If you don’t already know about my summer love, let me enlighten you: I am mildly obsessed with the Penthouse Pool.
Up on that sunny U Street rooftop, it’s nothing but champagne and caviar dreams. OK, maybe a little less Robin Leach, but there is definitely deck-chair champagne service, along with a sparkling pool, gorgeous people, fun music, and great food.
No joke, I spent nearly every Saturday there last year from May until late September. It is, ultimately, my D.C. happy place. And the U Street location just opened for the summer season yesterday, hurrah!
So when VIDA Fitness announced that they’re opening a second Penthouse Pool, this time in Navy Yard on the roof of their newest location, I nearly squealed with delight. Then I invited the VIDA Fitness team out to brunch to learn all about it.
I, of course, need every detail. And perhaps a cabana with my name on it. Aaron and James, the two men in charge over there, along with Aaron’s gorgeous wife Kerrie, met me and Cori Sue at The Carving Room for Bloody Marys and hard-hat updates.
The exciting gist of our brunch convo? We will be hosting the Navy Yard Penthouse Pool opening bash in July! (Make sure you’re on our mailing list to get the details.)
We sat outside around a picnic table at The Carving Room, which is just off the beaten track near Mass Ave. The patio has a cornhole set, which stood lonely and unused, but was a great sniffing attraction for brunching pups.
First, we ordered cocktails. A Bloody Mary for yours truly, of course. It was served in a mason jar with a pickle slice as a garnish. The house-made mix was quite spicy and ice cold, just how I like it.
The Bellini, which Kerrie ordered, came in a wide-rimmed champagne glass and looked just like regular bubbly. At first we thought the waitress had our order confused, but the cocktail did, in fact, have a lovely peach taste once we sipped it.
Aaron opted for a mojito, which was quite a departure from typical brunch cocktails, but turns out is a refreshing way to start a Saturday after all. He would know, with all that pool-club-running expertise. The rum cocktail was also served in a mason jar, with mint and seasonal fruit inside.
The mimosas themselves (but not the other cocktails, sadly) are bottomless at a lovely $29 price tag, which also includes your choice of any omelet or sandwich. Not a bad deal at all.
We were liking how this brunch was getting started: good service, great cocktails, and great news about the new pool. Turns out it will have an even better view—over the Potomac River, in fact—than the U Street location, and the cabanas will be more Vegas-style, with couches instead of daybeds.
With all this exciting chit chat and planning, it was time to start on the food. We had not realized The Carving Room’s menu had a Moroccan and Israeli angle, which was a cool, unique touch. They offer items like Moroccan carrot salad, hummus, several Middle Eastern salad options, as well as Matzo Ball soup. Quite the smorgasbord.
We started on the small plates menu, where a couple of things caught our eye. Picked jar? Sounds interesting, but we decided to go for a variety of “cigars” instead. The cigars are actually spring rolls wrapped and stuffed with Moroccan spiced beef. Or you can get them with chorizo or whatever meat is fresh in that day.
They were served piping hot with a number of different dipping sauces. A great way to start a group brunch—everyone got to a snag a couple and try the different meat fillings. A recent convert back to being carnivorous, Cori Sue loved the chorizo cigars. I had a liking to the spicy Moroccan beef.
For my main course, I said to hell with my pool-prep diet and ordered the special that day, an open-faced huevos rancheros of sorts. It looked a bit messy when it arrived, but it was quite delightful. Shredded beef, eggs and green onions were set on two crispy tortillas and covered in a spicy brown sauce. It was filling and flavorful.
Unfortunately, the dishes went down-hill from there. Cori Sue went all out and ordered the steak burger, topped with bacon, a fried egg, and cheddar cheese on a ciabatta roll. The burger was enormous—perfect for a paleo cheat day—but the quality of the ingredients was just alright.
The ciabatta roll tasted like something out of a cheap grocery store. The bacon was greasily piled on in chunks, which looked unusual, but not in a good way. The fries were really good, however, so she shared them with the group.
James, who leads marketing at VIDA Fitness and was always by my side during last summer’s Penthouse Pool love affair, decided to order one of the open-faced omelet options, which is essentially a round of scrambled eggs covered in sliced tomatoes, green onions, and dollops of guacamole.
Kerrie ordered the same. The dish was on the healthier side, but was rather bland, and I felt like this is an omelet she could have easily made at home. On the side, a couple slices of bread in addition to the potatoes. I guess they were concerned the potatoes just weren’t enough carbs.
Aaron ordered the egg and cheese sandwich, which is entirely customizable. You have your choice of cheese—fontina, cheddar, Swiss, or Provolone—along with your choice of bread and your choice of how you’d like your egg cooked.
Again, I felt like this was something I could have made at home after a solid grocery trek. The sandwich also offered roasted cumin potatoes and crispy pastrami, if you’d like it. Oh, and those requisite potatoes, as well.
I was on the edge of my seat about news of the new pool, but mildly disappointed with the food on the table. I guess I was just looking forward to more meat, to be honest, from a place called The Carving Room. I wanted piles of prosciutto and stacks of ribs and brisket with my eggs, not just sandwiches and omelets. Also, the Moroccan flair turned out to be a bit of a tease.
On Monday morning, I was back at VIDA Fitness with my trainer, Christine, telling her about this brunch. She gasped and shook her at in disappointment at what I ordered. “You didn’t get the French toast?!” she asked. Apparently, it was heavenly, and I take her opinion pretty seriously. Those VIDA folks know how it’s done, after all.
The Bitches say: B-. A unique menu that didn’t exactly pan out as promised. The restaurant has a promising bottomless, deal, though, if you’re not that picky about the food.
The Carving Room
300 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
(202) 525- 2116
The Carving Room serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.