Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where to Eat: Policy



Policy's 14th Street exterior.













I've been to Policy a handful of times for drinks and dancing in its upstairs "Liberty Lounge." But it's been on my list of places to try for dinner since I first discovered the spot in the fall of 2010. So, when my two girlfriends and I were desperately trying to book last minute dinner reservations this past Saturday night, Policy immediately came to mind. Luckily, they still had a few reservations when we called, so we snagged one.

When we arrived, I was surprised to see the place mostly empty. I figured at 7:30 on a Saturday night the place would be packed (by the time we left a few hours later it was slammed). The friendly hostess seated us at a tall table by the window. It was perfect for the three of us--- a small table with a great a view of bustling 14th Street, and it was tucked away just enough for us to feel like we had a cozy little corner to ourselves.

The server introduced himself and did an excellent job describing the concept of the restaurant, as well as the cocktails and food specials the chef was featuring. By the end of the night we were on a first name basis with our server, and we were cracking jokes back and forth. I love it when servers are friendly and personable (and cute). In fact, one of my friends may have left the others number for our server on our check...Yes, we were those girls... but let's get back to business.

Policy prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients. The menu consists of small plates (tapas). Our server recommended that we order two per person (we decided on five total which was the perfect amount of food for the three of us). The menu has everything from a sweet chili glazed pork belly, to crispy scalloped potatoes, to oven roasted tomato hummus. I think the hardest part was deciding what to order. Everything sounded simply delicious. But one of the reasons why I looooovveee tapas restaurants? Everyone shares so you get to try lots of different dishes!

But, first, we ordered cocktails. I had the Pearfect Martini. I was a bit skeptical because I'm not a big fan of sweet, fruity drinks. But this really was perfect. While it is made with Grey Goose Pear, it also has champagne in it---this made the drink less sweet and a little fizzy. I had two. Okay, fine. I had three. But they were THAT good. Plus, it was Saturday night.

For dinner, we ordered the Grilled Strip Steak, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Braised and Grilled Short Ribs, Red Curried Lentils, and a Beef Slider Special. As is the tradition with tapas restaurants, dishes are served as soon as they are prepared. So, there was always a revolving series of dishes on our table.

Each dish had excellent presentation. We collectively agreed that the strip steak was our favorite. It was served with shitake mushrooms, fresh green beans, carrots, white and black sesame seeds, and a mild soy based sauce. Only caveat? We asked for it medium and it was definitely more on the well-done side. That withstanding, the flavors were still delicious and it was tender to eat. The lentils and the brussel sprouts were great vegetarian dishes. Each packed with flavor but relatively simple all at the same time.

We passed on dessert and two other friends joined us for drinks. The staff was very accommodating and had no problem with two people joining our party and ordering drinks.

Now, the atmosphere.

The restaurant has black walls and dark red booths. Sort of a Gothic diner type feel. The black paint on the walls is very flat and in my opinion looks half finished. As a result, it has a somewhat cold, rough feeling to it.  Which bothered me because every other aspect of the restaurant--- the menu, the service, even the dinner and stem ware--- is warm, inviting and cozy.

Policy's first floor dining room
Then again, I think the decor does fit in with U Street in general. A little rough. A little classy. A little hipster. So, I get what Policy is trying to accomplish. Just not really my cup of tea. Like I mentioned, I've been dancing upstairs plenty of times and I love it up there. Chandeliers. A fun, modern bar. Perfect amount of lighting. But downstairs is missing something. And if you read my reviews on a regular basis you know that atmosphere is huge for me. That aside, I give everything else a big thumbs-up.

So, check out Policy with some girlfriends. Go for a late-ish dinner, get tipsy on cocktails, and then head upstairs for some serious dancing and bad decision-making. You won't be disappointed. Especially if you get the chance to run into Policy's hot executive chef who likes to hang out upstairs by the bar after the dining room closes. And yes, I'm speaking from experience.

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