Fire & Sage

American
$$$$ ($15-$24)
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Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Fire and Sage for an April 2009 First Bite column.

This is what a $4 million restaurant facelift can buy these days: a Marriott that resembles a W Hotel.

Don't believe us? Then you haven't dropped by Fire and Sage, the chic new dining room that flows from the equally stylish lobby of the Washington Marriott at Metro Center. A glance around Fire and Sage, formerly the Regatta Bar, reveals lots of wood, lots of green, lots of tall tables and those two contemporary restaurant must-haves: an open kitchen and a communal table.

Although the menu reads like one of those lists drawn up to appeal to all tastes, the kitchen generally does an admirable job of keeping diners out of mainstream hotel territory. An artichoke dip is so generous with lump crab, we imagine it comes from the recipe files of Daddy Warbucks. Moist, tea-smoked halibut is an elegant main course that is brighter, and tastier, for its salad of arugula and grilled corn.

Dinner is preceded by a little black skillet of tasty corn bread with honey-sage butter, its presentation and seasoning meant to drive home the restaurant's comfort food theme, says Bryan Stolz, the hotel's director of operations.

The showy brick oven is not firing on all cylinders. When I tried one of several flatbreads, parts were underbaked to the point of gumminess. And though I give the place points for layering fresh-roasted turkey on a sandwich that also fits in bacon and cheese, my order, flanked with dull potato chips, smacked of a room-service delivery (hold the metal cover). Note to the bartender: A caipirinha should not taste like a liquid gumdrop.

The guys with the ties do their best to watch over everything here, but some of the servers could use a few lessons in diplomacy. The non-greeting at a recent lunch comes as a bit of a shock. "What do you want?" asks a server, who wastes no time in taking our order. At dinner, I change my mind and request a glass of wine after our waiter has just brought my companion his drink. "Sorry for the inconvenience," I add. "That's okay," the server shoots back. "I'll take my time."

Thankfully, endings are designed to make people happy. The options include a bag of doughnuts -- and free valet parking.

Entrees, $17-$28.

(April 22, 2009)