The Washington Post

Vegetarians get their turn at Menu MBK’s tasting table in July

At Penn Quarter's Menu MBK, the exclusive-feeling six-seat chef's table -- dubbed Kitchen because of its prime view of chefs in action -- is devoting the month to summer's bounty, going all-vegetarian for July.

As with all dinners at restaurant-within-a-restaurant Kitchen, each of the five courses is meant to be a revelatory distillation of a single ingredient. In this case, basil, tomato, and mere lettuce are some of the vegetables getting the treatment from chef de cuisine Keith Cabot. Here is a closer look at two of the courses Kitchen is whipping up.

Menu MBK's chef de cuisine, Keith Cabot, puts together one of the July's menu's courses, a presentation, he says simply, of tomato. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)


Sounds simple enough, right? But Cabot, who commandeers Kitchen, has created a plate that combines several treatments of the summertime staple on a single plate. At the heart of the dish is a kind of modernist Jell-O, a clarified tomato gel that doesn't look like much, but tastes precisely like biting into a fresh plum tomato. Dotting it are grilled, greenish oxheart tomatoes; tiny Sungolds Cabot fries till their skins crackle like the wrappers of butterscotch candies; matchsticks of spicy watermelon radish; and tiny cakes of polenta for heft. Cabot adds a touch of Pepto-hued radish-and-tomato vinaigrette, but with the tomato gel working its magic, I hardly needed it.

The "tomato" course at Menu MBK's vegetarian tasting menu. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)


The first course, "Basil," in Menu MBK's vegetarian tasting menu. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post) Basil prepared three ways makes up the first course in Menu MBK's vegetarian tasting menu. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

The first course starts strong, with the sweet, herbal punch of basil, cooked up three ways by Cabot. Inspired by the flavors of the Greek vegetarian staple spanakopita, the chef presents a sampler featuring his own deep-fried dumpling tucked with spinach and chewy, yellow feta from Jersey cows. The next bite might be even better: The kitchen created crunchy, grassy basil meringues filled with a pureed gel of the same spinach and feta; pop in your mouth and it explodes in a sweet, fragrant bite that feels like inhaling the leaves of a sweet basil plant. Vegetarians, however, will take special pleasure in the final bite, a pinched soup dumpling. A Chinese staple typically filled with just enough pork soup inside to burst when bitten, it's filled here with meat-free spinach and basil bouillon.

Dinners at Kitchen are $65 per person. Make reservations by e-mailing or calling 202-347-7491. 

Vegans: Some, but not all, courses can be made vegan; call ahead to see whether you can be accommodated.

See the full menu below.

liquid dumplings, spinach, feta

vegetable "croutons", grilled onion vinaigrette, glazed little gem

corn sticks, brioche, pea tendrils

pole bean linguini, hazelnut foam

chocolate, candies blossom

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read
Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
In defense of dads
Play Videos
How to make head cheese
Perks of private flying
The rise and fall of baseball cards
Play Videos
Husband finds love, loss in baseball
New hurdles for a Maryland tradition
How to survive a shark attack
Play Videos
Portland's most important meal of the day
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to save and spend money at college
Next Story
Fritz Hahn and Rhome Anderson · July 1, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.