Circle Bistro

April 20, 2015 – The Cherry Blossom Festival.  NBA playoffs.  NHL playoffs.  Apparently most of the national trade associations had chosen this week for their annual legislative fly-ins.  Couldn’t find a hotel room.  Couldn’t get a flight with less than four stops.  Washington, D.C., was full up.

Finally found a flight with only one manageable stop if I flew in on Friday prior to Monday meetings.  OK.  Figured I’d have some time over a lonely weekend in a hotel room to catch up on some things that kept getting pushed to the end of the list.

Found a hotel room, too.  One Washington Circle.  I had stayed there back in the early ’90s.  That was a long time ago.  I had no idea what to expect.

What a pleasant surprise!

The hotel has been thoroughly modernized and upgraded since I was last there.  And the staff was as gracious and helpful as a hotel staff could be.  More so than many.

But the most delightful surprise of all was the hotel restaurant.  Circle Bistro is no longer just a hotel restaurant.  It’s a destination onto itself.

On Saturday evening I didn’t want to go out.  I called the restaurant and asked for room service.  Shrimp and grits.  Good is what I hoped for.  Great is what I got.

The shrimp were perfectly cooked.  Difficult to do with shrimp.  You have to get them to just the right texture without allowing them to become rubbery.  A chunk of cheddar cheese swirled into the grits .  A handful of green peas tossed in to add color and substance.  Some finely chopped chorizo in a Tabasco demi glace in the center.  The bull’s eye on a target.  A grilled scallion aimed at the target.

What I thought would be just a lazy room service dinner had become a memorable dining experience.  I wanted more.

A couple of busy days went by before I was able to get back to Circle Bistro.  This time I made my way downstairs to the restaurant itself.  Reading through the menu alone was worth the trip.  Executive Chef Michael Cassady has devised a menu for which innovative isn’t a strong enough word.

Cassady is from California.  He came east several years ago to study at the L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland.  He honed his craft in multi starred restaurants in D.C. and London before assuming his current role at Circle Bistro and at restaurants at One Washington Circle’s sister hotels.

For a starter, I was tempted to try the radish salad.  A mélange of radishes accompanied by spring greens, fennel and tzatziki, the Greek yogurt based sauce with cucumber and garlic that is most often used as a dip with meats. Very tempted.

But I allowed myself to be seduced by something I’d never seen before.  Bison Tartare. With a quail egg and shavings of truffle. Garlic and red onion.  Accompanied by house made potato chips.  I’ve had beef tartare but never bison.  It stood up well to its taste partners.  Such a pleasant mingling of flavors.

For an entrée I couldn’t resist ordering something I haven’t seen on a menu in decades.  Braised rabbit.  Supported on a bed of tarragon spaetzle.  Decorated with cherry tomatoes and wild mushrooms.

The noodles glowed bright green.  A pleasant resting place for the less colorful but flavorful rabbit.  The small tomatoes and bits of mushroom played a tasty game of hide and seek within the spaetzle.  Very simply put, it was good.

To end the evening on a sweet note, a pair of lemon eclairs hit the spot.  While I have been addicted to the more common chocolate éclair for my entire life, the lemon version was a refreshing end to a meal worth remembering.

No flights without four stops.  No hotel rooms.  Angst at not knowing what to expect when I did find a room.  The discovery of a fine hotel and restaurant.

Serendipity.  It’s what makes life interesting.

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