What’s Cooking, Neighbor?

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Phillip Blane | Tim Riethmiller

 

Two years ago this week, a
Georgetown couple followed
their dream, opening Unum, a
50-seat boutique eatery in the former
Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar space
on M Street. New York native Phillip
Blane, formerly a sous-chef at Equinox
restaurant downtown, and his wife and
business partner Laura Shiller, chief of
staff for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.),
created an inviting neighborhood
retreat. The name, from the Latin
motto “E pluribus unum” (Out of
many, one), was inspired by the chef’s
globally influenced interpretations of
contemporary American cuisine.

“Every cook’s path can be different,”
Blane tells me when we get together at
the restaurant’s foyer bar. Wood beams
and accents of stone
give the room a
rustic, cozy
c h a r m .
“ T h e
m o r e
y o u
work and create, that path is your own.”
His concise menu of small plates and
entrees is “reflective of my travels and
the food and people who have inspired
me.”

A braised
Indian spiced
l a m b
shank
w i t h
mint chutney
pays tribute to his kitchen internship in
Memphis at noted Raji (now shuttered).
A year devoted to “eating around the
world,” with trips through Europe and
Japan, has brought forth Mediterraneanstyle
grilled branzino with celery root
puree and fennel salad, as well as sesamecrusted
scallops atop a wasabi-accented
risotto with house-pickled vegetables.
Closer to home, his
love of New
O r l e a n s
c o m e s
to the
t a b l e
in a
N e w
Yo r k
s t r i p
s t e a k
paired with
an étouffée
over a cake of
smoked crawfish and
potato, haricots verts and
crisp onion rings.

“This is not fusion,” he says with
determination and passion. “It’s familiar
things with a little twist.”

On a chilly winter night, Unum is
an intimate spot for a generous pour
of Old and New World wines by the
glass. From the cocktail program come
handcrafted drinks
such as “The Deer
Hunter,” composed of
Cazadores Blanco tequila, fresh
lemongrass, white peppercorn and tonic. Spring,
will usher in a “Kyoto Cherry Blossom,” a
refreshing blend of morello cherry puree,
Belvedere vodka, delicate elderflower syrup
and sparkling prosecco.

Customers often ask Blane for the recipe
for his chimichurri, a condiment of Argentine
origin, typically served with grilled meat or
fish. He presents the flavorful mix as part of the
bread service, alongside an herbed butter.

“What’s fun about this recipe is that it
can be altered according to taste. More or
less garlic, more or less jalapeno,” he says.
Experiment, if you like. “Substitute other herbs,
like basil, too.”

CHIMICHURRI
Ingredients:
2 large bunches cilantro, stems removed and cleaned
2 large bunches flat-leaf parsley, stems removed and
cleaned
9 garlic cloves, peeled
6 shallots, peeled
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
3 limes, juice only
2 cups blended oil (canola and olive oil work best)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Roughly chop the first five ingredients and place in the bowl
of a food processor. Pulse until well chopped (not pureed),
scraping down the sides from time to time. Add the oil with
the motor running. (Do not overprocess or the oil will develop
a bitter taste.) Add the lime juice and season with salt and
pepper.

Unum, 2917 M St., NW
202-621-6959
unumdc.com

What’s Cooking, Neighbor? visits with wine,
food and entertaining professionals who work
in the Georgetown area. Georgetowner dining
columnist Walter Nicholls is the food critic for
Arlington Magazine and a former staff writer
for The Washington Post Food section.

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