The former chef of DGS Delicatessen downtown is cooking at the new, Mediterranean-themed Pinea in the W Hotel, which sounds like a stretch unless you know that the guy who ditched making brisket for bourride is Barry Koslow.
“I’m getting back to my roots: fine dining,” says the veteran chef, 45, whose past employers include 2941 in Falls Church and the late Michel Richard Citronelle in Georgetown.
DGS, says Koslow, was a “passion project.” Pinea, owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts and a follow-up to J&G Steakhouse, is more in line with his long-term aspirations.
“Pinea” refers to the pine trees of southern Europe. As such, pine nuts add crunch to dishes as varied as grilled swordish with charred cauliflower and a tart dressed up with candied fennel and lavender ice cream.
“Merenda” is the only menu category you might not know by name but will recognize for its style. The meant-to-be-shared snacks include marble-size, crab-filled croquettas that would be bland without their spicy remoulade and delicious fougasse with a trio of dips. My preferred spread with the warm, house-baked wreath of bread combines roasted red peppers and feta cheese.
Koslow cooks as much for the eye as the taste buds. Two of his more beautiful appetizers are an elegant version of the Provençal vegetable soup, pistou, served with a sauceboat of shimmering pesto, and charred octopus splashed with sherry vinaigrette. The smoky seafood shares its curvy black plate with saffron-colored potatoes and zippy coins of chorizo.
This being a hotel restaurant, there’s a burger. In keeping
with its theme, Pinea offers a lamb patty with cucumber yogurt and excellent polenta fries, crisp on the outside and fluffy within. Chances are, you will finish the lot.
The same cannot be said of the ziti with rabbit ragu (too sweet) and the chewy ravioli, bested by the buttery chanterelles that flank it.
The entree that will lure me back lauds high-end comfort: a braised chicken thigh under a cloak of tomato sauce, scattered with toasted almonds and ennobled with boudin blanc the chef makes himself. The succulent sausage combines chicken, duck and foie gras.
Do some of the chairs, padded in lipstick red, look familiar? Leftovers from J&G Steakhouse, they’re soon to be replaced. The chandeliers that once illuminated the high-ceilinged space, its walls now awash in pale blue, have been covered with colorful cloth cords; tall tables set off the expanded bar area.
Throw in some endearing service, and a diner has fresh reason to check into the W.
515 15th St. NW. 202-661-2440. pineadc.com. Dinner entrees, $19 to $36.