In the era of pop-trendy-hip-now, it does one good to escape into a world of genuine elegance and history. Nestled inside The Fairfax on Embassy Row, The Jockey Club has become synonymous with impeccable, personalized service, exceptional food and a wine list that celebrates its international clientele.
Since it opened on the eve of President Kennedy’s inauguration, it has attracted Hollywood and politico elites alike. From Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus, the loyal patronage has made The Jockey Club almost a requirement for anyone who claims to know Washington.
Former Blue Duck manager William Washington and chef Levi Mezick, who worked with Washington at Daniel in New York, make a dynamic duo, bringing years of experience and success to a restaurant already rich in reputation. The dinner menu is fit for any foodie.
From the appetizers, classic and delicious choices like butternut squash soup and Caesar salad are made special with unique garnishes and presentation. A cinnamon crouton and cranberry coulis are the perfect finish to the creamy, fresh-tasting soup. The Caesar salad for two, which has been on the menu for years, is prepared table-side.
The snapper carpaccio is a refreshing starter to any meal. You can taste Mezick’s unique touch in how well balanced the flavors are in this dish. The right amount of blood oranges, jalapeno and radishes don’t overpower the snapper. Don’t miss the crispy hen egg, with duck prosciutto, sauteed spinach and mustard Dijonnaise, which is a great accompaniment to a glass of red wine.
The entrées appeal to a wide variety of palates. The bread-crusted sea bass with Basmati rice, coconut, coriander, glazed bok choy, essences of tamarind and kaffir lime oil is a must-have for seafood lovers. The savory butter poached lobster with Israeli couscous, lobster jus and parmesan is topped with braised Swiss chard, which gives the dish a delightful texture.
The grilled prime 12-ounce ribeye with sweet potato puree, braised collard greens and glazed white turnips is juicy and tender. The duo of Pineland Farms beef, made up of red wine braised short rib, sunchokes, seared strip loin and Pommes Dauphine, is comfort winter food at its best. I highly recommend getting a side of the pommes soufflé with your meal. Mezick calls it a “hidden gem.” And if you’re game for an exquisite culinary adventure, he offers a custom, five-course “flavor experience” dinner that highlights his passion for innovation in the kitchen.
When asked about plans for a spring menu, Mezick said, "I can’t wait for spring. It's not the cold that I don’t like. I sure can eat some squash soup. But right now, California is just coming out. My suppliers are calling me with spring garlic and I have to tell them, 'It's gonna snow tomorrow.' "
Because of the popularity of the pan roast duck with polenta, fig chutney, arugula and balsamic jus, featured in the current dinner menu, a spring duck dish will be introduced in the coming months.
"Something earthy, with a citrus kick, maybe pomegranate," he said. "I just haven't gotten into it yet."
While processing constant inspiration, Mezick said he tries not to plan ahead too much, preferring to focus on providing his current customers something new with every course.
"I don't have a set way of coming up with things. Even now, after I’m done putting together a dish, I’m thinking, ‘What should we do next for them?' "
Mezick, who claims to love the change of the seasons, said he is lucky to have William Washington, who clearly supports his progressive spirit.
"He [Washington] is growing a garden for me," Mezick said. "He wants to know what I’ll need for the upcoming dishes. What I want to plant. It’s just more for me to work with."
If you go
The Jockey Club
2100 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Additional info: Banquet/private rooms, bar/lounge, farm-to-table, full bar, non-smoking restaurant, personal wines welcome (corkage fee applies), wheelchair access
Special Events and Promotions: The Capital Wine Festival will take place this spring at The Fairfax at Embassy Row. For a complete list of events and to purchase tickets, call 202-736-1453 or visit capitalwinefestival.com.