By Mike Goodman
What comes to mind when we think of the Mandarin Oriental? Luxury, extravagant, pricey? While all of that might be true, the Mandarin at 1330 Maryland Ave., SW has embraced a modified brand with their new restaurant concept, Amity & Commerce. With the recent explosion of luxury dining in Southwest, this new American bistro and bar offers high-quality, locally sourced cuisine, in a well-serviced setting, at prices that are more approachable than many of the new restaurants on The Wharf.
The management is hoping to attract local residents and workers, with lunch features including a crab-packed Eastern Shore Crab Dip Imperial that comes out hot; a Forest Mushroom Risotto that is too good to stop eating (as long as you like mushrooms); and an Amish Chicken Breast with sweet potato mash and braised kale that is a creative and flavorful twist on the chicken and potatoes you grew up eating. However, these elaborate entrees are the exception from the theme of the menu. You can also find multiple salad options, a hamburger, veggie burger, reuben, crab cake sandwich, and more comfort food options that don’t break the bank. There are 8-10 entrees on the lunch menu priced under $20, and every one I’ve tried is flavorful, fresh, and maintains the touch of luxury that you still expect at the Mandarin.
Dinner is also delightful, with entrees in the $20-$30 range, plus cheaper salad and soup options, and daily specials. The burger and steak frites are exceptional, and offer the satisfaction of traditional comfort food, but you’ll also find short ribs with grits, an excellent salmon, steak options, and more if you are feeling indulgent. Finally, don’t miss out on dessert, including delicious twists on carrot cake, cheesecake, and more, continuing the theme of creative, modern versions of some of your traditional favorites.
The restaurant also has other features to appeal to a local base. Unlike some of its neighborhood competitors, it features a kid’s menu with activities to keep the young ones entertained. And for the young at heart, a Happy Hour was announced in January, every weekday from 5:30-7:30, offering drink specials along with a menu of wings, burger, veggie burger, shrimp cocktail, and more, all $12 or less.
The original Treaty of Amity & Commerce was signed on February 6, 1778, recognizing the U.S. as an independent country and establishing commerce between the U.S. and France. The name of the restaurant is a recognition of its proximity to the Jefferson Memorial, but also a statement of what its patrons will find: friendly relations, with a side of commerce. Fittingly, the Mandarin tapped Justin Houghtaling as Chef de Cuisine, a 15-year DC resident who was trained in French cooking. Houghtaling came up through the ranks of DC, with previous roles at Bourbon Steak, Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck and Maple Ave.
If you are looking for a creative, modern, flavorful meal in an elegant setting, but at a better price point than the luxury dining on The Wharf, sign up for Amity & Commerce.