Red Hen: A Neighborhood Restaurant
That’s Becoming a Destination

Stories and reviews about the Red Hen in the Bloomingdale section of D.C. often stress that this is a low key, neighborhood restaurant. Right now, that’s mostly true. When we visited, the clientele fit that description – families with children, large groups of young people, couples, and a very busy bar area where everyone seemed to know everyone else.

As the night wore on, however, we began to notice others coming in. A well dressed table of six, the women in dressy outfits, the men in suits. A table of business people looking like they had just left the office, wherever that might be. A couple looking like they were celebrating a special occasion, sipping wine and staring into each other’s eyes.

We’ve seen this happen before in New York. A restaurant begins as a neighborhood favorite, then news begins to spread. The food is not only great but exceptional. The wine list extensive and creative. The ambiance warm and inviting. And it’s the place to see and be seen.

InteriorOne has only to check the restaurant’s website to learn that there is an incredible team responsible for this latest dining mecca. Chef Michael Friedman’s resume includes Lucques in Los Anngeles, Incanto in San Francisco, Morimoto, Scarpetta, and Danny Meyer’s The Modern in New York, and Vetri in Philadelphia. In D.C., he spent two years working with José Andres and was chef de cuisine at Proof. Sommelier Sebastian Zutant spent three months working at California’s Deloach Vineyards, as well as working at Rasika and helping to open Proof in 2007 as wine director. And General Manager Michael O’Malley has a degree from the University of Las Vegas’ prestigious hospitality program, an MBA from DePaul University and has put in his time working and helping to manage various restaurants.

This is an all star team now running an all star restaurant.

We began with two appetizers recommended by our server: smoked ricotta crostini with balsamic brown butter and truffle honey; and, heirloom beet salad with wheat berries, mint, ricotta salata and caper vinaigrette.

crostiniThe crostini was a simple concept elevated to complexity with the perfect combination of fresh ingredients. The toast was crisp, the ricotta velvety smooth, and the butter and honey added a subtle touch to enhance rather than overwhelm the cheese.

saladThe beet salad presented beautifully, a mixture of colors from the beets, greens, and wheatberries. Ricotta salata topped the dish like a sprinkling of snow.

pastaOur pasta dish was saffron fettuccine with rabbit sugo, cinnamon, grilled kale and mustard breadcrumbs. The noodles were thin but not overcooked allowing them to stand up to the hearty rabbit sauce.The kale added color while the mustard breadcrumbs contributed a little heat and texture.

scallopsFor a main dish, we shared the caramelized scallops with soft polenta, brussels sprouts, bacon and balsamic vinegar. If we hadn’t already been impressed with Chef Friedman, this dish sealed the deal. The caramelized scallops had a woodsy flavor and were very tender. The soft polenta was silky smooth and buttery, the brussels sprouts, tart and crisp, with the bacon echoing the scallops’ smoky taste.

DessertFor dessert, we enjoyed the spiced arborio rice pudding with dulce de leche and candied almonds. Creamy rice pudding, sweet caramel, crunchy nuts. What could be better?

With our meal, we enjoyed wines by the glass, a Barbera and a Montepulciano. Both excellent, although next time we hope to truly appreciate Zutant’s wine list by choosing one of his reasonably priced bottles.

Leaving the Red Hen, there wasn’t an empty table in the place and a line forming at the door. Word’s out. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Red Hen
1822 First Street, NW

About Charlene Giannetti (927 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines including the New York Times. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her new book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "19 Daniel Highway," focusing on the opioid crisis that will be filmed in 2019. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.