Not everyone in D.C. is sipping Champagne by the pool behind a Kalorama mansion. (If that describes you, though … call me.) Still, eating really well—and impressing your food-obsessed date—is within your reach even if your budget is more busted than bubbly.
Thanks to The Source, the outstanding upscale Chinese spot backed by California-based megachef Wolfgang Puck, you can now enjoy an all-inclusive, family-style meal for two for $100 total. A C-note might not seem like much of a deal, but it is when you realize that it includes one glass of wine or beer per person plus tax and tip.
Chef Puck’s name might be on the lease, but local chef Russell Smith—a 2018 nominee for a RAMMY Rising Star Award—is the one in the kitchen day in and day out. Smith says he wanted to extend this deal to folks who might dismiss The Source as being well beyond what their wallets can handle.
“We want to offer a great value for guests, especially for those who feel like The Source is out of their budget,” Smith says. “We’re still able to offer something that feels like The Source and also really like the ‘all-inclusive’ trend for high-end tasting menus. We thought it would be cool for something less expensive and more casual.”
Now that we’ve got the money stuff out of the way, here’s what you can expect when you sit down for dinner. Your server will ask if you want red or white wine or one of two rotating draft beers, such as the local 3 Stars Peppercorn Saison. For wine options, your choices are between the Wolfgang Puck Chardonnay and the Cabernet Sauvignon—we tried and enjoyed both. Then, two scallion rolls nestled in a silver serving dish appear, and they taste like what would happen if you turned a scallion pancake into a pinwheel shape.
Next, your server will drop off a soy and mirin-lacquered lamb shank that looks plenty big enough for Fred and Betty Flintstone to share. The bone-in lamb leg is garnished with chives and crispy potatoes along the top—think more like breadcrumbs than a side of potatoes. A dreamy pool of cilantro-mint vinaigrette, made creamy with the addition of pureed cashews, serves as the perfect dip for the luscious lamb. These share space with a sizeable mound of sweet-and-sour glazed eggplant tossed with fresh peas, crunchy pea pods, mint and fresh cilantro.
The shareable bowl of fried rice is a decidedly dressed-up version of what you normally receive when you order Chinese take-out. It’s still recognizable, dotted with the usual peas and bits of scrambled egg, but there’s welcome brightness from fresh ginger and garlic, plus a little kick from chilies and Sichuan peppercorn. Dices of housemade lamb sausage also take this dish to the next level.
For dessert, a cooling dish of shaoxing ice cream arrives with strawberries and mint. The ice cream mostly tastes like vanilla, but the Chinese rice wine adds a subtle depth and toastiness to the overall flavor. A treasure of white chocolate crunchies at the bottom of the dish provides a touch of texture.
So, here’s the bottom line: For $100, each person gets one glass of wine or beer; a scallion roll; a scoop of shaoxing ice cream with strawberries and mint; plus family-style portions of lamb shank, eggplant and lamb sausage fried rice. And the price includes tax and tip. And it’s delicious.
Now you know where to book a table while you wait for D.C.’s next Restaurant Week.