Friday, October 18, 2013

RedRocks Bistro

We visited RedRocks Bistro's most recent location in the Atlas District area of H Street NE (the other three are in Arlington, Old Town Alexandria and Columbia Heights). Offering a neighborhood spot with wood-fired Neopolitan thin crust style pizzas, this three-story restaurant is the largest featuring a 6,800-square-foot space with three bars and a rooftop patio with a retractable roof, in a building that has been vacant since the 1968 riots.  RedRocks promises a fast-casual experience, with pizzas ready in two minutes flat.  At the bar, you'll find 20 draft lines for local beers, cider, prosecco and wine, as well as bottomless bloody marys and mimosas for brunch.  Closest Metro is Union Station.

When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the noise level.  Between the music playing and the chatter of patrons, it was very loud.  We could barely hear eachother, let alone the server.  The front windows were wide open, which was nice to allow fresh air in but the temperatures were dropping, so the staff closed the windows soon after we were seated.  This helped with the noise somehow, and it got a little better as those tables with younger children left.  Looking straight up I could see that the roof was retracted wide open too, and plenty of people were seated upstairs. The interior design reminded me very much of Matchbox, with the exposed industrial ducts, etc. The space didn't seem too large downstairs, so we suspect upstairs has the much cooler ambience.

On to the food.  To start, Keith ordered the Meatballs Al Forno.  He is always on the look out for a good meatball, but alas was disappointed by RedRocks' rendition.  The balls were tiny, and the sauce tasted like doctored up tomato paste from a can.  Not pleasant.  We also ordered two pizzas to share and I wanted to try a calzone as well.  We realized it would be too much food for the two of us, but we knew we could easily take the leftovers home.

First, let me talk about the Pesto Calzone.  The size was large, just as expected and the dough was very chewy.  However, I would have liked more filling inside.  The fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses were good and the pesto was very flavorful, but again the tomato sauce served on the side was terrible.  It reminded me of Chef Boyardee sauce with added red pepper. Also, while there was slight blistering on the top of the calzone from the hot wood oven, the bottom was barely cooked and the middle was not cooked all the way - you could see chunks of cheese that did not melt through.  Keith remarked that it would be way better after we heated it up again at home in our own oven.

As for the pizzas, they had the same undercooked dough problem.  The top edges of the crust was charred and blistered (good), but the bottom was barely browned, and the middles almost raw and very soupy (bad).  One positive were the ingredients used as toppings.  For the Salsiccia pizza, the fresh mozzarella was chewy and the housemade Italian sausage was unique and tasty.  I also enjoyed the added saltiness from the black olives.  The Roasted Eggplant pizza also had high quality mozzarella di bufalo with seasonal roasted peppers and eggplant on top.  All the flavors meshed well together and provided a nice vegetarian pizza.  

While the flavors were good, the execution of the pizza needs work.  We were a little perplexed and tried to think of a couple theories as to where the problem lays.  I thought: "Perhaps their wood oven is too hot, causing them to worry about burning the tops too much that they take out the pizza too quickly and thus not allowing the bottom and middle to cook through?"  Keith thought that wouldn't make sense, since usually there is a pizza stone that holds all the heat and is where the pizza sits on, thus creating that perfectly crispy bottom, which would prevent any kind of soupy mess. (?!?!) Without investigating the actual pizza oven cooking methods up close, we will never know for sure.  One thing we do know is that RedRocks Bistro is an average place for pizza, and suitable for kids as the loud volume will drown everything out.  If you're looking for a wood-fired/bistro kind of restaurant, go to Matchbox instead.  Or if you are just looking for pizza on H St NE, then H &Pizza is way better too.

Total Rating: 3.35
Food: 3, Price: 4, Service: 3, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Pesto Calzone
tomato, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, pesto, grana

Roasted Eggplant
wood-fired pizza with mozzarella di bufalo, roasted eggplant, 
peppers, basil, grana cheese

Plus Keith ate:
Meatballs Al Forno
with meat sauce and grana

wood-fired pizza with tomato, fresh mozzarella,
housemade Italian sausage, black olives

RedRocks Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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