A good friend of mine was in town last week, and when I asked if he had any preference on dinner locations, he responded, “Anywhere new and different.” As a big fan of The Pig in Logan Circle from the EatWell DC restaurant group, I had wanted to try out their newest concept, The Bird, in Shaw, which opened back in October.
Okay, first things first, I’m a bit late to the party on this restaurant, but it satisfies my friend’s request, as The Bird is new, at least to those in our party, and certainly different.
The menu on The Bird is what you’d imagine from the name, poultry focused, but in an incredibly creative way. First, there is a vast array of foul to choose from, including ostrich, Bandera jumbo quail and magret duck, to name a few. And The Bird, similar to its sister restaurant, utilizes every part of the protein and at times with several presentations on the same plate.
The décor itself catches you right when you walk in, with large black birds painted all along the walls in flight patterns throughout the restaurant, and pops of abstract color with the bright bar stools and dishware. All of the artwork both inside and out is created by local artists, and really showcases the community; something the restaurant has stressed is an important aspect of their hospitality.
And quite frankly, the staff could not have been nicer to a newcomer on a busy Thursday evening, with our server Britnie Morris (who also works on the restaurant’s marketing) being the perfect guide to our meal. Pricing is noticeably quite reasonable, with starters running you $7-$15, and entrees $17-$26.
We started with cocktails, naturally, and the selection is impressive, with pretty creative ingredient combinations and some equally unique names. I opted for a Charlie Parker – rye, apple brandy, Madeira, peach, pomegranate, bitters – which was clearly a go-to for me as I’m a big rye whiskey fan, and I highly recommend it! Others at the table opted for A Silly Bird Called a Phoenix – mescal chartreuse, amontillado, cranberry shrub, lime – which was also excellent.
We started from the “Pecking” section, with the duck meatballs served with a spicy tomato curry sauce, yogurt and toasted cashews; and ostrich tartare with shallots, capers, olives, quail yolk and duck fat crackers. The Italian in me had to go for the meatballs, because honestly I would not think of putting duck in my meatballs, but this was a crowd favorite indeed, gobbled up in minutes. Having only had ostrich once in my life, cooked, trying it raw was certainly adventurous, but the flavors were incredible.
We then ordered a “Flight of the Egg,” which was three individual dishes on one plate – a poached quail egg in puff pastry with crème fraiche, caviar and candied orange peel; a deep-fried duck egg over bird scrapple and sauce, mar-rose; and a tomago egg custard, with ponzu and sesame seeds. So word of advice, end with the custard, because the flavor profile on that is intense and deserves the last bite, according to Morris. The dish was incredible and something I can say I’ve never had before in my life.
We moved on to the “Big Bird” section and split the fried chicken, a half free-range organic Amish chicken, served with baked beans and pickled Fresno chilies. As one of our guests vocalized to Morris, “I would like this as hot as you can make it.” And they certainly delivered, but in an edible fashion that didn’t kill the rest of us, thankfully. The chicken was perfectly crispy and possibly the favorite dish of the night, with the tangy baked beans and slaw the perfect accompaniments.
And as we were a party of three, Morris said we were the perfect size for ordering the whole roasted organic chicken, which is roasted in a convo oven for a good five to six hours. It came out on this beautiful platter with roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and a heavenly roasted chicken jus; and was served with an endive salad for the table.
Now, generally, going to a restaurant roast chicken is the last thing I order, as it’s not necessarily what really draws the eye, but I can say without a doubt, this roast chicken deserves the same attention as a rack of lamb or sea bass in my book. It was impeccable; absolutely the best roast chicken I’ve ever had.
We ended our evening on a sweet note with the recommended frangipane and pears, a flourless almond cake with Bartlett pears, butterscotch and whipped yogurt, topped with an oat streusel. It was worth every glorious bite. And clearly, I see duck fat in a dessert and I have to explore, so we also ordered the peanut butter cookie sandwich, with apple jam and coconut cream. We left no crumbs of evidence behind.
It was an absolutely one-of-a-kind meal, and I look forward to returning for the seasonal menu changes and when the warmer weather hits, dining al fresco. On April 2, from 3- 7 p.m., The Bird will be hosting a garden party grand opening of their outdoor space and rooftop desk, with free bites to sample the new seasonal menu.
The Bird: 1337 11th St. NW, DC; 202-518-3609; www.thebirddc.com