Kinship is a bit tough to find, and Metier even more discreet. We weren’t sure which of the unmarked doors might lead us to the restaurant. Until we saw the two couples standing outside a frosted glass window, posing for the valet parking attendant. You couldn’t miss their high pitched laughter, sure signs of a good time inside.
The dining room at Kinship echoed with lively discussions, while the bar on the other side of the divide seemed to simmer with murmured conversation. We were able to get a cozy booth which allowed us spy on the bar, but enjoy our privacy as well.
The menu is somewhat confusing, although in general the top two rows of dishes were smaller appetizers, the middle ones were entrees and the last one desserts. These were listed according to their featured cooking technique – classic technique (more on that later), a traditional dish (with a different preparation?), ingredient-focused and indulgent, featuring a luxurious ingredient.
But the most intriguing dishes were the ones to be shared by the table. If only we had 2 or probably 4 more people with us …. a loaf of foie gras? Yes, please. Okay, probably too much food for just us two.
Instead, we shared the roasted chicken, one of my new obsessions. It takes an hour to prepare the roasted chicken, so they let you pre-order it while you decide on the other courses. Our server recommended two other courses before the chicken, which allows for cooking time.
While waiting for our chicken, we started with the tourchon of white mushroom, which is just as they describe it. It looks and tastes like foie gras, except it’s vegetarian. Let’s just say the disk of mushroom foie gras must have been made by several pounds of mushrooms cooked down and concentrated in flavor. If this is a dish designed to feature technique, it certainly does.
The soft shell crab was a perfectly cooked crab. And the salsa accompaniment was fresh and springy. Still, I found it a bit underwhelming. The dish is meant to feature the ingredient, G reminded me, and it’s a perfectly made soft shell crab.
The main dish was a bit of a spectacle. The server showed us the roasted chicken with its crispy brown skin and explained that it’s being taken to the chef to carve. The chicken came back with the breasts carved and each halved, and the leg meat carved and tossed with a frisee salad. The preparation reminded me of The NoMad, although a tad healthier and more balanced with the greens. Worth the wait.
In contrast, dinner at Metier offered no choices. A seven course prix fixe menu. To get there, you go down an elevator from the Kinship entry way … very slowly. It’s quiet and insulated from the crowd upstairs. You are shown to a small drawing room with scattered seating and a small fireplace. Lovely, elegant and private.
You peruse the menu at your leisure, over drinks and nibbles. In our case, a delicious crepe with duck confit and falafel, except those words don’t begin to describe the tastes. It’s all very civilized, relaxing.
There’s another couple sitting in the room while we’re waiting, but we don’t feel like we’re in a crowd. We can talk to them if we’d like, but there’s clearly enough space and separation, it’s more like we happen to be there at the same time. The hostess showed them into their table, then after a few minutes, we’re escorted in.
The dining room is quiet and intimate, with a view of the kitchen. There’s pretty clearly only one seating an evening, which is nice. And there’s a nice private room behind giant barn doors hung on sliders.
Our dinner started with a course of roasted potato, caviar and a shaved Japanese fish that was still reacting to the heat of the dish when it was brought out. Then a mushroom dish, with an almost Scandinavian presentation on a piece of driftwood, accented by meringue mushrooms.
Our seafood course of halibut on coconut rice tasted almost cheesy, and it turns out there is a bit of cheese whipped into the sauce. G found this one a tad rich, but I definitely enjoyed it.
Our next course might have been my favorite. Two slivers of marbled Japanese beef, with four accompaniments – chimichurri, ramp puree, salted butter and what I thought was beet butter. I slathered it onto my Parker House roll. Delicious … so soft and airy, but more than that. Then I realized it was beef butter, as in marrow whipped in butter. My face fell. My arteries … then I took another big bite. I’ll just go back to pretending it’s beets.
Now, our main entree should have been the focus of the dinner, a lamb ribeye carved table side. With our bottle of red … but I had been so impressed by the other courses, and maybe a tad overfull, that the lamb was almost an after thought. Although it was really quite good. I might have preferred it a tiny bit redder, but the kitchen clearly knows what they are doing.
Our first dessert, the sorbet, really helped to clear the palate. While I really wanted to try a liquid desert, that would have to wait for another time.
And the final dessert of rich chocolate … well, that would have been too much for me after a normal dinner. In this case, I had a taste or two, which were terrific, a good finale to a great dinner.
Final word on Metier? A wonderful special occasion experience. Meticulously crafted dishes. Not inexpensive, but heads and shoulders above the other special ocassion restaurants in DC, especially if you’re looking for an elegant experience (as opposed to a socially documented one).
But for a more casual evening out, maybe with another couple or a group of friends, Kinship is the place to go. Try to get a booth for 4 or maybe a few seats at the bar. Or plan ahead and make a reservation 30 days in advance. Or better yet, go over a long weekend when DCers are out of town.