img_7196When it comes to speakeasy-chic, it’s way too easy to cross the line and come off as trying too hard.  The best way to avoid that pitfall?  Don’t try – just be. 

Once you’ve walked up the dimly lit stairs and settled in to the cozy dining room and bar that make up 1905, it’s understandable to lose yourself in the fantasy that you’re in some secret hideaway known to a chosen few.  The walls are decked out with ornate metalwork and wall sconces that look like lotus blossoms.  The ceiling is pressed tin.  The furniture is distressed just-so.  But the door is cleary marked with the address, and a sign hanging outside the entrance clearly displays the skeleton key that is the restaurant’s symbol.  This place just feels exclusive…and that’s a good thing.

We had heard about this newcomer to a block of 9th Street that was previously best known for Ethiopian must-try Etete when it first opened, and we were definitely interested.  dakota1905benedictEven so, we hadn’t gotten around to visiting before Monday, when Alex at Brightest Young Things invited us to attend a tasting event in honor of their new brunch, which will debut this Sunday, March 15th. 

Over the course of the evening, we got to enjoy a few of the dishes that will appear on the inaugural brunch menu, as well as a few additions to the dinner menu and a killer dessert.

More tasty bites (and even tastier photos by Dakota Fine) after the jump.

dakota1905communalWith some of us seated around the long, communal table that occupies the center of the dining room and others at banquette seating along the walls, we dug into two of the brunch offerings, a Spanish tortilla and a Creole take on Eggs Benedict.  A tortilla is basically a Spanish omelet, made with eggs and potatoes.  The 1905 version is offered with either chorizo or veggies.

Elizabeth’s favorite dish of the night was the Creole Benedict, which found the traditional poached egg served atop a cake of fried rice and dressed with a crawfish-laced hollandaise sauce.  The combination of the richness and the acid in the sauce make for a great combination, and the crispy rice added a nice textural note.

With these tasty updates of brunch staples as examples, we’re looking forward to trying some of the other offerings on the menu – a brioche french toast with a mixed berry maple syrup, shrimp and grits, and even a smoked trout hash that comes with a dill sour cream.  Our friend Nell (and many others, I’m sure) will be pleased to note the chicken and apple sausage available as a side dish.

dakota1905fettuccineBut our tasting didn’t stop with brunch.  We were also treated to a handful of new items from the dinner menu, as well: crawfish bisque, shrimp and espelette pepper over coconut rice, roasted beet salad, an angus burger and a freshly-made saffron fettuccine with an oxtail ragout.  Chef Jose Sanchez is clearly comfortable working with the classics, but he’s not above a creative departure or three.

The oxtail ragout was Mike’s big winner of the night.  Served over noodles that the chef rolled out by hand, the texture of the meat was perfect – fork-tender with just a bit of resistance when you bit into it.  For a Jersey boy, this is a seriously refined version of good old-fashioned comfort food.

dakota1905breadpuddingAs if all that weren’t enough, there were a trio of cocktails on offer to wash down the food.  One, the Green Lantern, combined gin, absinthe and fresh basil to surprisingly smooth effect.  Just when we were ready to throw in the towel, we were served bite-sized squares of dark cocoa-colored goodness topped with rapidly melting vanilla ice cream.  Thank goodness the tastes were as small as they were – the rich, chocolatey flavor and dense, spongey texture of the chocolate bread pudding would have been WAY too much after such a decadent meal.

AS a decadent meal unto itself, however…all I’m saying is leave room for dessert.

1905’s brunch service will debut this Sunday from 11:30 AM to 3 PM.  They accept reservations via OpenTable, and if you’re eager to check it out this weekend you’ll probably want to book yours soon.

They’re normally open for dinner and drinks from 5:30 PM until 2 (Sunday through Thursday) or 3 (Friday and Saturday).  You can knock three times before entering or tell the person who greets you at the top of the stairs that the password is “swordfish,” but you don’t have to.  Just enjoy – and be sure to drink in the atmosphere.

1905 9th Street, NW
(202) 332-1905
1905 on Urbanspoon