Since my visit to the pop-up dining space Chefs Club last year when my wife Jun and I had a very good meal from the kitchen led by chef JJ Johnson, I had been checking periodically to see who would be next on the line. Even though I had graduated from college at Georgetown, I hadn’t had a chance to visit Washington D.C. much since I started my career in NYC, and back when I was a poor college student, I didn’t have the same level of enthusiasm as I do now on checking out every single restaurant in the city. In recent years, D.C.’s restaurant scene has really started to blossom so I should probably make a trip with Jun at some point to visit my alma mater and check out a few places. Dabney led by chef Jeremiah Langhorne was definitely of the restaurants on my list of places in D.C. to check out, so I was very excited to hear they decided to feature their American cuisine for the first three months of 2018. What I didn’t expect when Jun and I entered the restaurant was that the Dabney pop-up at Chefs Club turned out to be one of the best meals of the year so far!
There are tons of “New American” restaurants in the city, but you don’t see many places focusing on a particular region in the U.S. Dabney’s concept is a modern take on Mid-Atlantic cuisine focusing on the ingredients of the region (according to the bio in Chefs Club website, chef Jeremiah sources largely from the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding areas). In looking at the menus (mostly in small plates ideal for sharing), we didn’t see anything that jumped out at us. The beauty of dining at Dabney, though, is finding things that turned out to be quite memorable in dishes that look rather plain. Fuku from David Chang’s Momofuku Group led the rise of fried chicken sandwiches in the city carrying on the tradition of the much beloved dishes in the South, but the sweet potato slider with buttermilk fried chicken at Dabney was really something else. The chicken was more or less perfectly fried and each bite was a pure bliss! Jun frowned a little bit at the burnt ends of the charred lettuces accompanied by pickled green tomato, bacon, hush puppies and smoked honey but the textural combination of the ingredients altogether was otherwise quite remarkable, as was the roasted cauliflower custard.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was smoked trout with heirloom beans, chorizo, farm egg and pickled onions. The flavor of this beauty was quite exquisite but not overpowering, and the way the fish worked together with beans, chorizo and farm egg gave me so much pleasure on my palate. I don’t really like to compare a dish at one restaurant with another, but after trying the cornbread stuffed quail with cherries, bitter greens and foie gras jus, Jun remarked this was her favorite dish of the night and miles better than the lame squab that the disappointing Asian fusion restaurant Chinese Tuxedo had served. Beef short rib with potato puree, wile horseradish and black garlic was another winner, and Jun really appreciated that the seasoning of the meat was kept to the minimum to allow the meat’s juicy texture to really shine. For dessert, we decided to go off menu and order the mille-feuille with white chocolate pearls and mint ice cream that offered full of pleasant surprises even though we had had this French classic multiple times before.
The Chefs Club gig ends at the end of March, so if you still have time and want to check out an exciting place, do your best to grab your seats! There is standard full bar with interesting cocktail and wine options. We were told chef Jeremiah has actually been at the kitchen almost the entire time since the pop-up launched but when we visited, he wasn’t there as he had to run around following his recent nomination on the James Beard Award. I sincerely hope that one day chef Jeremiah decides to open a restaurant similar to Dabney in the Big Apple permanently. In a city where Jun and I have probably seen all and eaten all, the Dabney pop-up was a breeze of fresh air that reminded us that there are still some outstanding restaurants out there outside NYC.
KenScale: 8.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 9.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 275 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 941-1100