand, this is a very old and tired venue. Worn carpets, restaurant reviews on the walls that were at least 12 years old, and a decor that was a mish mash of "traditional"styles. We were seated in the Garden Room. Why is it called the Garden Room? Apparently because the walls held rather tacky art that featured flowers. This old townhouse could benefit from a "Corduroy" makeover.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

any recent reports? Looks like a new chef came on board in August

So we went. On the whole we were satisfied but it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Ambience: Very nice in an old world way - seated close to a fire which just made everything seem cosier.

Service: Extremely gracious and courteous, if a tad slow at times. We felt like we waited around a good 15 minutes or more before we had drinks in hand and a little longer still for bread. But on the whole we were happy and felt looked after. Got a fabulous pinot recommendation from the sommelier and even knocked off $5 from the price so it could fit in my stated price range.

Food: Some of it was excellent, some of it just didn't display the type of refinement you expect at at restaurant at this price point. A celery root soup for example, tasted ok but was a little thick and pasty and like something you might crank out at home in 90 minutes on a sunday afternoon. But the fried pork terrine w/ cracklins was very satisfying as was the beef carpaccio. The entrees were mostly excellent, especially the halibut served atop a piece of pork belly w/ a little parsnip veloute and grilled scallions - fish cooked perfectly, pork belly melted in mouth - everything came together really well.

My dessert was not great though - a dry, distinctly untoffeeish sticky toffee pudding.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We made it back to 1789 last week after a decades long absence, in the company of a friend from Sweden who was last there in the early 1980's and had fond memories. I have a prejudice against the Clyde's restaurants, having never had more than a mediocre meal at any of the Clyde's chain or the Old Ebbitt, but our meal at 1789 was very nice. Good bread. In particular, high marks for the Grappa Cured Ocean Trout and the Shad Roe appetizers. The Foie Gras Torchon Brule was a nice idea, but just a little too sweet and didn't quite work together. The Brussel Sprout salad was well received. For the main courses, we particularly liked the Fluke. The beef - 35 day dry aged, seemed a little dry, but was cooked properly and enjoyed. The service was friendly and well done. The atmosphere, of course, is beautiful - Colonial and comfortable. Overall, if not quite a great meal, still very nice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a client who likes to be wined and dined.  He likes expensive and he likes old school. He likes steaks and big Cabs.  If there is a burger on the dinner menu he won't go. He likes attentive overly formal service. He loves 1789 almost as much as he loves Blue Duck Tavern.  But Blue Duck Tavern was totally booked tonight and so at 6 pm I found myself having dinner with my client, a co-worker, and my husband (a good sport who can be lured into situations like this with the promise of expensive wine) in the Middleburg room.

I won't bury the lead. Dinner tonight was actually pretty damn good. This restaurant is totally underrated and frequently overlooked for newer, trendy options. I won't roll my eyes next time he says that is where he wants us to take him for dinner.

The menu has evolved and is now broken down into cold and hot appetizers, pasta (half and full portions), fish and meat that are described in a "know your farmer, know your food" style with a focus on seasonal ingredients. Dinner comes with a basket of freshly made bread- Parker House rolls, sour dough, and whole grain all served warm with Amish butter two ways- salted and honey whipped. I'm a sucker for honey butter on warm bread.  This was a lovely version. Next out was an amuse that was a spoonful of summer melon and cucumber salad with onions and two tiny cubes of feta cheese.  Very tasty.

My coworker and I both started our meals with the Chilled Tomato Soup burrata, basil cake croutons and hazelnuts.  The basil cake croutons were very much like a sweet cake in a pleasantly sour, intensely tomato flavored broth.  The burrata once cut into oozed into the cold soup making it almost like a creamy tomato soup. Client had the Summer Squash Soup charred baby eggplant purée and purple potato chips.  He didn't comment that it was good or bad (that meant he liked it). He did comment that he thought it was interesting that it was half the size of the tomato soup. My husband had an appetizer portion of the Lasagnette squid ink pasta, fried oysters, Florida white shrimp, Manila clams and Prosecco cream sauce.  He declared it to be delicious and all shellfish properly cooked.

Entrees were equally successful.  They were also very pretty. I had the Wild King Salmon (Colombia River, WA) potato crusted; house made fregula, charred corn,lump crab meat, favetta, fennel and corn consommé.  The salmon itself was mild and gorgeous cooked just past medium rare.  I wasn't as much of a fan of the jumble of stuff underneath it.  The flavors were good, but the fregula was a little chewy.  The rest of the table ordered meat. One lamb leg, one lamb shoulder, and one teres major with horseradish sauce.  Again, all expertly cooked and everyone was very happ

 
Dessert was by far the low point of the meal. Client and I both had the seasonal fruit sorbet ("stone fruit"), sparkling rosé, blackberry jam and fruit brittle. It was unremarkable. A drizzle of blackberry jam over three melon ball sized scoops of a bright red fruity sorbet. They poured sparkling wine over it at the table. I guess that crispy translucent thing on top was fruit brittle.  My husband had the Ice Cream Valhrona chocolate ice cream, bourbon vanilla ice cream, brownie blondie swirl, peanut butter cookie, chocolate éclair bon bon and chocolate sauce. On paper it sounded great.  In practice it was a sloppy mess and he said it tasted so overwhelmingly of bourbon that it was almost inedible. 
 
Client ordered two bottles of Pinot Noir, LaRue, Sonoma Coast, CA 2009 which we all really enjoyed.  The Pimms cups that he and the coworker had to kick-off the meal were described as just ok.  Along with an espresso and a latte with tax and tip it was a $600+ meal. 
 
I can't decide if I love or hate the fact that the decor of the restaurant hasn't changed in like 50 years. It is tired, fussy and shabby; a throwback to a more genteel time when you wanted to dine by candle light in a quiet, dark nook of a damp, cramped wood paneled room.  1789 attracts a clientele that would appreciate this decor and atmosphere in a not ironic kind of way. 
 
FWIW- they still run their summer special. The price has inflated over the years (I remember going in my pre-expense account days when it was 3 courses for $35 all summer, any day of the week).  Now it is four courses for $50 Monday through Friday. Info is on their website.  Given the regular menu prices and overall quality of the food it is a pretty solid deal. You'll have no trouble getting a table making it a great alternative to restaurant week which has long since jumped the shark.  
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I won't bury the lead. Dinner tonight was actually pretty damn good. This restaurant is totally underrated and frequently overlooked for newer, trendy options. I won't roll my eyes next time he says that is where he wants us to take him for dinner.

Two and a half years since the last post (yowzas!) and this still rings largely true.  Took my wife and two friends here for dinner on Friday night for her birthday.  She's close enough to popping out a kid that making reservations far in advance wasn't practical, but a week out we managed to snag a reservation here.  It wasn't a top 5 best meal, but it was very solid and we enjoyed our evening.

The amuse was a variation of apple cider, which started us off at the low point of the evening.  Serving a cold cider (it was more complex but didn't full hear the runner) on a cool evening in early April felt out of place.  My appetizer of Foie Gras Torchon ($26) with citrus and candied walnuts was a substantial portion and could easily have been split between 2.  Other orders of Jumbo White Asparagus ($16), Charred Spanish Octopus ($15) and Bucatini Carbonara ($16) were also enjoyed - I particularly enjoyed the smoked egg vinaigrette with the asparagus.

Dinner brought a Lamb Chop (also Lamb porchetta) ($42) that had great flavor but was slightly beyond the medium rare that was ordered.  The wives both ate Shrimp and Grits ($34) which both enjoyed.  The '12 Cade Cabernet that was recommended by Rich ($125) was a good choice (as was the glass of Sancerre he recommended with my foie).  Desserts (Key Lime Pie, Orange Bombe) were inventive, if a bit on the overly sweet side.

Service was excellent all around.  Only very minor nit was, when you see a 9 month pregnant lady, maybe offer a first floor seating option considering how tight the stairways are in this old building.  That being said, I could/should have mentioned that in the reservation and I'm sure they would have accommodated.

2 cocktails, 1 sancerre, 1 bottle of wine, 2 bottled beers and 1 GM, 4 apps, 4 entrees and 3 desserts, and the pre-tip, post tax bill was right at $500.  For as much as we enjoyed the evening, this felt like a bit of a bargain (if $500 for dinner ever can).

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Other orders of Jumbo White Asparagus ($16), Charred Spanish Octopus ($15) and Bucatini Carbonara ($16) were also enjoyed - I particularly enjoyed the smoked egg vinaigrette with the asparagus. 

Was the charred octopus a special, or has it been added to the main menu? Was it appetizer-sized?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, we had our usual Christmas Eve dinner at 1789. Been doing it for years, mostly the same group. There were 5 of us this year.

And this year will be the last. Prices have gone up significantly, but for a special occasion, we can cope with the prices. Food was fine. Not better than that and nowhere near as good as it used to be. And service was truly poor. 

We arrived in 2 groups - 3 of us and 2 of us. The 3 of us were a 15 minutes early, so we got shunted off into the VERY crowded bar over in the former F. Scott's space. Too crowded to even get drinks. Then they came to get us, saying that our other 2 were there. They weren't. So we ended up standing around by the hostess stand while they alternately ignored us and tried to figure out why we were there. 

When we were finally seated, we were taken to the upstairs back room. Coat check was not offered until we arrived at our table, despite the fact that we had asked about it when we arrived. We have always enjoyed the decor, but we got put into a room that was not very decorated for the holidays. OK, carolers are still coming around and food is the main thing. 

It took the waiter 20 minutes to come take our drink order. Drinks then took another 10 to arrive. Only then did the waiter offer to take our orders. We had to ask for a wine list, but we had enough trouble getting anyone's attention that we didn't get a wine list until we ordered.

Ordered. Appetizers came in a mostly timely manner, and were placed in front of the wrong people.

Dinner took almost 40 minutes after the apps were cleared to arrive. We asked. The waiter apologized, and told us we were next up. A while after we asked, we asked again. He said he didn't know, and you know, you can't go into the kitchen and ask! When it arrived, dinners were placed in front of the wrong people. I swear, we didn't move around the table or anything like that.

As people finished their meals, plates were cleared one by one. No waiting for us all to finish!

We should have given up at that point, gone home, and had cookies and eggnog for dessert. No, we are not that smart.  Took a while to get his attention to order dessert and drinks. Dessert took a while to arrive, drinks even longer, tea even longer. Also, the desserts have definitely declined in quality, even more than the food. And again, drinks and food were given to the wrong people.

I will note that through all of this the waiter was quite pleasant, but neither helpful nor knowledgeable.

No, I didn't ask for the manager. I should have, but we kept thinking that surely it would improve. On the way out, we passed the manager who asked how it was. I told him, although not in detail. We had 7:15 reservations. It was almost 10:30 by the time we left. I was not ready to invest any more time.

So, for us, the end of an era. I hope there are some good places open for Christmas Eve next year. (We did Corduroy one year. It was amazing, although didn't have the holiday decor. No matter. It was so good. Perhaps back there. Maybe Kinship will be open for Christmas Eve. That would be good. We'll figure it out. ) It's sad though. It used to be so much fun.

  • Sad 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, saf said:

So, for us, the end of an era. I hope there are some good places open for Christmas Eve next year. (We did Corduroy one year. It was amazing, although didn't have the holiday decor. No matter. It was so good. Perhaps back there. Maybe Kinship will be open for Christmas Eve. That would be good. We'll figure it out. ) It's sad though. It used to be so much fun.

It will be interesting to see which direction the company goes following the acquisition by Graham Holdings.  It seems there has been a notable dip in quality and that 'fun' factor you mention in recent years across many of their properties (though Tom S seems high on Ebbitt right now), while competition is increasing.  The Willow Creek location, for example, has seen a dramatic reduction in business (from my occasional observation but also in talking with the staff) as new rivals in the area (primarily Cooper's Hawk) have bumped into a market that Clydes once dominated.

But it may not matter.  It seems that many restaurant empires are built more on savvy real estate deals than anything else, and Clydes is no different.  Laytham secured the land for Tower Oaks AND Willow Creek from the developers - free of charge.  He got a long term sweetheart deal for The Hamilton along with financing from the District.  These are some of the highest grossing restaurants in the country - unfortunately they don't have to be good.

So many people have celebrated so many occasions at 1789, and the Graham's obviously have long ties to the community.  Maybe they'll turn it around.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/27/2019 at 8:37 PM, Mark Slater said:

I had dinner there this week. I found it to be VERY expensive.  Entrees are all in the 40s and $50s.

Is this now strictly a "Georgetown Parents" restaurant?

We had a place like this at Clemson in 1979 called Pixie & Bill's (and apparently, 40-years later, we still do!) - it was the one place in town that could get away with charging $20 for Prime Rib, and people paid it. But unlike Clemson, SC (in Pickens County), 1789 isn't the only fine-dining restaurant in town.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/1/2020 at 8:24 PM, DonRocks said:

Is this now strictly a "Georgetown Parents" restaurant?

Ha! When I was an undergrad at GW (early 80s), the GW parents restaurants were Adam's Rib and Blackie's House of Beef. I wonder what are the GW parents restaurants now.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dear old friend Richard McCooey founded 1789 and The Tombs for the purpose of providing a gathering place for the students and the faculty of Georgetown. He later opened F. Scott's on the same block, and he lived in a townhouse up the street. His vision was to provide the students and faculty a safe place to congregate, and he made sure 1789 was the higher end establishment that the parents would frequent when they came to town to visit their children.

He sold his restaurants to the Clyde's Group but remained a designer and decorator. He collected expensive prints -- the basement of his Georgetown townhouse was dug deeper to hold the flat files he used to store his prints. They decorate the walls of all the Clyde's restaurants, at least the ones still remaining. I have a nice baseball print from Richard in my man cave.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Fitzgerald’s and The Tombs have the same menu right now but the Tomb is still closed, lacks staff.  $16 for a glass of Veuve is dirt cheap.

I miss the Tombs very much for Sunday brunch (coffee cake/French toast/EPL on TV).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Fitzgerald’s and The Tombs have the same menu right now but the Tomb is still closed, lacks staff.  $16 for a glass of Veuve is dirt cheap.

Meet me at the Churchill Arms - £9 for a glass of Pol Roger - I'll take that any day over the Veuve.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/19/2021 at 8:29 AM, zgast said:

Meet me at the Churchill Arms - £9 for a glass of Pol Roger - I'll take that any day over the Veuve.

I’ve got that marked down.  The pheasant ballotine with foie was delicious.  The same goes for the tempura calamari.  The portions aren’t big so i had two pheasant ballotines.    Veuve is $16 until September i believe.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...