Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vidalia - Washington, DC

Vidalia offered more gluten-free choices for me than they did vegetarian options for two of my dining companions during Washington, DC Winter Restaurant Week, January 17-23, 2011. Restaurant Week is an annual event in which establishments offer 3-course prix-fixe meals at lunch, dinner, or both. It’s a great way to sample great food at reasonable prices.

With 11:30 lunch reservations for a party of five, we were the first customers of the day. When I reminded the hostess that a gluten-free meal had been requested with the reservation, she replied that the chef knew I was there and that our server could assist me with the menu. What we’d forgotten to do when we made reservations, however, was to mention that in addition to me being gluten-free, two others in our group ate vegetarian.

Fortunately for us, our server was adept with the menu and quickly pointed out gluten-free options, noting modifications that needed to be made. They do not have a Gluten-Free Menu. From the special Restaurant Week Menu, I had a choice of three appetizers and three entrées, but sadly only one dessert. My vegetarian friends were more restricted with their appetizers and entrees, but had unlimited access to the dessert menu.

Of my appetizer choices, the Seasonal Lettuce Salad seems to be a menu standard. The winter version consisted of tender baby lettuces dotted with roasted pear pieces, blue cheese, and spiced nuts; it was a perfect balance of sweetness, pungency, and crunch. Other gluten-free appetizers during Restaurant Week were Citrus-Cured Atlantic Salmon with horseradish-lemon cream, radishes, cucumber, and dill; and Shenandoah Beef Tartare with potato crisps, brioche, micro herb salad, and mustard sorbet (without the brioche to make it gf).

Shrimp and Grits is one of the restaurant’s signature southern dishes and should not be missed. Grits are made from ground dried kernels of corn cooked with liquid until thickened. It’s something I’ve always associated with breakfast food. The creamy golden concoction presented to me, topped with plump succulent shrimp and bits of smoky tasso ham, reminded me more of polenta, which is a corn mush common in northern Italy cuisine that is served either as a side dish or as a base for sauces and stews. There is a difference between grits and polenta but I didn’t let such a technicality come between me and my food.

Other gluten-free selections were Shenandoah Beef Short Ribs, which was described as a pot roast dish, and Atlantic Salmon.

The only gluten-free dessert was Seasonal Berries with Vanilla-Chantilly Cream. Even if I could be smug about ordering a healthy treat, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was envious when my friends began swooning over their peanut butter and chocolate concoctions. I was even more resentful when the berries were served without the cream! The waitress explained that often a “protein” is added to the cream, making it unsuitable for me. Only after pressing for clarification did she further investigate and learn that nothing had been added to this batch of cream. So I got my cream.

Vidalia has an upscale modern décor. Its bright magnolia toned walls, accented with large mirrors, makes you forget the restaurant is located below ground. Our generous booth, though located near a serving station, provided a comfy cushion from sound, allowing for easy conversation.

Though DC Winter Restaurant Week is over, Vidalia serves a daily special three-course prix-fixe chef’s menu available for $19.90, not including beverage, tax, or gratuity. The three-course lunch during Restaurant Week cost $20.11. Some restaurants add a few extra dollars to the fixed price for particular prime dishes such as the Shrimp and Grits at Vidalia. Reservations are recommended.

Vidalia, 1990 M St., NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-659-1990. www. http://76.12.89.238/vidalia2.html. Chef Jeffrey Buben.






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