1310 New Hampshire Ave. N.W.
Metro: Dupont Circle (red line)
$15 - $25
Nestled between upscale apartment buildings, just blocks from the heart of Dupont Circle, lies Firefly, one of D.C.‘s hubs for nouveau cuisine. Firefly, which opened in November 2002, became known around the city for its use of local produce, its simple, yet elegant cocktails, and its position as a low-key, highly accessible neighborhood eatery. Serving what it calls “contemporary American comfort food,” Firefly possesses a variety of homey and upscale delicacies on its one-page menu. Among the more ordinary offerings are mashed potatoes ($4), mac and cheese ($6) and french fries ($5).
The restaurant’s small interior and slightly cramped quarters seems counter to its tagline, which suggests that patrons can “practically feel the grass between [their] toes.” However, the coziness generates a familiar atmosphere, adding to the idea of “comfort food.” An enormous tree rises from beneath the restaurant and acts as a natural divider between the dining room and the bar. Lit tea lights and lanterns embellish the “firefly tree,” doubling as d?cor and the restaurant’s main lighting.
This past March, Daniel Bortnick replaced John Wabeck as Firefly’s executive chef. Prior to attaining his post at Firefly, Bortnick went on a pilgrimage of sorts to Italy, where he was inspired by the regional methods of simple cooking using seasonal ingredients. Thus far, he and the many patrons of Firefly have benefited from this experience by enjoying small plates, soups and salads made from Firefly’s recent acquisition of local meats, fish and cheeses.
For the patron without a large appetite, Firefly serves the perfect amount of food in appetizer portions, including dishes like small stuffed tomatoes and Waldorf salad. The small stuffed tomatoes were just as expected: filled to the brim with syrupy basil and pine nuts. Every bite was a minor orgasm because the tomatoes were softened to
perfection, allowing the aroma of the Italian duo of basil and pine nuts to infuse appropriately. The salad was sweeter than the typical salad because of the cashews, dried cranberries and apple shavings that adorned the small platter. The dressing was a tangy vinaigrette that suited the mix of greens well.
Fortunate to dine with two others, there was more to sample from the eclectic menu, including: deviled eggs, the Wedge (another salad), Old Bay crab dip with crusty bread (from the “Urban Picnic” section) and zucchini and smoked mozzarella gratin. The eggs were on the dry side and as quaint as the tomatoes, but their mere existence at a posh bistro was heartwarming. The salad, which was topped with blue cheese, was a refreshingly crisp chunk of iceberg lettuce. The crap dip was buttery and fabulous; it spread nicely like a p?t? on the crostinis that accompanied it. The gratin was aptly cheesy and tasted home-cooked, as if it were a dish even one’s little brother could have made.
Aside from the hype of the restaurant is the excitement over the bar and its scene. Patrons, who are mostly in their twenties and thirties, can be seated at chic glass tables and sit on stools while chatting over choice beverages, such as the traditional Manhattan or mojito. To boost its image as a bar, Firefly will soon host happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Bartenders will serve both red and white wines, as well as beer, such as Sam Adams, which will cost $4.
Keeping up with the lazy summer night theme, the waiter gave the receipt to my party in a jam jar, as if we were going to use it to catch fireflies. All in all, dining at Firefly during the heated summer months of D.C. makes patrons think momentarily that they could be away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan area.