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Corduroy: Just like the fabric

Players: Rekha and moi

Pre-prandial

The last-minute decision was to go to Corduroy for dinner. Rekha had initially suggested the Willard for dinner, and we eventually decided on Corduroy. So, we decided to instead go to Indebleu and the Willard for drinks.

The Willard was what I expected it to be...old world with a well-dressed crowd. It seemed like a nice place to have a drink -- friendly, quick service and a nice, quite decor. Rekha liked it rather more than I did. We had a drink each and tons of the bar nuts before heading for Indebleu. All the museum'ing had made us hungry (the reason for the outing was to see an exhibit by Cai Guo-Qiang at the Hirshhorn)

At Indebleu, we did the usual: drinks and dessert. This time for a dessert, we had the "Choco Sutra", which is a concoction of several different chocolates (white chocolate waffle, flourless chocolate cake and a dark chocolate ribbon around it) with brandied cherries over a pomegranate glaze. It sounded great, looked cool and tasted pretty decent. I infinitely preferred the profiteroles and hot chocolate dessert over this one. My big problem with this one was that there was no subtlety in the dessert. The only interesting part was the pomegranate glaze and that was mildly overdone.

Having sated ourselves with drinks and dessert, we proceeded to waddle on over to Corduroy

Initial Impressions

Corduroy is located on the second floor of the Four Points Sheraton at 12th and K. By the time we walked over to it, it was sleeting/snowing, for which neither of us was prepared, and we were just happy to reach any safe harbor at that point. Even though there is a big sign on the hotel for Corduroy, you could easily miss it if you were looking for a restaurant at street level.

Once you walk up to the second floor (or take the elevator) and look around, you realize that Corduroy still has a very ordinary presence: located next to the fitness center, it almost looks like a hotel cafe or dining room. To extend that impression even more, the rest rooms for Corduroy are located outside the restaurant and past the fitness center.

Once you enter Corduroy, it continues to be subdued and quiet. However, it does something magical and presents more of a warm, comfortable atmosphere than one would expect. The restaurant is done in dark wood, mirrors and shades of brown, with occasional nondescript artwork on the walls. One of the things I tend to dislike in restaurants is mirrors on the walls. If you are seated facing the wall (and hence the mirror), you usually can see everything that is happening behind you as well as yourself. This tends to be distracting to me (and no, not because I'm narcissistic and keep staring at myself). If I happen to be seated with my back to the wall, I have to deal with my companion(s) being distracted. However, Corduroy dealt with this problem well, by having only half-length mirrors and hanging them at such an angle that I could only see people in the immediate vicinity behind me -- and I couldn't see myself. It was perfect, since I was never surprised by waiters showing up behind me, and yet I didn't have to deal with what was happening in the rest of the restaurant.

The name of the restaurant, however, continued to confuse. About the only genuflection towards the name that we saw was in the menus, which were covered in corduroy. A nice touch, but I'm sure it felt a little lonely being the only touch of corduroy decor. Not that I want to see a restaurant swathed in corduroy.

Once in, we were immediately seated at a table (me facing the mirrored wall, of course) and thereupon all inspection of decor ceased, and the perusal of the menu began.

Repast

The first thing you notice about Corduroy's menu is its simplicity. The focus is all on the main ingredient, whether it be salmon, or cheese. It was very evident that the chef wanted to highlight a central ingredient rather than create a fusion of tastes. This seemed inline with Corduroy's no-frills approach to decor. We settled on the "Buffalo mozzarella porcupine" as the appetizer, though there were a couple of other tempting starters. For the entrees, there was not much competition for us. We both ordered the fish dishes: tuna for me and salmon for Rekha. I was briefly seduced by the wagyu beef dish but decided to stick with the fish.

The appetizer arrived relatively quickly. As the name hints at, the dish is a ball of mozzarella in a shell of fried phyllo dough that has been "julienned", resembling a porcupine. The mozzarella is accompanied by a tart tomato sauce and a basil sauce, which combined well with the cheese.

The main courses arrived minutes after we finished the appetizer. I had ordered a seared rare tuna over sushi rice and a sesame vinaigrette. It tasted very good, in part due to the well-sized chunk of rare tuna at the center of it all. The sushi rice and vinaigrette added a nice touch, almost like sushi but with a twist. I enjoyed it a lot, though the portion was a mite generous for me. The salmon came with wild mushrooms and had a very homogeneous flavor to it. It tasted pretty good, but wasn't remarkable in any way.

As usual, even though I was stuffed by this point, we couldn't resist dessert. Well, I couldn't resist dessert. Rekha decide to opt out. I ordered the pistachio bread pudding. It turned out to be a a square of cake-like pudding with layers of pistachio pate sanwiched inbetween. The overall taste was very good, with the nuttiness of the pistachio shining through. Unfortunately, I couldn't do justice to the dessert since it was on the heavy side, and had to leave it half-finished.

Conclusion

I liked corduroy. The ambience was warm and comfortable, with a subdued, almost introverted feel to it. The focus on a central ingredient was refreshing and the food was good.

I haven't mentioned the service at Corduroy so far, because it wasn't much of a factor. It was quick, mostly unobtrusive and helpful. This is a good thing.

Ratings

Corduroy Review
Service Unobtrusive and helpful
Decor Comfortable and subdued
Food Good, solid and pleasing

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