Maple is hidden among some other, more well-known 11th Street eateries: Red Rocks, The Coupe, Bad Saint, Meridian Pint, El Chucho, and Room 11 all populate this little stretch in Columbia Heights, and in general I’ve been more let down by these places than impressed, with the notable exception of El Chucho. I love me that elote loco.
Maple is beautiful inside and out, decorated with exposed brick and innovative art. The ambiance is quiet and cozy, but not so awkwardly romantic that I felt weird being there with my in-laws. They have both a wine and cocktail of the day, although both the draft and bottled beer lists were pretty abysmal (Peroni? Really?!), but all four of us were able to find things that sounded good–the daily wine for my mother-in-law, a dry Anxo cider for my father-in-law, the amaro Manhattan for the hubs, and I ordered a mysterious cocktail, the contents of which I can no longer remember, possibly as a result of the aforementioned mystery cocktail. Drinks were served quickly and everyone was happy except me. Mine was citrusy, but entirely too bitter and herbal. The lesson here is don’t order cocktails if you haven’t heard of any of the ingredients. My mother-in-law loved the Saint Michel Incrocio Manzoni wine, which she enthusiastically called “the best wine she’s ever had.” In time, you, too, will learn to disregard this particular piece of praise.
For an appetizer, we ordered the burrata. It was creamy, melty, and served with cool, blistered cherry tomatoes. The negative is that there wasn’t more of this particular thing, but to be fair, it was a properly-sized appetizer, there’s just no amount of fresh mozzarella that could be too much.
Now for the entrees…
Lamb ragu: fall-apart meat made this a standout. This was truly a lamb-lover’s dish. It was a solid amount of both the meat and the pasta. My husband took about a third of his enormous portion home “to be healthy.” He ate the leftovers as soon as we walked in our front door.
Pesto gnocchi: the gnocchi was quarter-sized and had the perfect texture of heavenly clouds. A certain someone may have called it “the best gnocchi I’ve ever had,” and I have to admit that the dumplings themselves were phenomenal. On the other hand, the pesto was meh and there was really nothing more to this dish. It was insulting to that gnocchi that it had to be served with such a bland sauce, but at least this error is easily reparable. A little salt and some spinach or green peas would brighten this up quite nicely.
Monkfish tagliatelle: Another great dish all around. Flavorful, well-cooked housemade pasta, broccoli, and carrots paired really well with the light fish. The fish was slightly overcooked and I could have used more of it, but it was perfectly sauced, the portion was not the insane mountain o’ pasta that I originally thought it was, and I appreciated the originality of it. This was totally worth the empty carbs.
On to dessert: They had a decent whiskey list, especially considering the fact that it’s not a whiskey place. After-dinner drinks aside, we ordered the chocolate espresso flourless torte. Once again, it arrived insanely fast. If I could describe it in one word, it would be dense. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. The flavor was deep and rich, but where was the espresso I was promised in the title? If they just renamed this cake “Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chew Chew Chew,” it would be acceptable. It was quickly labeled “the best chocolate torte ever,” but in this case, that could possibly be an apt assertion.
Price: $30 per person.
Bottom line: Maple was great and I would definitely go back. They had great flavors, service so fast that the servers might be actual wizards, and it was cost-effective too. However, I will wait until they switch their menu for the next season because it was pretty small. Maybe Maple wasn’t a drop everything and go right now restaurant, but it does make good fodder for I’m in the mood for something new. Yes, definitely make your way over here as soon as you have a Saturday night with nothing else planned.