It’s been a bit since I’ve given you a full-on review. I’m a slacker that loves a shortcut, so it’s been much easier to just upload to the ‘gram and call it a day (shameless plug, find me on Instagram: @thebabywhale). After all, it’s much easier to carry an iPhone around than my big cam, and just as satisfying to write a tiny blurb and send it out over the interwebs.
But, I really do love the writing component of it all so keeping that in mind I thought I’d share this outstanding bit from a few weeks back. Logan’s parents came into town, which of course meant showing them all the good spots. Our first stop of the weekend was Red Hen in Shaw (1822 First Street NW, Washington DC). Located unsuspectingly in a supremely residential and up-and-coming spot, from the outside and in, it’s such a neighborhood hang. Casual families young and old (babies! grandparents! teenagers too!) dine alongside couples dressed in their best from a long day at work or the upcoming night out. I love the that this has become the norm for DC’s dining scene – warm and homey with a mix of old and new – and definitely not just to describe the ambiance.
Like most good stories out there, this one begins with a nice drink. I’m always one for something light and refreshing, but I’ll never turn down a potent elixir either. The String of Pearls ($10) combines Greenhook Gin, Green Chartreuse, and apricot to accomplish both. May or may not have had a few of these. May or may not have overly enjoyed it.
I’m super, SUPER into burrata (honestly, it’s a little weird if you’re not), so we ordered the burrata with grilled broccolini “marinati”, sicilian pesto and breadcrumbs ($15). It’s a tasty, creamy cheese that is extremely trendy right now, which I’m absolutely loving ’cause I can order it all the time. I loved this seasonal, savory take on it that made it heavier and more filling than others I’ve tasted, and was impressed by the contrast of both texture and flavor between the creamy cheese and the tangy crunch of the broccolini. And the burrata itself — I mean, it essentially melted when we cut into it. Ah-mayze. The smoked ricotta crostini with balsamic brown butter and truffle honey ($6) is, in essence, the toast of my dreams. It’s super easy to overdo it with the “smoked” and the “truffle” element, but in this simplified serving, neither are too cliche or overwhelming. Perhaps it’s the pairing of it with balsamic brown butter to cut those two strong tastes a bit. This crostini is so simple in concept but nicely layered in flavor – the kind of dish your mouth becomes a little addicted to.
I can also say the same for the tuscan chicken liver crostini with fig conserva and fresh thyme ($6). Your mouth just can’t/won’t stop. I am not typically one for the liver frontier of things, but I could totally get past my fear/disgust for the taste that this packed. I’m totally in love with both of these crostinis, and would certainly order them again!
Wow. Let’s just all take a moment to take a look above at the past two photos and chuckle at my horrendous photography. At first glance, I legitimately had no idea what that was. Sorry about that, folks! If you’ve ever tried food blogging, I highly discourage it. Food photography gets in the way of eating, and 75% of the time my feral instincts kick in and I snap the quickest picture I can before diving right in. I then regret it two weeks later when I become incredibly embarrassed I’m even publishing this for all of the internet to see. YOLO. But at least you know why I’m not DC’s top food-tographer.
Above is the grilled octopus with white beans “alla romesco”, shaved fennel, frisee and tonnato sauce ($14). While I wish I could say that the photo doesn’t do the dish justice, I hate to say it, but I think I’ve become an asshole about octopus. In a city with so many fabulous restaurants, all of which feature octopus in some way, shape or form, it just wasn’t that great (especially compared to DC’s grilled octopus king, which I will discuss in a later post) – a little dry, a little lacking in the flavor. And that made me sad.But then I remembered there were a ton of other dishes coming our way. I was especially excited about this one, the spinach fettucini with braised duck sugo, sweet potato, mint and parmiggiano reggiano ($17). How can one not become excited over braised duck sugo, especially combined with all of the aforementioned ingredients? It was delicious, and warmed both my belly and my heart. I think it would be a sin to go to a place called The Red Hen and not order the wood grilled chicken “fra diavolo” with kale, fingerling potatoes, currants and preserved lemons ($23). It’s a taste-challenge of sorts. So we did it, and with full confidence I can say this was well done. Wonderfully moist and just a little spicy enough to make each bite exciting. Boom boom pow. I’ll never regret ordering chicken from here.
I was all about the black paccheri with calamari, chick peas, pea shoots, pickled fresno chile and breadcrumbs ($17). The texture of the black paccheri complemented that of the calamari, and I loved the denseness and spice in each bite.
Finally, the best for last, the caramelized scallops with grilled kale, bacon, roasted cauliflower and soft polenta ($24). These scallops were truly next level. Perfectly cooked to a tender, buttery texture with a nice caramelized later to top it off. YUM. Plus they were matched with hearty kale and polenta, so you never felt bored by the scallop’s rich taste.
You’ve gotta have it here at The Red Hen. Their pasta game is killer, and you won’t want to choose between the small plates and large dishes (I promise, you’ll want it all!). These mid-range munches mix modern elements into hearty, home-style Italian, and you’ll leave feeling warm, fuzzy, and super full of delicious eats.