The cherry blossoms were blooming in Washington DC and many restaurants were having flower themed offerings. Looking over the options available, one place stood out from the rest. A wine bar on H Street called irregardless. Did it meet my expectations? It exceeded them.
Located on the H Street corridor, just a few blocks east of Union Station, irregardless is nestled in a converted row house. The dining area is small, holding around 50 seats. It is a new restaurant, having opened in the fall of 2022. The owners are the husband and wife team of Mika and Ian Carlin, who met during law school at the University of Virginia.
I arrived in the late afternoon, just as they were opening. But it was not too long before others started arriving and the place filled in. Many just got a few drinks at the bar, but a couple of groups did sit down for table service. It looked like they did a good business.
Irregardless has a small menu that changes seasonally. Many of the dishes are intended to share. In fact, one of the sections of the menu is entitled just that – Shares. It contains items such as Breadfurst Bread, Virginia Peanut and Beet Dip, Beef Tartare, and Crudo (scallops).
The other sections of the menu are Vegetables, Mains, and Sweet Ending. Vegetable options were Endive and Cosmic Apple, Brussels (with smoked tofu), and Buttermilk Radish. And in the Mains section were: Pierogi, Hassleback Celery Root, Scallop, and Grilled Bavette. The Bavette consists of steak served with pommes aligot (a mixture of cheese and mashed potatoes) and a chimichurri sauce.
Saying the dishes were on the smallish side, my waiter recommended ordering three. I was not sure I was that hungry, so I started with two. My first item was the Endive and Cosmic Apple. Endive is normally served braised, but not so here. It was served raw. The result is exquisite. The tartness of the endive is perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the apple, which is cut into matchsticks. The dressing was light and enhanced the salad without distracting from it.
My second item was the Hassleback Celery Root. You can barely see the celery root in the photo; it is visible in at the top just left of center. The root is sliced into thin wedges, brushed with a sweet date glaze and grilled. It is served on top of a puree and topped with spring onions, spinach, and fried lotus root. I loved the glazed celery root, but the real star of the dish was the puree. I have no idea what it is but it tastes divine. The smoothness of the puree provides a nice contrast to the crunchy root. And the accoutrements balance out the dish nicely.
The dessert section had two items: Mushroom Ice Cream and Crunch Castle. Both appealed to me and I could not choose between them. So I asked the waiter for his recommendation. While he likes them both, his favorite by far is the Crunch Castle. I ordered that.
The Crunch Castle has two layers of cheesecake separated by fried phyllo dough, all topped with sour cherries. Once again, the combination of tastes and textures is divine. The cheesecake is soft and creamy, while the tart cherries provide a good offset to the richness of the cake. The phyllo gives the dish a good crunch. A great recommendation.
I have not talked about what attracted me to irregardless in the first place. It was this comment by DCist that lured me in: “Mika Carlin, who co-owns the H Street wine bistro Irregardless, tapped into her Japanese heritage to create two special cocktails to celebrate cherry blossom season.” The two cocktails were Haru no Hinode (Spring Sunrise) and Tokyo 75. The former consists salt-pickled Sakura infused gin, yuzu liqueur, snap pea and green tea syrups, and lemon juice. The latter has Lockhouse Sakura gin, yuzu, lemon, hibiscus syrup, and lychee liqueur. I chose the Haru no Hinode. It has a beautiful presentation and I enjoyed it, but it is perhaps too subtle of a drink for me.
I ordered the Haru no Hinode when I first arrived. During my meal, I decided I was interested in a sake. They had two: Cloudy Craft and Nigori Sour. After consulting with the waitress, I chose the Nigori Sour. She described it as a cloudy sake with a bite to it. And that is exactly what it was. Perfect. I was a bit surprised, however, to find it served in a wine class.
Irregardless has incredible atmosphere. It is located in an old building with the brick still visible. Up front the ceiling is open, providing a view of the building’s rafters. This gives the restaurant a cozy feel. But the decor enhances that, conveying a sleek vibe. The wait staff is prompt, friendly, and helpful. I could have used more details on the dessert options, but overall I was happy with the service. It is definitely I high end restaurant, and not some place I would go to every week. But it is a great place for special occasions.