There’s a term in the online content industry: aggregator. It refers to a website that doesn’t publish anything itself, but rather finds things from around the web and puts them all in one place for the casual surfer to read or view.
There’s another term that refers to a certain type of aggregator, one that doesn’t just collect random things from around the net, but instead collects the most interesting things. That term is curator.
Beast + Bounty, the R Street Corridor restaurant less than a year old, brings the skills of curation to bear on its exceptional fare and stunning design. The interior décor reflects influences from the last 50 years of American decorating trends. The menu shows flavors, ingredients and cooking styles from a dozen different countries. The plating ranges from rustic to fine art. There are a lot of different influences going on at Beast + Bounty, and it is only excellent curation that makes it all work.
There’s no getting around it, Beast + Bounty is a stunning space. The immense care and thoughtfulness that went into every design decision almost screams at you when you walk in the door. Every little piece of cutlery, piece of art, piece of glassware seems as if it was picked up from a specific decade and brought to this place and time to work together in harmony.
The plants are from the ‘70s, gold lamps and marble-topped tables from the ‘80s. Stoneware plates are from the late ‘60s and cheeky wall art from the ‘90s. But keep looking. You’ll notice the shade of gold of the modern lamps matches the gold of the cutlery. You’ll see the pale rose leather of the banquettes reflected in the pale rose pull strings on the staff’s aprons.
The thought that went into this place is manifest. Thankfully the same care goes into the food.
Per the name, the menu is split into animal-centered dishes (beast) and vegetable-centric plates (bounty). Sitting somewhere in the middle of that is a selection of pizzas.
On the beast side of the menu, options are meant to be shared. Although if you can down a two-pound $98 ribeye, then that’s between you and your maker. Most plates are big enough for two or three diners.
Each dish has its own collection of influences brought together to create a cohesive whole. Take, for example, the grilled whole branzino, a beautiful fish native to the Mediterranean. Instead of going with the obvious Italian or Greek preparation, the kitchen goes full Thai and tops it with a green curry and throws in a side of sticky peanut rice cakes. Bold flavors and creative textures really make this dish sing. Add a side of pole beans served with a Chinese-inspired XO sauce and you have a lovely meal for two.
Starters range from the fun and functional to the hearty and intense. Fried falafel, ceviche or a tomato-heavy and bread-light panzanella salad will put you in a summer mood. But should you want to start the meal with a culinary punch to the kisser, opt for the charred octopus or the roasted bone marrow. The former is a bit pricey at $24 for a single tentacle, but the flavors are intense and Iberian featuring chorizo and aioli. The latter is also pricey at $25, but feels more on point since the dinosaur-sized split bone comes to the plate like a prehistoric achievement.
Brunch hits some highs as well and has become one of the most desirable in the city. There’s the obligatory avocado toast, but also a cheeky Dutch baby pancake served in an iron skillet and topped with seasonal fruits and a cardamom whip.
The standout, however, might be the Benedict pizza. B+B’s pizza crust sets a pretty high bar, and whether a base for brunch, lunch or dinner, it’s an impressive pie. The Benedict comes well loaded with bacon, onions, eggs, hollandaise, mozzarella, potatoes and herbs. It’s an easy split for two people, and shows some impressive skill at the wood-fired oven to boot.
The bar, which doesn’t lag behind the well chef’d menu, features recipes and ingredients from around the globe. The cocktails, much like the rest of the enterprise, show skill and expertise, but more than that, a sense of restraint.
Where some new restaurants try to wow diners with a shock-and-awe approach to ingredients, Beast + Bounty embodies the role of curator and simply makes great restrained decisions in every aspect of its enterprise.