Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kinship



Call me lucky but that's exactly how I felt when Gary and I were invited to dine at Eric Ziebold's and Celia Laurent's new restaurant, Kinship, in Washington, DC.  The much anticipated opening of Kinship took place in January 2016.  I say much anticipated because the Mid-Atlantic's Best Chef according to the 2008 James Beard Awards had wowed the area with CityZen and then closed its doors while we waited and waited for what he would bring next.  Well, if you ask little ole me, it was worth the wait.


Let me begin by how the invitation unfolded.  I get a call from my husband at work, who says the following: "By the way, we were invited to dinner in DC this Friday by my clients.  Can you make it?" I said it shouldn't be a problem and asked the name of the restaurant.  He replied, "I have no idea, some restaurant."  Well, I like to know where I'm headed, what to expect, how to dress.  You know, I like to get the details.  Is that so wrong? So, he looks up the email and says, "Some place called Kinship by Eric Ziebold, ever heard of him?" What?! Have I ever heard of him?  In fact, I'd just read on eaterdc.com that very morning that if you could possibly get a table at Kinship opening weekend to consider yourself lucky.  Well, paint me the color green...I was going to Kinship.



Before I talk about the food, let me tell you about the restaurant itself.  The owners set the mood from the outset by defining the word kinship, meaning a feeling of being close or connected to other people and that is the exact mood they create from the minute you walk in.  The atmosphere is elegant and refined but what is missing in many DC restaurants that are also elegant and refined is the feeling of pretentiousness.  We were greeted with warm smiles, seated by friendly hosts, and then left alone for a moment to have time to talk with our dining companions and do a little catching up before being gently interrupted by our server.  It wasn't too long that we began wondering when we were going to have our orders taken.  It was just long enough.

We were asked if we wanted sparkling or tap water...always a plus with my husband.  We were debating on a bottle of wine and were directed toward what would compliment the food we planned to order.  The unique menu was explained by a knowledgeable server who described each dish we questioned with unquestionable expertise.  We could ask the ignorant question here or there about what was what on the menu and answered with no judgment, something that I'm finding more and more rare as the awful "foodie" movement has swept this nation.  I swear people these days think they are judges on Top Chef and act as if they eat beef cheeks on a regular basis.  It was this elegant but relaxed atmosphere that allowed us to gather in kinship, talk easily and with very little interruption, share our food as if we were at a family dinner forgetting the time for the night.


Now, on to the food.  Ziebold and Laurent created a menu that is designed to highlight five different themes: craft, history, ingredients, indulgence, and for the table.  Craft celebrates a special cooking technique such as crispy corned beef cheeks.  History celebrates classic dishes that the chef has enjoyed on his various travels around the world such as a stroganoff or the Hungarian sauerkraut.  Ingredients celebrates a specific product in season such as the seared Grimaud Farms duck with napa cabbage, peanuts, honey crisp apples, and fermented black beans.  Indulgence is just what you think, celebrating those rare treats you don't often get a chance to have such as the grilled Japanese Kuroge beef with cabbage, shiitakes, and Shichimi and Yuzu salt.  And, For the Table are the showstoppers that come out after you have indulged in the smaller plates to be shared above:  a whole roasted turbot, a whole Kinship roasted chicken, among other things.  They are brought to the table, sliced and shared amongst all of the guests.


Our hosts for the evening knew the ins and outs of the restaurant and had been there before.  We allowed them to choose our dishes, something I rarely trust someone else to do.  In this case, I was so overwhelmed by the wonderful choices that I was more than happy to let someone else do the choosing.  The best part was that with the ability to choose so many small dishes, you had the opportunity to sample dishes to satisfy every type of taste bud you have in your mouth.  Not being a big meat eater, I was a bit disappointed with the abundance of meat choices and lack of anything else.  However, once the dishes kept coming to the table I became a willing carnivore for the night.  The beef cheeks (have you noticed I keep bringing them up?) were tender, buttery, and cooked to perfection.  The roast chicken was moist and tender and melted in my mouth.  The accompanying vegetables for each dish complemented the main attraction perfectly.  I can't think of a single dish we ate that wasn't good or just so-so.

Over the past few years, we have had the pleasant opportunity to dine at many popular restaurants created by famous chefs, whether it be in Chicago, New York, DC, or Miami.  Our list is growing of places we've been and places we need to go.  What impressed me the most about Kinship was the atmosphere.  I live in a city where snobbiness and pretension go hand in hand.  We have an abundance of steak restaurants that cater to the political crowds.  And then we have a plethora of young chefs who are trying to be the next big thing, trying to shock us with their creativity and oddities in the kitchen.  Of course there are also the farm-to-table crowds who can actually be the worst.  In an effort to bring home cooking back to restaurants, using only fresh ingredients and buying local, they can create fantastic meals--some of the best, in my opinion--but they forget the importance of atmosphere in completing the restaurant experience and truly making the meal memorable.  When I go to a restaurant, I want to remember the food.  I want to remember the feeling I had when I was there, the good feeling.  I want to remember those I dined with and the conversations we had.  I don't want to feel stupid.  I don't want to feel ignorant because I might not know what a certain item is on the menu.  I don't want to be judged for talking too loudly, laughing too loudly, or dropping crumbs on the table.  I want to feel kinship, and Kinship definitely delivers just that.