Mintwood Place is the Starbucks of Washington, D.C. fine dining: worthwhile yet overpriced, casual while still sophisticated, exuding overcooked hominess with a hint of wannabe-hipster flavor.
Adams Morgan, brimming with 19th-century row houses and non-ironic salsa bars, mirrors Mintwood’s trendy aesthetic and decor. Given its location in the “hot,” culturally diverse Adams Morgan community, Mintwood’s French-American fusion cuisine upholds the neighborhood’s reputation for international flare. While Mintwood offers a fundamentally satisfying experience, some of its aesthetic choices prove a little difficult to swallow.
Mintwood Place aims to combine the old bistro experience with sleek, modern decor. In order to fully grasp the impact of the restaurant’s facade, make later reservations. At night, the double door French windows above Mintwood are interspersed with lights that provide a French noir glamor to the entrance. Although the outdoor seating in front of the restaurant continues with the Parisian bistro feel, the view of the street fails to make up for the unpredictable D.C. weather.
Inside, Mintwood embraces a minimalist bistro theme. Brown leather booths border small wooden square tables in the center and industrial light bulbs hang down from the ceiling. Although Mintwood attempts a fusion of classic France and exposed brick hipster chic, customers wind up feeling cramped among the mix of uncomfortable seating. The muted color pallet does not thrill, but bores — and not in an alternative “I’m so above this” kind of way.
In fact, the close proximity of the tables and high ceilings ensures that the room reverberates with the conversations of everyone present. For parents or the noise sensitive, Mintwood will not appeal — if you could even hear yourself disapprove. Packed with other patrons, there was a decidedly casual dress code. For food of this caliber — and price — I would expect more formal attire. The informal dress may reflect Mintwood’s hip, resist-society’s-standards-of-wealth vibe, but if I am going to splurge, I want to at least feel classy doing it.
Don’t get me wrong: the food delights. The half cast-iron wood-oven roasted chicken ($24) not only proved tender and juicy, but the accompanying mashed potatoes virtually melted in my mouth. Fresh and packed with many vegetables, the Greek-style chopped salad ($13) offered a fun alternative to a classic. Mintwood also prepares a wide variety of fish, ranging from the ever-popular salmon ($25) to the more under the radar rainbow trout ($23) and sea bream ($27). Mercifully, chocolate is not too main stream for them: with three chocolaty tiers of heaven, the brownie sundae ($8) oozes a warm, fudgy core over velvety vanilla ice cream.
While I did not order an appetizer, it was not for lack of interest in Mintwood Place’s eclectic “nibbles” menu. Options here ranged from escargot hush puppies ($11) to maple pork cracklin’ ($5) to blistered shishito peppers ($8).
Another interesting upscale aspect of Mintwood Place is its Sunday night porchetta special. The selected dish is always changing and is made with ingredients sourced from local farmers. Anyone hoping to experience this sort of fine dining should try to hit the restaurant earlier in the evening, as only a limited quantity is prepared and it’s first come, first served.
In typical D.C. fashion, Mintwood Place also has an extensive brunch menu. Staple items such as Belgian waffles ($8 to $9) and buttermilk pancakes ($3 to $4) are there for the more traditional while anyone looking for a bit more adventure can opt for the country pate ($9) or breakfast succotash with salmon ($17).
While the food appeals, the prices are a different story. The food was excellent, but the attached dollar signs might still lead to a bit of sticker shock for the average college student. The service, however, may help explain the seemingly extravagant cost. Always friendly, efficient and speedy, the staff is also happy to provide helpful food suggestions.
After my experience at Mintwood, I am ready to eat as the upper-class hipsters do — I’m just not ready to spend like them.