If a picture is worth a thousand words...
...then Occidental Grill & Seafood in Washington DC may be worth more than a thousand dictionaries. Located in the Willard Hotel, the walls of this venerable restaurant are lined floor to ceiling with autographed photos of the thousands of entertainers, politicians, and sports starts to enter the dining room since the doors first opened in 1906. Don't confuse the Occidental with some gimmick restaurant, there are some serious culinary chops on display. Our trip there was one of our favorite meals of the year.
For our starters, I went with the jumbo lump crab cake (mkt price) with sorrel and beech mushroom ragout, and a sunchoke-black truffle cream. The crab cake was gorgeous, lightly crusted, and the cream sauce was plate-lickingly good. For her starter, The Girl chose the Roasted Lobster Bisque ($12) with white sweet potato puree, fennel compote, and Maine lobster. Elegant, creamy, and utterly satisfying, each bite was luscious and decedent.
The Girl's main dish may be the tastiest "surf and turf" I have tasted in years. Seared U-10 scallops with braised short rib ($36) with a basil Anson Mills polenta and charred vidalia onion relish, the resulting dish plays on the textural and flavor differences of the two proteins. Expertly prepared, and utterly satisfying.
For my main, I had the black cumin crusted yellowfin tuna ($34) with "paella" style Israeli couscous, crispy romanesco, and a saffron vinaigrette. Again, a masterful execution, as the sear on the tuna soaked in the vinaigrette wonderfully, and worked wonders with the buttery goodness of the tuna. The couscous delivered on the paella promise, with the pleasing texture of the couscous. A total win of a dish.
The Classic Lemon bar ($9) with the blackberry and blueberry compote was a cool and refreshing finish to this amazing dinner. What we experienced at The Occidental was a series of stately and restrained dishes delivered by a thoughtful and confident chef. This isn't a restaurant that survives based on the power of a celebrity chef. This is an institution that knows no matter how long it has been around, no matter whose faces line the walls, if the food fails to deliver the all important wow, then soon the booths will be empty. On a cold day on the week between Christmas and New Years, when most of the DC population has fled to their hometowns, The Occidental was FAR from empty.
Overall: 22.5 out of 25 Restraint and decadence walk hand in hand in this restaurant long adored by DC's movers and shakers.