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Scion in Dupont Cirlce is just the type of restaurant I adore: It under-promises and over-delivers.
The dining room and bar area feel claustrophobic—a depressing drop ceiling, some obsolete décor, and a row of fussy light fixtures—but recently Scion hosted one of the best happy hour deals in the city: a burger and a pint of craft beer for $10. (Unfortunately, the deal expired last week when the entire happy hour menu was retooled; the burger is now half price, $5, on Tuesdays only from 4 to 7 p.m.)
The Scion burger features a thick six-ounce patty topped with cheese, onions, pickles, and ketchup. But that’s the simple description.
The cheese, for example, is applewood-smoked mozzarella, and the onions are deeply caramelized and golden. The pickles are lightly breaded and fried, and the ketchup is laced with peach puree. It’s surprising that no one flavor dominates; instead, as with any good burger, the toppings merely back up the beef.
(A quick digression about that beef: The menu says it’s “ground Kobe and sirloin,” but that, of course, isn’t true: Real Kobe beef can’t legally be sold in the States because of some USDA foot-and-mouth disease anxiety. Instead, the beef Scion uses is probably a domestic crossbreed of Wagyu and Angus cattle, sometimes known as “Kobe-style beef.”)
The rest of the happy hour menu, in effect weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m., includes fresh rock shrimp tempura ($5) frothed with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and chickpea and potato croquettes ($3.50) dialed up with curry powder and cooled down with a cucumber and yogurt sauce.
Perhaps the best supplement to the burger is a pile of herb garlic fries ($2.50). Long branches of fragrant thyme and small nubs of roasted garlic are thrown directly into the fryer with skin-on shoestring fries.
The depth and quirkiness of Scion’s beer list is endless, and one would have a hard time finding another restaurant in Washington with such wondrous finds from West Coast cult brewers like Russian River, Port Brewing, Alesmith, and Lost Abbey. Unfortunately, most of these aren’t part of the happy hour deal when drafts are $4 per pint (recent features were Boulevard Tank 7 saison from Kansas City and Uinta Hop Notch IPA from Salt Lake City).
Meanwhile, the wine list is legit and its prices are thoughtfully restrained by a reasonable mark-up. (Best of all, a Monday night special offers half-off all wines by the bottle, which means you’ll essentially pay retail.)
On July 30, Scion owners Joanne and Julie Liu will open a new “modern Mexican” restaurant, Crios, next door, which will feature sopes topped with shredded duck and pomegranate, tacos stuffed with Dr. Pepper-braised pork, and mussels cooked in a beer and tomato broth. Here’s to more underpromising and overachieving success!
Scion, 2100 P St. NW; 202-833-8899; scionrestaurant.com
Photo by Justin Kennedy