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Bar Pilar

I don't know why this place doesn't receive more recognition. We dropped in on Saturday after a drink at Cork (hey, on a holiday weekend at 5:00 the place is not crowded!). But we didn't want to eat at Cork - even though people were raving about the food.

The menu of small plates at Bar Pilar is extremely interesting. There were only two of us so we couldn't do justice to the choices. We had the chicken liver pate which was velvety smooth and luscious. I had a beet salad with two kinds of beets, orange slices, feta cheese...I love beets and these were sweet and cooked just past the firm stage. SO had a pan seared (insert lovely thick fish here - I can't remember the fish) on polenta. It was yummy.

A large table of very friendly diners next to us ordered almost the entire menu - and everything we saw coming by looked just delicious, which they confirmed for us. Next time I hope the sweetbreads are still on the menu - they looked fabulous.

The only downer is that we ordered the roasted olives as a starter. While they were tasty, there was so much else that would have been so much better. Had we seen some of the food coming by I think we would have skipped the olives and tried something more exotic.

The wine choices are very limited, but we found a white we liked and it was reasonably priced.

If you want to go to a casual place with a refreshing lack of attitude and inventive, yummy food, I think Bar Pilar is a winner.

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  1. It actually does get some good attention. It got a LOT of attention not too long after opening. It had some slides in both food and service, but both of those aspects appear to be on the upswing again based on recent posts.

    Thanks for the info - I liked it the first time I went, but then went 3 times during the slide and had largely crossed it off my list.

    1. That's probably why different people would go there as opposed to Cork...where 'it's all about the wine'. When you say limited, how many reds & whites would you say they have?

      1 Reply
      1. re: DCDOLL

        I can't remember the wine list - maybe 4/5 reds and 4 whites and a sparkler or two? Bar Pilar is known more for cocktails. I don't view it as a subsitute for Cork - the two places are very different. There's nothing upscale at Bar Pilar except the quality of the food. I think Vinoteca is the nearest, closest subsitute for Cork.

      2. I have always enjoyed Bar Pilar, for the cool laid back vibe, as well as the food. It is always a good experience and I think the food has improved lately.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rappel75

          Is there anything anyone wouldn't eat off the menu of meats & fish?

          Fried quail with truffled polenta fries, honey
          Braised chicken, smoked bacon, leeks, mushroom, garlic crouton
          Slow roasted suckling pig with chili-cilantro risotto
          Chicken liver pate with grilled bread
          Strip steak with duck fat hash browns, glace
          Chicken breast with “puttanesca,” olive tomato sauce, caper aioli
          Petite cheesesteak with caramelized onions, cheddar sauce, salad
          Rabbit casoulet, confit, seared loin, pork sausage, white beans

          Crispy spanish mackerel with Moroccan marinated carrots, mint oil
          Seared tuna with truffle aioli, roasted abalone mushrooms
          Calamari with tomato basil sauce
          Spanish White Anchovies with grilled bread
          Seared scallops with New England chowder cream
          Mussels provincial with white wine garlic, roasted tomato

        2. I'm a big fan of Bar Pilar. While I've liked just about everything I've had there. In general, I've enjoyed the vegetable options more than the meat. I had really great kale and mushrooms(with polenta I think) there. I'm remember the suckling pig as being something I wouldn't necessarily order again. Their drinks are fantastic also.
          (For those who were there went it first opned, be warned, the menu is very different-no more tater tots!- and the check can add up pretty quickly if you're a glutton like I am)

          4 Replies
          1. re: marie m

            Is their online menu (that I copied from) fairly accurate in terms of offerings and pricing?

              1. re: Ericandblueboy

                The menu is very seasonal, so it changes a lot -- it's like everything you just saw at the farmers market. I don't go all that often, and it's always been different for me. The first time I went (I think), I had a lamb half-smoke that I was craving the next time, but it wasn't there. Keep in mind, also, when considering prices, that these are small plates. If you go on a Tuesday, sit at the bar so you can order off the special drink menu, which you can't get at the tables. At least I'm assuming he's still doing the Tuesday thing, I haven't been in a while.

                1. re: mselectra

                  Planning on going this Sat early evening. Just boning up before we go.

            1. I had dinner at Bar Pilar last night. I went with 3 others, so we sampled quite a few menu items and shared them all. The highlights for me were:

              ll day roasted pork shoulder with garlic trencher $10 (major highlight - very porky - melted in your mouth)
              Buttermilk fried chicken in peanut oil with pickles $9 (hot and crunchy)
              Spanish white anchovies on grilled bread $7
              Chicken liver pate with grilled bread $8 (good, but not nearly as good as the faux gras at Central)

              We also ordered the following, which were OK, but not exciting (wouldn't order a second time)
              Lamb, pork, and veal meatballs with tomato basil sauce, pecorino $8
              Spanish tortilla with goat cheese $7
              Roasted beets with mixed greens, walnuts, citrus, goat cheese $6
              Country pate with dijon mustard
              Peaches with sea salt (this would have been spectacular if the fresh peaches themselves had been better)

              We sampled all the desserts on the menu:

              Red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting $6 (I didn't taste - friend said it was good)
              Chocolate terrine with toasted pistachios, creme anglaise $7
              Berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream $7
              Peach pie with vanilla ice cream

              The chocolate terrine was so-so; the obligatory chocolate dessert. I really enjoyed the berry cobbler, but the real surprise was the peach pie. There is a photo of it on their website. It's more of a crisp sort of thing, baked in a small round crust. Both the cobbler and the pie were served warm.

              I like the dark and pubby atmosphere of the Bar Pilar. It wasn't too crowded when we were there, which was nice. I would definitely go back.

              Bar Pilar
              1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

              1 Reply
              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                Thanks for your report and the details. It's a place I'm glad is around, I appreciate it, and yet there are enough 'ok' dishes that I don't feel a need to rush back.

              2. Ok I'm finally (yes FINALLY) going to Bar Pilar tonight. I heard the chicken liver pate (chopped liver to us common folk) is amazing. Any other must try items on their menu? I know it changes often and is slightly seasonal so I wanted to see if there were updates from August.

                Bar Pilar
                1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                7 Replies
                1. re: Elyssa

                  They do a surprisingly good job with the seafood here. Grilled octopus with smoked paprika is very good. It's not as handy a place as Jaleo, where the best items are the cheapest. Here, the best items are expensive.

                  1. re: Steve

                    I love octopus (when it is perfectly cooked...otherwise..rubber!), so this is good to know.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      My recollection is that Pilar serves a very good octopus, but if you love it, get thee to the Palena Cafe ASAP (although that's hardly the only lure).

                      3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                      1. re: Marty L.

                        If you like octopus/calamari (can't remember exactly which one it was) go to Ripple. Last time I was there they had a delicious stewed calamari/octopus dish served over polenta. So good!

                        1. re: Elyssa

                          I will not eat at Ripple anymore. So overpriced for what you get.

                          If you like octopus, go Kallari or Zaytinya.

                          701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                          1. re: spinachandchocolate

                            Isn't Kellari incredibly overpriced? I work across the street but have never been. Seems like an expense account type of place.

                            1. re: Elyssa

                              Is it pricey, yes. Is it over-priced, no. The food is SO fresh and delicious. I spend the same amount as Central, and think the quality is a lot better. Comparing Bar Pilar and Kellari is comparing apples and oranges

                              Bar Pilar
                              1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                2. I finally checked out Bar Pilar last night. People have always told me I would like this place...and they were right. I really enjoyed the laid-back, neighborhood vibe of the restaurant. It is definitely very small, but we got there on the early side and there were a number of open tables when we arrived.

                  I ordered a glass of Blue Star wine that the waitress said was her favorite. Very good and went well with the various dishes we ordered.

                  One of the best dishes we got was the chicken liver pate. This dish is amazing! Really creamy (probably from a million pounds of butter) and not an overpowering liver taste. Served with perfectly toasted bread (a lot of the dishes are served with bread/toast. Always toasted and buttered/oiled perfectly). The other dish I really loved was the Spanish white anchovies served on toast. Just a really nice simple dish with the perfect balance of the flavor.

                  The other dishes we ordered were:
                  mushroom and leeks--they say this is a favorite that always stays on the menu. It was a very nice dish, if slightly over salted

                  Short ribs with sweet potato puree--this is a great cold weather dish. I really liked the sweet potato puree with the meat. I never would have thought of pairing the 2 together, but it was great. A nice twist on a traiditional dish.

                  Octopus w/ paprika--well cooked, tasty. We had so many dishes on the table that I got to this towards the end. It might have been best when it first arrived.

                  Pork shoulder on toast--this was a nice pulled pork dish. I rarely order pork but my friend wanted it. I thought it was quite good...not particularly smoky but still good.

                  I will definitely be back. This is a great neighborhood restaurant with a relaxed vibe. Has anyone been to their brunch?

                  Bar Pilar
                  1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Sounds like somewhere we need to go!

                  2. I give Bar Pilar five stars. Or, correction, Bar Pilar gives credence to the starring system altogether.
                    Justin, the chef, is a brilliant artist, a talented foodpairing scientist, and an impeccable chef who has an admirable sense of aesthetic, and formidable good taste.

                    I have tried arguably every restaurant in Washington (save for Old Europe, just not what I ever want to eat) from Michel Richard's Citronelle, to Amsterdam Falafelshop, and from The Prime Rib, to JPauls, to 1776 and 701 Pennsylvania, and Bar Pilar makes them all pale in comparison, with, perhaps the exception of Citronelle with which it may be on-par, if not slightly better and vastly more interesting.
                    I've been to Bar Pilar about seven times--I live nearby--and every time: bravo.

                    3000 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

                    Bar Pilar
                    1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                    Prime Rib
                    2020 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006

                    Old Europe
                    2434 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: thariri

                      I'm not sure what you mean by 'talented food pairing scientist.' Examples?

                      1. re: Steve

                        They way food is paired with other foods impacts flavour; more quintessential examples include creations by Heston Blumenthal (of The Fat Duck in the UK) in his use of dry ice to 'magnify' flavours, or the pairing of white chocolate with caviar. Foodpairing is a semi-scientific (by semi-scientific, I mean that it is based on scientific evidence though not limited to those who are 'scientists' strictly) study of complementary flavours and their interaction. For example, in my opinion, the way the morcilla sausage at Bar Pilar was accompanied, I believe I remember, by a semi-sweet offering enhances the subtle and sometimes delicate undertones that are often oferlooked in a blood-sausage because of the tendency to over-spice and over-complicate them. The duck confit is paired with dijon mustard, yet instead of the dijon masking the duck, or the gaminess of the duck clashing with the mustard until it is vanquished, both flavours are present and enhance the depth of each especially in consideration of the duck's salt--which goes well with the dijon that 'cuts' the weight of the ducks fat. If you've had the pork, that is a good example; (it's texture is brilliant) the lightly seasoned pork is deftly accompanied by garlic that for any other dish might be too much but with the pork porks remarkably well in a manner complementary.

                        Perhaps I have muddled the foodpairing issue for you more that I had intended; my apologies if that is the case...did that make sense?

                        Bar Pilar
                        1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                        1. re: thariri

                          Yes, it makes sense. Although I don't remember getting any accompaniments to the dishes I've ordered at Bar Pilar. The octopus and the goat cheese tortilla, for example, were just on a plate with nothing else. I'll have to look for that the next time I go.

                      2. re: thariri

                        Are you related to the chef or the owners of Bar Pilar?

                        Being such a DC foodie, I'm surprised you've never posted on the boards before.

                        Bar Pilar
                        1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                        1. re: spinachandchocolate

                          Haha, okay I concede I may have gone slightly overboard in being so complimentary. No, I'm not related to anyone vis-à-vis Bar Pilar. I live nearby and I go there often. I like restaurants being honest as far as their "culinary narrative" is concerned; Bar Pilar delivers what it promises--very few do.
                          I just rediscovered chowhound and I'm having a field-day. Apologies if I seem partial.


                          Bar Pilar
                          1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                        1. re: woodleyparkhound

                          First time back since the renovation (I like the upstairs), and was disappointed. There were three of us, and we ordered a number of small plates, and the only one that stood out was the chili rubbed steak (tender and juicy, with nice flavor - though the chilis didn't come through much). There was one bad plate - the pork shoulder; this was just plain bad. Something you'd expect from a cafeteria warmer. Not to mention the farro and cherry tomato salad didn't have cherry tomatoes; did they expect us not to notice? The fried chicken was pretty good, but to me fried chicken is fried chicken (except for the fried chicken we had at Lazy Ox in LA - now that was good fried chicken).