Some restaurants struggle to provide even one sublime dining experience. Vidalia, on the other hand, has provided me with four. It is my hands-down, no-questions-asked, uncontested favorite restaurant in DC—and I got to eat there last Friday night on my parents’ dime!
The first thing that struck me on this particular visit was the renovated bar space—thanks to increased efforts (which have been successful) to highlight Sommelier Doug Mohr’s impressive and surprisingly accessible wine list, the bar has been expanded and now includes lush couches and places for groups to gather. If you haven’t already been to one of the weekday wine events, you should definitely make a point to do so.
After being seated, we were presented with wine and cocktail lists. Mom and dad ordered martinis, but sis and I decided to stick with wine, and we each ordered a flight to experience some variety. My flight of “Liquid Rocks” included an ’05 Vinho Verde (excellent—brought me back to my time in Lisbon), an ’04 Vermentino (my least favorite of the bunch—it had a harsh, almost vodka-like taste), an ’05 Chenin Blanc (good, but a little flat), and an ’03 Chenin Blanc (delicious—deep and buttery). My sister opted for the flight of Rhone, which included an ’01 GSM, an ’05 Grenache, an ’04 Syrah, and an ’05 Mourvedre. I really love the flights that Mr. Mohr has put together—they are extremely thoughtful, and the price is incredibly reasonable (mine was $15.50 and my sister’s was $16.50).
On to the food! For my appetizer, I ordered the special of cured pork jowls with shad roe—and it was heaven in my mouth. I expected the pork to overpower the dish, but its smooth sweetness complimented the flavor and texture of the roe just perfectly. Sis got the baked oysters (also a special), mom got the diver scallop ceviche (from the regular menu), and dad got the rabbit sausage (can’t remember if this was a special or not). The oysters and the ceviche were tasty, but the rabbit sausage was really outstanding—it had great flavor and a lovely creamy texture. Overall, I think that my choice was the best, but dad’s was a close second.
For my entrée, I opted for the “What’s Up Doc” (from the regular menu), which was rabbit with veal sweetbread stuffing. The rabbit was just a touch dry, but the stuffing moistened it and gave it some terrific flavor. There was also a great carrot-cardamom sauce/glaze, and it was extremely well done—the perfect compliment to the meat. Sis got the special of rare-seared tuna with morel mushrooms, and it was phenomenal—almost like eating sushi (but better, because it was infused with mushroominess). Mom stuck with the regular menu again and chose the monkfish with lobster and lentils; the fish was a little bit overcooked for my taste, but the lentils were delicious. Dad passed over his usual lamb for the venison special, and he had it cooked rare to medium rare. What color! It was crusted in something I can’t remember (sorry, it was like I was high on food), and it was very rich and not at all gamey. After tasting everything, my rabbit and my sister’s tuna came out my favorites, but the venison and the monkfish were certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Even though we probably could have left, fat and happy, at that point, we pressed on to dessert. I decided to try the special—a Vidalia onion and pineapple upside-down cake. Yes, I know it sounds strange to have onions in a dessert, but it absolutely worked. It was sweet and savory, mellow and tart, soft and crunchy—yum! My sister opted for the chocolate “pudding” with banana beignets; the chocolate was just so-so, but the pastries were amazing both in texture and flavor. Mom and dad chose to split the pecan pie, but the waiter emerged with a slice of the lemon chess pie. We thought there had been a mix-up, but in fact, our server just wanted them to try the house specialty dessert, “with my compliments.” The pecan pie arrived just a few moments later, giving our table four luscious sweets for the price of three—score! Everything was scrumptious, but I liked my choice the best (followed by the pecan pie, the lemon chess pie, and the pudding/beignets).
Our server was excellent (and not just because he gave us free pie)—he was friendly and knowledgeable without being overbearing or pretentious, and he paced the meal very well.
Once again, I found near-perfection at Vidalia—I only wish my finances would allow me to visit more often. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion—the atmosphere, wine, food, and service will just make it seem that way!