Delectable Pieces / Amanda Lenk – Keeping it saucy

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Once upon a time there were three scallops . . .

The seared scallop trio on the small plate menu at Sauciety at Westin at National Harbor arrived, each nestled like one of the three fat, happy fairy godmothers from Sleeping Beauty, in its part of the perfectly portioned, partitioned plate.  Topped with mounds of brightly colored roe, and sitting frothily in a unique sauce, each of the three scallops looked jewel-like and substantial; seared to perfection each had the lovely sweetness that makes scallops the perfect backdrop to a range of flavors. These were huge, cooked to a lovely perfection moist but not gummy and swaddled in the flavors of the individual sauces, the chimichurri being particularly gorgeous.

There is a touch of the fairytale about Sauciety. The restaurant, on the promenade level of the Westin, looks westward, toward the Potomac. Huge windows soar above the dining room and the staircase angles down from the lobby and the bar above. The space, the restaurant, the menu are all touched by modern whimsy. The colors are muted, but playful. A single, huge drum light illuminates the dining area. The open kitchen, at the rear of the restaurant, is visible from the dining room, and the whole space has a kind of narrative beauty that begins at the front door of the hotel and ends somewhere beyond the railing of the promenade outside, where the sunset (National Harbors prime asset) is intensely beautiful.

The concept for Sauciety is based on Westins restaurant of the same name in Boston Harbor. Where there are fairy godmothers, however, wolves are sure to lurk in the woods. The Idea of Sauciety is that sauces and society enhance better living. What is life without company? What is an entre without a demi-glace? Put the two together and the results are magical, no?

This is where the whimsy of the menu runs into the reality of imperfect decision-making. Each entre is served with a choice of two sauces.  The sauces cover a range of savory options from the spicy to the exotic. The entrees themselves are simple: a pork chop, free range chicken, a fillet. Each sauce is tasty enough on its own; a morel mushroom demi-glace is packed with mushrooms and has a great jus flavor, meaty and richbut exceedingly salty, and the caramelized onions are very good, as caramelized onions always are.

The small plates and sides at Sauciety are better than the entrees. There is none of the cute decision-making here. As with the scallops, plates are served with appropriate sauces, and the flavor packed into the sauces is real and vibrant. The color of the sauces, the very dark glaces, the vibrant chimichurris and coulis, the clarity of the aiolis, all speak to quality. Service is an issue at Sauciety, however. It is challenging to give a diner control to make decisions, but then to render them powerless in the face of inadequate service. As in all fairytales, there comes a point in dining at Sauciety when you wonder if it will ever end. It is worth the adventure to travel to National Harbor and dine behind the towering windows of the Westin, but be willing to engage in a timeless adventure. As Hansel and Gretel learned, magical dinners can be good and bad things. What begins by being rejuvenating can just end up making one feel jaded.

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