Named to reflect a California sensibility, as were its Washington siblings, Mendocino Grille and Sonoma, Redwood has always been a handsome backdrop for sipping cocktails or catching up with friends. It hasn't always been a place where you'd want to eat, however, at least not in its fumbling early life. What a difference two years and a new chef make! Gone are the slapdash presentations and minefield of disappointments. These days you can show up for lunch or dinner anticipating -- and getting -- a good hamburger, a glossy roast chicken and a juicy pork loin served, respectively, with hand-cut fries, truffled macaroni and cheese, and stone-ground grits. Credit for the culinary turnaround goes to Blake Schumpert, whose previous posts have included the acclaimed Blue Hill and Le Bernardin in New York, and Michel Richard Citronelle and Ardeo in the District. Although the chef does well by the basics here, he's no stranger to creativity; golden salt cod cakes on a Christmas-colored canvas of piquillo pepper relish and almond pesto are both pretty and pleasing. Sundays and Mondays call to wine drinkers with select half-price bottles, and dessert brings out the kid in everyone with ice cream sandwiches and a warm chocolate cake that tastes steamed rather than baked. A diner might wish for a quieter room and for less-cooked swordfish atop a simplified "paella." And, oddly, a Parmesan-rich risotto comes with its vegetable ragout on the side. (Why not swirl the two together?) But the long and airy restaurant facing a European-style streetscape is a beaut. With all the light streaming in, and all the wood surfaces and shades of nature surrounding you, Redwood brings a bit of the forest to the city.
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