First Look: Mythology Brings The Gods, And Frites, To H Street
They feast beneath a canopy of luminous clouds: one has a giant hammer, another a lightning bolt, still more are heralded with tridents, busts, and swords. No, this is not Valhalla or a preview of the Starz series American Gods. These are ordinary diners out for an evening of American cuisine at Mythology Restaurant on H Street.
Mythology and the soon-to-open Lore Lounge are the vision of owner Todd Luongo, a first-time restaurateur with a background in business. He hopes his foray into fine-casual dining will fill a niche in Northeast's developing Atlas District. When work is completed, his concept will include the first floor restaurant and, on the second floor, Lore Lounge, which will have its own menu with two additional bars and a separate kitchen. Luongo also plans to open a third floor along with a rooftop bar and patio on the property.
The gods and creatures theme for the restaurant ties in with the self-styled Atlas District, with its Atlas Performing Arts Center, Apollo condo complex, and Argonaut bar (which closed in July). “For Mythology, we went with a catch all,” says Luongo, noting that the restaurant’s cocktail names and menu items open the pantheon to myths of six continents.
The décor is subtle, despite the potential for epic clangor. The furniture is contemporary; the modern light fixtures would be more at home at a high-end hotel lounge than a bacchanal on Mount Olympus; and a cool deep blue shade adorns the walls and upholstery.
And it all works: the war hammer attached to the steak platter, the Hermes head frite bowl, and the fluffy clouds that can turn into rumbling thunderheads with a push of a button give off an atmosphere of fun. “We want to bring accessible fine dining to this area,” says Luongo, adjusting the shade of a cloud by remote control. “We take the food seriously, but we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously,” he says.
Luongo tapped Joseph Harran, formerly of Woodward Table, as his executive chef. The fare at Mythology is simple and straightforward: there’s steak, pork shoulder, fish, and seafood, and a plethora of appetizers and vegetarian options. Once you look past the weapon-ornamented flatware, though, you’ll find there’s a lot of interesting flavor combinations that give dimension to the menu.
The Crop Circle salad has heft and flavor enough to satisfy meat eaters. It’s firm, with tricolor cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, wilted kale, and spiced pecans and a spicy pomerrey mustard dressing. Sea scallops come drizzled in kabocha squash puree and sage verjus and sprinkled with sliced grapes, roasted pepita (squash) seeds, and succulent oyster mushrooms. The char grilled sirloin is well-seasoned and comes with herb salad and red wine butter and bone marrow so you can slather “butter of the gods” on herb toast. The za’atar spiced vegetable ragout is a filling option with stewed eggplant, curried chickpeas, and kale in a yogurt sauce.
For dessert, try the pistachio ice cream with spice cake, or just have Coffee and Tea—a dessert designed to imitate the flavors of the drinks. This comes with a cup of espresso pot de crème pudding and a cup of chai spiced crème brulee with fresh figs.
Perhaps the most innovative portion of Mythology’s menu is the frites. These come in two varieties, dusted and smothered. The Bloody Mary frites, for example, are dusted with black pepper, chili powder and salt and served with a horseradish sauce—the seasoning for a Bloody Mary. The French Onion frites, like the soup, are smothered in melted Gruyere cheese and a smoked onion aioli. Other wild varieties include crab and old bay, pastrami, and grilled beef with kimchi.
Luongo got the idea for taking frites to new heights when he visited Belgium. “In Bruges and Brussels, there are frite stands outside of bars,” he says. These serve up meal portions of French fries; “no one does that in the U.S.” he says.
The cocktail menu, designed by Mark Medley, formerly of the Atlas Room, takes the lead on mythological characters. Their flagship drink, Mercury’s Vespa, like James Bond's Vesper before it, combines vodka and grain neutral gin with prosecco, grapefruit juice, and Italian honey and is garnished with basil and grapes. There’s a bigger palate feel to it. Medley explains his technique: “I put two squeezes of grapefruit and leave in the peel [when shaking]. This gives it viscosity and sulfates rather than grapefruit dominance.” The North America is represented by bourbon in The Watcher, a tree spirit that leads travelers astray. It’s herbaceous, with sage syrup, bitters and coconut water that “rounds out the bourbon,” Medley says.