The Partisan (Washington, DC)

(Update: The Partisan closed “temporarily” in September 2020 due to the Pandemic, but since it’s now 2023 and they aren’t reopen, I’m calling this a permanent closure. Too bad, it was a good spot)

The second night I found myself in National Harbor, I instead got on public transit (buses! Metro! The wonders of SafeTrack!) and went downtown to meet up with more friends from TCF to try out The Partisan. Located in the Penn Quarter, The Partisan is the culinary partner of Red Apron Butcher, and the result is a bistro style restaurant with an impressive beer list, a good selection of wines, and a really good dinner menu focused on small plates and charcuterie, and, somewhat surprisingly, wasn’t that difficult to book for a large group (over a dozen in our party). So I soon found myself with my friends, enjoying a pleasant Saison, while watching them assemble our table.

It’s a rather neat little space, good for large groups, so we ended up seated along a long table across from the bar, and while the room itself is pretty dark, spot lighting made for a pretty decently lit dining area. Looking over the menu, while there were a lot of items that really attracted my eye like a charcuterie plat of fried chicken, one item tempted both myself and my fellow diners Kevin and Dave that we just had to go for it: the “Pig Feast: a five course family-style tasting menu highlighting our favorite parts of the pig” for $50 per person. Meanwhile, the rest of the table did indulge in a variety of charcturie, carpaccio, and fried chicken dishes as well.

Starting off the “pig feast” dinner was a light appetizer of grilled cheese served up with a tomato bisque. Interestingly, I’m not sure if there was any pork in this particular dish, but it was a pleasantly-executed, nicely-crisped grill cheese paired with a particularly flavorful and rich tomato bisque, served with the sandwich cut into fingers for dipping. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Next up was nominally a simple salad of frisee with ham and duck eggs, and much like the classic French frisee-lardons, the attraction here was in the execution of a nominally simple dish: a lightly-dressed frisee salad, with a rather pleasant rich and smoky ham and two meticulously-prepared duck eggs topping everything off. This was like everything I like in a simple salad like this: lightly-dressed tangy greens, a lot of pork flavor, some saltiness, and some nice protein texture from the eggs.

The seafood course was scallops served up with blood sausage and adobo, and here, the scallops to me were just “decent”, but the dish itself was elevated by a very nicely done blood sausage and a tangy adobo cream sauce that, along with some pickled agave, ended up elevating this dish nicely.

Our first main course was a Korean-inspired pork belly with banchan and egg, and here’s where The Partisan started to really shine: a perfectly executed bulgogi-style crispy pork belly served with with a variety of Korean-style sides and simmered greens, topped with another egg just oozing down in it, this was like many of my favorite bibimbap-style dishes, and nicely showcased the pork belly.

Probably the star of the entire night, however, was this relatively simple dish of pasta with olives, fennel, and pig trotters. This was a case of a pasta done to simple perfection: a house-made fresh gemelli, served up perfectly al dente in a very light tomato sauce with some nicely cured olives, shavings of fennel, and a light ragu of pig trotters. Each little bite was a perfect forkful of tender pasta, a light tang from the sauce, a nice crunch from the fennel, and a good bit of pork popping out in little tender shreds from the trotters. I’d happily get just this dish for myself.

Meanwhile, the rest of the table was poring over a variety of other dishes: a quite impressive charcuterie board being the first to arrive, and wash quite well received.

So was the fried chicken. One of the more-recommended dishes from the Partisan (and available on their late night menu as well), they call this “rotissi-fried”, since while the breading and presentation were classic fried chicken, it appears the cooking itself is done on a rotisserie, so the result was a very nicely crisped chicken skin without a lot of greasiness. Add in a slightly-spiced honey sauce, and this was an enjoyable dinner item, and one I might actually come back and have as a light dinner by myself at some point.

Closing it was was a dessert of donut holes, served up with chocolate pudding and chocolate crunch pearls for dipping. Decadent, and actually quite nicely done, but this would have been a lot better if the donuts were fresh. The donut holes, while being immaculately glazed, weren’t even warm, and for me, the value of a donut increases exponentially with its freshness. Despite being pleased with this, I’m not sure I’d reserve the calories for it in the future.

Overall, however, I’ll have to say, The Partisan shined well on our visit. While a few of the items were just “good” instead of “great”, I’ll have to give them some bonus points for flawless handling of a large group, and having a pleasantly good beer list to enjoy while our group assembled.

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