We were huge fans of Baricelli and were sad when it closed. Our first thought was that Washington Place had some pretty big shoes to fill, but we didn’t expect an establishment that was not only great for the space but seems to have understood why Baricelli failed and is poised to succeed.
The space is thoroughly revamped. While Baricelli felt old world upscale, Washington Place is elegant but not overly formal. The new color scheme opens up the space, and the lighting is bright enough to be inviting while subdued enough to be intimate. We definitely felt that the new décor was an improvement. And as we glanced over the menu we also noticed that the prices–generally $15-$20 per entrée–were also better for frequent dining than Baricelli’s.
The evening began with drink samples and hors d’oeuvres. We enjoyed talking with Maybelle’s Mom (of Feeding Maybelle) and Nancy of Fun Playing With Food. We very much enjoyed the noshes, especially the goat cheese and chorizo phyllo tarts. As the lobby became packed and loud, though, we made our way to a small table in the waiting area; neither of us is great at socializing.
A half hour after the evening began, Scott Kuhn, the owner, talked the crowd. He briefly discussed his background and his decision to serve American cuisine rather than Italian. His parents told him that if he was anyone other than himself he’d fail, so he went with his passion for American food. He also introduced his chef Jonathan Guest, who worked at Kuhn’s 87 West previously. Our press kit mentioned Jonathan’s experience at Fire as well. Kuhn was warm and engaging, and came across as the antithesis of a slick businessman.
At the end of his presentation and as everyone was filing into the dining area, Scott turned around (we were behind him in the waiting area) and introduced himself to us. He admitted that he wasn’t much for presentations and was a bit shy. We felt very welcomed.
Our first course was the beet and goat cheese salad:
Beet salad is pretty big in this town, but none we’ve had before so thoroughly explored the essence of beets: cooked, raw, red, yellow and candy-striped. At the same time, the MacKenzie Creamery goat cheese and goat cheese-infused ranch-style dressing made this so accessible that Sarah said her family (some picky eaters among them) would even enjoy it. The candied almonds were a nice touch as well.
Up next were the Ohio City Pasta truffled potato pierogies with oxtail and killbuck valley mushroom ragout. These were stupidly good. The earthy truffle flavor in the potatoes paired beautifully with the meat and mushroom sauce. The horseradish cream made the whole thing even better.
The next course, scallops with butternut squash risotto and cider jus, was excellent as well:
The sweet and tangy cider reduction totally made this dish. It cut through the richness of the perfectly seared scallops and creamy risotto, creating a great balance of flavors.
The beer menu at Washington Place is also worth noting. I started with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (they didn’t have their GLB Christmas Ale tap running quite yet) and then a Unibroe Fin Du Monde. Both were excellent. Bottled beers also include Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA, Ommegang Three Philosophers, Blatz ($2), and Two Brother’s Belgian Farmhouse Ale.
Our third course was the pot roast and garlic mashed potatoes with big red reduction. Scott described this as “me on a plate–pure comfort food.” Sarah loved this, especially the melt-in-your-mouth pot roast. I thought it was well-executed and satisfying “stick to your ribs” food but that the flavors weren’t quite as interesting as the other dishes.
We had to leave at this point, with two courses–wild salmon and dessert–to go, as we didn’t want to impose on our friends who were watching Jonathan. Scott noticed our departing, though, and offered to box up dessert and show us a suite before we left.
We paid for our drinks and got our boxed brownies (which would normally include Jeni’s Splendid chocolate ice) and a press kit. Scott showed us a suite, which was large, tasteful and impressive. The prices are reasonable, too: $139 every night but Saturday (which is $159).
When we had the brownies at home they were great with just the chocolate sauce. They seemed somehow more intensely chocolate than a straight chocolate bar, but without any noticeable bitternesss.
We are grateful to have been invited to this event and very much enjoyed the food and ambiance. We’ll definitely be back in the not too distant future!