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Dec 10, 2007 04:53 AM

Marvin Review

We had an early (6:30) reservation at Marvin on Saturday. I liked the feel of the downstairs space. It's warm and comfortable - as if it's been there for years. We were seated at a banquette two-top right near the server's station. Even though there was a half-wall next to us, there was still a little too much server action there to make the table really comfortable. It was a small distraction.

For starters, SO had the "baby back" ribs. They were larger and meatier than any baby back ribs I've ever seen. I don't believe they were baby backs. Anyway, they had been cut into individual bones, and seemed trimmed, as each rib was almost identical. It struck me as odd. The ribs had obviously been pre-cooked (there was a smoky taste) and then grilled right before serving. Each had distinct grill marks on every surface. They were then brushed with a sweetish sauce with a bit of a bite. They were tasty and fairly lean. The serving of 5 meaty bones was really too much as an appetizer, unless folks are sharing. The portion would make a fine entree.

I had the cheese croquettes. Three walnut-sized nuggets were served with a small pile of bitter greens. They were crispy and molten hot. They were fine but not so good that I'd order them again.

For mains, SO had the butternut squash ravioli, which was really much nicer than it sounded from the menu. It was served with lots of perfectly done slivered vegetables in a browned butter and sage sauce. It was a large portion, again, perfect for two to share as an appetizer if you'd like a pasta as a starter.

Drum roll...on to the fried chicken and waffle. I had been craving this since I learned Marvin was serving it. The chicken was heavily crusted (I'm not complaining), crisp, and still juicy. The piece was a de-boned breast with a piece of the wing still attached. Alone or with some of the accompanying syrup, the chicken was delicious. I also added hot sauce (sweet, salty, hot...YUM). The problem here is that the waffle was served atop a bed of sliced and sauced brussels sprouts. I realize this may be a nod to Belgium, but those sprouts/sauce made the waffle soggy. NO, NO, NO! The sprouts themselves were great - I love sprouts so this is not about hate for a vegetable. They just had no place in this classic dish. If the chef feels the need for fusion, he could put those sprouts on the side. Here's my advice if you order this dish. Either ask for the sprouts to be left off, or put on the side. I immediately removed the waffle, pushed the sprouts to the side, and things were fine. I prefer a light hand on the syrup, but there's plenty if you like more.

The service was friendly and well-paced. No complaints there. Things seemed to be running smoothly. After dinner, we braved the cold for a nightcap at the upstairs, outdoor bar. There are plenty of heat lamps. Sitting in my coat, basking under the heat lamp, felt like a very adult bonfire! I wouldn't sit up there in below freezing temps, but it was pretty comfortable given the chill in the air.

I would definitely return to Marvin. I'd order the chicken and waffles again (sans sprouts), and would like to explore more of the menu.

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  1. I wonder if their "baby back" ribs are just regular spare ribs that have been trimmed Memphis cut. The latter is substantially cheaper than the former. But if they're selling them as back ribs when they aren't really back ribs, that sounds like bait-and-switch. Like selling bottom-feeding chub fish as "ahi tuna."

    2 Replies
    1. re: monkeyrotica

      I lived in TN for 4 years, and am not familiar with "trimmed Memphis cut," but I definitely think we were served spare ribs. If the menu had said, "spare ribs," we would still have ordered them. Folks who know ribs are not going to be convinced that those big honking bones were baby backs!

      1. re: dcandohio

        My mistake. I meant St. Louis trimmed: removing the chine bone and the rib tips to leave a even rack about the size of baby backs.

    2. I reviewed Marvin in another thread. I too LOVED the chicken and waffles. So delicious. I didn't mind the brussels sprouts. I thought they were good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: edlf25

        A friend and I went for a quick bite last night. The place was empty when we arrived for our 6:30 pm dinner reservation but quickly picked up around 7 or 7:30.
        Since we didn't want multiple courses we decided to split two entrees: the pumpkin ravioli and the chicken & waffles.
        The pumkin ravioli was good but the sauce was missing something (maybe it needed more salt?). I couldn't figure out what it was. Also the raviolis themselves might have been a little undercooked as the pumkin was of a harder texture than I would have thought. The veggies that were served with the ravioli were perfect for the season and tasty.
        Even though I lived in Atlanta for 7 years, this was my first time trying chicken & waffles, and wow, I was blown away! Too bad I never tried it when I lived in the south (but thankfully I still have several friends down there who I visit often enough so we'll have to make sure to get some chicken & waffles the next time I'm there). The chicken was wondefully juicy on the inside and crispy, flaky fried on the outside. The waffle got a little bit soggy as it was sandwiched between the brussels sprouts and gravy on the bottom and the chicken on top. Nonetheless, every bite was a mouthful of deliciousness. I definitely plan to return (and may make it my mission to try other chicken & waffles throughout the city...).

        ...On that note I'm going to start a post about the best chicken & waffles in DC. Please respond to that with your opinions.

      2. I also recently tried Marvin for dinner with some friends. I had the hamburger and it was just okay. It was a hamburger, nothing really to write home about. So like someone else wondered about on another Marvin thread, not really worth it to me to spend $15. The lamb burger that Laconda on the Hill serves for lunch is well worth it's price tag.

        I wanted to try the mussels but they were sold out on the night I went. My SO had the braised pork and well, his dish wasn't the greatest. The lentils were undercooked and the pork was reheated to the point the meat was dried out. He doesn't want to go back, but I do want to go back and try the mussels.

        1. Visited Marvin for dinner recently, and it was an excellent dining experience. We loved the dandelion greens salad and the country pate. For our main dish we each had the special, crabcakes with fingerling potatoes and over a mustard creme fraiche sauce. One of the best crabcakes I have ever had. The beer list is decent, and well presented with style info. Rooftop deck is a pleasant retreat from the summer heat. The bread in particular was first rate.