Primrose inhabits a dumpy-looking space on 12th Street NE in Brookland that used to house an equally dumpy-looking Peruvian chicken joint. I never ate there, but I still felt a pang of nostalgia when I saw that they had closed, and then a similar pang of excitement with a tinge of white guilt when I saw that they had reopened as a chic wine bar. Naturally, I made reservations right away.
You wouldn’t even know this was open if you didn’t gaze longingly through the tinted windows. The only sign of new life here is this sweet-ass mosaic outside their door. On the other hand, there are plenty of signs of life on the inside, where not only is it hopping with people, it’s also decorated with the feathers of about a hundred birds. Behold the carnage:
This place is adorable! The bar is decorated with the classic shade of turquoise and in what may very well be an extremely offensive stereotype, all the waiters wear striped shirts. Let’s just give them all jaunty berets, hand-rolled cigarettes, and off-putting nihilism while we’re at it.
My husband was a little overwhelmed by their list, and started off trying to order the merlot but was rebuffed by our server: “Actually, I really hate this merlot. Can I bring you a different wine?” In a world where we actually know anything about wine, this might have been seen as condescending, but we live in the real world, and here in the real world, we are veritable wine ignoramuses, so his suggestion was well-received. My husband enjoyed the Viti Vini Bebi that arrived, saying it was “bold and intense.” (And yes, apparently the plural of ignoramus is ignoramuses. I looked it up).
I very much appreciate the slower pace of service at Primrose. It’s not slow because they’re forgetting you; it’s slow because they want you to relax and enjoy the thing you have in front of you. It made the meal so much more enjoyable.
We weren’t going to get an appetizer, then we waffled toward the cauliflower, but then the couple next to us had a cheese plate put down in front of them and I knew I had to have it. Confusingly/Europeanly, the cheese plates are listed under the desserts on the menu. “Well, let’s just get it for dessert and be fancy,” I said. But then I recanted at the last minute because I knew I couldn’t wait that long for cheese. It arrived a few minutes later. I regret that I didn’t have a photo of it because I inhaled it, like, immediately. It looked basically like every other cheese board you’ve ever seen, so I’ll just let you imagine it. The three cheeses were a hard. crumbly, nutty cow’s milk cheese, a cow/sheep blue blend that was fairly mild, and a semi-soft cow’s Camembert that was not as gooey as it usually is but very creamy. They were accompanied by apple compote, delectable cardamom-spiced dried apricots, and house-pickled vegetables.
We had another nice digestion break before the entrees arrived. And when they arrive, did they ever arrive in style. I had the trout:
Could this plate be any more beautiful? The beets were soft and sweet, the sorrel cream was mild and creamy, and even I, a notorious potato-hater, liked the blue potatoes. The trout itself was extremely plentiful and cooked to crispy/flaky perfection. I couldn’t be happier with this meal.
My husband had the short rib wrapped in pastry. For short rib, the meat was a little dry, but still flavorful. The roasted parsnips were spicy and sweet, and it had those strips of crunchy sweet potato on top that made my husband do an Italian chef-style hand kiss.
I think the slower pace and great food we had already had definitely influenced our dessert decision. Under normal circumstances, we’d probably forego dessert, but my husband was talked into getting a flight of aperitifs (admittedly, it didn’t take very much convincing), and we heard tell of the madeleine cookies with custard dipping sauces. We were supposed to choose only one sauce, but when we couldn’t settle on it, our wonderful waiter brought us two: the espresso and the pistachio.
The madeleines were so cute! They were soft and buttery, although not warm, and were good vehicles for these delicious custards (which were good on their own, and the two flavors made a solid custard suicide). The liqueurs were all wonderful: from left to write is cognac, calvados, and armagnac (I preferred the calvados, but they were all wonderfully unique). I don’t remember the last time I was so happy and satisfied at the end of a meal.
Price: $60+ per person, worth every penny.
Bottom line: Primrose isn’t just an asset to Brookland, it’s a great new addition to DC’s restaurant scene. I hope its off-the-beaten-path location doesn’t deter people from checking it out. I can’t wait for summer nights on their patio. Bonus: after-after dinner drinks at Right Proper around the corner!
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