22 July 2009

Group dinner at Agraria, Washington, DC

In March, I promised a review of Agraria in Washington, DC. Sorry that it’s taken so long. I’ve actually been there twice since the March post on its sister restaurant Founding Farmers.

As I write this, I was there with a group of grassroots farm activists last night. The farmers who I bring to DC really like the concept. Agraria is intended to help consumers connect with the farmers who grow the food. The restaurant grew out of a concept by the North Dakota Farmers Union, and there are a lot of individual farmers who are investors in the venture.

I have to admit that I was not an early fan of Agraria. On my first visit for dinner, I was frankly unimpressed. A follow-up lunch, I felt it was better but not anything worth raving about. It wasn’t until I started using it as a venue for group dinners that I became an enthusiastic fan. I think it just took a while for them to hit their stride and really start to refine the concept. Now, I couldn’t imagine bringing a group to DC without making Agraria one of the venues for our evening events.

So with this post, I’ve included the menu for our group dinner.

The tomato mozzarella salad was excellent. The tomatoes were perfectly ripened and bursting with flavor. The mozzarella was creamy and delicious. The basil was fragrant and the dressing was tastefully restrained so that the other ingredients could shine.

I had the steak, and it was fabulous. Perfectly cooked, lean and delicious. It was served over a modest serving of sweet potato hash that was a wonderful complement to the meat. They also served a house-made steak sauce. It was very good, but I liked the steak so much that I didn’t feel it needed any sauce.

Several people at my table had the grilled salmon. I didn’t taste it, but it looked fantastic.

The restaurant included a third option that I hadn’t selected originally – goat cheese ravioli. One of my co-workers ordered that. I commented on how good it looked, and he offered to share his ravioli in exchange for some of my steak. I thought that was a fair deal. The ravioli was outstanding. The pasta was tender and perfectly prepared. The cheese stuffing was rich and flavorful. There were five or six ravioli on the plate. Since it was so rich, I thought that was a little excessive. I think three ravioli would have sufficed. But really, it was a great side dish to the steak.

As you can see on the menu, we had a peach turnover for dessert. It was very tasty. The peaches were fresh and flavorful. I thought the pastry on the turnover was good but nothing special. The ice cream was rich and creamy.

As I noted in my review of Founding Farmers, Agraria is a little off the beaten path. It’s in Georgetown, but it’s down by the waterfront, so you kind of have to know where you’re going to find it. The office and entertainment complex where it’s located is fabulous and worth finding. But you do have to look for it.

The restaurant recently revamped its regular menu. They made it somewhat more casual, more similar to Founding Fathers. It’s very creative and the commitment to fresh, high quality ingredients gives me confidence that it will continue to meet diners’ expectations. I think it’s definitely worth a visit.

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