“You’ve got some straight food porn right there,” a nosy neighbor said as she shamelessly leaned over to take the full measure of the parade of mouth-watering proteins being escorted to our rapidly shrinking table.
The unexpected intrusion quickly evolved into a full-blown discussion of cherished meat palaces, family grilling secrets and guilty pleasures — a bonding session fueled by mutual admiration for this temple to Paleolithic dieting.
Mind you, I can’t promise everyone will become besties with whomever they wind up seated next to at The Partisan (709 D St. NW). But the place certainly appears to have a cast a spell on charcuterie fans.
The long awaited project, the latest from the award-winning Neighborhood Restaurant Group, has sparked a bromance between its twin toques, Ed Witt and Nathan Anda.
Witt, who dazzled A-listers at 701 Restaurant before sliding over to the transitioning Hawk ‘n’ Dove for a hot minute, joined the NRG last fall. Anda has been the group’s resident meat packer for years, acclimating locals around to his kind of organ-meat-filled fun via multiple Red Apron Butchery locales while plotting the course for this even more adventurous Penn Quarter showcase.
The menu, which features contributions from across the animal kingdom (beef, pork, poultry, lamb, seafood), caters to the chefs’ combined strengths.
Anda has larded up the appetizer carte with nearly three dozen house-cured creations boasting herbs, spices and smoking techniques from the world over.
“Around 90 percent of our guests begin their meal with a charcuterie board,” Anda said of his highly prized meat candy, billing the Thai basil bresaola and bacon liverwurst as early favorites.
The bresaola took some getting used to. The first razor thin slice of glossy beef has some heartiness to it, but didn’t strike me as particularly exotic. Lime and a hint of ginger punched through as I allowed the second slice of buttery goodness to dissolve on my tongue.
Cayenne-spiked Andouille fired on all cylinders from the get-go, delivering three hunks of spicy sausage complemented by seductive roasted peppers.
And forget about hunting around for plain bread or crackers to pair with each lusty morsel. Team Partisan has come up with something much better.
The house bread is the tigelle, a baked flatbread that’s soft and chewy in the middle, but sports a firm, lightly browned crust.
“Many recipes were tried over the last three years, but the final one was adapted from a recipe in a book that was written 100 percent in Italian. Ed’s experience of writing menus in Italian at Il Buco helped us to be able to translate it,” an NRG spokeswoman said of Witt’s critical contribution to the cause.
Just make sure to leave enough room for everything else the kitchen has to offer.
Pork sausages proved irresistible.
While I was partial to a coil of swine seasoned with salty aged provolone, one companion made short work of the more prominently spiced luganega. That link, which arrived flush with hints of garlic and sage, was deposited in a pool of terrific pesto punctuated by tangy lemon, lush olive oil and earthy ground pine nuts.
A hybrid rotisserie-fried chicken dish was an all-around hit.
The labor intensive bird — “The chicken is brined for 12 hours, rubbed and dried for an hour, before being roasted for 1.5 to 2 hours. It is then broken down and fried,” Anda explained — is well worth the extra effort. Our order was mostly dark meat (legs and thighs), which makes sense given the cooking regiment. The individual pieces featured terrifically tender meat shrouded by crispy, spice-crusted skin.
Plunging it in the house hot sauce, which balances vinegary spice with honey sweetness, made every bite of the already naturally delicious bird that much more enjoyable.
Anyone considering getting into the gourmet burger game would be wise to study The Partisan’s outstanding triple-decker offering.
The ultra-sloppy handheld drips melted cheese and oozes juice, a natural consequence of stacking multiple chorizo-filled patties (roughly five ounces of coarsely ground beef, according to Anda) atop one another and smothering the finished product in tangy braised onions. A chunky style tomato aioli adds some acid to the savory mix, while a thick kaiser roll battles to hold together the magnificent mess after each intoxicating bite.
“We already know what we’re gonna order when we come back,” the newfound friend at the adjoining table announced after polishing off platters of sausage, beef fat fries and double cut rib eye.
Confidence is high we’ll meat again.
Food Court is an ongoing series of semi-regular spot checks of new and evolving eateries with ties to Capitol Hill.
The Partisan: 709 D St. NW; 202-524-5322; thepartisandc.com
Average entrée: $13 to $20 ($$). Open for dinner Monday through Saturday.