It was love at first sight. Goofy, silly puppy love. On a recent wine hop my friend recommended Boundry Road “for cocktails, for wine, for pretty much anything.” We spilled out of The Pursuit (a.k.a. that new place with the grilled cheese and wine) into Boundary across the street, nabbing a seat at the bar. I asked for a wine list and quickly found my go-to Crémant du Jura on their extremely well curated wine list which includes – count ’em – 3 rosés by the glass. The whimsical cocktail selection is self-assuredly limited, a guaranteed conversation starter. “A Negroni with barrel aged cachaça ?!” A drink named “I’m thinking about getting a Vespa”? The nerve!
Ceilings are high, inspiring lofty expectations. Lots of brick, an iconic light fixture made from a rusty spring mattress dangling overhead. A really nice bartender helps my friend with his cocktail choice and encourages us to try the house ‘cello. He doesn’t roll his eyes when I take this Instagram-bound shot of my rosé Brut:
There’s charcuterie, five entrées (steak-chicken-fish-seafood-risotto), and a list of appetizers that get jazzy with it. My Eastern European heart skips a beat when I notice that quark is their filling of choice for pierogis. A carbo-loaded tagliatelle I would otherwise never consider on a hot summer day tempts me with house-made jagerwurst. There’s also a foie PB&J with a tomato marmalade that echos the foiffle (sans waffle) and promises to be interesting, if not my definition of delicious. One item draws my eyes and locks me down.
I suspected sweet breads would be treated right here. The menu specified that theirs were grilled, not fried or dumped into a cream sauce as they are pretty much everywhere else in DC (that I know of). And since I’m forever searching for those mollejas a la parrilla that I grew so goshdarn fond of in Argentina, I had to give these a try. So far Boundary Road’s have perhaps come closest to my asado-time favorites. The mollejas sported a bold black char that hardened into a crust around the edges and imparted what was perhaps a too burnt flavor to the tender morsels. But they were tender. Crispy in some spots, buttery soft and jiggly smooth in others. The black crumbles of charcoal gave the musky bit of organ meat a good smoky flavor and the first bite sent me flying back to a rooftop in Palermo to sit and drink Malbec while watching the men work the grill. When I called B.R. the next day to pose”Why grilled?” I was told the inspiration had come from a homesick Uruguayan friend who once worked at Cashion’s in Adams Morgan. It made sense.
Unfortunately, a few more bites brought me right back to reality. The thing was burnt past smoky all the way to bitter. I picked through the wreckage to salvage some pieces that were left intact. There were few but saving the casualties was well worth the rescue mission. There was also no lemon wedge to squeeze over the thing (as is customary and downright sacred to do in Argentuguay) but we were sitting at the bar so this problem was easily remedied. There was a salsa verde type thing spooned over the sweet breads, but it wasn’t quite clean enough in flavor, a bit too busy for my purist palate. Also on the plate was a bed of very creamy potato puree flavored with garlic and parsley, along with some pickled sunchokes, leafy green fava bean shoots and baby kale. All good things largely wasted on me: I plucked the sweet breads right out of the pool of potato and brushed the veg off impatiently.
To leave sweet breads unmarinated and throw them on a charcoal grill without sauce is a ballsy move to make in D.C. but Boundary Road goes there, without look back. Sometimes things burn a little; it’s a matter of seconds and far from a reason to write them off. Needless to say, I will be back for these mollejas.I spied another sweet bread item on the menu and decided to double up on the innards for the night. The dish is based on a Ligurian Christmas-time classic called Cima alla Genovese, a glorious mess of udder, sweet bread, testicle, marrow and brain seasoned with pine nuts, marjoram and garlic and stuffed into a pocket of tender veal breast. It’s simmered in veg broth and then sliced into pieces that are served cold on hot summer afternoons with a side of crunchy bread and a very light red. A Dolcetto maybe. Boundary Road mixes it up a little, using lamb breast as the meaty outer shell that wraps around a paté of ground lamb leg, lamb heart, darling little lamb sweet breads and larger, meatier veal sweet breads. The latter are kept in large chunks running through the paté. In the center there is also a patch of spicy Swiss chard, wilted into a silky, smooth, steak-side creamy spinach consistency. Though robbed of its youthful firmness the chard adds a fantastic vegetal quality to what is otherwise a minerally, funky, animal thing. The paté crumbles neatly. The fibrous meaty bits break away from the fatty, jiggly veal sweet bread only once bitten into. The combination of flavors and textures, together with crunchy thick toast smeared with whole grain mustard, achieves wonderful harmony. Cool and surprisingly light, packed with flavor. Exactly what I want with my yeasty, chalky, creamy rosé on a hot summer afternoon.
Maybe it’s just a crush with Boundary Road, a fleeting summer fling. Whatever it is I like it. My only lament? It’s all the way in the Atlas instead of in my cozy and accessible nooks of Admo/Logan. Nevertheless, a tryst with cleverly prepared organ meats and a dazzling drink program is worth the journey.