It’s not often my wife Jun and I visit a restaurant, then the restaurant renovates its space and revamps its menu and we follow up with another visit shortly thereafter to check out the transformation. After our enjoyable meal at The Dabney in August, the restaurant closed to do exactly that, with a longer tasting menu (currently at $170 per person) with the same mid-Atlantic theme and sensibility and many of the seasonality-driven dishes coming from the wood-burning hearth at the center of the kitchen. So when a spot opened up in September around Jun’s birthday after I put my name down on a waitlist, I felt compelled to take advantage of it. We are happy to report that we liked The Dabney 2.0 just as much, if not more, than the original iteration of the restaurant.
Similar to the original menu, the longer tasting menu from the transformed Dabney started with a few delicious bites, starting with the Appalachian apple stack cake with foie gras inside and then followed by an assortment of oysters, kilt greens with preserved ramp and smoked bacon, and the Dabney classic of Chesapeake catfish in sweet potato bun. Each of these bites had distinct flavor and texture and I could tell the fresh ingredients were very carefully sourced and the kitchen is not taking it easy on any single dish. The Maryland blue crab with royal osetra caviar and crimson apple was another standout appetizer, and just like the restaurant impressed us with its summer vegetable salad last time, the late summer succotash consisting of butter beans, corn, tomatoes and okra gave a lasting impression, particularly with the surprisingly spicy kick.
The best dish of the night for me was the pork loin with scallop; I don’t recall eating pork and scallop together but once I took a bite out of this beautifully plated dish, I had to wonder why more restaurants were not putting these two ingredients together. The textural “Surf and Turf” combination was quite remarkable, and the watermelon molasses underneath the pork was absolutely spot-on. Just like our last visit, the duck was the main savory dish at the restaurant. The aged Rohan duck cooked over the embers this time came in an elaborate feast-like format, consisting of the superbly charred breast with Jupiter grape glaze and fig BBQ sauce in the center and accompanied by crispy fried wing with fig BBQ sauce and mustard greens. Really, it’s hard to imagine a restaurant in DC that can pull off a duck dish as skillfully as The Dabney. After all the indulgence from the wonderful duck, we finished with a delightful dessert of carmen peppers and vanilla ice cream where the spicy kick of the peppers and the sweet flavor of the ice cream surprisingly worked harmoniously together, aided further by toasted meringue and shiso in the surrounding.
The restaurant was nearly packed during our meal and it is still one of the more popular dining destinations in DC, so getting a reservation in advance is always highly recommended. The revamped dining space still offers a nice combination of elegance and comfort that makes it ideal for a variety of occasions. On our previous visit, I was wondering if the restaurant will make any tweaks to its wine list as I thought it could show a bit more ingenuity and sophistication for a caliber of restaurant like The Dabney. Well, that question has been resoundingly answered with a new wine pairing option; on our visit, the pairing came with a lot of interesting wines that are hard to find in restaurants and even geeky wine shops, from a rosé from Oregon that was a perfect complement to the succotash to a red from northwestern Italy’s Valle d’Aosta region that was simply divine with the pork and scallop. On our future visits, we will certainly look at the wine pairing options again! We could tell The Dabney led by chef Jeremiah Langhorne put a lot of efforts and ambitions into this transformation (in fact, one of the servers tipped us that the chef is very focused on getting that coveted second Michelin star for the restaurant as a result of this revamp), and are more than happy to go back again when the menus change. It is a destination not to be missed in DC’s thriving dining scene.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)
Address: 122 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001
Reservation via Resy