BOLD, ERIC Torchon of white mushroom with Chioggia beet, wild mushroom and huckleberry gastrique
From the moment you pass through a lacquered vestibule into Kinship, the Mount Vernon Triangle and Shaw restaurant chef Eric Ziebold and his wife, Célia Laurent, opened in December, you understand everything that is right and current about fine dining.
The stakes are high for the James Beard Award-winning chef, who, in December 2014, ended a ballyhooed 10-year run at CityZen, the now closed four-star restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Before that, Ziebold worked for acclaimed chef Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York City and The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. Could he match his previous success and stay true to his French fine-dining roots in a casual, small-plates world? So far, he has surpassed it.
Ownership becomes the couple, whose dreams and ambitions are as much a part of Kinship as are the bricks and mortar. After a warm greeting at the host stand, you’re taken into the dining room, meant to evoke an American farmhouse. And it does, if your farmhouse is Architectural Digest-worthy and has been created by notable interior designer Darryl Carter.
The 80-seat restaurant (plus 27 seats in the bar area), whispers understated elegance. Louis XVI-style side chairs are gray leather accented with white. Slim, deeply tufted chalk-gray tweed sofas serve as seating for coveted paneled booths. The tableware is hand-designed pottery, collected antique glassware and silverware and Garnier-Thiebaut French linens.
The menu is divided into four sections: Craft (dishes whose preparation requires particular technique), History (dishes with a historic connotation), Ingredients (showcasing a single ingredient) and Indulgence (featuring luxury items). Within each of these sections are appetizers, entrees and desserts. (A small line between those categories would make everything clearer.) A fifth section, For the Table, is self-explanatory: large items, such as a whole chicken, served family style.
The food is sublime. Among the starters, a torchon medallion in which white mushroom puree whirred with butter subs for foie gras, is a bit of genius borrowed from CityZen, here with a vibrant huckleberry gastrique. Thin slices of Aoyagi (surf) clam mingle with bok choy and tempura-fried shiitake mushrooms on a pile of garlic-fried rice to create a heady amalgam of texture, the clam’s sweetness brightened by the acid touch of yuzu. Crispy sweetbreads (they had me at herb spaetzle) get the stroganoff treatment with chanterelle mushrooms and cream.
Entrees are just as intriguing. Cut into a crackly breaded rectangle to reveal bright-pink, tender corned beef cheeks pressed into a pavé and offered with root-vegetable hash and horseradish cream. Shoat shoulder—roasted with wine and pork stock, braised savoy cabbage and served with langos (pita-like Hungarian fried bread) and creme fraiche—elevates a peasant pedigree to Brahmin status. Oeuf a la brick, Ziebold’s interpretation of a Tunisian classic, is a must-have. The chef made a mold to envelope a raw egg in the center of a circle of brick (like a crepe) folded in half. That gets sauteed and crisped. The technique sets the egg white while the yolk remains runny. On top are rosy slices of tuna confited in oil, all served with black olive-flecked piperade.
By all means go for For the Table items. (All come with Ziebold’s much-hyped parkerhouse rolls.) Superlatives are sung for the roasted whole chicken with brioche panade under its mahogany skin. But the star of the show is the whole roasted foie gras lobe presented in a copper pan and then served in individual portions in its medium-rare glory with roasted pineapple quince and red pearl onions.
Pastry Chef Anne Specker is a real talent. Her warm chocolate-chip cookie dough souffle, and sticky toffee pudding awash in butterscotch sauce and served with candied lemon and Earl Grey ice cream are stellar. The wine list is nicely crafted, even offering a good selection of quality half-bottles, such as La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino 2010 ($70).
Ziebold and Laurent clearly adore fine dining. Downstairs at Kinship, accessible by a private elevator, is Métier, a 36-seat haven of civility where jackets are required and only a seven-course tasting menu is offered. If fine dining is dead, let Kinship/Métier be my morgue.
1015 Seventh St. NW
Dinner, Sun.-Wed., 5:30-9:30pm; Thu.-Sat., 5:30-10pm; Sunday brunch, 11am-2pm
Appetizers, $12-$80; entrees, $24-$100; desserts, $12
Gorgeous by Design
The menus at Kinship—on ecru heavy-texture, torn-edge card stock—are charming. They were designed by local graphic artist Suann Song of Simplesong Design. The quill and Chinese ink drawing on the front, which represents Kinship’s exterior, is by French artist Jeanne Figueras, Célia Laurent’s mother. Your check will be accompanied by postcards on the same stock, with stunning food photography by Jennifer Chase.
Make a point of touring Kinship for the artwork, which includes Galerie Maeght posters from Paris, etchings and lithographs by Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies and French artists Olivier Debré and Jean-Pierre Comte. The gray-and-black marble bathrooms showcase Laurent’s collages and black-and-white etchings by Christian Babou.