First Look: Atlas Room

The Atlas Room is the most sophisticated restaurant on DC’s H Street, Northeast. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Restaurants on H Street in Northeast DC often skew their menus to draw in a bar-going demographic. The concepts can be wacky—tamales and mini-golf, anyone?—and quality is often an afterthought. Breaking that trend is the three-month-old Atlas Room, where the kitchen is serious and cocktails are classic.

The restaurant’s name refers not only to the vintage maps on the walls and the area’s nickname—the Atlas District—but also to the range of countries whose cuisines influence the cooking. Italy shows up in flavorful fennel risotto served with grilled cobia and radicchio marmalade. Beef loin, also grilled, is treated to Indian spices and paired with eggplant purée and curry oil. Seafood in marjoram-spiked cream recalls a great New England chowder.

The chefs, Bobby Beard and owner Matt Cordes, met as line cooks. Their collective résumé includes stints at Bourbon Steak, Citronelle, Gerard’s Place, and Vermilion. Their menu is divided into six categories—seafood, chicken, pork, lamb, beef, and vegetable—with three dishes, ranging from appetizer to entrée, in each. The format provides the requisite H Street quirkiness, but the whole package makes for the type of place that every neighborhood could use more of—casual, romantic, affordable, and focused.

>>For more photos of the Atlas Room, click here

This article appears in the February 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.