As we all know, the DC restaurant scene is rapidly growing and changing. I really appreciate the diversity that small, independently owned and chef-driven restaurants has added to our dining landscape. But, the classic Washington establishments still have a place in the restaurant world. Lately, I’ve noticed many classic DC spots are renovating, re-branding, and revamping in an effort to keep up.
Case in point: Dirty Habit, located in the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton property across from the Hotel Monaco. Of course, Dirty Habit was once Poste, a restaurant that we repeatedly reviewed for brunch (see here, here, and here) and that often garnered lackluster reviews. I loved Poste for cocktails and parties, but the food tended toward average and over-priced.
Enter: Dirty Habit, Poste’s sexy renovation. The space was transformed into a dark, sexy spot with upscale, urban vibes. Frankly, the decor and evening scene borders on a night club, which is a bit too urban and edgy for my tastes—but it will undoubtedly get more people in the door, and what else is a renovation for?
I entered on a Friday evening, through the courtyard, which has a red carpet and the restaurant’s name in neon lights above the colonial facade, looking just a bit out of place. The lights were low—so dark it was difficult to find my sweet friend, Cara, sitting in a low booth in the corner.
This is definitely a good place for sexy evening cocktails, as it was buzzing with people sipping cocktails on this Friday night. The cocktail menu is impressive—we tried several beverages and eventually stumbled out the door three hours later. Our waiter, Frank, was an utter delight—charming, attentive, and just generally pleasant.
As I mentioned, the cocktail menu is inventive. Dirty Habit will be a great spot for drinks and light bites with your girlfriends before hitting the town. In particular, we enjoyed the Snake in the Grass, a frothy, egg white cocktail made with rum, agricole blanc, pineapple gomme, lustau amontillado, house orgeat, lemon, and topped with a saffron sprig. It was frothy, fluffy, and light—with unique flavors. This is definitely something I would order again.
The menu at Dirty Habit comprises—you guessed it!—shareable small plates of inventive American fare. While many discerning diners tire of this trend, I do not. Gimme all your small plates, I’ll try ’em and share ’em all!
Frank said we should order the fried meatballs and we trusted in him. He was right, these duck meat balls were made with ground duck and foie gras, fried, which gave them a crunch on the outside and served with arugula and tomato sauce. They were utterly decadent, and we polished off the whole dish.
Basic Bitches never turn down tuna tartare, and so we placed an order for this beautiful, fresh dish. The beautiful, bright red tuna is topped with shaved radishes, sea beans garlic chips, and trout roe. It’s served with fluffy, fried rice crackers, which were perfect for scooping up the tuna and also ideal for the gluten-averse.
I’m noticing a preponderance of duck on menus nowadays, causing me to say that duck is definitely in right now. The crispy duck ravioli were Asian-style, served floating in a bacon soy vinaigrette with edible flowers and mini mushrooms. This was definitely a unique dish.
I generally love curry shrimp, so we placed an order for that dish, too. The coconut curry shrimp was served atop a cucumber salad, and who doesn’t love that? The dish also had eggplant, which I don’t normally enjoy, but did not mind in this instance.
In addition to the crispy duck and foie gras meatballs, the other stand-out dish was the sea bass. The smoked Chilean sea bass was light, moist, and fluffy. It was served atop a shrimp rice cake, drizzled with sesame oil, and served with shallots and scallions. It was well-executed and palate pleasing.
The desserts arrive table side, with the waiter brandishing a large cutting board with bite-sized desserts for your choosing. As Bitches do, we tried them all. And we found ourselves polishing off the milk chocolate flan with spiced poached pear. And, the puff pastry with honey-roasted apples and a caramel diplomat. The others were just so-so, so we’d opt for a second (or third) cocktail en lieu of dessert.
The next time I find myself in Penn Quarter, I will more than likely saddle up to the bar at Dirty Habit for an inventive cocktail and a really delicious nosh.
555 8th St. N.W.