Often it's the new restaurant right around the corner that you get to last. That'll be where you just stop in after a movie or a night out with friends, right? Wrong. The highly stylized and buzzed-about Apiary, right around the corner from me, was always fully committed when it opened in mid 2008. But obviously we're in a different landscape now, and places that were once booked to the hilt are now wooing diners with recession specials. For Apiary, it couldn't happen at a better time--it's become more accessible just as chef Scott Bryan returned from Virginia to take the helm.
We started with the endive and pear salad, which, although it looks bland on the plate, had a bright, sharp flavor and excellent crunch. The innovative plating--three large endive leaves propped together to form a sort of V that contained the rest of the salad--added a nice architectural touch.
The confit of duck leg was rich and tender, but it was the combination of celery root puree and French green lentils underneath that got devoured right away.
Bryan has real French flair with vegetables, as evidenced by the grilled pork loin, where it was turnips--turnips!--that stole the show. The pork itself was juicy and perfectly cooked, the shaved brussel sprouts were a nice accompaniment, but the turnips were sublime. My dining mate Marie Fromage described a French technique for vegetables--something involving cooking them very slowly under parchment with a hole on top--was that how he made them?
Fortunately, the chef himself came out later to check the night's receipts at the bar. The turnips, we asked. How did you do it? Chicken stock, sherry vinegar, and butter he said.
That's the kind of thing you've got to like about Bryan. Rather than being coy, he just out and says it--although without the technique, it would be hard to get the same end result. His cooking has the same refreshing directness. It's approachable, but once you're into it, there's a subtle complexity that keeps you coming back.
And now there's really no reason not to go back: Apiary has extended their $35 Restaurant Week prix fixe through Labor Day.