Oh, poor Nage. The restaurant, located in the Courtyard Marriott on Scott Circle, suffers from a bad location. Sure, it’s in a hotel in downtown Washington. But it’s in a tacky, cookie-cutter hotel that’s always top of the Expedia tourist list.
That location is a hard thing to overcome—particularly when I live a few blocks away and I’ve walked by the hotel thousands of times. I usually shudder, as I recall a terrible brunch experience I had there nearly four years ago.
I vowed never to return—but I was repeatedly invited by the PR person to give it another go. “They have a new chef,” I was told. “They’ve improved significantly. They would love for you to experience it.” And so I obliged and returned to brunch at Nage with my friend Brittney Ann a few weeks ago.
And, Nage has improved, significantly. But, the restaurant still won’t be able to compete with the high-quality cuisine and chic ambiances of the restaurants that line 14th Street a few blocks away.
As we sat in the black pleather booth, we began with water, caffeine (coffee for me, Diet Coke for her), and cocktails. We chose the flavored champagne cocktails: the blood orange for me and the pomegranate for Brittney Ann. The cocktails were great: sweet and bubbly, in enormous pours.
Our server was sweet and attentive—but the restaurant was effectively empty.
Brunch at Nage begins with complimentary rosemary buttermilk biscuits. The biscuits were a bit too hard—and nothing remarkable. When I’m going to splurge on carbs at brunch, I expect them to be phenomenal. There’s nothing more disappointing on a Saturday morning splurge than lackluster baked goods.
We chose to chat for a while and linger over appetizers. We ordered the truffled French fries and the kale salad, typically two of my favorite dishes.
The kale salad was really great. The large bowl was filled with fresh kale, sprinkled with currants, toasted pine nuts, tossed lightly in a flavored citrus vinaigrette, and topped with sprinkles of Pecorino. It was well-made, well-executed, and well-presented. All in all, it was a spectacular salad.
Also served in a large bowl, the French fries also had a great flavor. The truffle was strong on the frites, but they were soggy. There was narry a crisp frite to be found in the entire bowl. So, while each fry was flavorful, each bite was also limp and disappointing.
We both went for Mexican for our entrees. Brittney, who has a gluten intolerance, selected the baked avocado huevos rancheros, served with potatoes, salsa, and chorizo. The waitress was incredibly sweet—and made sure the dish was gluten-free. The entrée was beautifully plated, with the eggs, salsa and cheese inside the two avocado shells, which were perched atop a plate of home fries.
Brittney Ann loved the plating and also really enjoyed the meal.
I went with El Jefé, a bowl of Anson Mills cheesy grits, topped with fried eggs, chorizo, and tortilla chips. It was pretty good—the grits were yummy and cheesy. The chorizo was delicious. The tortilla chips were thick and substantial. But my eggs were undercooked, with a few diaphanous bites causing me concern of food potential food poisoning. (A sadly frequent fate for this adventurous diner.)
I ordered a side of bacon, of which there are several options: applewood smoked, house cured maple, or black pepper bacon. With the waitress’ guidance, I selected the black pepper bacon. But when it arrived, the bacon was doused in some sort of caramelized sauce. I was so put off by its appearance I couldn’t bring myself to have a bite.
There was nothing wrong with the preparation of the plates–but the quality of the ingredients was lacking. An experienced diner at this point, I can tell when the ingredients are organic, local and fresh—and when they’re ordered from whatever food supplier provides the same GMO-loaded, packaged food that’s typically sent to chains. It’s not the chef’s fault, necessarily, but a function of the price point, target demographic, and hotel location, perhaps.
Brittney Ann, the eternal optimist, chose to focus on the positive components of brunch. “It’s gluten-free friendly! I liked my dish! The bottomless doesn’t have a time limit! The people were so nice!”
She is right about all of those things. It would be a great spot for a bottomless brunch, if everywhere else was packed. It’s family- and tourist-friendly. There are some decent things: the kale salad, the cocktails. Oh, and the dessert. Another highlight of the meal.
We both ordered crème brulee, which was prepared in the traditional fashion. We each received our own brulee, and also a bowl of vanilla ice cream, as requested by Brittney. We devoured the dessert, and headed off to an afternoon of shopping and errands.
The Bitches say: C. There are great dishes and terrible dishes at Nage. The service is great. The ambiance is awful.
1600 Rhode Island Ave. N.W.