Union Station, the magnificent early 20th century train station that houses B. Smith’s Restaurant in Washington, DC, is one of the most majestic buildings in the city. Designed by distinguished American architect Daniel Burnham, it has been a national landmark since its completion in 1908. The splendid Beaux Arts statuary was created by no less a sculptor than Louis St. Gaudens, whose 50-plus figures in the station were considered his finest work. Adding to its stony provenance is its proximity to the US Senate and the charming Le Notre-inspired gardens.
Sixteen years ago the stunning Barbara Smith, Vogue supermodel and African-American style setter, opened her very popular restaurant along the south side of the building. Housed in what was once known as the Presidential Suite, it is the same site where US Presidents and dignitaries once convened before their inaugurations. With its spectacular décor, lavish period chandeliers and Presidential seals still intact, it is in these turn-of-the-century rooms where B. Smith, as she is known, serves her delightful mix of Cajun Creole and Southern cuisine.
Recently I visited the restaurant to try out her new fall menu. I found her signature style still in place with smartly suited and wine-savvy servers, low country cuisine and a genteel atmosphere. In the background a baby grand played softly as we sampled fried chicken livers with onion confit and pineapple chutney, crawfish and crab dip and pan-seared grouper over hoppin’ John rice with a citrus beurre blanc. The osso bucco with creamy asparagus risotto didn’t speak to the Southern style but was tender and lusciously sauced all the same.
Several well-chosen and gently priced wines accompanied our dinner. We began with a 2008 Caymus Conundrum…a blend (I know, I know, but just get over it. I did!) of California whites, but soft and lovely with honeysuckle overtones, and followed up with a 2007 Sacred Hill Marlborough Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, in which I divined chocolate, plum and cinnamon tones.
B. Smith’s still keeps their ever-popular Bourbon Street bread pudding on the menu, but it was the beignets that really charmed. Oh, to have a half a dozen of these warm, sweet treats for breakfast with a cup of French Market chicory coffee!
For reservations visit www.bsmith.com