Dynamic Duo
[from July 2003 issue]

It’s hard not to be wowed by this new venture and collaboration, David/Greggory Restau/Lounge, for it is possibly the hottest restaurant in town and for good reason: The food is terrific. The ambiance dazzles. The drinks lull. And the crowds buzz. What more could any restaurant owner(s) want?

It's actually hard to find flaws in any part of the cooking, too, and when two devoted foodies sit down to a meal, and after comparing notes, come out all smiles, the place must be a winner. True, we didn't sample everything on the menu, and we didn't stop by at lunch, when maybe the pizzas might not have crisped right or perhaps the bacon-arugula-tomato sandwich on sourdough bread might have fallen flat. But that surely would not happen, for one suspects that the two owners--David Hagedorn, who once cooked at Trumpets, and Greggory Hill, formerly of Gabriel--have thought it all through like generals preparing for victory, and they have left nothing undone nor any flavor unchallenged.

What first hits you is the décor. Long before you sample your first mouthful of bread you will find your eye traveling from paintings to upholstery to uniforms to lighting and back again. Then you read the menu, and find that almost every detail has been furnished by local artists, sort of a living art museum/gallery, though you probably can't buy the shirt off your waitstaff's back. Contact information for the artists should provide you, however, with ways to purchase their works.

Then your eye focuses on the menu--different ones for lunch and dinner--and you suddenly realize how hungry you are. What is that, an "Appas?" A mis-spelling? No, assures the waitress. That's an Americanization of the very popular tapas concept, which means you can assemble a complete meal from little dishes. Another innovation: the "Halvables," the slightly larger dishes--like mega-tapas--that do double duty, with a smaller portion that works as a light entrée or heavy-duty appetizer, or the full meal size that works as a real main course.

Among the Appas and the Halvables, the two of us can recommend the Zuccanelloni of Feta Cheese, Spinach, Roasted Peppers, Pine Nuts and Currant, a whimsical offering using zucchini as a sort of pasta that is then filled with the other ingredients. And the crab cake made from pure jumbo lump crab meat is a supreme dish, a triumph of crab over filling and served with potato chips seasoned with Old Bay.

As my friend continued on with the appetizer Greenless Green Salad--another piece of culinary humor, since it contains no lettuce greens but instead green ingredients: fava beans, green beans, sugar snaps, peas and leeks with a Green Goddess dressing--I delved into the roasted chicken half, rubbed with ancho honey and perched on a mound of garlicky poblano mashed potatoes. Of all the unusual entrées--seared porcini crusted cod, grilled lamb loin, spring rabbit cassoulet--the chicken and mashed potatoes, alone, offered the closest thing to comfort food on the menu (and it had been one of those days).

Desserts are a must, and true to form, nothing among David/Greggory's confections were clichéd offerings. Puzzling over the “A S'more in Greek's Clothing,” I listened to the advice of the waitress who nearly fainted while describing the “Cow-over-the-Moonpie Goes Bananas,” and rather than spoil your surprise, I'll just tell you that this is the premiere dessert in Washington, and more power to you if you can finish it.

One of the best surprises, however, comes with the bill. You think all this will cost a fortune? Or at least, a week's pay? Think again, for clever management figures people like to eat out a lot, and affordability plus great food and cool ambiance is the surest magnet for big crowds. So you can eat lots here, assuming you have the appetite, and not dread the bill. Besides, two of us couldn't even finish the desserts, so loosen your belts and head to David/Greggory.

David/Greggory Restau/Lounge, 2030 M St., NW; tel., 872-8700; web, www.davidgreggory.com. Entrées: $18-$28. Open: Lunch, Mon.-Fri.; Brunch, Sun.; Dinner nightly. Reservations probably a must.

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