Vidalia is a fancy Southern restaurant located at 1990 M St NW. I first went to Vidalia on a great date over the summer, just for dessert and drinks since I typically can’t afford their (very pricey) food. I had their pecan pie and a mint julep and had wanted to go back ever since. I finally got the chance after Santa Claus gave me a gift card for Christmas, plus an Israeli friend was in town and I wanted to take her for something very American and special. Against my better judgement (given the $78 per person price tag) my Israeli friend convinced me to order the tasting menu, which I don’t regret at all. Simply put, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in months; it was six courses including two appetizers, two entrees, a cheese course and a dessert. But since I had a friend with me, we each ordered different things, so we each sampled 1o dishes, plus the cheese course and other accoutrements.
It is worth noting what Vidalia is and what it is not. Vidalia serves food inspired by the cuisine of the Southern US, but made with French culinary training. As such, it has the feel of a fancy French restaurant, complete with great service by very professional, older waiters and an older, well-dressed crowd. It is not a hip, buzzy place like Compass Rose, which is why some reviewers complain that the food isn’t innovative and that the decor is tired. The decor is very tasteful and the food is classic haute cuisine with a Southern twist; not all fantastic meals have to be about reinventing the wheel and appealing to the 20s and 30s set.
Like any fancy restaurant, the meal began with a delicious amuse-bouche and a great selection of artisan breads. For the first course, we ordered the seared Hudson Valley foie gras with a winter squash financier, pepitas, vadouvan, and buttermilk. The foie gras was totally on point and delicious and paired very nicely with the financier. We also had the heirloom beet salad with roasted beets, puffed farro, bleu cheese, and braised pear.
For the second appetizer course, we ordered the sweetbread & waffle, as well as the jumbo lump crab cake. The sweetbread & waffle (made with chicken fried veal sweetbread, lemon, baby bok choy, caper, and bacon fondue with a waffle) was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the entire meal. It was everything I love about chicken and waffles but the veal sweetbread melts in your mouth, almost like a fried oyster. The crab cake was excellent as well.
For the third course (fish entrees) we ordered the Point Judith baby monkfish with butter poached lobster, fennel, green olive, cucumber, lemon-celery root purée and the shrimp and grits with bacon, okra, scallion, beech mushroom, and spicy shrimp butter. Both were delicious and the shrimp and grits was an excellent, upscale take on this classic southern dish.
The fourth course was the meat entrees course. We ordered the quail with berbere spice, Carolina gold rice grits, baked, yellow split peas, and bacon jus, as well as the rabbit with bacon-wrapped rabbit loin with crépinette, hay smoked carrots, wild mushrooms, and foie gras-chestnut purée. Both were cooked perfectly. The bacon-wrapped rabbit loin was especially flavorful and extremely tender.
The cheese course was great too, as were our desserts: the pecan pie (as I ordered on my date) and the key lime pie. The desserts were complemented by a delicious selection of mini sweets on the house.
I highly recommend Vidalia, and it is the kind of place that’s worthy of a very special occasion.