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Proof Restaurant, Washington DC

Proof Restaurant is in the Penn Quarter of downtown DC, serving up locally sourced, Mediterranean inspired cuisine just steps from the Verizon Center.

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Earlier this month I was in Maryland, visiting family and friends. I go back every summer, in mid-to-late July, as a last relax/rewind/revive before the craziness of football season hits. The first couple of years, I tried to do everything and see everyone, which is so draining. Now I go much more low-key. I don’t do nearly as much, but that is also the point of a relaxing vacation.

My friends Dick and Brett were in town during the first week of my trip this year, in DC for a conference. Dick and I first met a few years ago, as we work with his company to print game tickets and some of our premium level supplies. Over the years, we have become good friends, and he was with me for my 200th new restaurant blog post. Brett works for the same company, and I met him at my Association of Luxury Suite Directors conference in June.

Their hotel was the Key Bridge Marriott in Virginia, just over the bridge from downtown DC. I don’t go to DC very often, because the traffic stinks and most of my friends live in Maryland. So when I have a reason to visit DC, I jump at the opportunity.

We met for dinner at Proof, in the Penn Quarter dining district, just a block from Chinatown. It is also a block from the Verizon Center, where the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics play. The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday – Friday, and dinner nightly. Proof offers valet parking, but is also a very short walk from the Gallery Place Metro Station. In addition, street parking in DC is free on Sundays and holidays.

Proof has an upscale, modern look. There is a patio in front, with tables and umbrellas. Floor-to-ceiling windows face the street, providing a ton of natural light. There is a wall of wine bottles behind the host stand, and several other walls of wine throughout the space. The tables and floors are dark wood, a beautiful contrast to the natural light and light-colored walls. The seating is a combination of tables and booths.

The wine list is large and impressive, and is literally in a book. The wine list features 40 by-the-glass selections, and over 1,000 bottles. I would think it’s nearly impossible to find something you don’t like. Proof allows guests to bring in their own wine, for a fee of $40 per bottle, as long as the wine is not one on their list. I love that concept. On Sundays, Proof offers half price on the bottles on the first 2 pages of the wine list. Some of the prices towards the back of the book are insane: we saw a $4,200 bottle of wine. I had a glass of pinot noir, but I can’t recall the name. Regardless, it was excellent.

I arrived a little late, and when I did the group was already looking at the menu. The Proof menu changes regularly, and showcases local, organic and sustainable ingredients. The dishes are Mediterranean-inspired, and include appetizers, salads, seafood, one vegetarian option, meat, and desserts. We all agreed that the menu was fancier than we expected, but we decided to power through.

Breadsticks with a dipping sauce came to the table first. I took a picture that I thought was very good, but when it came time to write the post, I saw that the picture isn’t up to par. The breadsticks were delicious. They are flat, crispy, light and airy. The coarse salt adds a wonderful flavor and bite.

We began with an order of whipped goat cheese flatbread

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Clover honey, thyme, fried rosemary, maldon sea salt, black pepper

The bread was fabulous. It tastes house-made, is warm,and is the consistency of Naan bread. I am a huge fan of goat cheese, and this one does not disappoint. Honey works so well with cheese, and adds a wonderful sweetness and silkiness. The negative is the portion is quite small, especially for 5 of us. Had we not ordered salads, the one appetizer would not have been enough.

Dick and I started with the baby kale salad .

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Strawberries, shaved vegetables, citrus-shallot vinaigrette, honey-spiced pistachios, pecorino

What a great mix of flavors and textures in this salad. I’ve never had baby kale before, and I am now a fan. Baby kale is like baby spinach in texture, and you eat it raw. The pistachios add such a nice crunch to the salad. I always ask for dressing on the side, but did not this time. I regretted it after one bite; half as much dressing would have been plenty.

Kelly and Amy got the butter crunch lettuce salad.

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Avocado, Valencia orange, grapefruit, balsamic dressing, crispy quinoa

I didn’t taste any, but they both said it was delicious. You don’t see bibb lettuce on menus very often, and this salad has a very generous portion. Avocado is the first ingredient listed on the menu, so I was disappointed to see only 3 slices.

Kelly got the corn-crusted tofu.

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Miso emulsion, graffiti eggplant, sautéed corn, shishito peppers, ginger

The tofu was burnt on all of the edges. The kitchen never should have sent out a dish like that; they should have prepared another portion. Other than the tofu, she said the dish was okay. Dick recommended that she send it back, but she declined.

Amy got the golden tilefish, a whitefish that is similar to tilapia, grouper, and snapper.

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Mushroom tortellini, swiss chard, pine nuts, pickled sunchoke buerre blanc

She said it was delicious

Brett and Dick both got the lamb chops

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Farro & lamb shoulder ragout, pistachios, dried apricots, whipped yogurt, sumac

Brett really liked the dish. Dick said it was okay, but I think the only part he enjoyed was the lamb chops. The dish only has 3 chops, which is small for a main course entree.

I got the braised goat ragu

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

House-made pappardelle, garlic scapes, English peas, mint, harissa

My dish was excellent. The pasta is clearly homemade, with a very nice texture. The sauce is rich, but not heavy, and the goat meat is very flavorful. The peas were undercooked for my tastes, but maybe that’s the way English peas are supposed to be.

We checked out the dessert menu, but nothing jumped out at us. Our server brought us a complimentary treat of white chocolate & raspberry balls

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

These are a recent addition to the menu, and are delicious. The sweetness was a very nice way to end after a savory meal.

The service was very hit-and-miss and, after reading reviews, other diners had the same experience. Yes, we were there on Sunday evening, but the restaurant was nearly empty. On the other hand, the restaurant next door was packed. When I first arrived, my group had been waiting several minutes for the server to return; and at times throughout the meal, he was almost non-existent. The manager came over a couple of times, so I’m wondering if maybe this server was new. Also, he did not tell us about the half-priced wine bottles; the manager did, but not until after our first round of drinks had arrived. Had we known about the special, we would have likely ordered at least one bottle.

Will I return to Proof? Possibly. According to the their website, Proof was ranked the #10 restaurant in Washington in 2013 by Washingtonian magazine. So they’ve got to be doing something right. Maybe we just hit them on an off night. I would like to try it for lunch, or visit for happy hour before a game or concert.

Proof, Washington DC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

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Wicked Waffle

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