I've been hearing raves about Room 11 for months, but finally made it there this past weekend to see what all the hype has been about. It is a quintessential neighborhood spot. It's casual and comfortable, you can tell many of the patrons are regulars, but it was also worth the visit to Columbia Heights for someone like me who lives a bit further towards downtown. The restaurant is tiny with a nice bar and a few tables right along the window, but the outdoor patio is lovely and allows for many more people to enjoy dinner while taking in the nice weather or people watching on 11th Street. The waitress was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful about the wine list, cocktails, and did a great job of describing the components of each dish.
I started with a dry rosé and nestled into our window seat to get comfortable for the evening. Most of the dishes at Room 11 are made to be shared, so we decided to try a few different plates: the lamb and chorizo kofta kebabs, fried haloumi and mint tabouleh salad, pork belly grilled cheese, and the special panzanella salad. The dishes came out slowly, which allowed for us to take our time catching up over conversation. The atmosphere was laid back and it was clear that Room 11 wanted us to enjoy (which is a special and not always regular occurrence for city diners). The first dish that came out was the panzanella salad which included red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, capers, crusty pieces of bread, a mesclun mix, and tossed in a lemony dressing. It was incredibly light and refreshing and felt (and looked) like summer on a plate.
The lamb and chorizo kebabs were my favorite dish of the night. They were small patties of meat filled with interesting spices served over large pieces of romaine with a tangy yogurt raita dolloped on top. I loved the Mediterranean flavors, and it felt like a healthy dish and paired well with the panzanella salad. I also enjoyed the tabouleh salad that came on top of the fried haloumi cheese-- it had pine nuts, mint, and a bulgur wheat or quinoa grain that added some heft to the small plate. Finally, how could you go wrong with a pork belly grilled cheese sandwich? The best touch to this dish was the gooey sharp white cheddar and the crunchy sliced apples inside the sandwich. Total satisfaction. And even the side salad was something to write home about.
Room 11 is a small place, and it is clear that they put love and care into their dishes as well as their hand-crafted cocktails. I had the Rite of Spring cocktail as my second drink of the evening based on the suggestion of the waitress who thought it would be a nice dessert pairing. The drink is made from gin, honey syrup, lemon juice, and lavender bitters. The lavender and honey provide just a tinge of sweetness, but the acidity of the lemon and the gin cut through to provide a well-balanced sip. It was a great recommendation and I enjoyed it with the Pot de Creme dessert which had some spice as a result of the chocolate ancho chili, and an espresso shortbread cookie.
I really enjoyed the entire laid back experience of sipping great cocktails and sharing delicious small plates at Room 11. And it's awesome to note that Food & Wine's most recent issue mentioned Room 11's "Prodigal Sun" cocktail for bartender Jessica Woods' use of "Tangy-Delicious Vinegars and Shrubs". It's always nice to see small yet stellar neighborhood spots being recognized for great work. Bravo to Room 11!