22. Make definitive plans to dine at a restaurant that requires advanced reservations and funds for my 30th birthday: Minibar, Inn at Little Washington, etc.
One night in late October, early November, I called Josh at home and asked if he would be willing to make a quick date night in the city to cross another item off my Thirty Before Thirty list. Perhaps I had on a cute outfit that day or just wanted to go drinkin’. City Eats had an open slot at Barmini, and I thought we should seize the day!
Instead, we planned on a normal date night the week before my birthday and went to Barmini like civilized adults. Well, civilized adults who chase their craft cocktails with Shake Shack.
Barmini is the cocktail laboratory associated with Minibar, José Andrés’ $225 per person tasting table restaurant in downtown DC. Team McJohnson is no stranger to the cuisine of Chef Andrés. My favorite is Oyamel, but we frequent Jaleo as well. It should be noted here that this item probably deserves an asterisk for authenticity. I really wanted to try a new restaurant, eat a whole meal, at a place that is capital F-ancy. The short list included The Ashby Inn, Inn at Little Washington, Minibar and maybe Komi. Most of these restaurants are known for their reservation process, requiring planning months in advance. As my 29th year rolled along, some of those restaurants had chef shuffles or the Washington Post released ridiculous videos of their cheese carts. (Srsly, watch that video and wonder why people would drive an hour outside of the city and spend hundreds of dollars for that experience.) I just thought saving our pennies until we were older and more of the ilk that typically dines at these establishments might be for the best.
So, enter Barmini! I made a reservation for 7pm on a Wednesday night through the City Eats website (Ugh, City Eats. Open Table 4evr!). That move right there probably negates even labeling this experience under the “advanced reservations” category. Lesson learned: getting reservations at Barmini is not like trying to plan a birthday trip around reservations at The French Laundry. (Not that I am trying to do such a thing.) ((I am totally trying to do such a thing.)) Minibar and Barmini are connected, but Barmini has a nondescript entrance around the corner from Minibar. Oh yes, this is one of those chi-chi experiences. We entered, and Josh immediately ran into a couple from law school. This is DC in a nutshell: you are spending crazy money for cocktails in a tiny reservation-only bar, and you see two people you know. What are the odds? Only in DC.
We were seated at first on the couches, not at the bar. And no, not on the cactus couch. This was not pleasing to me, as it seemed to take away from the intimate experience of being in connection with the mixologist. Also, I felt like a lot of the furnishings were a bit worn and not as fresh as they should look considering this place has been open less than a year. I didn’t want to spend the night sitting on a dirty couch. Conveniently, after Josh’s law school friends left, we were able to snag their seats at the bar.
We each ordered three cocktails and a few bites:
Old Pal – rye, gran clasico, vermouth
Another whiskey cocktail that was concocted for Josh off-menu
$14 Lobster roll the size of a cocktail wiener
Ice cream sandwich
All the cocktails were delicious and prepared with care. I was a little bummed that there was not more engagement with the mixologist about the process. I wasn’t looking for Tom Cruise in Cocktail levels of excitement, just a little more about our alcohol/cocktail interests might have been nice.
As we were finishing our happy hour, the first seating of the night (only seating of the night?) migrated over from Minibar into Barmini for desserts. Our check came presented in a little metal pill. Josh asked, “What’s this?”
After we finished up, we scooted further up the street to continue what has become a yearly birthday tradition of drinking and absorbing those cocktails with some Shake Shack crinkle fries (R.I.P. soon, crinkle fries!).