First off, I am very happy Pedro and Nancy are back in
I’m also very pleased that Pedro is making a serious effort to support local farmers and vendors as many of the items you’ll find on the menu have come from within 100 miles or less. In addition, Pedro and staff are making their pasta homemade (gnocchi and tagliatelle) and the meats for the charcuterie are being cured in-house. A tour of the kitchen shows that a back corner is being used to hang prosciutto, and he has also done a little DIY fridge where the temperature can be closely monitored to assist in that process. Seeing cured meats hanging from the kitchen ceiling has a definite appeal for me as my Italian relatives still do this back home in Abruzzo.
OK, on to the review. While I don’t want to go all Sietsema on you (and btw, he has a short write-up in today’s Post on 8407), I did want to point out some of the highlights of my meals and I won’t say lowlights, but areas I believe where improvements are needed.
I’ll start with the lunch. While it’s not uncommon to find mussels on our area menus, 8407 does a very good job with their version. You’re served a decent-sized portion – good for a starter for two – of wild Johnny Blue mussels (from
An additional lunch standout – for carnivores – is the charcuterie sandwich. Depending on the day, the sandwich is a mix of typically 3 meats. My version had a couple different kinds of pork and Pedro’s house made mortadella. While the sandwich was great, I will say the pork overwhelmed the more delicate mortadella. That mortadella is so good – best I’ve had in the states – and should be ordered simply as part of a charcuterie board or Pedro needs to find a way so that its flavor and texture isn’t compromised to the degree it was. For the vegetarians out there, you’ll be more than happy if your lunch order is one of the salads. The version we had with field greens, judion beans, marcona almonds – love them – and tarragon dressing was a nice complement to our meat-filled sandwich. Also, the salad is quite big for a lunch entrée. I’m sure it could be ordered on its own and would fill up most folks.
On to the dinners -- let’s start with something raw. How about the oysters? Sampling the
If you want to skip the ocean on your starters, then as I mentioned before, go for the charcuterie. I’ve already raved about the mortadella, but the duck prosciutto is also a winner, very rich, as well as the salami. Order some cured meats and mix them with a couple different cheeses – 2 local standouts are the Grayson and Monocacy Ash, and if you’re in the mood for some sheep’s milk cheese, the Dante from
All right, let’s get serious and talk about entrees. I’ll start with my favorite – the jumbo lump
Another dinnertime winner is Pedro’s gnocchi. It kills me to say it, but the 8407 version is better than mine. I’ll chalk it up to the pillowy dumplings being lightly pan-fried before they are served. Mine are a bit more traditional. The parmesan coulis with which it is served seems to mesh quite well with the gnocchi. If you remember this dish from Nicaro, and you liked it, you’ll like it here too. I was less exited about the duck. And maybe it’s less the dish and more that duck is not my fave meat – that’s at least what my wife says. So while I enjoyed the dish, I simply found the duck a bit too dry and orange-soy glaze wasn’t enough to make me want to order it again. On the other hand, as I’ve said before my meat du jour is quail. And so for dinner one night Pedro indulged me and doubled up an order of a quail appetizer that turned into a perfect entrée. I believed it was broiled and served with a sauce that included lemon zest and a couple other ingredients on which I am blanking. Either way, I give it 2 thumbs up.
And surprisingly, the halibut is not as good as one might expect. I have not ordered it myself yet, but 3 friends have ordered it and again while they all liked the dish, it seemed to fall short of what they expected. As one said after he finished the dish, “my socks are still on.” Maybe if you’re in the mood for a seafood dish, go for the seared scallops. I thought these were delicately seared and served in a wonderfully-tasty beurre blanc sauce. In addition, the pea shoots that come with the dish are fantastic. I could have eaten a plate of those all by themselves.
One other note about the entrees, don't expect much to accompany them -- not withstanding the pic of the halibut. It seems several of the dishes came simply on their own and others didn't have much company. As with the halibut, I'd like to see 8407 give a bit more thought to pairing their entrees with a bit more substance - starches or greens - so that a side order is not necessary.
OK, I’ve gone on long enough. I will say the desserts we’ve tried we have liked – the chocolate tart and homemade ice creams are both quite nice and the rhubarb crisp with ginger ice cream was also one I would order again. We were less excited about the cookies and milk. Kinda kitschy, but kinda forgettable too.
On the drinks, everyone seems to love the 8407 Pimms and the ginger lime martini also got high marks. I can say that the draft Pilsner Urquell was much to my liking and the bartenders make a mean Hendricks gimlet. I know - that is bar low, gin and rose's, it's not rocket science.
If I use the WaPo/Sietsema rating system, I’ll would give 8407 2 ½ stars right now – putting it in the good/excellent category. However I don’t think the restaurant will have to reach far to move to 3 stars (excellent). While this might seem odd to say about a place that’s only been open for just over one month, but Pedro Matamoros and Nancy Mola know what they are doing and perfected many things during their time at Nicaro and have successfully transferred their winning ways to this new establishment and are beginning to take them to the next level. I am more than happy to go along for that ride.