Rutabaga Awakening

March 7, 2013

Beuchert’s Saloon’s oxtail tagliatelle is one of many hearty meals on the restaurant’s soft-opening menu.

I never thought I’d write a column in praise of rutabaga, but it was hard not to after tasting it at Beuchert’s Saloon (623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-733-1384). As one of many veggie sides on the menu during the “farm American” restaurant’s soft opening (through March 15), chef Andrew Markert’s rutabaga mash ($6) is eye-opening. The oft-ignored root veggie is whipped to a smooth consistency and topped with toasted shallots, manchego cheese and roasted apple slices. Each bite delivers a different mix of sweet, salty and earthy flavors, and it’s surprisingly hard to put down your fork until you’ve cleaned the bowl. As my husband says, it tastes “like a better version of Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.”

In fact, a lot of what’s being served at the cozy saloon reminds me of rich holiday fare. Beuchert’s hearty oxtail tagliatelle ($12 small plate, $23 entree) tastes appropriate for our recent cold snap, and is as complex in flavor as the rutabaga. I also enjoyed the creamy, goat cheddar-laced grits ($6), and bananas Foster “twankies” ($7), a super-saccharine riff on Twinkies.

No restaurant soft opening is completely glitch-less (that’s kind of the point of calling it “soft”). But based on the stellar dishes I’ve tasted, Beuchert’s has nailed its pre-view period. I look forward to the official, “hard” times to come — which hopefully will include more rutabaga.

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