I love living in Navy Yard even more than I thought I would. It has a true neighborhood feel. It’s quiet. I love the walks on the river. It’s also a short walk to the Eastern Market area and its bevy of foodie delights. My first thought upon discovering this was, “Oh, that means we can be the first in line at Rose’s Luxury whenever we want.” Which is true, but sometimes you don’t want to wait in line.
There’s also a new kid on the block that I’ve been very curious about.
Some Yelpers have declared that Garrison, the new farm to table restaurant by Rob Weland of Cork and Poste, is positioned to give Rose’s a run for its money with unbelievably fresh ingredients and immaculate attention to detail. With claims like that, I had to see for myself.
We walked over on a lovely late summer Sunday evening and were seated promptly in spite of arriving a bit before our reservation. That said, for the first Sunday of the NFL season the restaurant was still full, so I would certainly recommend getting reservations before you go.
The space is lovely with a small patio in front and a dim, candlelit interior with a mix of booths and tables. We took our place at one of the tables, a row of four two tops seated a bit too close together for my enjoyment. It’s always interesting to be able to hear entire conversations from the diners next to you, and know that they can do the same.
Having done a lot of “research” (cough, Yelp, cough), we pretty much knew what we were going to order before we sat down. We started with the poppyseed gougères, which virtually every Yelper mentioned favorably. I’d never had a gougère previously, so I have nothing to compare them to, but they are certainly palatable.
Each little puff was slightly crispy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. The flavors aren’t very strong aside from the slight bitterness of the poppyseed and to be honest I don’t quite understand why everyone raves about them.
Something I can rave about, however, is the wine list. Garrison offers a nice selection of wines, mostly European with a few American cameos, many of which are quite affordable. They also offer several wines by the glass for around $10, so instead of ordering a bottle Tom and I each opted to try a couple of different wines. The Hondarabbi Zuri, a citrusy white from Spain’s Basque County, was a standout as well as the versatile blend of Nebbiolo, Freisa and Barbera from Langhe Rosso in Italy.
Properly wined, it was time to dine. First up was the heirloom tomato salad, one of the most seasonal items on the menu that probably won’t stick around much longer. This dish was right up my alley with a variety of incredibly fresh heirloom tomatoes, spongy and rich burrata and the most fragrant basil.
Along with the salad, we also ordered the squash blossoms, another dish that may not remain on the menu much longer.
We were off to a great start, but unfortunately our entrée choices weren’t quite as outstanding. I ordered the bison hanger, which was beautiful to look at. So beautiful, in fact, that the lady at the table next to us ordered it based on appearance alone (the tables really were that close together).
Sadly what it had in beauty it lacked in flavor. The meat was cooked as promised to medium rare, but somehow still managed to be a little tough and chewy. The tomatoes and basil were a nice addition, but it just needed something extra, maybe even as minor as a little black pepper rub as bison on its own isn’t the most flavorful protein. The blue cheese certainly added some oomph, but it overwhelmed the lackluster meat. I was able to eat it, but I can’t say it was worth the price tag of $30.
Tom went with another dish we’d read much about on Yelp, the crispy skin Arctic char. The fish was cooked perfectly and, as promised, the skin nice and crispy. Tom didn’t love the cucumber and dill salad underneath, while I found it to be nice and refreshing.
The dishes were all rather on the smaller side, which again, considering the price of the dishes was a bit of a thorn in my side. On the bright side, we still had room for dessert. I couldn’t resist the buttermilk panna cotta.
This one delivered. I would have licked the adorable little mason jar clean if there weren’t two very respectable couples within arms reach who would have surely been witness to my disgrace. The texture was more of a pudding than the gelatin I typically think of as panna cotta, but the subtle sweetness paired with the peach and plum jam on top was delicious.
While we went out on a sweet note, I left with mixed feelings about the experience. While the ingredients are undeniably fresh and many of the dishes are inventive and executed well, things just didn’t quite come together for me. Maybe I am biased because I eat out a lot, but I don’t think you should have to pay an arm and a leg for a pretty good meal. You can get great meals in this city for less.
The next Rose’s Luxury it is not, but I’m impressed by Garrison’s ambition and think it has great potential to continue to bolster the Barrack’s Row dining scene. Perhaps with slightly lower prices or larger portions and a bit of tweaking, it could get there.
If you want to try it without breaking the bank, I’d recommend going for the vegetables and a glass of wine and finishing your meal elsewhere.