Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Jose Andres Thinks of Americans

Let me start this off by saying that I love Jose Andres. His food, his restaurants, his cookbooks, I am a big fan. Zaytinya is one of my favorite restaurants in DC. Oyamel has the best margaritas I have ever tasted, and is quite possibly the most beautiful restaurants I've ever eaten in. Jaleo has a great happy hour, the food is delicious, and both locations that I have been to - Crystal City and Downtown - have been great. I haven't been to Minibar or Cafe Atlantico, but I've heard great things. And with all that, I have to say, that's why this review is so disappointing to write.

Stay away from America Eats Tavern unless you want to overpay for blah food that almost tastes low quality. I feel horrible saying it, but I also don't want to lie. Our meal was bad. I feel like I got better meals at the Emmanuel College Cafeteria. It was sad.

Our meal started off okay. We arrived at the restaurant, the hostesses were very nice, greeted us and brought us right to our table. The bar area was lively and loud, but being seated up on the third floor gave us a break from the rambunctiousness. Our waitress seemed nice at first, well versed in the menu, recommending quite a few dishes - all of which were seafood, which we don't eat, so maybe that should have been our first sign.

I always take a little issue with restaurants that charge you for a Bread Basket, but never the less we didn't want to miss freshly made biscuits and corn bread with blackberry jam, so we ordered it. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture. It was by far the best part of the meal.

Next up came our Fried Chicken and Catsup appetizer. Now these look pretty delicious right? Fried chicken with grape ketchup. We thought so, but one bite in we realized that the chicken was all dark meat. I for one am not a fan of dark meat and would never dream of making boneless chicken fingers with it. The batter was crispy, but overly peppered and overly greasy. The grape ketchup was just weird, probably delicious as jam on a slice on warm buttered bread, but did not make a good dip for these chicken fingers. We shared one piece of the chicken and pushed it aside to wait for our meals.

When our meals finally came, I started to get really uncomfortable. I had ordered Chicken Pot Pie. A true favorite of mine that is ridiculously difficult to screw up. Does that picture look like chicken pot pie to you? Me neither. First of all, the crust was just a disk of dry pastry dough. There was none of that gooey flaky goodness that makes chicken pot pie so good. Second, the chicken, which again, was all dark meat, was still on the bone. So it was messy, hard to eat, and overly fatty. The gravy bordered on slimy. The vegetables, which were really the only part of the meal I ate, were okay, but they were just Lima Beans and Carrots. I usually do not complain about the price of a good meal, but this, to me, was not worth $28.

Alex's BBQ Beef Short Ribs with Hoppin' John were better than mine, but the meat was still overly fatty. The beans had great flavor, so that was a plus, but even Alex didn't finish his dish.

As the meal progressed, the waitress didn't even attempt to address why we only each ate a few bites of our quite expensive meal. It just became uncomfortable, so much so, that we didn't even attempt to look at the dessert menu, just grabbed the $138 check and left as quickly as possible. So overly priced, I practically cried putting down our credit card.

America Eats Tavern is a very neat concept. It opened last July as a pop-up restaurant that complimented an exhibit on the American diet at the National Archives. The menu touches on so many American favorites. Classics that sound so delicious and interesting. I also can't say enough about the wonderful chef it has at the helm. But for some reason, our very brown meal just did not work. It was just bad. America Eats Tavern will be closing in July 2012, I wish we hadn't made it there before it does.

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