Regional Dishes, Elegant Setting; Morrison-Clark Restaurant in Beautiful 1800s Building

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 16, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Regional Dishes, Elegant Setting; Morrison-Clark Restaurant in Beautiful 1800s Building


Byline: Corinna Lothar, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Janis McLean has taken over as executive chef at the restaurant in the Morrison-Clark Inn, where she once was sous-chef. The restaurant is again in top form, offering interesting fare in an elegant, high-ceilinged Victorian dining room.

Miss McLean trained in France and at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, and she helped open the Red Dog in Silver Spring, where she was executive chef. Now she's back at Morrison-Clark, turning out excellent dishes with an emphasis on regional and Southern cooking.

We started a recent dinner with shrimp and grits. The smooth grits - a lump or two were just a little lagniappe - are flavored with bits of crunchy Virginia ham and topped with three large shrimp that have been grilled and glazed with bourbon. A perfect merger of flavors and textures, it is a successful version of a dish that has become classic Southern as viewed in Northern eyes.

A salad is described as grilled fresh hearts of palm with orange, avocado and baby arugula. What appeared on the plate was a mound of arugula dressed in a tart, citrusy vinaigrette with only a spoonful of diced avocado. The hearts of palm were a scattering of minuscule bits. Too bad, as the combination of avocado, palm and orange is a good one.

Starters include a soup that changes frequently - such as cream of salsify or Jerusalem artichokes - a few salads, and an oyster stew.

A risotto of butternut squash baked in a round, brightly striped carnival squash is the vegetarian dish at lunch and dinner, and it is delicious. The arborio rice is mixed with squash puree and pieces of squash and is perfectly cooked to remain a touch crunchy and not mushy. Served with broccoli rabe, it's an excellent, original dish to please even a confirmed carnivore.

The menu offers a good mix of fish and meat. Seared sea scallops are served with a carrot sauce, black rice and French beans; pan-roasted black cod rests on a bed of lentils; and the restaurant's specialty - crab cakes - are accompanied by a lemon-chive risotto. The crab cake reappears on the lunch menu as a sandwich on toasted brioche, with spicy remoulade sauce, coleslaw and sweet-potato fries.

Meats include a duck breast; a lamb duo - a rosemary chop and a ragout with olives - accompanied by polenta wedges; beef tenderloin and a potato gratin and garlic flan; and a petite roasted chicken.

The chicken is petite, but it is a whole bird and more than what most diners will want at a single sitting.

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