As with my other Instant Reaction reviews, because they feature restaurants that have just opened, it’s unfair to judge them too harshly. The goal is to give readers a feel for the place and let them know whether it’s a place worth visiting.
We arrived promptly at 6:30 p.m., and were greeted by a hostess. The room has a very different feel from the Spataro, which it replaced. Hock Farm occupies only the main dining space, with a separate bar (still under construction) that will take the place of Spataro’s bar.
As you walk in the front door, the bar area at Hock Farm is to the left and had at least two large communal tables – similar to what you’d find at LowBrau. The main dining room is to the right, with at least 20 tables for a more formal dinner.
The room was very well designed, and wide open. Even at 2/3rds full, the room was a tad loud, but it could have been from the excitement from opening day.
Since the four of us wanted to try as many dishes as possible, we decided to just start ordering and eat family style. First, our small plates:
Dressed Egg, Pickled Beet, Capers, Mayo, Anchovy
Smoked Salmon Croquette, Dilled Crème Fraiche
Delta Asparagus with lemon, sage, breadcrumbs (from the wood-fired oven)
Pork Belly & Poached Egg with bitter greens, bacon vinaigrette (from the wood-fired oven)
Fanta Pork Sliders with orange soda-braised Beeler Farms pork, apple-cabbage slaw
Of our first round of food, the winners were the Pork Belly & Poached Egg, and the Smoked Salmon croquette. The pork belly was very tender, and the vinaigrette provided a real balance to the otherwise fatty dish. The Smoked Salmon was also excellent, excellently fried and without a hint of grease. The other dishes were all fine, but could have used a little refinement. (I have no doubt that this refinement will come as they hit their stride as a kitchen and as a restaurant.) My humble thoughts: the bread on the sliders seemed a little dry and the sandwich could have used a little more tang, possibly with more vinegar in the cole slaw; the dressed egg was very decent, but not memorable; and the Delta Asparagus was also a little plain, and the portion a little skimpy. So for the small plates, the Pork Belly & Smoked Salmon were hits, and the rest were in the decent to good range.
We then got three entrees, again eaten family style.
Mussels & Chorizo with white wine, tomato, chili, garlic, fried chickpeas, grilled bread (from the wood-fired oven)
Roasted Amish Half Chicken with wilted dandelion, Applewood smoked bacon, shaved radish, currants, crouton
Market Fish, which was a flounder served with a chimichurri sauce, potatoes and artichokes
By far, the best dish, was the chicken, which we ordered at the recommendation of our server. It was possibly the best chicken dish I’ve ever had. The skin was super crispy and the meat was juicy and tender. The waitress described the cooking method involving two bricks. I’ll admit, I didn’t pay much attention, but I should have. I’ll definitely be googling to try to find out how bricks plus chicken equals a delicious entrée.
The mussels and chorizo dish was also very solid. The broth was flavorful, and they didn’t skimp on the mussels.
The concept for the fish was also excellent. We all loved the chimichurri sauce, but the fish was a tad overcooked. Again, because it was the first day they were open, this was excusable since I’m sure their staff’s still getting up to speed.
Overall, the service was speedy and the server was very courteous. Call me old fashioned, but the only thing that I would recommend is that the wait staff serve wine to the women seated at the table first before serving the men. It’s a super small thing that is easily corrected.
We also loved the vibe of the place. Whereas Spataro was a very quiet restaurant, Hock Farm was full of energy. It’ll be a great place for happy hour, a first date or even dinner with work associates or parents.
Our dinner for 4, including a bottle of wine, three cocktails, another glass of wine and all the food above came out to $221, including tax and tip.
We had a great first visit to Hock Farm. They’re not perfect yet, but they’re on the right path and a great addition to the food scene. I’ll be back to eat and drink there again very soon.
Hock Farm is located at 1415 L Street. Reservations are required tonight and Saturday night, and it will be open for lunch, happy hour and dinner starting on Monday.
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