Most people perhaps don’t see America as being synonymous with fine dining. However, Mintwood Place, located in the north of Washington DC, certainly proves that assumption wrong – and I hope you won’t attribute it all to the chef being French (but don’t worry – he’s been in the US a while now, so has lost his surliness).

Cedric Maupillier is the cousin of my husband’s boss, and so it was by this token that we were invited to check out Mintwood Place during our most recent trip to the United States. We were glad we did – friendly wait staff and a lively atmosphere awaited us along with five-star quality food, which we had the opportunity to sample over two separate visits (more of which later).

During the first visit, we couldn’t resist the maple pork crackling from the nibbles menu, and while perhaps the maple flavour could have been stronger, it was definitely there, and in any event, the star of the show was without doubt the texture – you will never have crackling this light in your life, which makes it incredibly moreish. (The secret? A dehydrator.)

Next, my husband indulged in a starter of grilled baby octopus in a rouille sauce, which proved the epitome of fresh ingredients cooked well. Rather than becoming rubbery, the octopus reportedly had a melt-in-the-mouth texture, and was served with a salad and bread alongside the rouille sauce to truly make the octopus the star of the show.

baked alaskaFor mains came cast-iron Amish chicken on one side of the table, and wood-grilled shrimp and mackerel (with beetroot, goats’ cheese, and espelette curd). Credit goes to the chef for ensuring that the mackerel was not too oily and that its full natural flavours came through to harmonise with the garnishes. The Amish chicken (so-called due to being a bird raised by the Amish) was wonderfully moist and tender, and piqued my tastebuds for my dessert to follow: a baked Alaska flambé, which had flaming rum poured over it at the table and which burned merrily for a good minute or so, giving the meringue a beautiful marshmallow-like texture. The cake and ice-cream inside were also light and fresh, making for a perfect end to the meal. I didn’t take a picture of it, but it did look pretty much as you see it on the left-hand side here.

With all of this we enjoyed an exceptional and affordable Riesling, and with its warm glow still enveloping us, we went to chat to Cedric after the meal, with all of the kitchen activity still going on behind him. This conversation led to him asking us to dine there again in three days’ time, which was an invitation we happily accepted. This time dinner was generously on the house, and kicked off with the burrata, kale, hazelnut and apple salad, which offered pleasing contrasts in texture thanks to the fried and uncooked kale, and the softness of the burrata, as well as slight sweetness from the apple (I’m not a massive raw apple fan though texture-wise, but that’s not the chef’s fault).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was followed by a spectacular special: tempura soft-shell crab with chickpea purée, a selection of crudités, and an edible flower garnish. It was a thing of beauty to say the least; a real rainbow on a plate! Needless to say, it was also light and flavourful. Cedric also brought the crab out to say hi to us before it hit the pot so that we could see its freshness for ourselves (it was still moving). Dubbed one of the best burgers in the US, the wood-grilled bacon cheeseburger that followed it also definitely hit the spot, thanks to the tender meat, crispy bacon, and high-quality cheese. Then it was pudding time, and we were brought a duo of desserts to try: a strawberry crumble, and a vanilla crème brûlée. The latter was packed full of vanilla and had a satisfyingly crunchy top (think the scene from Amélie), while the former offered pleasing variations in texture and an intense hit of flavour. We matched all of this with a heady Pinot Noir from Oregon, which particularly matched the burger well.

Needless to say, we will be back: the restaurant still has far too many brunch dishes and house cocktails we haven’t yet tried. Hangover Special with a glass of La Dame En Rougissant? Don’t mind if I do.

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