Howard Magazine - Page 21 - Stellar speakeasy (2)

Howard Magazine
- Page 21
Stellar speakeasy (2)
boosted by the classy bonus of live jazz offered nightly. (The refined playing of pianist Jeff Wilson and bassist Terry Battle added greatly to our evening.)

Elegant art deco touches adorn a bar and main dining area with a cool ceiling illustration of a skyline that suggests Chicago, epicenter of Prohibition gangsters. But such a setting cries out for much subtler illumination than we encountered.

The menu, printed on paper stained to look as if it’s seen years of usage (that may carry the retro concept a bit too far), is pretty much standard American, but the kitchen has the skill and sensitivity to make food pop.

Our first course included crispy Brussels sprouts mingled with spiced garbanzo beans, an invigorating combo, and a poetic plate of roasted red and yellow beets.

Our charcuterie board choices revealed quality of texture and taste (the snappy house chorizo sausage was a standout), artfully arrayed and complemented by excellent quince, pickled vegetables and more.

The thick, tender, quail egg-topped pork chop entree received sterling backup from confit fingerling potatoes and Swiss chard. Elegantly presented, the roasted airline chicken breast was a bit dry but still very flavorful with its yuzu glaze and sausagecornbread stuffing.

And a succulent filet mignon, crowned with a little globe of red wine compound butter, nestled alongside a fine sweet potato puree and asparagus.

A vegetarian option, lentil curry, delivered a winning combination of supple flavor and texture, aided by sweet potatoes, cauliflower, spinach and Greek yogurt. (Slices of excellent flatbread came pre-sopped, having been placed atop the bowl; a separate plate might be better.)

For dessert, we couldn’t resist German chocolate cake, which revealed abundant richness and was garnished by sinful bourbon cherries. Petite ice cream sandwiches made with slices of dark chocolate brownie hit the sweet spot, too. Hitting that spot too hard was the doughnut bread pudding, served warm with vanilla ice cream.

And what of the alcohol in this alcoholthemed establishment? I wasn’t a fan of the old style, gingery tonic water made in-house. Although I appreciated the effort, I traded in a gin and tonic for a fine martini.

The bar didn’t have a requested bourbon, but the beverage director came to the table to offer a mini-tasting course of available brands. That unexpected gesture, along with the assistance of our exceptionally attentive and genial server throughout the meal, typified the remarkable qualities of 18th & 21st.