Friday, January 27, 2012

Dinner and Theater Date Night: My review of Station 4 and Arena Stage's Red

Last night I went to dinner and to the theater (please go back, read that sentence again and pronounce it with a British accent, to emphasize of how classy and cultured I sound. And please disregard that my typical Thursday nights usually involve drinking $1.00 budlights out of plastic mugs at Madhatters and trying not to get hit on by GW undergrads). 

I must say that I planned one hell of a date if I do say so myself. My date agreed. And my date was female. And we alllll know how picky girls are about dates.

We started off our evening with dinner at Station 4, which is owned by the same people that own Ulah Bistro, Tunnicliffs, Stoney's, and Bullfeathers. It opened last June and is located directly across the street from the Waterfront Metro Station in Southwest D.C.

I arrived before my date and was greeted by a friendly hostess who showed me to our table in the dining room. I immediately loved the decor and the atmosphere. Station 4 has an extremely upscale yet cozy yet eclectic feel. Interesting combo, huh? There are long patterned, sheer curtains hanging from the floor to ceiling windows. Chandeliers strung above faux red leather booths. A variety of round and rectangular tables. Dark wood floors with a long electric fire place spanning almost the entire length of one wall.

The dining room is separated from the bar and I could hear the bustle from the happy hour crowd while I waited for my friend to arrive. I noticed that the manager went over and greeted the regulars sitting at the table next to mine. It was, upon first impression, perfect. And exactly the type of atmosphere this girl loves.

My friend arrived and we each ordered a glass of wine. Station 4 has an impressive wines by the glass list. Then we studied the menu which is essentially broken down into four sections--- appetizers, soups/ salads, pizzas, and entrees. We both decided to skip the apps and go for the full entrees. The server told us about the special dish for the evening--- fresh grouper fillet served with broccolini, cantrell mushrooms, and a red pesto sauce. We were both intrigued. It sounded delicious.

My friend ordered the grouper special, while I decided on a salmon dish. After we ordered, the server brought us dinner rolls and olive oil. The rolls were a little hard and would have been better if they were warm. They seemed like they were possibly a day old.

My date and I had a lot to catch up on since we had not seen each other since NYE, so we were chit-chatting away before I realized that it had been almost 25 minutes since we had placed our order. "Are you still dating Mr. Hurricane?" "Have you seen the guy from the wedding?" Apparently, a lot can change in a month.

Eventually, our meals arrived. Both had excellent presentation. But here is my one big complaint. While my salmon was cooked to perfection -- crispy on the outside and medium on the inside -- the sauce was as sweet as Aunt Jemima's syrup. It was almost unbearable it was so sweet and it completely overpowered the salmon, the mushrooms, and the bok choy. Very disappointing.

Seared salmon with shitake mushroom broth, bok choy, fried scallion oil, and sesame seeds

My friend's grouper was also cooked perfectly. And she really liked the red pesto sauce and the mushrooms. Given Station 4's proximity to the D.C. Fish Market, we wondered if the chef gets his fish there. But we forgot to ask our server (if you want more information about the fish market, click here for a post I wrote about it this past fall).
Fresh grouper fillet with broccolini, cantrell mushrooms, and red pesto sauce

We finished off our dinner with cappuccinos. And yes, I took the photo to the right. And yes, I feel like a professional, artsy photographer.

Once we settled up our bill, which came to about $80 total (for two glasses of wine, two entrees, and two cappuccinos), we scurried off to part two of our night -- a show at Arena Stage, located less than a block away.

Arena Stage is known for its great shows and last night's premiere of Red, written by playwright John Logan, was just another example of that reputation holding true.

Red is about the famous painter Mark Rothko. Knowing very little about Rothko, I was not sure what to expect. I sort of envisioned some artsy fartsy play oozing with symbolism and stuff. Totally not my taste. I tend to enjoy plays that focus more on character development. Well, was I in for a surprise because I spent an hour and forty minutes watching one of the best plays I have ever seen.

The set
The story line is essentially this: Mark Rothko (played by Edward Gero) hires an assistant (played by Patrick Andrew) to help him while he paints a series of paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. The entire play takes place in Rothko's art studio. During the first scene of the play, Ken stares out in the audience for close to a minute. Everything on stage is silent. The audience is silent. That moment just seemed to suck the entire audience in and connected us all to the stage. I felt myself grinning and knew that I would love the rest of the play.

Although the themes and discussions about life, death, art, alcoholism are deep, the humor that is worked into the script is smart. And both actors delivered it perfectly.

There was real chemistry between the two actors. Nothing seemed scripted. Everything seemed real.

I was sad when the play ended. My friend I both agreed that we were so engrossed in it, we felt as if only 20 minutes had passed, not an hour and forty minutes.

Overall rating for the night? While Station 4 did not live up to all my expectations, I would go back. And would recommend that you check it out. The menu has lots of options, the food (despite some flaws) was all very fresh, and the atmosphere will suck you in.

And the play. Oh the play. Excellent acting. Awesome set. And you know when you wake up the next morning still processing and thinking about what you saw the night before? Yup. I am still doing that. In fact, I am even considering going to see it again.

Red will be playing at Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater until March 11th. Tickets can be purchased by calling (202) 488-3300 or online at


  1. What a great review! I'd dismissed Red before reading this but now I'm a little intrigued. Station 4 sounds fun and of course I went and checked out their brunch menu. And now they're on the To-Do list. Thanks, Kate!

  2. sadly Station 4 has never lived up to its promise for me...
    my last visits goat cheese pizza that was supposed to be "drizzled with honey" was soaked thru ..i was sooo disappointed cause they took 3 things i looove: white pizza, goat cheese, & honey and managed to make a candy sandwich of them all.. :-(
    i really hope they add a "bar menu" of more affordable options that don't quite seem to be trying quite sooo hard...the place has a slightly affected feel to me (the red lips everywhere??? really?)On the bright side the staff has always been super great...and that can make up for a multitude of sins..

    i realllly want to see red... :-) ive heard wonderful things about it and Arena stage is stunning!
    thanks for your review!

  3. As a local DC actor, I'm pretty psyched to see theater making an appearance here!

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