Little Country Gentlemen

In 2011, Mike Randolph of Good Pie fame decided to open up a brunch place. The result: Half & Half, which continues to draw throngs of a.m. diners. He then decided to up the ante by opening a fine-dining concept in the same space for the evening crowd. This eatery, Medianoche, focused on Mexican fare, but for whatever reason failed to take off. Last year, it was replaced by Little Country Gentleman, and we have a feeling the current concept will be around longer—much longer.

Like several other popular eateries, Little Country Gentleman focuses its efforts on the tasting-menu concept, a prix-fixe series of courses that constantly evolve with the seasons and the kitchen's creative impulses. The restaurant offers two versions: a three-course ($42), and a Grand Taster ($78), where the chef produces a one-of-a-kind custom culinary experience. This time around, we decided on the three-course option, though we definitely have plans to return and go the whole nine yards.

Little Country Gentleman has a stellar wine program and offers pairings with each course, but we decided to take a tour through the unique cocktails on the beverage list (all identified by just a number). We were especially impressed with barman Jeffrey Moll Jr.'s use of the notorious Fernet Branca in drinks like No. 26 ($10), where it was paired with tawny port, McCarthy's single malt whiskey and Amaro Nonino, and No. 1 ($10), with Rittenhouse rye, calvados, Cochi Di Torino sweet vermouth and Green Chartreuse.

During our visit, the menu was broken down this way: Course No. 1—Missouri Caviar or Lobster; Course No. 2—Halibut Cheek or Copper River Salmon; and Course No. 3—Cow or Pig. It would take much more space to give a rundown of all of the superlative tastes that came across the table, but here are some of the highest of the high points:

• The amuse served before dinner—a spoonful of mushroom foam and radish flower—just enough to spark the palette.

• The Missouri Caviar was probably the most beautiful presentation of the evening: an oblong plate with dollops of dark roe and sour cream atop pieces of latke waffle, separated by little clouds of horseradish foam and adorned with edible flowers and dill.

• The halibut was paired with earthy porcinis, contrasted with some micro greens and then augmented with a light parmesan foam and a puree of ramps.

• On the way out, our server handed us a couple of bags with homemade snickerdoodles, a decidedly homey touch.

As you'd expect for a restaurant of this caliber, service was superb, but not formal. We were definitely made to feel at home.

The menu at Little Country Gentleman is constantly evolving so chances are that much of what we ate won't be available next time around, but that's part of the joy of a place like this--diners always get something new, creative and delicious.

Little Country Gentleman, 8135 Maryland Ave., 725-0719,

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