Proof, in Washington’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, certainly takes Benjamin Franklin’s statement, “Wine is proof that God loves us,” to heart. The restaurant is known for its wine “program”: sixteen whites and sixteen reds available by the glass dispensed by a stainless steel Enomatic machine from Italy, a Champagne trolley for tableside access, and a dictionary-sized wine list. These offerings, combined with the enthusiastic sommelier and elegantly displayed racks of bottles decorating the back of the dining room, represent the focus of the establishment.
Indeed, Proof feels more like a wine bar or a trendy lounge than a restaurant. The lighting is very dim and the noise level is on the loud side. The crowd is primarily young, and many people choose to hang out at the bar for drinks only.
But my experience at Proof delved beyond their well-known wine and accompanying cheese plates, and my dinner was very good. We began with the roasted beet salad, served with carrots, aged goat cheese, pea shoots, and toasted hazelnuts in a sherry mustard vinaigrette. The goat cheese, was exceptional, as expected, but the other ingredients were fresh and flavorful too. We also started with a small plate of seared foie gras, which was immediately followed by another small plate of seared foie gras because we enjoyed the first so much.
For main course I shared both the halibut and the duck breast. The halibut filet was seasoned with Vadouvan spices according to the menu, but the dish really got its flavor from the coconut emulsion in which it was served, alongside jasmine rice and baby red kale. The duck dish also displayed a tension between sweet and savory. The Pekin duck, glazed in honey, was served with roasted yam purée and grilled ramps (spring onions) in a blackberry-almond vinaigrette. I was pleasantly surprised by these two dishes as both were prepared well and had very interesting flavors, but the duck proved to be a more memorable dish due to its especially unique combination of ingredients.
There is little doubt that Proof is outstanding for its wine, and the restaurant works hard to maintain this reputation and a corresponding atmosphere. But the restaurant’s chef, Haidar Karoum, deserves praise for his modern American menu and its admirable preparation. While Proof is a great place to go for a glass of wine and a cheese plate to share, it is also worth sticking around for a full meal.
775 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001