Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
Best for: special occasions, couples that enjoy sweetbreads and each other
Chef Hamilton Johnson is ready for HoneySuckle. The concept of the new restaurant in the old Vidalia space is simple: low country ingredients and highbrow techniques. His first menu is delivering just that.
Chef Johnson’s dishes are ideal for sharing. He’s liberal with indulgence. The food and setting makes HoneySuckle a date night destination.
The large space has a few separate rooms. The red Bowie room and golden Davis rooms feel like warmer space for couples. The bigger space with bananas on Freddie Mercury’s head is made for groups. An elevated chef’s table in the middle of the space puts diners on display. The large bar would be great for happy hour. Too bad there’s not a happy hour.
We keep saying Chef Johnson’s menu and restaurant is good for dates. We should clarify it’s good for dates that eat meat. The menu is full of meat. After walking down the stairs you’re greeted by a portrait of Johnson holding a pig’s head. They let you know what you’re getting.
If you’re going to order one dish, order the sweetbreads.
The sweetbreads are incredibly rich. If you’re a fan of meat based decadence, this is what you’ll want to order. It’s an immensely satisfying treat that’s clearly not for everyone. Sweetmeats are polarizing for obvious reasons and if you like them, you’ll love this presentation. The buttered veal sweetbreads, bearnaise custard, sweet onions, black truffle and veal reduction is a wallop of rich flavors. It’s the kind of dish meant for special occasions with someone else that also loves sweetbreads. You will not be able to finish this on your own. You won’t find another dish like this in D.C.
If you’re not a fan of veal, the hamachi crudo is good for dates. The simple flavors pop and you won’t feel nearly as full.
Another fine, shareable plate is the seared sea scallops, pig tail tortellini, squash fondue, coffee-bacon jam and parmesan. It’s a gorgeous presentation of high end ingredients that play well together.
The drink menu is trying to please everyone. The Whip It is a fun and flirty take on something you’d find in an 80’s Tiki Bar. The Under Pressure is great for summer and 70 degree nights in February. The May I Bum A Smoke is the strong drink made to sip. Paired with the sweetbreads, The May I Bum A Smoke is all you really need.
What puts HoneySuckle over the top for dates is their dessert menu. The Chocolate Textures is what makes this place a good date destination. The dish is chocolate. With different textures. The Chocolate Textures. A dish that’s entirely chocolate doesn’t get tired before completion. Because of the textures. Get it?
HoneySuckle is doing a lot right. Chef Johnson’s food is straightforward decadence. The drink menu does a fine job complimenting the food. We just wish there was happy hour. We’d go back more often if there was happy hour.