Revisiting The Spence

January 28, 2013 at 10:07 am , by Serina Patrick

My first visit to Concentrics’ new restaurant, The Spence, was a lovely experience. Soft lighting warmed up the cool modern industrial space. Dramatic dishes envisioned by celebrity chef/mad scientist Richard Blais elicited excitement. My anticipation was met with brilliant, quirky combinations that worked most of the time. And when they did, it was heavenly.

I was hoping to recreate that experience on my subsequent visit with friend YP, however, most of the menu items that were amazing (beet pappardelle with duck confit, for example) were, not surprisingly, off the menu. Like most chefs these days, Blais’ menu in is constant flux due to the availability of seasonal ingredients, and of course, his whims.

YP met me on a blustery Winter night. Thankfully, there’s a valet just steps from the door. We started with a bottle of lambrusco and an order of chef’s already almost famous “oysters & pearls” for her, the carrot agnolotti with pig trotter and persimmon for me.

New to the world of cheap, chilled, sparkling red wine, YP loved the light, easy-drinking lambrusco. Of the four raw oysters, she insisted I eat one. Nitrogen was used to freeze horseradish creating the “pearls” which sufficiently concealed the mollusks’s flavor. As an oyster aficionado, YP gave them the thumbs up.

I prefered my appetizer, a long transparent plate of braised sweet carrots, caramelized persimmon slices, and pasta pockets filled with pork, capturing the essence of the season.

Our server removed our utensils, replacing them with a mishmash of vintage pieces…love that. We decided to share two additional small plates and a side. First a wooden cutting board arrived with a slab of foie gras terrine, artfully adorned with micro greens, pickled cherries and candied kumquat. Sure, it was darling, but YP noted the terrine was a bit too cold to spread and the thick slices of accompanying Texas toast were dry and crumbly. With a pork terrine offered as well, it would have been logical if the foie gras was served seared. And I dare say it would have been tastier.

Perhaps the Brussels sprouts, fried with haricots verts and dressed with a Thai vinaigrette, would fare better. Indeed, they were delicious, although a bit on the salty side.

Our third dish to share was another made with pasta, this one a mezzi rigatoni colored black by squid ink. It was served with clams, octopus, and a smattering of goat cheese, all resting in a cool sauce that reminded us of Sriracha with mayo. The seafood was properly prepared but the disparate elements of the dish simply didn’t coalesce.

Ever since we planned our dinner I was looking forward to having their housemade milk punch, served as an after dinner cordial with a few tiny, chewy cookies. After we squeezed the last drop from the lambrusco bottle, I ordered it, only to find out a few moments later that they were out. However, our server thoughtfully brought us some of the tiny cookies but even they were disappointingly crisp (they are described as “crisps”, so I imagine this is the way they are meant to be although they were pleasingly chewy the last time).

The atmosphere and service were great, as before. And the food was predictably unpredictable.

75 5th Street NW 404-892-9111

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