One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2012 was Bryan Voltaggio’s latest project, Range. Located in Chevy Chase Pavilion, just 40 miles south of Volt where Voltaggio first gained fame, the former Top Chef contestant’s latest venture is his most extensive yet.
With nearly 14,000 square feet of space, this is not your typical restaurant. Taking a small plates approach, the menu is broken down into “kitchens”. That’s because Range has its own raw bar, bakery, wood-burning pizza oven, and even a confectionery shop. And just like the restaurant itself, navigating the menu is a massive undertaking.
With a 5:30pm reservation (which we made nearly a month ago) and stroller in tow, we were greeted by the hostess and then taken to our table towards the back of the house. This worked out well since we had more than ample space for our stroller while having a nice view of the kitchen.
As fairly new parents, we have also been analyzing whether restaurants are baby-friendly or not. While Range was able to accommodate our stroller, the restaurant didn’t have a changing table in their restrooms. Needless to say, we had to work around that since a diaper situation arose.
But enough baby talk, let’s discuss booze! To start off, I ordered the Makeshift Harmony, a rum-based beverage that featured St. Germain, lemon, and bitters. Very refreshing without being too sweet.
As mentioned earlier, the menu is fairly large which makes deciding what to order somewhat overwhelming. For example, there are no more than 19 different items one can order from the salumeria. Our waiter was very helpful in describing the plates, suggesting we should order two to three per person.
Our first dish was from the bakery: skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade. First of all, this is probably one of the best values on the menu. The cornbread was enough to feed four people! And as good as the cornbread was it was the bacon marmalade that stole the show. Seriously, I would pay money just for a jar of this stuff. It was that good. A must-order in our book.
From the “roasted” portion of the menu came the pork cheeks. Featuring celeriac and moustarda, it was perhaps the most forgettable dish of the evening. At $14, the portions were tiny, and while the cheeks were indeed succulent, there just wasn’t enough on the plate to equate for a satisfying dish.
On the other hand, the goat cheese ravioli with braised meat ragu was the star of the night. The plate featured a trio of puffy ravioli stuffed with warm goat cheese while being surrounded by the savory ragu. I particularly enjoyed the sauce, scraping every last drop from the plate using my fork.
The kale Caesar salad was beautifully presented and featured diced Whitmore farm eggs. The texture was a departure from your prototypical Caesar salad, but it was also a lighter dish compared to the traditional recipe. That was a good thing considering what came next…
Which leads us to the lobster mac and cheese. Undoubtedly the heaviest dish of the night, it was also the most savory. Like the ravioli, the macaroni was homemade, and it showed. My only beef with the dish, however, was the lack of lobster. There were two small chunks adorned atop the macaroni, and at nearly $20 for the plate, one would think you’d get a little more lobster at that price. Other than that, it was an enjoyable creamy dish.
In between all these dishes we also ordered a side of roasted cauliflower. Prepared with golden raisins and za’atar, it was an excellent accompaniment to the meal and was probably our second favorite dish behind the ravioli. Not only that, but for $6 it was a very generous portion. Not sure if the lowest-priced items are always the largest in quantity at Range, but that was definitely the case with both the cornbread and cauliflower.
Just when we thought we were finished, along came the candy cart. Featuring all the desserts made at the restaurant’s confectionery station and housed in gorgeous glass containers, how could you not order something? We wound up getting a chocolate covered blondie as well as a cashew bark.
The service was terrific – our waters were constantly refilled, plates were cleared in a timely fashion, and our waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu. Given the menu format, we recommend you dine at Range as a group rather than a couple. Not only will you be able to try more dishes, but it would probably cost you less as well. Our bill totaled to over $100 for just the two of us which kind of took me by surprise. The cornbread and cauliflower alone could have been split amongst a table for four.
At any rate, Range is a welcome addition to what was formerly a dining wasteland in Friendship Heights. Speaking of which, Washingtonian recently broke the news that Voltaggio’s casual outpost Lunchbox will debuting in Chevy Chase Pavilion as well. Hey Bryan, mind opening Family Meal down here as well? Because, you know, fried chicken.