Saturday, January 18, 2014

Del Campo

The lifestyle and food culture celebrated on an estancia, a large South American vineyard estate, is the inspiration for Victor Albisu’s flagship restaurant, Del Campo, in the Chinatown neighborhood of DC.  As the website describes: "The airy, 174-seat agrarian space is home to a meat-driven, wine-centric menu that is a product of Albisu’s Latin American roots and travels throughout Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay. An extensive selection of steaks and various slow-roasted meats served with vibrant herb sauces, such as chimichurris and fresh salsas is the backbone of Del Campo's menu."  Closest Metro is Chinatown-Gallery Place.

Image via Del Campo website
Keith and I went to Del Campo during Restaurant Week.  It was packed when we arrived and the decor was typical of any fine steakhouse.  Everything on the menu is grilled, smoked or charred.  Even the olive oil served with the fresh hot bread rolls was grilled to give an extra depth of flavor.  The RW menu featured a few bottles of wine, so we chose the 2010 Jelu Pinot Noir from Patagonia, Argentina.  It was not that rich in flavor as other pinot noirs, but was palatable and paired well with our meal.

For my appetizer, I chose the Local Mushroom Empanadas served with a smoked black truffle aioli.  The dough was crispy, and the filling was earthy and luxurious with the various types of mushrooms.  The truffle aioli was almost unnecessary.  Keith chose the Fluke Ceviche with octopus, smoked sevruga caviar, and radish.  I enjoyed my few bites of fluke.  The caviar added an extra umami that soared on the tongue.  This fluke dish was exquisite in flavor and I would be happy to order it over and over again.  The only fault was perhaps the cuts of fish were sloppy and not as refined as sashimi standards.

For the main course, I ordered the famous Peruvian Chicken.  A half chicken grilled with seasoned skin was presented with yuca fries, and aji amarillo aioli with green chili purée.  I mixed the sauces together to try and tame the spice, and was impressed by the moist chicken and seasonings under the skin.  There was more than enough meat for me to eat, but Keith was happy to finish what I could not.   He ordered the Piedmont Ridge Dry Aged Ribeye.  Aged for 35 days, this steak was served with chimichurri sauce, and topped with a piece of roasted red pepper, potato wedge, and bone marrow.  The steak was a nice twist on the typical ribeye with the extra accompaniments, and was cooked well to Keith's standards of medium-rare.  However, it did not blow his mind and the wood-grilled/herb-smoked flavor nor the particular aging did not come through as strong.

For dessert, I ate the Grilled Berry Cheesecake with a pavlova of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  Grilling the berries brought out their natural sweetness, but they nicely held on to some tartness too.  The cheesecake itself was nice and creamy, though had a bit too much sugar.  In fact, I could taste the actual granules of sugar which made it seem like extra sugar was added after the main mix was made.  A free form sugar cookie was included that helped balance out the sweetness.  Keith ordered the Flan Del Campo with toasted coconut crema.  The flan was so thick and creamy, and the coconut was just lovely.  As we settled our bill, we were presented with complimentary caramel filled sugar cookies.

Overall, the food and service was ideal.  Keith was a little perturbed by the hostess who greeted us, and frankly brushed us off to the side to wait regardless of our reservation, but I overlooked it due to the extra rush of RW.  The restaurant itself was pretty crowded and the wait times in between courses were moderately delayed, but not enough to bother me.  The portions and quality of ingredients were much better than most steakhouses - bone marrow is usually an extra $10 or so, thus it was a treat for each steak dish to receive it.  If you're looking for a steakhouse experience, but are tired of the old standard then Del Campo will satisfy.  The RW menu is a value; Del Campo is extending through January 26.

Total Rating: 4.38
Food: 4.5, Price: 4, Service: 5, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Local Mushroom Empanadas
Smoked Black Truffle Aioli

Peruvian Chicken
Yuca Fries, Aji Amarillo Aioli, Green Chili Purée

Grilled Berry Cheesecake
Pavlova of Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries

Plus Keith ate:
Fluke Ceviche
Octopus, Smoked Sevruga Caviar, Radish

Piedmont Ridge Dry Aged Ribeye

Flan Del Campo
Toasted Coconut Crema

Del Campo on Urbanspoon

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