Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Wine Down

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Pound the Hill’s newly unveiled summer carte features a dozen or so shareable plates and a handful of seasonally inspired main dishes, coupled with an adventurous wine program.

“The main problem with lunch is the size of our kitchen,” he said of the close quarters. Even so, Taub remains pleased by the rotating sandwiches and daily specials (ropa vieja, drunken noodles) that his crew turns out for midday guests. 

“We cook from scratch,” Taub stressed, noting that he marinates some lunchmeats at least three days in advance. 

He was also elated that chill seekers had recently slurped him dry of a fanciful blueberry “stew” accented by red wine, herb-laced farmer’s cheese and housemade cornbread. 

“I was glad to see people devoured it … and were asking when I could make another batch,” Taub said.  

Summer Mode

The bistro, which is transitioning into full-on summer mode this week, dabbles in both style and substance. 

A trio of cordon bleu croquettes gush molten gruyere, chicken and prosciutto when pierced, their savory insides complemented by squiggles of zesty Dijon mustard and dulcet bits of actual honeycomb. 

Bite-sized mushroom tartes should be lovingly savored. A shimmering lobe of caramelized duxelles crowns a hollowed-out puff (buttery, paper-thin walls dissolve on contact with the tongue) shrouding a purse of creamy goat cheese. Lemon zest provides added punch.

Taub explained that the signature duck confit dish is rooted in traditional duck a l’orange. While pondering this Continental standard, it suddenly dawned on him that orange and chocolate make for incredible mouthfellows. 

“It almost jumped out in front of me,” he said of the revelation that obliged him to marry marmalade-covered fowl with Valrhona chocolate. 

“People love it,” he said. 

The duck redux did raise a few eyebrows but fully romance. The poached duck was juicy and flavorful, while the accompanying arugula  spiked with caramelized onion and sautéed garlic put standard greens to shame. 

We could, however, have done without the bath in uber-tart orange glaze — particularly if it would make room for of the entrancing dark-chocolate-pistachio-hazelnut spread, which riffed off the savory meat masterfully. 

A much-requested barbecue trio played around with offal and Asian sides. Brisket was big but dry, not so much shredding as peeling off like planks of pre-fab, fake-wood flooring. Glazed pork belly fared better, its skin broiled until crackling, while the underlying fatty tissue gently smooshed beneath probing tines. Deep-fried sweetbreads swim in a flour shell drizzled with a vinegar reduction. 

Best in show goes to the grilled corn bread, which was a sweet and savory utility mop. Most puzzling? Asian-style mini-corn-peppers-onion slaw that would have made perfect sense — at the since shuttered Ba Bey.

Taub’s summer slate is set to include a tomato sampler (ceviche, tartare), a mussel dish, pineapple ravioli and an avant-garde seafood dish featuring experimental snow crab — glazed in eggless béarnaise sauce and subsequently bruleed — escorted by asparagus, melon and English peas. 

The Hard Stuff

Johnson said co-owner Frank Rinaldi is handling the beverage program while they continue their search for a new sommelier. The existing offerings are well worth exploring. 

Craft beer enthusiasts can indulge in a number of noteworthy pours, ranging from New Belgium’s now-ubiquitous Fat Tire to hometown brewery Chocolate City’s Cornerstone Copper Ale. 

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