Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE
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Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE
Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE

Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE

Washington Post Review of Nage Restaurant Washington, DC

Fare Minded
Nage in D.C.: Coming Along Swimmingly

By Eve Zibart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 23, 2006; Page WE15

Silly me. Years of making watermelon pickle, and I never thought of it as a foil for foie gras.

At Nage, the seared foie gras is presented on a bed of dark gingerbread and topped with a generous dollop of spicy sweet-sour relish -- almost a cross between watermelon pickle and what Southerners call chowchow -- that tweaks the liver into asserting its richness rather than exploiting it. It's both tangier and more complex than a typical fruit sauce, and it shows once again that there's always a new way to address an old dish. Hello, dish!Pan-roasted scallops with caramelized fennel risotto and baked oysters.

Pan-roasted scallops with caramelized fennel risotto and baked oysters.

To say that Nage is swimming against the trend tide -- the name refers to "swimming" in French and is also the term for a seafood broth -- is more than a pun. Not only is Nage the latest upscale restaurant to broach the traditionally tough Scott Circle neighborhood (a kind of commercial limbo between Dupont and Logan circles), it's the offshoot of a popular Rehoboth Beach, Del., kitchen that is hoping to hang on to its warm-weather friends all year round. A sleek and fairly intimate space, with a smallish bar and exposed kitchen, it's in the Marriott Courtyard Embassy Row Hotel, not terribly visible, though convenient enough once spotted.

Even so, the winds seem favorable for the venture: With duplicate menus (including several of executive chef and co-owner Kevin Reading's signature dishes) and two Rehoboth area veterans, Gray Rollins and Dave Hamer, heading the cook staff, the Washington Nage seems not to be diluting the strength of its sibling but rather helping to refine it.

Like the resort original, the new Nage offers a different mix-and-match three-course dinner for $35 each night; the chalked-up options, usually pretty intriguing, are also priced a la carte. Among Nage's early successes is an appetizer that started as a special and moved to the regular menu, a dish so rich it should come with a cholesterol warning: It stars a lushly tender veal cheek, served over an appropriately cheeky bacon, egg and tomato risotto in which the smattering of salty bacon bits nicely offsets the unctuous meat.

The warm seasonal vegetable salad with goat cheese is a personal favorite. One night the composition included one perfect asparagus, an artichoke heart, a bit of sweet pepper, a couple of fresh mustard greens, slightly marinated mushrooms, a few tomato dice and a handful of sweet corn kernels. It might be a trifle light for $11, but I'd take a double for dinner any summer night. And nothing is truly "light" here because every evening starts out with a different bread (whole grain, potato, olive) and a spread such as cumin-scented hummus or fully roasted, acid-free elephant garlic cloves.

The baked oysters, another longtime signature, are still fine, the mixture of spinach, fennel and mushrooms bound and "salted" lightly by asiago. The notorious Nage frites, a huge tangle of white and sweet shoestring potatoes sprinkled with white truffle oil, retain their fresh texture to the bottom of the bowl.

Even happier is the "seafood a la Nage," a varied but manageably restrained combination (rather like the veggie salad) of scallop, shrimp, squid, mussels, clams and a half lobster tail in a fine tomato-seafood broth. Though the vessel it's presented in is not as clumsy as one that rendered the Rehoboth original dish so slippery, it's still a little tricky. The angle at the bottom isn't conducive to spooning, so the best thing to do is to break the supplied croutons into the dish and let them sop up the liquid; aromatic of shellfish and fennel but not salty or bitter, it's much too good to leave.

The seasoning balance is not always consistent, however, and the kitchen's swinging from coddling a sweet tooth one day to indulging a salt jag another almost suggests a bad case of kitchen allergies. The pan-roasted scallops, four large and rare-centered beauties, were overwhelmed by the too-heavy dose of parmigiana in the risotto (a common dilemma, since the cheese is crucial to the texture but is only one of several salt-bearing ingredients).

The crab cake, on the other hand, although lumpy enough, was overmatched by a double dose of sweet condiments, a sugared succotash (okay by itself) and a tomato jam (better with the crab). A mini-tower of crispy, fried soft shell crabs wasn't hurt by its sweet-pea-like base, but it wasn't particularly improved by it, though the lobster-mousse-stuffed roast piquilo pepper on the side was rather neat. Even the nearly perfect watermelon pickle could be a little less sweet and a little more pungent.

The "lobster corn dog" is cuter on paper than on the stick, since the flavor of the (large knuckle) meat is obscured by the doughy crust; you can brighten the batter or the shucked crustacean with the mustard dip, but it doesn't all work together. The jicama-green mango slaw is a nice touch, though.

The kitchen is perhaps a little too habituated to the entree/starch/sauce format, which shows up, particularly with risotto, in several variations. A good change is the pan-roasted rockfish fillets, which are served over a much crunchier barley-Parmesan cake and a tomato-fennel swirl. The bourbon-brined pork tenderloin is served over smoked cheddar grits more delicately cheesed than the risotto, and the fresh black-eyed peas were a smart textural touch. (On one occasion, the braised mustard greens, though sauteed to just the right degree, were ruined by the unhappy surprise of grit.)

Still, with Reading making regular visits to consult with the kitchen staff, and the slower (in-town) summer season to fine-tune the menu, it's hard to think that Nage can't stay afloat come fall. Maybe you'd do well to get into the swim before the swells do.

Nage 1600 Rhode Island Ave. NW (in the Marriott Courtyard Embassy Row) Metro: Farragut West or Dupont Circle 202-448-8005 Prices: Appetizers $9-$18; entrees $16-$28 Kitchen hours: Monday-Thursday 7-10:30, 11:30-2:30 and 5-10; Friday 7-10:30, 11:30-2:30 and 5-10:30; Saturday 7-10:30 and 5-11; Sunday 7-10:30 and 5-10 Wheelchair access: Good (in hotel lobby)

Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE

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Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE
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Nage Restsurants Washington, DC & Rehoboth Beach, DE

Nage Rehoboth
19730 Coastal Highway
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
302 226 2037


Nage DC
1600 Rhode Island Ave. NW (Scott Circle)
Washington, DC 20036
202 448 8005

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