In looking for a new place to dine out in DC I found myself reading reviews on yelp and posts on EaterDC. When I came across Birch & Barley, it seemed like a sure thing...and we all like a sure thing. The website boasts that they use simple market driven ingredients and house a collection of 555 artisanal beers. I myself am not a beer fan, but the group I went with is and they thoroughly enjoyed talking to beer director Greg Engert and discovering something new. I even found a beer I liked.
The atmosphere is rustic and modern. Beautiful round bulbs hang from the ceiling and look like they have tiny candles in them, softly illuminating the room. Big booths make for great group dining and more intimate tables off the kitchen give a lovely view of where the action is.
A complimentary bread board comes out that could rival any bread I've seen as of late. Warm pretzel bread with grainy mustard, olive rolls brushed with oil, and foccacia with a crunchy top and creamy butter. Amazing bread and such a great way to start the meal.
We tried a wide assortment of things on the menu. Arctic char tartare was similar to salmon and was served with granny smith apple, Jerusalem artichokes and celery root. This was decent and I think I would have enjoyed it more had the person to my left not ordered the hand cut tagliatelle. This is the reason you go to Birch & Barley. Well there are actually a lot of reasons, but this tagliatelle was incredible! Spectacular! Amazing! Ok you get it and are probably making a reservation now if you are in the DC vicinity. The pasta was braised rabbit (braised in Sherry I later found out), thumbilinas and homemade ricotta. It was so good in fact that we ordered another for the mains. We could not stop eating it.
The butcher board was also ordered for the table. I'm not a big fan of butcher boards, but this one seemed to stand up to the rest of them with an assortment of house-made charcuterie as well as cornichon's and mustard.
For entrees we had the honey glazed duck breast with wild rice, dates and baby turnips. The duck was prepared well, medium rare in the center with a crispy skin.
Ricotta cavatelli was good, but didn't really compare to the tagliatelle. But I did love the broccoli rabe and pinenuts in the dish.
Prosciutto-wrapped veal strip loin with squash, brussels and potato gratin was a bit too salty as a result of the prosciutto for me, however the veal was nice and tender.
Desserts were supposedly great so we had to order a couple. We tried the sweet cream french toast with oatmeal ice cream, caramelized banana and smoked bacon caramel. We also tried the house-made cookies and confections, which included a delicious cashew snickers bar, a somewhat dry hostess cupcake, a chewy oatmeal cream pie, a spicy smores brownie and mint chip ice cream. This dessert was fun to eat and good to share.
The french toast was awesome as well - salty and sweet, one of my favorite combinations. And since breakfast for dessert is all the rave right now, this dessert has gained a lot of attention.
After dinner I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Kyle Bailey. He hails fro NYC and has spent time at renowned restaurants such as Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Cru in the West Village. Bailey has definitely brought New York quality food and cooking to DC. Now all they need is valet parking...
Birch & Barley 1337 14th St. Washington DC (202) 567-2576