When it comes to thriving in the restaurant business, 14th street is a tough neighborhood. It’s full-to-bursting with award-winning options, so the stiff competition all too often forces eateries to quickly shutter operations. Some, however, are standing the test of time; a feat that typically requires periodic reinvention. That’s what happened at Policy Restaurant and Lounge, one of 14th street’s veteran spots which recently revealed a new Latin-inspired menu – and we’re loving it.
Prior to its revamp, Policy’s offerings had a global focus, with popular dishes from cuisines around the world. Executive Chef Lonnie Zoeller drew inspiration from his education at Culinary Institute of America, his time under Jose Andres at Zaytinya and six weeks cooking at Els Casals restaurant in Northern Spain. While his new dishes still draw on global influences, he has honed in on a Latin flare thanks to his wife’s Colombian heritage. After my recent trip to Peru, I was thrilled to make my way through the menu.
Policy’s atmosphere is just as creative as its menu and cocktails – graffitied walls, chandeliers, exposed brick and bright red accents. The feel is tasteful yet trendy, sophisticated yet cool, much like the crowd perusing the 14th street dining scene each evening.
Speaking of cocktails, that’s what opened the meal, of course. As the Urban Bourbon enthusiast at Hungry Lobbyist, I had to spring for the Kentucky Ninja. Woodford Reserve, lime, vanilla syrup and ginger beer are a dream cocktail combo for me; but, for someone who isn’t insanely biased toward the Bluegrass State, it wasn’t too sweet and was a good start to the meal. After slurping it down embarrassingly fast, my next drink, the Peruvian Propeller, accented the fruity undertones of pisco with blueberry preserves.
Once the food arrived, the table was filled with an abundance of Latin-American goodness. To start, we had three share plates. The salchipapas (top) were the clear winner and a favorite of our waitress. Hand-cut fries are topped with juicy chorizo, salsa rosada, fresh cheese and scallions. I grew all too fond of cheesy papas in Peru, so I loved this dish.
The pork belly chicharron (bottom right) was crisp, flavorful and well-rendered; a good choice for meat lovers, but for me just couldn’t outdo the first dish.
The quinoa and cheese fritters (bottom left) were the perfect combination of crunch and creamy, topped with cotija cheese and served over a summery, sweet corn emulsion. There’s a hint of cumin in the fritters, and while it’s far from my favorite flavor, the addition of that flavor could appeal to most diners.
Overall, the selection of small plates were very tasty, and yet they couldn’t compare to the absolutely scrumptious entrees. The succulent chorizo made its way onto my plate again, this time served on a crunchy baguette with chimichurri, red cabbage slaw and hand-cut potatoes. The tangy chimichurri accented the juices of the meat, both of which absorbed into the bread, while the slaw brought a fresh flavor and additional crunch. I savored every bite.
After swooning over this dish, however, I may have loved the roasted squash and cheese stuffed arepa more. The white corn cake was crisped to a golden brown, then filled to the brim with flavorful squash, rich avocado, sweet roasted corn, gooey cheese and a side of aji picante. If you order anything at Policy, this is an absolute must.
As an after-dinner cocktail, try the gorgeous Lavender Collins, with Tito’s, fresh lime, lavender syrup and soda garnished with fresh lavender. A perfect nightcap after a marvelous meal.
While it may be a 14th street vet, Policy tastes brand new with its creative take on Latin cuisine. Innovation is key when keeping up with a competitive food scene – and this menu, combined with Policy’s hip ambiance, maintains this restaurant’s rightful place as a worthy competitor.