I’ll be honest. I have been putting this off for a long time. Going into FDCDC #4, I knew very little about Del Campo other than the fact that “del campo” means “of the field” in Spanish. I left dinner not having a whole lot more to say about it, and I have one reason to blame for that: Restaurant Week. For those uninitiated, Restaurant Week is a time when restaurants all over a given city have a special priced, limited option menu to entice people to participating restaurants in hopes they’ll become future customers. I remember there being so many Restaurant Weeks in Minneapolis that I just started calling them “weeks.” The problem, in my experience, is that many places just kind of phone it in, knowing that the special menu leads to lower tips and a slammed kitchen. Unfortunately, Del Campo was no exception.
Side note before I dive in. I usually jot things down on the little notepad app on my phone during FDC, and in the month between dinner and now, I accidentally pocket-dialed a bunch of stuff in the middle of my already cryptic notes. I wish someone could teach how not to do that on a smart phone (or teach me how, so I can stop). Needless to say, my notes were not super helpful.
I’m probably making it sound like Del Campo was a major disappointment, which it wasn’t. First of all, it couldn’t really disappoint me because I knew nothing about it. More importantly, there was still a decent amount to like. They accommodated our request for a “quiet table” where our group of eight (an FDC record!) could converse and merry-make without having to scream across the table. And Del Campo took our request seriously. There was basically no one sitting near us, although that was a little eerie at times. We all also really appreciated the leather-bound menus. I think we all independently commented on and/or silently admired the menu at some point during the meal. The bread was pretty great, too. It’s served warm with smoked olive oil and salt, so…yeah. You can figure that one out yourself. Finally, they had wine, and wine is good.
For the first course, everyone at the table got either the salmon ceviche or empanadas. The ceviche was legit. The salmon was buttery, the sauce was tangy and spicy and citrusy, and there were a lot of different flavors to tackle. Supes complex. I am a sucker for both salmon and ceviche, but it seemed to be a winner all around the table. I definitely hogged a lot of our bread to mop up the remains. The empanadas were pretty good, too. Nothing too crazy, but it’s hard to go wrong stuffing meat and egg into some sort of carb vehicle.
The entrees were a little more hit-or-miss. I was the only one who ordered the short rib/chorizo/bone marrow, because that was an exciting number of animal parts I would get to try. The prospect of a jalapeno potato puree on the side made it even more enticing. I was glad I ended up with the three animals, because they varied in quality quite a bit. The bone marrow was delicious. Your classic greasy preparation, super buttery and fatty. It was not broken, and therefore not fixed. The short rib, which I was super excited for, was really overcooked. There were a couple of okay pieces but generally it just tasted like burning. I don’t remember much about the chorizo except that I ate it quickly with no complaints, so take that how you will. Becky and Nico got the feijoada, which is basically a pork stew. I had tried this dish at Corner Table in Minneapolis and it was delicious. Becky’s review of Del Campo’s, however, was “not so great”, which I agree with. It was just kind of bland. Needed more seasoning or veggies or color or liquid or all of the above and more. I liked it a little more than Becky and Nico because they weren’t into the lil calamaris that came with the stew (I happily obliged). Still, hard pass on a retry. The best entree might have been the most boring-sounding, which was the roasted chicken. Mikaela, one of our first time FDCDC-ers, ordered it, and it had crispy skin, was juicy on the inside, and had lots of flavor. Amanda, one of the other newbies, ordered a giant pie thing that I never quite figured out, but it did come out frozen in the middle so that probably wasn’t too good.
Finally for dessert came the choice between guava dulce de leche cheesecake and a tres leches Twinkie. At the time I thought the Twinkie was the obvious choice but as I type this I now know why I was in the minority on that. The Twinkie was a little dry, and the passion fruit ice cream that came with it was overpoweringly sweet. I probably looked like this while I ate it:
The ice cream wasn’t necessarily bad. Just in very stark contrast to the relatively mild-mannered Twinkie. The cheesecake was as good as it sounds. I made a huge mistake.
If Restaurant Week was my invitation to another dinner at Del Campo, I’d probably respond with something along the lines of “Oh sorry, I have a thing.” As much as I love Latin American cuisine, I have been way more impressed with some of the less fancy places around DC (Mi Cuba Café! Los Hermanos! El Fuego!) than the two “nicer” places I have been for FDCDC. If I found myself in Del Campo’s neighborhood looking for a familiar spot, I’d maybe drop in for a quick ceviche and a glass of wine, but the entrees were a little too inconsistent to fully trust. On the whole, I give Del Campo an average 2 out of 4 om noms.