The Red Hen
Bread with Olive Oil and Balsamic
Fresh Burrata – Broccolini Marinati, Salami, Brown Butter Pine Nuts, Cherry Mostarda, Breadcrumbs
Crispy Arancini ‘Cacio e Pepe’ – Fried Risotto Balls, Black Pepper, Pecorino Romano, Basil Aioli
Garganelli – Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Porcini Crema, Spinach, Lemon and Pecorino Tartufo
Mafalde Verde – Braised Duck Ragu, Calabrian Chili, Mint, Kale, Pecorino Romano
Ricotta Cavatelli – Spicy Lamb Sausage, Broccolini, Chickpeas, Parmigiano, Breadcrumbs
Mezzi Rigatoni – Fennel Sausage Ragu, Fennel Pollen, Pecorino Romano
Maple Custard – Caramelized Hazelnut Crumble
Chocolate Brownie Fudge Sundae – Candied Almonds, Whipped Cream, Chocolate Pearls, Luxardo Cherries, Fior di Latte Gelato
Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts – Chocolate Glaze, Nutella-whipped Ricotta, Hazelnut Praline, Mascarpone Gelato
Autumn-Spiced Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting, Candied Ginger & Pecan Crumble, Toasted Oatmeal Gelato, Salted Caramel Sauce
Still white hot nearly five years after opening, Chef Michael Friedman since going on to open All Purpose Pizzeria downtown, The Red Hen was booked as the final Dinner during a trip to Washington D.C., Bloomingdale’s neighborhood gem packed to capacity at 5:30pm on Saturday evening with patrons standing three deep at the bar.
Described as an “Italian-influenced American Restaurant,” the New Jersey native Chef already proving quite capable with his Eggplant Parm and malted Pizza Dough three days prior, it was with reservations made nearly a month in advance and timely arrival despite pouring rain that three guests were seated at a table facing Seaton Place, the somewhat aloof server at first a bit off-putting but soon settling into his role and adapting to the table though he never really seemed to smile.
Offering a seasonal menu of Crostini, Appetizers, Pastas, Mains, Sides and Desserts, Chef de Cuisine Krystal Cripe standing over the pass on this particular evening, it was with wide eyes that options were perused and discussed before placing a three-course order consisting of ten items, the table Bread replenished on request starting things off as thin strips with crispy edges and an open, yeasty crumb.
Rightfully focusing on Pastas, each handmade daily and garnering a lot of attention for both craft and creativity, it was as these were prepared that the meal began with appetizers of housemade Burrata amidst sweet and savory condiments plus golden orbs of fried Rice, the former raising the bar in terms of taste and texture thanks to finely chopped Broccolini, Cherry Compote and Breadcrumbs while the latter were fried golden with creamy centers and a lot of Pepper mellowed by herbal Aioli.
Opting for four out of five possible pastas and no entrees, only the Squid Ink Linguini with Fresno Chiles left behind, it was in an attempt to taste from mild to robust that first bites were taken of Garganelli tossed with Mushrooms and Spinach, the flavor profile entirely overwhelmed by Lemon and salty Pecorino much to the table’s disappointment though quickly forgotten within two bites of the Ricotta Cavatelli matching spicy Lamb Sausage to more Broccolini and Breadcrumbs plus crispy Chickpeas that created a great contrast to the soft Shells.
Moving next to tender green Ribbons topped in Duck and Calabrian Chiles tamed by Mint, a personal favorite that was unfortunately not enjoyed as much by others thanks to the heat, it was nonetheless with universal agreement that everyone felt that Red Hen’s Rigatoni was exquisite, each al dente tube lightly slicked in Tomato sauce rife with Fennel Sausage plus a dusting of Fennel Pollen that created a light licorice linger on the heels of grated Cheese.
Making decisions amongst Desserts as difficult as those relating to Pasta, another order excluding only one bringing four sizable selections dreamed up by Chef Cripe to the table, rumors of a destination-worthy Maple Custard were immediately confirmed even by those who do not particularly enjoy Maple Syrup thanks to the mellow flavor and textural juxtaposition created by crumbled Hazelnuts, the seasonal Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts unfortunately getting lost amidst Chocolate Glaze and Nutella while the Chocolate Sundae and Autumn-Spiced Carrot Cake fared far better, the Ice Cream largely due to a thick Brownie and tangy Gelato while the Carrot Cake’s Ginger notes were warm and pleasant shining through Ice Cream that tasted like an Oatmeal Cookie and thick Salty Caramel.