The Washington Post

The service is criminal at Edgar

Edgar, a sleek new bar and restaurant in the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel named for J. Edgar Hoover, stretches through a warren of rooms just off the hotel’s main lobby. (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

If it weren’t for two roadblocks, I could see myself making a habit of lunching at the freshly minted Edgar Bar & Kitchen in the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, a watering hole and restaurant named for one of the property’s best-ever customers: J. Edgar Hoover, the late, long-serving director of the FBI.

Just off the dashing main lobby, Edgar calls to customers with a warren of dining rooms made intimate with brick walls, leather booths and light wood columns. The hub of the interior, formerly home to the Town & Country bar, is a marble-topped counter ringed with stools.

Sticking point No. 1: The service. Does anyone at Edgar get training before they hit the floor? Greetings are slow to be made, bills can take forever to retrieve, calls to the restaurant go unanswered. When I placed a request for a glass of chardonnay featured on the menu, my server asked, “That’s a white, right?” Another afternoon, someone spilled water on the floor, a puddle that no one bothered to mop up for the hour or so we monitored it. The unsmiling staff appears to have been recruited from the Soviet school of hospitality.

Another obstacle to a patron’s happiness at Edgar: food that for the most part tastes as though it had been put together on an assembly line. Salads aren’t properly tossed; one bite delivers a mouthful of dressing, another is just naked spinach and arugula. Potato croquettes are a hot and gluey waste of calories. A strapping bowl of pappardelle is mixed with sauteed shrimp, zucchini and Parmesan shards: a dish that looks like a page torn from a hotel room-service menu circa 1998. The towering EBK burger packs in short ribs, blue cheese and soft onions. The stuffing can’t mask the reality: a boring patty beneath a dry bun.

A pleasant reprieve from the clinkers is the chicken potpie. An island of puff pastry sets off a creamy, sherry-laced moat of chicken, carrots and more. The dish is the sort of easy comfort that you imagine Hoover came to “Washington’s second-best address” for — and that you know deserves more charming company.

— Tom Sietsema

1127 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-347-2233. Lunch sandwiches and entrees, $12 to $22; dinner entrees, $18.25 to $32.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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