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Oct 29, 2009 04:03 PM

Mendocino Grille Report

It's often the case at upscale restaurants that the small plates feature the most intriguing preparations and innovative dishes. Mendocino Grille in Georgetown falls into that category.

A smoked trout starter includes silky smooth and delicious fish, blini, a porcelain spoonful of caviar, tartar sauce, crushed egg, and pickled onions. The fish by itself is very fine and altogether the combinations are terrific.

A salad of heirloom baby carrots is exotic and satisfying. I've never seen these long, thin, and gnarly little babies before. They are naturally sweet and served in a spiced yogurt dressing. Really great market driven food so far.

Both of these dishes were enough for a very stisfying meal and I should have stopped there.

The main course gumbo was good, but had its pluses and minuses. Perfectly cooked oysters and rice with somewhat mushy shrimp in a stock that was more andouille than seafood in profile. The okra was served fresh and a bit crunchy, so did not serve to thicken the stock. The whole thing was good, not great.

They do well with chocolate desserts here. A chocolate duo of mini cake and mousse was very good, but the very dark chocolate and peanut butter ice cream was even better.

There are about seven or eight intriguing starters on the Fall menu. If you are a grazer, then this just might be your ticket.

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  1. NIce report, Steve. What did you drink? I usually go to Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar for wine and cheese and sometimes a few appetizers. I think Mendocino's wine list, especially wines by the glass, is excellent.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gigi007

      Nothing more potent than sparkling water, I'm afraid. In general I stay away from alcohol, though when I used to work at the French Embassy, I had a lot of opportunity to taste the wares.

      1. re: Steve

        Oh, OK. For me the main attraction of Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar is its amazing, uniique selection of California and Northwest (especially Oregon) wines that aren't served many other places in the area. Two of my recent discoveries have been a 2006 Arrowwood Winery Chardonnay (California) and a 2007 Klee Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Oregon). And as wine bars go, Mendocino has been a hit with a lot of my clients and friends. On the boards, I think it gets overshadowed by some of the more trendy places like Proof. It's really a different experience and depending on the night (if it's not too croweded), it has fairly mellow ambiance that I like.

        1. re: Gigi007

          Thanks for the tips on the wine. It's always good to know what to look for in case I do order some, and my knowledge of American wines is close to zero.

          Mendocino was full on a Tuesday evening, but it had a nice, relaxed ambience all the same.

          1. re: Steve

            You're welcome, Steve. Mendocino's bartender and servers are also very knowledgeable. And IMHO, after drinking my fair share of French wine while living in Europe, I prefer a good Oregon Pinot Noir or California Chardonnay. I've taken a few wine classes and am planning on continuing. Besides Cali and Oregon wines, I also like Australian, Argentine, and Italian wines, which tend to be, in general, lighter than French wine.

    2. They might have good small plates put they're pocketing the sales tax. They were shut down --along with a few other restaurants in DC--for not paying this. They can reopen (if they have not already) once they pay the back taxes!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Jacey

        I just heard that on the news and found this article in the Washington Business Journal:

        I hope they can get it straightened out and reopen soon.

        1. re: Gigi007

          Folks, we'd like to ask you to help us keep this board focused on discussing chow, not business ethics and business practices. We've removed some discussion along those lines. If there's more news about whether or not the restaurant has reopened, or other opinions on the chow there, please feel free to share that information here.

      2. I'm surprised to see people lavish praise on Mendocino. Maybe I just went on an off-night, but everyone in our party of three found the quality of the food to be just "ok" and very overpriced. The food wasn't bad, it just a very forgettable meal. For this price range, there are many better options, even within Georgetown.

        That said, they certainly have a nice wine selection.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Aspen20

          I'm not sure if anyone 'lavished praise.' I really loved the two starters I tried and thought together they could constitute an entire meal, so a good value to boot.

          I would hardly call the smoked fish with blini and caviar or the heirloom baby carrot salad forgettable.
          But I did say that I wish I had not ordered the main course.

          1. re: Aspen20

            If you read my post, you'll see that I spoke only of the wine and not the food. As I mentioned, Mendocino has an outstanding selection of California and Oregon wines, which is the main reason I've gone (out-of-town guests from Europe and other parts of the country have been particularly impressed by Mendocino's wine list). Over the summer, I had dinner (mostly small appetizer plates) and was not impressed by the food. In fact, one of the dishes (which was supposed to involve cauliflower-pistachio and ended up being served as brocolli-pistachio because they ran out of cauliflower) wasn't good at all with the other (mostly vegetarian dishes) being OK, but not great. I didn't comment about the food in my earlier post since I haven't had a proper entree, and again the main reason I like Mendocino is the wine (it is a wine bar too, after all).

            That being said, the meal that Steve described sounds good if you're a seafood eater (which I'm not). I think the menu is quite innovative, and the dessert is something I would likely order. What did you eat when you were there last?

          2. Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar, a popular Georgetown restaurant, is closed until further notice due to $80,000 in unpaid taxes.


            2 Replies
            1. re: GraydonCarter

              I guess they didn't learn from their problems 2 years ago....

              1. re: GraydonCarter

                Don't they have a sister restaurant somewhere in DC?