Sept. 16, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Not Quite Dipped in Amber, the Monocle Drips Nostalgia

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The crab meat imperial appetizer is a tower forged from curly micro greens, meaty chunks of buttery avocado and sweet, shredded crab studded with zesty capers.

The restaurant claims regulars from both sides of the aisle, and has even attracted admirers from other branches of government. “I mean, the speaker still comes regularly,” Valanos said of the chance of bumping into Ohio Republican John A. Boehner on any given night.

Retiring Rep. John D. Dingell — “He’s the only member currently in Congress who was here when we first opened,” Valanos calculated — is presumably no stranger. Valanos said the dean of the Michigan delegation stopped by not too long ago to dine with a goddaughter.

Valanos estimated that Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, is typically good for at least one visit a week when Congress is in session, and he said that former Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., practically lived there during his time in D.C.

Legions of elected officials can’t be wrong, right?

Depends on what one elects to order.

Valanos said classically trained chef Hector Toyos, a veteran of long-since shuttered District eateries La Brasserie (French) and Tiberio (Italian), has been at the helm of The Monocle for nearly 15 years. During his tenure, Toyos has tinkered at the margins — experimenting with house-made sauces, introducing new elements (such as a rocket salad layered with grilled onions, roasted red pepper reduction and fresh crab) — but remains largely loyal to the Continental style customers have come to expect.

The menu remains married to the concept of meat and potatoes. Some of the priciest entrees are a 20-ounce rib-eye ($42) adorned with Toyos’ custom maître ‘d butter (spiked with jalapenos), a 14-ounce sirloin ($38) typically escorted by scalloped potatoes and steamed vegetables, and grilled lamb chops ($34) accented with balsamic vinegar.

Seafood selections run the gamut (smoked salmon carpaccio, roast branzino bathed in champagne sauce), though not all turn out as swimmingly as others.

A portion of grilled shrimp, sporting the faintest hint of black pepper, was unable to liven up a surrounding mound of bland, mashed white beans.

The crab meat imperial summons a tower forged from curly micro greens spritzed with olive oil (base), meaty chunks of buttery avocado (middle) and sweet, shredded crab studded with zesty capers (top). A ring of chive oil circles the dish, while complementary crushed red pepper flakes provide discretionary heat.

Signature onion rings were many things: sparingly breaded, expertly seasoned (prominent salt crystals lit up my taste buds) and generously proportioned. But crispy they were not; the pile of limp rounds appeared to be doing an impression of onion hash rather than shooting for the role of crunchy star.

The flagship burger sounds like just another beef bomb. But the execution made believers out of us all. “Could somebody please tell Timothy Dean how to do this?” one companion, who’s evidently had it with the hit-or-miss meals at neighboring TD Burger, pleaded after biting into Toyos’ satisfying interpretation.

The reliably solid offering boasts a cooked-to-order patty devoid of fillers, bolstered by a savory mass of sautéed peppers and onions, velvety slices of melted Swiss and a smear of zesty aioli tucked beneath the bottom bun.

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