Washington D.C. is a place bursting with historical landmarks, all of which are insightful and inspiring. The best way to do sightseeing in this remarkable city is to hop on board a city bus and experience the unsurpassed views of the city’s distinctive landmarks and enjoy an educational glimpse into its fascinating history. It’s like a layered Victoria sponge cake, each layer contributing to the unmistakably delicious taste of history. One can’t help but be in awe of their dedication to keeping American history alive.
Everything about this boutique hotel is sophisticated and exemplifies its namesake the distinguished gentleman, Thomas Jefferson. The hotel’s Beaux-Art style reflects the rich life of President Thomas Jefferson, evident in the collection of period antiques and artwork, and historical documents signed by the founding father.Our accommodation for this leg of the trip was The Jefferson Hotel, possibly Washington’s second most prestigious address, that’s after The Obama’s pad. (The White House is the oldest public building in the District of Columbia and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is by far the most famous address in the United States).
After an entire day of sightseeing we had to have a quick bite before dinner, so headed for the informal restaurant and cocktail bar in the hotel. Here we were served some of the best mini Martin’s Angus Sirloin Burgers. Too die for! And you even get three per portion…
For dinner we decided to dine at Jefferson’s in-house Plume Restaurant, recently named the only five star restaurant in Washington DC by Forbes Travel Guide. In addition, Plume has received several accolades from Zagat, Conde Nast and many more. Pools of space separate one beautiful table from another and one can either choose a cozy nook, called the Bird Nest, a corner table or a seat by the fireplace.
We opted for a romantic table by the fireplace. Upon being seated I received a velvet-upholstered pedestal to support Louis, my favourite handbag. I am now really getting used to this. Plume Restaurant has a wine selection that President Jefferson would definitely be proud of. Our Sommelier and Wine Director for the evening Michael Scaffidi recommended a bottle of Pinot Noir from the Cobb Vineyard, Emmaline Ann 2008 in the Sonoma Coast. Only 370 cases of this wine were produced on a 1.2 hectare vineyard. The 2008 vintage proved to be difficult for several wineries in Sonoma and Mendocino because of smoke from wildfires, but to Cobb’s vineyards advantage the smoke never reached their farm.
The executive Chef, Chris Jakubiec and his team produce seasonal menus that are inspired by the harvest from the Thomas Jefferson’s kitchen gardens in Monticello. True to his roots, and to Thomas Jefferson’s own inclinations, Jakubiec also serves a handful of enjoyable vegetarian dishes on the menu. We opted for a five-course tasting menu. The amuse bouche, the Chef’s complimentary daily preparation, was a deliciously white asparagus and poppy seed concoction. I am not entirely sure what all the ingredients were, but the white asparagus was on a par with green asparagus, but slightly milder in flavour and a bit more tender.
I started the evening’s dining experience with the Heirloom tomato salad, aged balsamic, basil sugar and crispy capers. It was a beautiful, festive plate with the most amazing tomatoes ever! Heirloom tomatoes are considered to be a variety passed down through several generations of a family because of their valued characteristics. I would, however, have added a little more mint, to be honest. Have you ever had fried capers? Crispy, nutty, and briny, these little blossoms add big impact - thumbs up!
Derrick opted for the Foie Gras Medallion, apricot, cherries with green peppercorn. Like any indulgence, every bite of foie gras is a memorable experience. No other food I know offers its silken richness and sublime taste. The plate was very minimalistic, yet colourful with the wild cherries being a perfect complement to subdue the richness of the star ingredient. No wonder they use wild cherries in cough drops - no child will be able to resist!
We both picked the Lobster Roe Pasta with English peas, baby carrots, shaved parmesan and a slow-cooked egg for our next meal. The lobster roe pasta was very light and I loved the idea of the slow-cooked egg. However, in my opinion, the dish lacked pizazz and was not really memorable.
The next dish was the one I was really excited about. A soft-shell crab tempura served with sorrel, snow peas, celery, cherry tomato and a citrus emulsion. We battle to find fresh soft-shell crab in South Africa, so if the possibility of savouring this delicacy presents itself, one should not decline. The crab was presented well, but unfortunately the taste and texture was just not there. Tempura crab is supposed to be crunchy and unfortunately this was a tat on the oily side. The additions struggled to help this dish rise to the occasion.
Derrick opted for the Martin's Angus Beef, grilled ramps, watermelon radish, shishito peppers, and bordelaise sauce. The beef was cooked to perfection with the best flavour and tenderness you can imagine - utterly delicious and paired with the luscious, wine-enriched bordelaise sauce. Martin’s Angus Beef is dedicated to providing high quality 21 to 30-day, dry aged, grass fed and grain finished Angus Beef. A winner in my books.
The only negative about the beef dish was the size of the portion, a miniature version compared to my pork dish.
I was slightly puzzled and let down by my dish of roasted young pig, kohlrabi, garlic and Bohemian dumplings with a natural pork jus. The pork was unfortunately overcooked. And trust me there is nothing worse than overcooked or undercooked pork. The meat should be slightly pale and tender with a crispy skin that just crunches when you bite into it. The Bohemian dumplings are very typical of a Czech kitchen and in no way similar to dumplings made anywhere else in the world, unless you happen to be privy to their famous recipes. Czechs like to say that the dumpling is the backbone of every meal. These mouthwatering home style Bohemian dumplings were pure delight.
The grand finale consisted of a salted caramel crème brûlee with golden pineapple tempura and yuzu ice cream. The yuzu ice cream is very refreshing and definitely the best ice cream I have ever eaten! The pineapple tempura was a little soggy and the portion was enough to serve two. Sometimes, less is more.After the dessert we were spoiled by mignardises and chocolate macaroons with a lime jelly.
Plume possesses a definite elegance and atmosphere where everyone is dedicated to excellence. From the greeting at the door, to service, to the wine and menu – nothing is left to chance. Chef Chris Jakubiec has created a superb menu of both traditional favorites and seasonal specials, but unfortunately this time, I was expecting more. The grandeur and elegance of the restaurant were just not presented in the food. Washington DC, once considered a fine-dining wasteland, has undeniably became a veritable foodie destination in the past decade or so.
With innovative, unique restaurants like Range, Komi, Adour, Marcel’s and Le Diplomate bursting onto the scene, ensuring that the nation's capital is now almost as renowned for its culinary offerings as it is for its politics.