Corduroy is a luxury restaurant with a dash of pomp in the dining room, navigated by servers in dark suits, and a soupçon of surprise on the menu. Tomato tonnato, anyone? The first course presents a layer of warm chopped tomatoes, burning with chipotle, scattered with glistening cubes of big-eye tuna that are nearly indistinguishable from their chunky base. Red-on-red against a black plate, the appetizer is a summertime-only riff on classic vitello tonnato. Still, there’s more where that came from in this sedate townhouse, a pioneer on increasingly busy Ninth Street NW. A pan-fried blintz packed with sweet Maryland crab reclines on a cool nest of shredded chayote.
Chef-owner Tom Power plays with contrasting temperatures the way his onetime mentor, Michel Richard, dramatizes textures. The choosy shopper also knows that wild king salmon from Alaska has more flavor than the farmed fish too many restaurants rely on, so Power’s menu goes wild. A few main courses taste routine — lamb loin with clumps of bok choy comes to mind — although every dish has something to sustain your interest (in this case, rich Lyonnaise potatoes). Whatever fruit is in season generally stars in a lovely tart, and the flourless chocolate cake, while decadent, eats like a cloud. (The trick to the lightness, shares the chef: beating the egg yolks and egg whites separately.) Less fun are wine prices that tempt us to sip water through dinner. But a bargain awaits upstairs, on the bar menu: three courses for $30, every dish as polished as what’s playing downstairs.