Daniel O’Connells Restaurant and Pub
Daniel O’Connells Restaurant and Pub
Apps: $8.50-13 Plates: $13-22 Hours: 11:00am-1:00am
Glass/Pint: ~$8/~$6 Dessert: $7-9 Brunch: 11:00am-3:00pm
Service: Charismatic, prompt Contact: 703-739-1124 Overall: Solid
Handing the reigns over to a new chef, this Irish classic is looking to add a more serious approach to cooking within an already established neighborhood favorite.
With the timeless interior décor of a Western European destination pub, a consistent live music billing, and some of the cheekiest staff on King Street, the management at O’Connell’s believes that they can add just a tad more soul to their operation by directing their focus on an the second most important part of an Irishman’s diet (and no it’s not whiskey). By importing the Dublin born Chef Steff Gormley this past October the food menu has already undergone some wise changes, and in my most recent visit I was able to sample some of the impressive fare any person – Irish or not – could appreciate.
With ethnic food I am always curious how the kitchen will try to deviate from the norm and standout amongst it’s peers without sacrificing authenticity. Specifically with Irish food, who could possible raise the already high standard of my Grandma Faughnan’s soda bread or my mother’s corned beef and cabbage? Well the answer is usually formed from an equation (I rarely will admit exists – in front of my family at least) consisting of two components: higher quality ingredients and enlightened kitchen technique. Normally this restaurant or pub with an Irish kitchen hopes to attract cliental who are looking for something that is found on your average plate on March 17th.
Generally when I go to Irish pubs I love to order a cold stout and a bowl of mussels or a half dozen or so platter of raw oysters on the half shell. The latter two options were not offered and I was quite disappointed. After glancing over the smartly organized beer section on the newly printed menus the waitress handed me I soon sighed in relief as I made an order for a delicious Old World lager, which was promptly brought to me on a pretty busy Tuesday night.
Now to shy away from the epicurean aspect of this article for a moment, I have to note that O’Connell’s has a very unique floor plan and is extremely forgiving for groups of people looking for a bustling atmosphere without sacrificing their ability to hear each other speak. There are great booths for parties of moderate size that are neatly tucked into the areas surrounding the bar. These are my absolute favorite aspect of the restaurant’s aesthetic, beating out some of the grand, yet eclectic, pieces that have been imported from the motherland. On a weekday, these are more than accessible, but arrive promptly on a weekend evening as the crowds roll in to see some of the best live Irish music in the D.M.V. area.
After a few sips of my beer and some decent banter with the waitress, I decided to take a look at my non-shellfish appetizer options. I was very interested in the scotch eggs and decided to give them a go. The plate had two hard-boiled eggs, covered in sausage and breadcrumbs, which were sliced in half and served with a robust Irish mustard. For those of you who have never tried Irish mustard it is whole grain, aged, blended with whiskey and stout and made for a superb pairing in this dish. These are definitely an Irish classic that I am not used to seeing on the East Coast.
In an attempt to increase the quality of their dishes I am excited to see that the kitchen is choosing to use local ingredients. Although I only noticed one ingredient advertised as local, this was enough to get me excited. The ingredient: Virginia corn-fed chicken. The two dishes they offered were a classic roasted half-chicken, served with seasonal vegetables, delicious homemade mashed potatoes, and a white wine pepper cream sauce or a chicken curry. I chose to sample to latter. I love seeing curry offered at pubs because the spice reminds me of drunk food in England and is generally not found outside of Indian cuisine. The chicken is slow roasted and seasoned with curry, and chutney. Served over rice, this was the perfect meal to order with a side salad or small appetizer.
The next dish I chose to sample was the Guinness Pork Shank. I often get tired seeing the word “Guinness” as a prefix to any dish at an Irish restaurant, but I wanted to see what the presentation of the dish would look like and see the quality of the meat. The shank was cooked fine, braised and had a good flavor but on the tough side. I was impressed with the apple gravy that worked as a wonderful intermediary between the pork and the mashed potatoes, which I have to reiterate, were definitely homemade. I was glad to hear that the desserts were made in-house and more proof of a diligent back of the house operation. I opted for the raspberry and walnut tart and was thoroughly happy with my decision. The raspberries, walnuts, and a custard sauce served on top of a sweet baked pastry were a perfect ending to my evening.
~ Written by: Vincent Arrunategui