Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Quick Restaurant Review - Parish

Last year, for the first time in four or five years, Shade and I didn't spend her birthday together. She'd just moved to DC from Boston, had just started her residency and the idea of flying in for one or two days just wasn't in the cards. I thought we'd ended that little streak when she hit me up this year and let me know that she was slipping into town this year to do her usual, I was like yeah.

Then the rains came. And came and came. Then it rained some more. And her plan had been to eat her favorite little hideaway, Canoe. With it's garden right on the river.


Did I mention the rain? Did I mention it rained so hard it flooded and shut down I-20, I-285, and the I75/85 downtown connector? THE three major arteries of the city? Whole neighborhoods underwater? And did I mention Canoe with it's garden is, er, was "riverside"? I did? Oh. Well, let's just say that Canoe probably wasn't going to be the spot this year. Probably not.

So Sunday, we dropped into this Spot in the Virgina Highlands called Parish, as the fill-in location. It's the kind of restaurant that Sporty and I would have hit in our heyday, a little off the beaten path but still cool enough to charm your pants off. I had originally invited Schmoopy along when it was at Canoe, but I demurred, as I had also been supposed to slide into her birthday party the night before and had fallen asleep with Tort Law in my lap. I didn't figure she'd be too happy I'd went to one and not the other. Next time we go to brunch I'm taking her there...as kind of a makeup trip. I'm a bad friend.

Parish is one of those spots you're not sure of. The interior looks like the building has been their a hundred years, but the exterior looks brand new. The walls are a mix of raw brick and peeled plaster, and the ceiling is a medley of tin tiles that looked like they were salvaged from an abandoned building. It's supposed to be a New Orleans theme, and it looks like they nailed it. And if I hadn't been reading every home renovation magazine and and watched HGTV off and on before goign to law school, I would have much like my dining companions been wondering "how did they do that?" Don't get me wrong, it's a good look, but it's just a look. Also note, because the sound echoes off the brick, the din is gonna be a little thick once the place gets full. We mercifully had a fairly slim late brunch crowd.

The actual food on the other hand is real. The Belgian Waffle with the brown butter, powdered sugar and maple syrup was great. I should have ordered two. The waitress thoughtfully had it brought out first, unlike some places where all the food arrives at once. Shade, myself and two other all got a taste and agreed that somebody needed to go steal the recipe. The food emerged a few scants seconds after we'd finished, a testament to the kitchen's timing and even the two people who arrived late and ordered late had their food arrive quickly. The cook is a professional, not one of the many food burners that infest far too many a restaurant. Considering our orders varied between standard fare, omelets, eggs Benedict, shrimp and grits and a few other things, we really had worked him out.

There was supposed to be a picture here, but my little camera sucks.

The conversation on the other hand was a little too varied. The side debate of health care and big government turned into conversations of home security and the recent Atlanta flooding. The sound issue made it hard for one end of the table to talk to the other, so we were kind of stretched out and couldn't be as inclusive as some other spots. That and I met the other black person who isn't an Obama fan. Imagine that.

The last time we gathered for Shade's birthday brunch, it lasted well into the time the restaurant was setting up for dinner. We repeated this time, only after we'd taken the requisite pictures and had the one more conversation, we looked up and found ourselves in an empty restaurant. I mean no other patrons, no staff, just us. We considered turning off the music and the lights before we left. I've been places before where I have been told to "lock up" when I leave, but this just struck me as unusual.

All in all, Parish is a gem. I just wouldn't expect to be too conversational if you arrive and the place is full. I understand, but didn't go down and see, that they have a nice little specialty market downstairs from the restaurant, which a couple of my party breezed into afterward. The neighborhood is nice, the food is good and if I can get this law stuff off the ground, this is the area where I'll be moving to when I get the chance. If you get a chance, swing by and hit Parish. I know I will again.

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