Monday, December 6, 2010

Early Impressions of The Atlas Room (1015 H St) @atlasroom

It is difficult to overstate how excited we were when the newest addition to H Street, the Atlas Room, officially opened their doors at 1015 H Street last month. Despite our lofty expectations, the Atlas Room has managed to exceed our high hopes and has positioned itself to become the finest dining experience on H Street.  You are likely to hear more about it from Washington Post Food Critic Tom Sietsema soon, but here are our early impressions, recommendations, and more.  In short, the Atlas Room is a fantastic addition to H Street, offering an ambitious menu, diverse wine list, and excellent craft cocktails.  It is already H Street's best restaurant and its opening continues a trend of nicer restaurants opening on H Street that was started when Souk, Liberty Tree, and Ethiopic last year and that continues with the upcoming openings of Smith Commons (1245 H St) and the new cocktail temple from Erik Holzherr above Fruit Bat (1238 H St). 

Atlas Room Chef-owner Matt Cordes (previously of Vidalia, 701, and Gerard's place) and Chef de Cuisine Bobby Beard (previously of Citronelle, Pesce, and Vermillion) crafted their menu to encompass flavors from around the globe while using local, seasonal ingredients.  The menu is designed a la carte to feature smaller “nosh” plates and larger entrĂ©e size portions.  The smaller plate serving sizes are relatively generous and diners tempted by the breath of the menu should not hesitate to make a meal out of a few small plates.  The seafood salad features calamari, bay scallops, and shrimp tossed in a light vinaigrette over a bed of plump Israeli couscous that left us wanting more.  The butternut squash flatbread and short rib pasta are other good small plate options.  The flatbread is satisfyingly salty-sweet with a delicious puree of squash topped with crispy shredded pork and creamy goat cheese.  The short rib is as tender as it is rich and is surrounded by a thick homemade pasta wrap.  If something fried catches the eye both the chicken and lamb fritters are cooked to perfection with crisp outer shells and creamy rich centers.  And while the field green salad with sherry vinaigrette may not sound as interesting as the other offerings, it proves just as delicious with a satisfying crunch from the crisp onions sprinkled throughout. 

The larger plates do not disappoint either and include enough variety and variation in preparation from night to night to keep even the most frequent visitors satisfied.  The Indian spiced beef loin is a star and is served with roasted cauliflower and a creamy, rich yogurt sauce.  The pan roasted chicken breast is perfectly juicy due to the brine preparation and served with root vegetables and gnocchi which would be beautiful even on their own.  The lamb duo of saddle and top round is another favorite.  Lastly, a perfectly prepared gratin is hard to beat, and Chef Cordes hits the mark with a sizzling oval dish of creamy yet firm layered root vegetables topped with Gruyere and bread crumbs.

The wine list is also H Street's best to date, and the program stems from a partnership with Tannic Tongue LLC, a local distributor that works with some of DC's best restaurants and offers an eclectic selection of smaller producer wines, which are not heavily distributed in our area.  From the by the glass selections, our favorites are the columbard (a lighter, dry white), the cabernet blend, and the Coyote Canyon Sangiovese from Washington State.  The Chinon Blanc is a bit off dry for most palates, unless you prefer sweeter wines. 

The cocktail program here is suprisingly strong and joins SOVA, Toyland and Fruit Bat as a go-to spot for a great craft cocktail.  The list comes from Chris Surrusco, who H Street fans will remember from Granville Moore's early days and others may recognize from his recent stint at Marvin.  Surrusco features a series of classic cocktails, including a great Cosa Nostra manhattan-like cocktail made with Capano Antico Formula vermouth.   Surruco makes many of his ingredients from scratch, including orgeat syrup and grenadine.  Atlas Room serves perfect cube ice cubes in all their drinks, which cocktail afficionados will appreciate as they melt more slowly and thus are less likely to dilute your drink.  That attention to detail is one of a number of ways Atlas Room sets itself apart of your typical neighborhood restaurant. 

Atlas Room is a good spot for pre or post-show eating and the dessert menu is small, but refined and enjoyable.  It's fills the need for a finer dining experience on H Street and is without a doubt the best special occassion spot on the stretch, but does so without pretention and is the kind of place you can drop by in jeans after work for a beer and fritters or after a night of drinking for a cocktail and dessert. 

The Atlas Room has plans to eventually offer a brunch menu. In the meantime, cozy up to the bar and enjoy all the Atlas Room has to offer the ever-expanding H Street corridor.  It's already a great addition to our developing dining scene. 

The Atlas Room
1015 H Street
Closed Mondays
Reservations not necessary, but are encouraged for large groups.


  1. Totally agree. Had high expectations and they've been exceeded. They do a great job, but are still an unpretentious neighborhood spot. Bravo!

  2. I have eaten at Atlas Room twice and have to say it is one of the top restaurants in DC. It is also very reasonably priced for the quality and quantity of food.

    I would recommend that people try it sooner rather than later because once Sietsema's review is published, it will be very hard to get a table....

  3. Yeah I'm a big fan too. I especially love the small bar and high top tables area. The level of quality in the food and service transcends H street (and DC) and is the perfect counter to places like Sticky Rice where your cooks are drunk and indifference is in large supply.

  4. I like this place a lot and agree that it's not just a good addition to H Street, but is a really good restaurant. I like the menu concept and the ability to try and share various things, but find the way it is organized by protein a bit odd. Am I missing something?

  5. I agree that the menu being organized by protein is strange. I think the original concept was to allow diners to order the same dish in different sizes, but since that idea hasn't materialized I think they should reorganize the menu by size of plate. That said, I love the Atlas Room and they are not just a great addition to H Street but to DC as a whole.