I put Art and Soul 415 New Jersey Avenue, Washington, DC 20001 on my “list” as soon as I saw it on Burp and Slurp, making it this week’s Weekend Shout-Out! I made reservations as soon as we planned a trip to DC. Of course, I was even more excited after seeing chef Art Smith on Top Chef Masters.

We were a little confused by the decor, a modern take on 70s style, but it was still spacious and comfortable. Our waiter greeted us with well trained professionalism and recommendations ready, while warm skillet bread was dropped off. It was a fun pull apart bread but a bit too buttery.

Skillet Bread

It seamed like only seconds after our waiter departed when our Chesapeake Bay Fry arrived. The cornmeal crusted mussels, calamari, and shrimp were cooked nicely, but the okra was hard to chew. There was also two fried balls of cornbread, but oddly one was nice while the other was rock hard. The dipping sauces were good, one tartar, one that was marinara meets cocktail sauce.

Mixed Seafood Fry

There’s a section called Hoecakes, some sort of thin pancake made with cornmeal. They are tender, not at all gritty as I thought they might be, but they also seemed unnecessary in the dish. There’s a couple of choices for toppings and we chose the Oyster Po’ which was wonderfully fresh fried oysters on a bed of shredded lettuce. The hoecake was underneath and completely forgettable.

Oyster Po Hoecake 2

Lon saw lots of beverages going by so we tried a virgin Sun-Daze, basically a nice lemonade with blueberries floating in it.

Virgin Sun-Daze

I pretty much never order chicken in a restaurant but since the Roast chicken is what Art is most known for, I gave it a shot. This was a very moist piece of chicken breast, with a rich gravy, tender vegetables, and a goat cheese drop biscuit. The whole plate works together and is a wonderful interpretation of a classic.

Roast Chicken with Goat Biscuit and Gravy

The Trio of Maryland Crab was such an amazing idea, a crabcake, softshell crab, and a crab relleno, but the whole thing ended up being so salty, we just couldn’t eat it. Seeing that the crabcake looked like nice chunks of meat with little filler and how beautifully presented it all was, we tried and tried to taste beyond the salt but just couldn’t. The creamy cheese and corn in the relleno masked the crab too much, and it ended up being a real disappointment.

Trio of Crabs

Our waiter recommended ordering a side with the crab dish being a smaller portion, so we ordered the Macaroni casserole (basically mac & cheese). It was unnecessary though because the food is so heavy and incredibly filling. The flavor of the mac and cheese is average and the pasta is a bit too soft, so don’t bother.

Macaroni Casserole

We nearly left without dessert because we were already phazing into food coma, but we’re really glad we didn’t after having a Strawberry shortcake that they split onto two plates for us. The fresh strawberries with a well balanced lemon thyme cream, sandwiched into a sugar crusted scone, was absolute heaven. This is the dish we’d be back for.

Strawberry Shortcake

It came out to $127.80 (including tax and tip) which is a very reasonable price for the experience (but parking costs $12). Overall, the food is too heavy for us, but Art and Soul achieves bringing Southern Comfort food into a more upscale but casual environment. It’s a special niche that few seem to fill well.

posted by jessica at 10:49 PM Filed under American and New American, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.