What is there left to say that hasn't been genuflectingly said about Art Smith and his restaurant Art & Soul? Chef to Oprah? Check. Chi-town neighbor to the Obamas? Check. A reputation steadily built on serving delicious, Southern-styled comfort food? Check, check and check!
Yet despite all the adulation, Art Smith and Executive Chef Travis Timberlake -- as far as we know, no relation to Justin Timberlake but then again, we didn't ask -- don't seem content to rest on their laurels. Art & Soul (415 New Jersey Ave. N.W.) is making a change.
Earlier this month, Art Bar, the spot's moodily lit bar, launched a revamped happy hour menu. The 5:01 Session includes seven food and drink pairings are being offered for $10 each, such as crispy duck wings with a 2007 Riesling from Mercer Estates, Yakima Valley. Most of the foods are available as "small bites" (without the wine pairings), plus other options such as three kinds of chip dips.
Of course, the unchanged dinner menu remains stylistically soothing and enormously filling.
As a starter, we ordered one of the four hoecakes, the grilled lamb loin ($14). On cornmeal flatbread, a Crayola box's worth of colors were provided by local feta, grilled red and yellow tomatoes, a smattering of red onions and cucumbers, chimichurri sauce and lamb loin cooked to a careful medium. This beautiful and expressive dish was light, flavorful and very fun to eat.
With a brief pause between dishes -- a necessity due to the entirely filling first course -- we tucked into a maple-glazed grilled veal chop ($35) served on a bed of artichoke hearts. The veal chop was slightly charred on the exterior, which detracted somewhat from the sweet, cranberry veal jus glaze. Sides of mac casserole ($6) and buttermilk mash ($6) also arrived -- definitely the best we've had in a few months.
If you're interested in skipping the entree, though, we're betting you can make a hearty meal out of the 5:01 Session. It's available from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday.