It seems like yesterday when Granville Moore’s and The Argonaut were the pioneers of the rapidly developing Atlas District back in 2006. Flash forward five years: H Street is now lined with sushi shops, biergartens, and concert venues. It has truly become a neighborhood of its own within a few short years. The Atlas Room might be the gem of the block.
Rachel and I have been meaning to try The Atlas Room since they first opened last November after hearing friends rave about the place. We felt it was an ideal place to go with friends, including some who were visiting from New York City. The six of us made a reservation for Saturday night after spending the day as tourists, which was capped by a stunning view from the top of the Old Post Office Pavilion (highly recommended by the way, DC resident or not).
If you have never been to The Atlas Room before, it’s easy to miss. Granted, it has more signage than Granville Moore’s, but it is one of the smaller restaurants you’ll find in the District. In fact, they only have seven tables (with seating up to 28) in their dinning room according to their website. There was a bar in the back left corner of the space which had some additional seating as well.
Speaking of the bar, we started the evening off with some pre-Prohibition style cocktails. I ordered the Ward 8, which was made with bourbon, orange juice, lemon juice, and grenadine. Props to the bartender as this was one tasty beverage – it went down smooth without being overly tart. Rachel ordered a Pisco Sour, which featured Macchu Pisco, lime juice, and egg whites. It was sweet and frothy and was a great hint of what was to come in terms of creativity.
The menu at The Atlas Room is different from most restaurants as dishes are categorized by their main ingredient (chicken, pork, beef, etc.) and then broken down into three sizes (small plate, appetizer, entrée). Our waiter helped explained the structure of the menu and provided a very helpful method on how to order.
He suggested that the plates be broken down into a points system, where the small plate is equivalent to one point, the appetizer is equivalent to two, and the entrée is equivalent to three. He recommended that each diner should order four points worth of dishes for dinner.
I decided on the short rib ravioli and roasted free-range chicken breast after following the waiter’s advice. The former sounded delicious just from its description while the latter was an appealing main course without the red meat double-dipping.
The ravioli was indeed excellent, and even then some. Between the tender short rib, al dente pasta, and outstanding demi-glace, it was a marvelous dish. While the plate only came with three ravioli, I tried to ration them as much as I could. In fact, at least half of our table ordered it and had the same glowing response as I did. If there’s one dish I would wholeheartedly recommend at The Atlas Room, this would be it.
That’s not to say the chicken wasn’t great, because it most certainly was, it was just a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, it was a generous amount of food for $19. The plate came with a breast and thigh as well as roasted potatoes, grilled spring onions, sautéed oyster mushrooms, and a rosemary jus. Chicken is typically difficult to pull off given the potential dryness, but Chef Beard executed it wonderfully. The meat was juicy, the skin was crispy, but it was the rosemary jus that really brought the flavor out and made it a more memorable dish.
Rachel went with two small plates and one appetizer. First up was a beet salad, which was one of the day’s specials, and consisted of mixed greens, fresh heirloom tomatoes, balsamic, and fresh beets. You could tell the produce was straight from the market as it was a great, fresh summer salad, but it didn’t particularly wow her.
She had heard from friends that we had to order the chicken wonton soup, and it may have been her favorite dish of the night. The soup featured chicken dumplings, shitake mushrooms, and a savoy cabbage broth with crispy onions. If wonton soups were prepared like this in Chinese restaurants she would order them all the time.
Her last dish was the grilled seafood salad and was prepared with chilled mussels, calamari, and shrimp over Israeli cous cous. You could tell that this was meant to be a small plate in that it felt like a dish that would build to bigger flavor profiles. There was definitely enough food and she felt full after these three plates, but Rachel wondered if she would have been better off just trying one of their main entrees (with the wonton soup, of course).
We split two desserts amongst the six of us. The first was an upside-down pineapple cake topped with hazelnut ice cream while the other was a chocolate cake topped with lavender ice cream. Looking back, we probably should have ordered the ricotta fritters as we didn’t need two ice cream-topped pastries, but I digress.
The pineapple cake proved to be the favorite between the two given how refreshing it was. The hazelnut ice cream was a nice touch and complemented the pineapple flavor without overwhelming the cake. The chocolate cake was clearly the more decadent of the two desserts as the chocolate was topped with an almond cookie which was then topped with hazelnut ice cream! I really enjoyed it but I think it was too a little heavy for some of our tablemates.
Overall, we were very impressed with The Atlas Room not only because of the great service (our waiter was extremely accommodating), but also because of the excellent food. Our entire party was very happy with the entire experience and left The Atlas Room full and content. It really is H Street’s finest.