The best part of MXDC, the vaguely Mexican restaurant from out-of-town chef Todd English, is the gratis bowl of chips trailed by a trio of fresh salsas. The scoops are light and crisp. If you like heat, the jalapeño-ginger dip is a tease to please.
After that, I have more reservations than Aeromexico.
English, who previously fed Washington at the late Olives on 16th Street NW, likes to talk up mashed avocados with lime juice, which gets a category of its own on his latest menu. “Do you know anyone who doesn’t like guacamole?” he asks. The idea is better than the execution — at least with the crab guacamole, a green mound dressed with seafood. And grapefruit. And rosemary oil. Uber-rich and creamy on the verge of slick, this guac tastes like a forced marriage.
Scallop seviche is so soupy, I don’t recognize the appetizer when it shows up — at the same time as everything else we’ve ordered, forcing us to give up that crab guacamole to make room on a too-small table. (Not a problem, frankly.) One bite of the seviche, with its heavy heat and off-kilter seasoning, is sufficient. Tacos made with chewy duck confit and red chili peanut pesto taste like warm-overs. Yet another snack you don’t have to try because I took one for the team: the pasty, open-face quesadilla decked out with goat cheese, arugula and smoked chili mayonnaise.
Grilled Chilean sea bass on a beige pool of pureed oysters and red chilies is curious, yet not unpleasant.
Garnishes are repetitious; I can’t recall a dish that didn’t come with cilantro and pickled onion or too much salt. The worst offender was a bowl of Brussels sprouts spackled with cilantro pesto. After tasting the salt-showered side dish, a companion put down his fork and declared, “I’m going to check my blood pressure when I get home.”
You can understand why we passed on dessert.
Food isn’t the only depressing detail at MXDC, which replaces the Italian-themed Galileo III and has been transformed
into what looks like a hotel lobby with its own DJ booth. “Is this a restaurant or a dance club?” a friend shouts across the table.
The only thing clear to me is the exit.
600 14th St. NW. 202-393-1900. www.mxdcrestaurant.com. Tacos, salads and small plates, $9 to $19; house specials, $32 to $40.