Art Smith Brings Soul to Capitol Hill

Having opened dining hot spot Table Fifty-Two in Chicago, Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef, Art Smith, is bringing some serious comfort food to Washington, DC. In town for a business conference, I whisked my way from DC’s Union Station to Chef Art’s new restaurant before the kitchen closed on a Saturday night. The kitchen is led by Executive Chef Ryan Morgan and his Boston transplant, sous chef Michael Kraus. Upon arrival, I was blown away by how beautiful the Liaison Capitol Hotel property is, where the restaurant is located. There is an attractive outdoor dining area as well as a lively bar scene at Art Bar. My server was top notch: knowledgeable and aware, with an eye on my table at all times.

I had one problem that I need to share off the bat: There were too many items on the menu that I wanted to try! So I planned to order and taste multiple dishes. I started with the She Crab Bisque. I intended to take a couple spoonfuls and move on, but before I knew it, I had polished off the bowl. The soups blend of flavors were silky and simple. There was a little jalapeño corn fritter in the middle, which added some texture and spice to the soup.

Next, I had the Pork Rib with BBQ appetizer. I planned on having only a couple of these, too, but wound off finishing the whole order with ease. They are specially cut by a butcher and are a “mini-rib,” for lack of a better explanation, and able to be handled with one hand. The sauce was fantastic and the vinegar slaw over the top added a tangy crunch.

After the ribs I ordered a couple Hoecakes, which are traditional cornmeal “pizzas.” I tried the Land and Sea and The Pantry. The Land and Sea featured braised beef, blue crab and brie cheese, while The Pantry was topped with blue cheese, grapes, arugula and pickled onions. The textures and flavors of both worked really well. I wasn’t sure of the method I wanted to use to eat these, so I tried picking them up with my hands as well as knife-and-forking them – both worked.

After the Hoecakes, I tested out some sides, including Macaroni Casserole, Green Bean Casserole and Creamed Spinach. The macaroni was cheesy, rich and delicious, of course. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Chef Art. The other two sides were fresh and tasty – fresh spinach for the Creamed Spinach and fresh green beans for the Green Bean Casserole. No cans or jars here!

For dessert, I overheard the server at the table next to me talking about the different offerings, so I tried my best to save room. I wound up ordering a special butterscotch pudding with crazy soaked banana goodness. It was light, not too rich and the perfect end to a spirited meal. definitely Art and Soulhas brought soul to The Hill – include this restaurant on your list of destinations the next time you visit to DC.

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