Talk about an upgrade. When we first visited Corduroy in 2007, it was located in the dingy Sheraton Four Points Hotel on K Street. The dining room was big and unforgettable, and our service was absolutely awful. Still, we liked the food enough to keep it on our list, and when Chef Tom Power moved the restaurant to a charming rowhouse on 9th Street, we knew we needed to give it another go.
Corduroy would be easy to miss from the street. It is tucked between abandoned old rowhomes and a cigar store in what can best be described as the "up and coming" area surrounding the Washington Convention Center. Anyone brave or smart enough to look past the dreary streetview and walk up the (steep) steps will find a rowhouse as warm and welcoming as any in a more posh neighborhood.
We were seated at a table near the open kitchen where we could watch Chef Power and his team in action. Corduroy offers a small menu with a focus on seasonal, local ingredients. I had a simple green salad that tasted as if it had been picked minutes before. Everything was bursting with color and freshness. Though I rarely order chicken in a restaurant, I'm glad I sampled the roast baby chicken. It was tiny (and probably not enough meat for a big eater) but deliciously seasoned and juicy. I have no idea how they cook a chicken that small without drying it out. There must be magicians back there in chef whites.
We were relieved to find that the dining room wasn't the only thing that had improved. Our service was attentive without being too pushy. It was light years away from the night three years ago that we were completely ignored by the staff.
Second Thoughts from B
As J said, we had the new Corduroy on our list hoping that it had improved. Even so, despite a constant barrage of good press, I just couldn't shake the memory of its disastrous debut. This would be a meal that we were planning for my parents and some close family friends that included a rather wide range of tastes. At our table of six we had the people most responsible for our appreciation of food sitting along side others who might say that food and eating is overrated. But despite my anxiety over the planning of this meal, in the end, I felt like Indiana Jones foregoing all of the jewel encrusted golden chalices in favor of the plain "cup of a carpenter." Sometimes it pays to keep it simple.
Corduroy was a good fit. No molecular gastronomy here... it is just simple food done extremely well. And despite their "jackets recommended" policy (which we happily avoided on this sweltering summer night), the environment was comfortable and welcomed conversation befitting a group who had a lot of catching up to do.
As for my food, I started with the Tomato Tonnato, which was like a tuna-based salsa. The chopped tomato and raw tuna combined with hints of spice didn't look like much but tasted like a breath of fresh air. It was cool and light, and exactly the way to start a summer meal. As for my entree, of course I couldn't turn down the waiter's suggestion of Pennsylvannia lamb loin with garlic crepenette and cream spinach! My thoughts could be summed up by my reaction to my first bite. As my eyes rolled back in my head, I had to catch myself from turning into Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally."
As we walked back at the end of the evening with wide smiles and full bellies, I breathed a sigh of relief and heard the old Grail knight say, "You have chosen... wisely."