In my opinion, every man should have a mancave at some point in his life––womancaves are essential too, of course. I’m talking burnished wood, exposed brick, excellent scotch and rye whiskey, and decor rooted in your father’s or grandfather’s memorabilia but dotted with modern accents. That, in a nutshell, is the restaurant The Partisan: unique, unpretentious, rooted in the basics, but sprinkled with the occasional flare.
The Partisan is centered around excellent meats sourced mainly from two local co-ops, smoked and prepared in-house. This specialty, however, doesn’t indicate that The Partisan is a Palm-esque steakhouse, smothered in carbs and twenty-pound Porterhouses. Far from it. It was clear from my first step into The Partisan that, though The Partisan may revolve around meat, much effort is put into pairing it with organic produce or craft alcohol.
My evening began at the bar, a twilit back room with a long granite countertop that illuminated a plethora of craft whiskeys. I perused the beer list (split into sections like “Tart+Funky”) while one of my comrades ordered a rocks Manhattan with Colonel Taylor rye. It arrived garnished with a lemon peel rather than maraschino cherry, making it slightly more floral than your average Manhattan—a modern, quirky flourish on a timeless classic. Though I’m not fan of superlatives, I’m comfortable saying that it was, in fact, the best Manhattan I’ve ever tasted, and paired well with our first course of the evening––charcuterie.
It being a meat-centric eatery, I came from the bar with high expectations for the meats. Charcuterie is ordered sushi-style, selecting any number of salamis, terrines, and roulettes from an exhaustive list. We ordered a ’95 Berardenga Chianti, a dark and fruity wine that would, in our waiter’s opinion, pair quite well with our curried pork roulette, and boy, was he right. Though it may not look it, this is a first-rate steakhouse to rival the likes of Morton’s or any of José Andres’ creative destructions.
Like its larger plates and mixed drinks, The Partisan takes simple classics and re-imagines them, like its pickled half-smoke, a D.C. institution remixed. The bresaola was perfectly executed, salty and crisp. Half of the plate was knockout-good, though the other half left something to be desired. The salami was salami, good, but no better than a neighborhood deli (though, in D.C., that’s hard to find). This is not to say that there was any bad charcuterie— indeed, it was an exceptional plate. But the charcuterie was no better, if not somewhat worse, than The Partisan’s larger dishes and mixological creativity.
Ironically, The Partisan’s brilliance began to show in its produce. The beefsteak tomato salad touted a minimalist touch: tomato slices, olive oil, salt and pepper, peach slices and star anise cracklings. The interplay between the three main components, however, was masterful: soft, hard, and crunchy textures, and savory, sweet, and salty flavors. They paired well with a jalapeño-laced beef tartare and the half-baked chicken, respectively.
“There is elegance in a lack of affectation.” With 85 percent of The Partisan’s produce sourced both locally and organically, a commitment to classic, American cocktails, and dishes and ingredients that work in concert, The Partisan proves this saying darn well.
The Partisan DC
709 D St. NW
4pm to 11pm