Chef Robert Weland left Poste in September 2011.
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009
I'm dreading cold weather. It means a suspension of one of the best ideas this restaurant in the Hotel Monaco has ever hatched: an outdoor teak-and-stone table next to a garden of tomatoes, raspberries and herbs that offers the chance for a group of you to graze on (pick one) beef brisket, wild king salmon, baby goat or crackling suckling pig cooked by chef Robert Weland on a nearby wood-fired grill. Billed as a Poste Roast, the alfresco spread lets participants feel as if they're part of an intime picnic. Fortunately, inside the restaurant is pretty delicious, too. The gang behind the open kitchen turns out a superb beef tartare, ravioli that's true to the season (picture pasta artfully strewn with morels, sweet peas and chopped black walnuts in spring) and entertaining desserts. Just try not to laugh when you're sipping fat beads of basil-infused tapioca through the straw in your strawberry soda, a summer riff on bubble tea. One evening's pork is cooked too long, and one afternoon I'm greeted with a blatant up-sell: "Want to start with a cheese plate?" a server pitches. Those minor annoyances (and even a noisy dining room) won't keep me away, though. From the taste of things, Weland is doing some of his best work these days. Coming up after Roast season ends: "20 Bites at Poste," just four seats overlooking the kitchen and a parade of designer small plates.
Take It Outside at D.C.'s Poste
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Weekend Section
Friday, May 19, 2006
When the Kimpton Hotel group took over the Old General Post Office a few years ago and turned the mid-19th-century building into the Hotel Monaco, the old mail sorting room became a restaurant and bar called Poste. It was the perfect way to take advantage of the high ceilings and multiple skylights -- more natural light made it easier to read addresses -- and a glass-walled atrium facing the internal courtyard was a nice touch.
That courtyard was -- and is -- one of my favorite outdoor spaces in Washington. To enter Poste, visitors walk through a long, arched tunnel from Eighth Street to a huge square, both of which were designed for horse-drawn wagons bringing mail to the sorting room. Surrounded on all sides by the building's marble walls, the courtyard is sheltered enough from the street that you're not bothered by noise, and the addition of a terrace for outdoor dining really piqued my interest.
Sadly, nothing worked out the way I'd hoped after my initial visits in 2002. The bar's cocktails were good but not as inventive as at other hotel lounges springing up in Washington. That courtyard was austerely decorated with a few drab metal tables and chairs and never really felt welcoming in warm weather. After work, space around the bar tended to get too crowded, and too few tables were available for folks who just wanted a martini instead of dinner.
Despite its historic building, warm decor and that expansive outdoor area, Poste has long suffered from comparisons to its fellow Kimpton hotel bars Bar Rouge, Helix Lounge and Topaz Bar.
A new management team has arrived at Poste in recent months, and it's hoping to shake the promising bar out of its slumbers. The first thing the team decided to do, assistant general manager Morgan Taylor says, was to do something with the patio. Instead of just setting out a dozen tables, as in years past, Taylor says, Poste's staff wanted to create "a place where people can come and relax -- almost like an outdoor lounge."
To create that vibe, Poste added a variety of cabana-style benches, couches, woven chairs with fabric cushions and a pair of seats that look like egg cups with slinky-style canopies. Carpets were laid under tables, and new lights make the place more welcoming at night. Down-tempo electronica and acid jazz provide the right touch for a weekend date or happy hour rendezvous.
The problem is, after repeat visits, I'm still not sure how service works. Taylor tells me that half the terraced space is given over to dinner seating, while half is for people who just want drinks -- which would be fine if I'd ever had a server approach my table and ask if I wanted a cocktail. Every time, I've gotten up, ordered a drink at the bar and came back outside. (I've seen waitresses taking orders from customers having dinner, though.) Taylor says it's a work in progress, so let's hope it progresses a little faster.
Also part of the plan is a new drink menu. For the season, chef Robert Weland worked with the bar staff to create cocktails full of fresh herbs and vegetables. The Basil Lemontini, for example is a refreshing warm-weather mixture of basil-infused lemonade and Ketel One Citron lemon vodka, topped with sparkling wine and a blanket-size basil leaf that smells as if it was just picked -- because it was.
"For most of the cocktails, we wanted to use herbs from our herb garden," Taylor says. Outside, on the far side of the patio, wooden planter boxes sprout everything a resourceful bartender needs: rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, different types of mint. "Not every restaurant has the space to do this," she says proudly.
Poste's Cool Cucumber is essentially a martini made with Hendrick's gin, an out-of-the-ordinary spirit infused with cucumbers and rose petals but garnished with paper-thin slices of cucumber that float near the bottom of your glass. This is one of those cocktails that gets better as you sip, because the cucumbers add just the right tang at the finish.
Sadly, the Eye of the Storm -- a variation on the traditional Dark and Stormy, but made with ginger-infused 10 Cane rum -- lacked the expected punch, though it was quenching on a hot day. All the martinis, including the occasional special listed on a chalkboard behind the bar, are $10, which is par for the course these days. A weekday happy hour offers $4 beers, glasses of wine and paper cones of truffle fries (the best in the city) from 4 to 7 pm, though I do have to question why anyone would think that $4 for a bottle of Miller Lite or Samuel Adams is some kind of "special."
When there's no rain in the forecast and you're looking to enjoy a few drinks with friends, Poste is a good choice.