Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fire and Sage

The last time we tried a hotel restaurant, it didn't go so well. We were intrigued, however, by Fire and Sage, which recently opened in the Marriott near our house. We stopped in on a Thursday evening and found a partially-full restaurant. For some reason, instead of being seated in the main dining room near the other diners, the hostess led us to a side room that was completely empty (I promise we showered that day and were dressed nicely!).

We took our seats at one of the 8 empty tables in the room and were greeted by the sounds of CNN blaring from the flat screen TV on the wall. Being all alone with the TV made it feel like we were the only ones to show up to a business meeting, so B turned off the TV and we studied the menu.

Instead of the usual boring bread basket, Fire and Sage serves a giant skillet of freshly baked cornbread. It was really tasty but way too much bread for two people. We could have easily made a meal of the cornbread and a salad.

Since I couldn't decide between the flatbreads and the entrees, we decided to order a flatbread as an appetizer. Unfortunately, our waitress failed to mention that the flatbread was the size of a Domino's pizza!

It was a tasty combination of andouille sausage, chicken, caramelized onions, bell peppers, mozzarella, and tomato sauce. I can't tell you why they call it flatbread instead of pizza, since the crust was the same thickness as pizza crust. Maybe flatbread is the trendy new term for "pizza that we didn't make perfectly round"?

We ate a few pieces of the flatbread and decided to take the rest home so we could save some room for our entrees (it was a better than usual lunch the next day). B ordered the tea smoked halibut served with a char-grilled corn salad. It was a great, light summer dish with the unique flavor of tea permeating the fish. We're not exactly sure that it was halibut though because the texture was unlike any halibut we've ever had.

I ordered the short rib ciabatta sandwich served with three onion soup and french fries. Even without the giant pizza appetizer and crock o' cornbread, this entree would have been too much food for me. The enemy of most ciabatta sandwiches is the ciabatta; it is often tough and dry, and takes away from the sandwich experience. (and who likes getting all that flour on their hands?) However, Fire and Sage's ciabatta maker hit this one out of the park. It was soft and perfectly complemented the tender short rib meat. The onion soup was traditional french onion soup with a hefty helping of bubbly cheese on top. The fries were not memorable and I skipped them. It was all I could do to eat half of the sandwich and soup after the monster flatbread.

The dish I was most eager to try turned out to be the most disappointing. The menu advertised a "hot bag o' doughnuts" served with honey butter and strawberry compote. What we got was more like a "hot bag o' croutons." They were the weirdest donut holes I've ever encountered. They were dense and bread-like and had very little flavor. The butter tasted like... well... butter. If you would've told me this was the bread basket I would have believed you. At this point the button on my jeans was in danger of flying across the room and taking out the eye of an unsuspecting tourist, so I left most of the "bag o' croutons" alone. Blah.

Would I go back to Fire and Sage? I think the sandwich was good enough to warrant a return visit but even after a fancy makeover this place just screams "hotel restaurant!" With so many other dining options in the neighborhood, I don't think I'll be back at Fire and Sage too soon.

Second Thoughts from B

One thing I often tell people who are visiting or new to DC is that we have lots of high-end restaurants in downtown and enough fast food-like chains, but we are lacking in the mid-range area. So where do you go if you want something nicer than Five Guys or Potbelly, but don't want to dress up and spend $100 per person? Fire and Sage seems to be trying to fill that void. With enough food to literally feed 3-4, we spent under $75 including tax and tip. As for what we got for our money, that was more of a mixed bag...

The winners would be the cornbread, flatbread, and J's soup and sandwich combo. The doughnut holes were clearly the loser. As for my mystery fish? I'm still undecided.. good idea, OK execution, yet something was missing. But win, lose, or draw, you could tell that significant thought had gone into the conceptualization of each dish. That alone elevated Fire and Sage above the average hotel restaurant in my book. As for the execution, that seemed a little less consistent. Lastly, I must mention that the service was very attentive (although a warning about the size of the dishes would have been appropriate). The bottom line for me is that if you order well (and aren't thrown off by the hotel crowds and somewhat awkward layout), Fire and Sage could be a nice addition to downtown's dining scene.
Fire & Sage on Urbanspoon

No comments: