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Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ September 2018

Jordan Wright
September 2018
Photo credit: Jordan Wright

Mirabelle Wows with New Executive Chef Keith Bombaugh

The Dining Room ~ The classic absinthe fountain

Stop! Please put down your pencils (okay, that’s quaint), pick up your phone and make a reservation for Mirabelle DC. It has the most deliciously original, gorgeously presented, technique-heavy cuisine in town at this writing. If you consider yourself a gourmand (you know who you are) run don’t walk to this stylish sleekly modern restaurant where newly appointed Executive Chef, Keith Bombaugh, late of Meritage in Boston and the Michelin three-star restaurant Alinea in Chicago, has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet.

Mirabelle’s Executive Chef Keith Bombaugh

Bombaugh joins forces with “Tales of the Cocktail” award-winning Lead Bartender Zachary Faden, and Pastry Chef Zoe Ezrailson, most recently from DC’s Ellé. We enjoyed several unique drinks like the Earl Grey served in a teacup and made with the noted tea and tea liqueur. But it’s Jennifer Knowles, an advanced level sommelier of the Court of Master Sommeliers, that oversees both the restaurant and its wine cellar of 12,000+ bottles with over 2,600 labels on the wide-ranging list. Knowles, who partners up with Wine Director Karl Kuhn, arrived in style via Requin at The Wharf. Earlier in her storied career she had built the wine and spirits program at Plume at the Jefferson Hotel with a stint at Fiola Mare and four years at The Inn at Little Washington. You could well say, she’s wine royalty.

G & Tea cocktail served in a teacup

Knowles works with Faden to dream up fantastic cocktails like the Earl Grey-inspired G & Tea made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto (an Italian liqueur made with bergamot the central flavor in Earl Grey tea), plus brewed Earl Grey tea, egg white foam and Marcona almonds, topped with lemon zest and served in a teacup. After dinner you’ll want to select from their well-curated collection of French, Swiss and American absinthes prepared in the classic way drip by drip through a proper absinthe fountain.

Overlooking the patio with an amuse bouche

But before you get too seduced (or drunk!) by the astonishing list of cocktails and spirits, let’s talk food. Bombaugh’s approach to ingredients is sheer genius. Think René Redzepi’s world famous Noma for its wildcrafted ingredients – though Bombaugh’s not a forager himself. He rethinks everything familiar about a what a certain ingredient can do to a particular dish and then takes it outside its comfort zone. You will find yourself wondering how certain ingredients could go together so seamlessly… so brilliantly… so deliciously.

Pacific abalone

How you may ask, can Chinese lettuce root pair with abalone, sea beans and marinated myoga, a Japanese ginger. (He must have amazing suppliers for all these exotic ingredients!) To further enhance this dish, he adds a sauce of green curry “tapioca” as a tableside pour over and served in a glistening abalone seashell? Don’t ask. Trust, but verify.

Foie gras tacos

Naturellement, given Bombaugh’s French culinary training the restaurant also boasts such bistro classics as the requisite seafood tower. But adds steak tartare to the crustacea. Mon Dieu! Tarte flambée with smoked Viking sea salt and foie gras in a banana taco shell with preserved fruit on toasted pistachios makes it to the menu. Let me at it.

She Crab Soup

Take Maryland blue crab. We do. We love it in all its many iterations. Over the years we’ve dined on dozens of preparations of this regional favorite. But wait… imagine pairing the sweet she-crab and its roe with celtuce (a thick-stemmed lettuce originating from the Mediterranean) and pine nuts toasted with Old Bay seasoning. Then, using a molecular gastronomy technique, Bombaugh adds tiny spherical sherry pearls on top. Finally, a cashew butter-based sauce affords the dish its sumptuous texture while keeping each ingredient from losing its rightful singularity. It is sublime, as so many of his dishes are. Notwithstanding all the wonderful chefs and world class restaurants we have in this town, Mirabelle is a gamechanger. I am spoiled forever. La petite mort, if you know what I mean.

Lemon Honey Beehive

Pastry Chef Zoe Ezrailson takes a more fanciful approach to her desserts. One particular stunner playfully named, ‘Lemon Honey Beehive’, is akin to lemon meringue pie, but with lemon parfait and Meyer lemon curd encased in a torched bee skep-shaped honey meringue flecked with gold dust and surrounded by bits of honeycomb candy, Dulcery white chocolate pearls and raw honeycomb. It is a triumph.

Steps from the White House, Mirabelle DC is located at 900 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. Valet parking is $8 from 5pm till closing. For reservations call 202.506.3833 or visit www.MirabelleDC.com.

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