We discovered 20 dishes that show chefs at the top of their game.
Chef Damian Salvatore
Pecan Crusted Barbecued Rack of Lamb with Mustard Potato Gratin, Haricot Verts, Spinach and Horseradish Demi Glace, $28
At least one customer believes that Persimmon’s pecan-crusted, barbecued rack of lamb with mustard potato gratin, haricot verts, spinach and horseradish demi-glace has magical powers: Twice, the diner has gone into labor the day after eating the dish.
Owner-chef Damian Salvatore says no other entree on his menu inspires such customer loyalty. “Once, I took it off the menu for six months because the lamb was so expensive. One guy would call me up once a month and special order it for himself and three buddies. They had to have it, and they didn’t care how much it cost,” he says.
Salvatore invented his version of the lamb more than a decade ago, experimenting with an Asian, hoisin and rice vinegar-based barbecue sauce, rather than a traditional Southern-style sauce. Star anise and other Asian spices are added to caramelized onions, brown sugar, garlic, tomatoes and rice vinegar. As the sauce reduces until it is almost dry, an entire rack (“the full eight ribs,” Salvatore notes,) is seared in a cast-iron pan. The sauce is brushed on lightly to act as the glue for a coating of candied pecans, and then the lamb cooks in the oven.
The rack is cut in half and the ribs are crisscrossed on a plate along with creamy, bread crumb-topped potato gratin, crisp haricot verts and wilted spinach. A bite of tender lamb reveals a sweet hint of the barbecue sauce, but not enough to overwhelm the meat’s dominant flavor. The horseradish demi-glace on the spinach is a clever play on Asian wasabi. The side dishes are as good as the lamb, and the interplay of soft, cheesy potato, crisp, thin green beans and meltingly tender lamb is just right—and not only for expectant mothers. –BB
7003 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase