Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

July 3, 2014 11:54 AM

Restaurant: The Red Hen

The Red Hen

1822 First St. NW
Washington, DC
Debbie, Maxine and I went to The Red Hen, having heard a number of positive reports about this relatively new restaurant.

There is nothing but a small sign with a red hen hanging near the front door to let you know you are at the right place. As you enter the restaurant the reception desk is on your left.

The restaurant is a large square. It is cavernous, with large beams and posts and brick walls. It has an instantly comfortable feel.

At the far end, off the square, is an open kitchen. At the center, backing up to the kitchen, is a very large "U" shaped bar with 6 high stools on each of the three sides. Dinner can be eaten at the bar. The night we were there, every seat was filled, and there were a number of folks with drinks in their hands, waiting to grab a seat as they opened.

Wrapped around the bar are a large number of heavy wood tables seating parties of 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8. The chairs are also of heavy wood and not the most comfortable.

Table water is served in what appear to be empty wine bottles, sans labels.

The night we were there the menu had 10 starters, 5 pasta and grain dishes, 4 large plates, 2 extras, and 6 desserts.

Maxine decided to order three starters. First she had a Chilled Tomato Soup with Toasted Almonds, Cucumber and Ricotta Salata. This was followed by Little Gem Lettuces with Snow Peas, Cherry Tomatoes, Hazelnuts & Goddess Dressing. For her “entrée” she chose Citrus Cured King Salmon with Horseradish Cream, Capers, Dill & Crispy Potatoes.

Debbie started with the Little Gem Lettuces, followed by Caramelized Scallops with Fregola, English Peas, Pancetta & Littleneck Clams.

I started with Charred Beef Tongue with Root Vegetable Slaw, Mint & Tomato Sauce. For my main course I selected Wood-Grilled Chicken ‘Fra Diavolo’ with Kale, Fingerling Potatoes, Currants & Preserved Lemon. (Ordinarily I do not comment on particular dishes, but this to my memory is the best chicken I have ever eaten.)

The restaurant is fairly noisy and, as you would expect, the crowd is relatively young.

The service was excellent in timing, helpfulness, friendliness, and attitude.

There are two unisex restrooms. They are small but adequate. The one that I used had a white ceramic washbasin and commode on a solid red wall. There is a gold framed mirror above the washbasin. One side wall is built of red painted bricks “decorated” with drippy white things. The facing wall is also red. There is a small cabinet, topped by a basket filled with an extra toilet paper roll, at the intersection of the brick and plain wall.

The restaurant is only open evenings, and opens at 5:30 p.m. on Monday- Thursday, and 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Reservations are recommended and are taken for parties of up to eight.

They claim to keep room for walk-ins. We were able to get a 7pm reservation on a Thursday night about 10 days in advance. I tried getting a 7pm reservation on a Friday or Saturday night, but those times were booked several weeks in advance.

At the time we made our reservations, the restaurant was only accepting reservations by telephone.

Parking is an issue, but there is valet parking on Friday and Saturday night.

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