WASHINGTON – Located in the historic Hay-Adams Hotel at 16th and H Street, the Lafayette welcomes guests to dine next door to the White House, Lafayette Park and “the Church of the Presidents,” St. John’s.
The Italian Renaissance property, built in 1928, is in walking distance of the National Mall and Smithsonian museums, making the Hay–Adams an attractive destination for travelers.
A fall menu created by executive chef Charles Legert and Paride Guerra, director of food and beverage, plates a selection of American flavors, infusing the best French techniques with a blend of ethnicities.
As a special offering this fall, the Lafayette is offering a Champagne prix-fixe dinner that has a choice of starter, entrée and dessert, served with a half-bottle of Taittinger Brut ($75 per person).
Mr. Legert introduces the meal with an amuse-bouche, a small one-or two-bite gift designed to tantalize the taste buds for the meal to follow.
A few sips worth of savory foie gras and chestnut soup is presented in a demitasse cup. Let the soup sit on the tongue to enjoy the full flavor of this offering, which balances the tang of sherry with the smooth cream.
Next is Red Kuri Squash soup, topped with a pattern of crème fraiche. The dusting of Spanish smoked paprika, or Pimentón de la Vera, adds a smoky, oaked and slightly spicy yet very subtle touch of heat.
Mr. Legert presents a large portion of burrata cheese with white, gold and yellow beets, micro greens from Earth and Eats of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and blood orange slices, drizzled with a Wafu Japanese vinaigrette of soy sauce, rice vinegar and vegetable oil.
Burrata is a fresh soft Italian cheese that combines a shell of solid mozzarella on the outside with stracciatella cheese and cream on the inside, giving it an unusual semi-soft center. Unlike other cheeses, burrata must be eaten fresh, usually within 24 to 48 hours after it has been made. Save a piece of the blood orange to cleanse your palate of the sweet creaminess of the cheese.
Ekram Jasar brings her knowledge about the foods and wine choices, as well as her proper service, to the table. Her suggestion of a Ramey Chardonnay from the Ritchie Vineyard and Ramey Wine Cellars of Healdsburg, California, located in the California Russian River Valley, is a marvelous accompaniment to the salad and risotto course.
The Ramey wine has complex flavors not overwhelmed by oakiness, thanks to a process that holds it in new oak for less than 12 months. The result is a light-on-the-tongue Chardonnay with a long finish and a complexity of taste and nose.
It pairs brilliantly with Mr. Legert’s Acquerello Risotto with black truffles.
“Acquerello” means “to paint in watercolor” in Italian, and the creamy dish with the small circles of black truffles are visually reminiscent of the turn-of-the-century Impressionist watercolor paintings.
And this dish alone is worth the trip to the Lafayette Room, as it displays the culinary skill of Mr. Legert and his ability to subtly and masterfully combine the savory, salty and umami taste profiles.
Before your first bite, the earthy flavor of the dish is foreshadowed by the aroma of freshly sliced black truffles. The chef uses small cubes of Idaho potato in his risotto, unlike traditional risotto that is made with Arborio rice. The risotto is prepared with a der Alpen Kase cheese cream sauce with occasional, delightful bursts of sea salt.
The fish course brought a cold water Atlantic cod with Cocorubico beans in a white wine, butter and preserved lemon sauce garnished with micro greens. The Cocorubico bean is an heirloom bush-type bean first introduced to culinary use in France in 1976. These heirloom beans have a savory, soft-mouth feel without the heavy starch that accompanies a more traditional bean, like pinto bean.
The cod is thick, meaty, succulent and light, harmonizing well with the savory taste of the beans. The dish is accented with braised, lightly softened red pepper, adding a slightly sweet tasted with the baby leeks providing a bit of alkaline.
The underlying taste of preserved lemons, lemons that have been pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice and salt, makes this dish exceptional. The preservation process enhances the taste of the lemons, creating a flavor that is mildly tart but intensely lemony, adding that final acid to offset the sweetness of the fish and the creaminess of the beans.
Truly melt-in-your mouth lamb chops from Colorado arrive next. Mr. Legert lightly dusts the chops with the warming spice cumin that balances the rich lamb flavor. The dish is presented with fall vegetables — carrots, finger potatoes — and eggplant caviar.
Amazingly, there is still more. Duck is an ideal fowl for the cooler evenings of fall, and Mr. Legert creates a Spiced Muscovy duck that retains firmness despite its raspberry pink center. The fowl is served over the lightest carrot mousseline, augmented by fall huckleberries and braised radish.
Ms. Jasar pairs the lamb and duck courses with Barda, a pinot noir from Patagonia – Rio Negro, a region at the end of South America and land shared by Chile and Argentina.
The wine is made with fruits from two heirloom vines, planted in 1932 and 1955. The wine is created completely by hand and matured for 11 months to create a complex and full-bodied taste.
Overall notes are dusty berry, plum and caramel with wonderful spice aromas and flavors that work well with the more gamey flavors of the fowl and meat courses. It carries one of the best finishes of any pinot noir, enhancing the dish without overpowering it or leaving lingering tastes on the tongue.
The meal finished with a good-bye kiss of Baked Alaska. This heavenly light chocolate ice cream is served atop a crisp chocolate cookie, covered with a light meringue and served with black berries and a chocolate stick.
IF YOU GO
Hay-Adams’ Lafayette restaurantWhere: 800 16th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20006Phone: 202/638-6600