Have you ever been to a restaurant that thoroughly shocked you? I mean, the restaurant is so good you literally started to curse after each bite? Not cursing in a bad way, yes there are ways to curse when something is pleasant, but one of those “shit” moments when something is good to you? Well, that was my experience at Unconventional Diner.
It’s located right inside or next to the Convention Center in Washington, D.C. that’s off of 9th St. An interesting fact about this restaurant is that the name Unconventional came about because the restaurant isn’t actually located inside of the Convention Center. Cool, right? Well, what about the Diner part? When you think of Diner’s you think of microwaved food, family recipes, and a place you wouldn’t typically spend a Saturday evening. Well Chef David has a different approach when it comes to Diner food. The style of cooking is more upscale. You have regular diner items, but they are made with a twist. More ingredients, better passion, and overall better flavor. The interior of this restaurant surely doesn’t look like one identical to a diner. Think of a great date night spot. Open Space, Open Kitchen, and A Friendly Staff.
Four items interested me during my visit. They consisted of Lettuce Wrapped Mushroom Spring Rolls, Fried Chicken, Crab Linguine, and Chicken Parmesan. I’ll start off with the Mushroom Spring Rolls. An interesting concept to have Mushrooms wrapped in a spring roll only to be rolled up in lettuce wraps and dipped in a “Franch” dressing. The dressing had a similar taste to a Ranch Dressing but much more lighter. The mushrooms that were used were Shittake which has a real earthy flavor. It was a great idea to have them accompanied by a sauce to take some of the bitter flavor away, and it was interesting to have a crunchiness that surrounded the mushrooms.
The next dish that was ordered was the Fried Chicken. A half of Chicken accompanied with a Cheddar Chive Biscuit and made with Granny Gravy. This dish can feed a family of three. The chicken was fried to perfection. As soon as I ate it, it reminded me of chicken my grandmother used to make. Golden Brown on the outside, and juicy on the inside. It was perfectly seasoned and the Biscuit threw the whole dish over the top. The chicken wasn’t greasy and was presented in a way where you had no choice but to devour everything in front of you. It was topped with scallions and accompanied with a nice glass of hot sauce for extra spiciness. Although, no hot sauce was needed, it’s nice to know that I had the option without having to ask.
The third dish that was ordered was the Crab Linguine. It consisted of Squid Ink Pasta, Crab Bisque, Fennel, and Celery. A sweet but perfumy like flavor for the overall dish. The Squid Ink has the texture and taste similar to whole wheat pasta and the Crab Bisque that was included at the bottom of the noodles was a genius idea. You don’t want your pasta to be too dry, and you want it to be al-dente. To be able to swirl your pasta around in a sea of Crab Bisque topped with Sweet Crab Meat that’s been lightly seasoned with Old Bay is absolutely impressive. How many times have you gone to a diner and ordered seafood pasta? How many times have you gone to a diner and order Squid Ink Pasta with Crab Bisque? Probably never. The creativity this dish showed was truly amazing. The Celery and Fennel was a bit too much for me though. I would’ve preferred to see a little less of it to have the pasta and crab be the star of the show, but it was still good nonetheless.
The last dish that was ordered was the Chicken Parmesan. It consisted of Spaghetti, Spinach and Gruyere Stuffed Chicken, and Tomato Sauce. This dish was ordered because this would be something you would order at a regular diner. I wanted to see what was so special about this dish. The surprise on my face when I tasted the Spinach and Gruyere cheese that was stuffed inside of the Chicken Breast to go with a sweet tomato sauce. The presentation alone let me know that this dish was going to be amazing. I’ve had Chicken Parmesan before, but nothing like this. The way this dish was created makes me believe that I’ve been doing it wrong my whole life. I love going into a restaurant where a simple item is made in a way where you started questioning things you’ve eaten before. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared, and perfectly executed.
Overall, this restaurant is a stop what you’re doing and visit immediately. Chef David Deshaies has spent close to two decades in the kitchen and obviously knows what he’s doing. The creativity along with the flavors are compelling enough for me to come back to this restaurant. And you know my rule. Never visit a restaurant more than once, even if you love it.