Chicago native and co-owner of Bell, Book & Candle in New York, John Mooney opened his newest restaurant, Bidwell, the second week of January in Washington D.C.’s Union Market. Mooney’s vision and mantra for Bidwell is simply “Responsibly Sourced”. Mooney’s pride and focus is on local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible procurement of all ingredients used to create his melting pot of a menu – just as it should be.
What makes Bidwell extra special is the organic areoponic garden located on Union Market’s roof where Mooney plans to grow at least 60% of their produce used in the restaurant; everything from sage, basil, cilantro, and dill to cheddar cauliflower, multiple varieties of nasturtium, tomatillos, eggplant, arugula, and tomatoes. Mooney also plans to grow Bidwell’s signature Bidwell melon, both of which are named after avid farmer, Army General, and founder of Chico, California, General John Bidwell. Not new to the scene of aeroponics and sourcing locally, Mooney’s New York restaurant also boasts a rooftop garden, where he was named a 2011 StarChefs.com Rising Star Sustainability Chef.
Taking inspiration from his culinary experience in Ireland, India, Florida, and New York Mooney treats guests to unique signature dishes including Lobster Tacos, Gin & Tonic Salmon with Caramelized Cauliflower, and Crispy Deviled Eggs with Homemade Ranch Dressing. Of course we think a great menu is partially determined by the drink selections. Bidwell’s menu is rounded out with six draft beers, a decent selection of craft bottled beer, and a slightly smaller cocktail menu. We have to start out by suggesting the Strawberry Fields (Absolute, muddled strawberries, gran marnier) & State of the Union (Titos vodka, triple sec, agave, cucumber water, ginger beer) Cocktails. As far as beer goes, we enjoyed the Bare Ass Blonde Ale and the Duck Rabbit Milk Stout. (Especially the Milk Stout.)
We decided to let Mooney choose his favorite dishes for the evening, which included the majority of his signature dishes. At the end of the night, we concluded that our dinner had been delicious, satisfying, and extraordinarily fresh. We had several favorites of the evening with the Marinated Fluke Sashimi being the only dish that fell flat for us – beautifully presented, but one whose flavors just didn’t quite make sense to us.
Two runners up to our favorites list are the Roasted Oysters (with garlic butter, bacon and Parmesan) and Grilled Sausage of the Day (with milk stout mustard, pickles, and flatbread). Although absolutely wonderful in preparation and flavor, we’re typically seafood purists and prefer our oysters raw on the half shell. The sausage, housemade in the kitchen’s smoker was phenomenal, especially paired with the house mustard made from Moo Thunder Milk Stout beer. The accompanying pickled vegetables were the only miss of the plate due to personal preference.
Our favorites of the evening in the order they were served:
- We’re not quite sure where Tom Sietsema was coming from when he denounced the greatness of fried deviled eggs by saying, “‘Crispy’ deviled eggs provide proof that frying doesn’t make everything taste better.” And we are going to vehemently disagree with him on that one. The Crispy Deviled Eggs (with roasted jalapeno & buttermilk ranch) were a unique way to eat your typical pot-luck fare. And while they weren’t necessarily “better” than your average Joe deviled egg, we enjoyed the additional texture of the crunchy breading and ranch combination.
- If flavor and quality trumps your concern for the dent you’re making in your wallet, opt for the Lobster Taco (with avocado-tomatillo salsa). At $10 for a small plate we think the portion is kind of a dinky in size, but it’s oh-so-worth-it. (In all fairness we’re basing this off of our sample size, and a plate we watched leave the kitchen.) Just don’t plan to share and if anyone tries to sneak a bite, you have our permission to make a scene while slapping their hand away. It was all we could do to not ask for more to bring home with us.
- The Housemade Burrata (with roasted beets and hazelnuts) was just beautiful. This is definitely a dish we’d order over a cheese or meat platter especially if we’re planning on sharing. The cheese is fresh, and creamy, exactly the way it should be and the combination with the red and yellow beets makes for a light and healthy[ish] meal starter. We’re admittedly (and also embarrassingly) newbs when it comes to our cheeses, and once home we had to immediately Google what Burrata is. For you fellow newbs it’s a mozzarella cheese exterior with a mozzarella and cream interior. Delicious.
- We dropped a strong hint that we were curious about Mooney’s “Gin & Tonic” Verlasso Salmon entree and he was kind enough to prepare one. When in season, Mooney serves wild salmon, but in the off months, guests can expect Verlasso‘s sustainably ocean farmed Atlantic salmon. Quick cured in juniper berries, lime, sugar, salt and coriander seed for an hour before placed on the grill, the salmon pops with incredible flavor and Mooney has found even salmon eaters who prefer theirs more well done are satisfied with its preparation. Additionally, instead of your typical white wine sauce, Mooney has substituted wine for gin giving the dish a slightly more enhanced and robust flavor. Our hands-down favorite of the evening, this dish surpassed our former favorite salmon at J&G Steakhouse.
- “Are you ready for dessert?!” Yes! Yes we were. Albeit a little stuffed, we were most definitely ready. To finish off our meal, Mooney brought out Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches (with caramelized goat’s milk), and a cast iron skillet baked Apple Pie (with goat’s milk Crème fraîche ice cream). Guests can choose between chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies for the ice cream sandwiches, but the peanut butter is the cookie that had us crumbling in satisfaction. The apple pie, more of a combination of apple crisp topping with a pastry bottom like a pie, is baked all together raw to achieve the final result we couldn’t stop gorging ourselves with. We finally had to call it quits after getting halfway through.
We were completely endeared by the casual, basic, open interior with wooden tables and crystal clear glassware that mirrored the organic and rusticity of the literal roof-to-table menu. Waiters dressed in blue and white checkered shirts and jeans led to that classy yet country charm. Service for the customers around us seemed flawless, and watching the operation of the kitchen directly in front of us was not only great entertainment but allowed for eavesdropping on the functionality and efficiency of the staff. Located in a prime spot, Bidwell goers can expect the new restaurant to be bustling on the weekends. If you plan to arrive after 6pm, we suggest making a reservation.
1309 5th St NE
Washington DC, 20002
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