Sona Creamery in Capitol Hill is a delightful new cheese store and wine bar. Does it also deserve to be a dinner destination?
It was a tough job, but we rose to the challenge to find out.
Lunch and dinner menus are cheese-heavy as expected, even more so for vegetarians. While meat-eaters can choose dishes with a range of ingredients from brussel sprouts to sweet potatoes and eggs, the only thing close to a palette cleanser for vegetarians is a salad of bibb lettuce (also served with cheese).
We forged ahead, vowing to eat nothing but steamed vegetables for our next meal. Selections from the cheese board are nicely varied by region, animal, and style. Each is paired thoughtfully with accompaniments. Our Italian Pantaleo goat’s milk cheese, described as ‘herbaceous and citrusy’, was served with a lemony bright green olive puree and smoked almonds. The earthy Ardrahan cow’s milk cheese was nicely brightened up with roughly ground mustard and pickled carrots. The brown butter flavor of our third, a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese, was well-complemented by caramelized walnuts and dried apricots.
And the butter. Oh, the butter. I’m not sure how a wedge of butter could overshadow a plate of top-notch cheeses, but this one came close. Sprinklings of pop rocks and thin shards of sea salt intensified its sweet cream flavor to such ridiculous heights that we kept probing our server for more information (she kept swearing it’s just regular butter).
Sona’s mac and cheese is made with a varying blend of cheeses every day. Ours met expectations of both gooeyness and sharp, complex flavor. We could have done without the mountain of fried bread, which was appealing at first but quickly became a greasy distraction.
French fries are served with cheese curds, aioli, and mumbo sauce. The curds, pan-fried to crunchy/chew perfection, were gobbled up at once, and the curried aioli made a nice dipping sauce. However, we found the drenching of sweet, sticky mumbo sauce to be overwhelming. Order it on the side unless you’re a huge fan.
The dessert menu currently includes goat cheese ice cream and chocolate fondue with bourbon and sea salt. Although the ice cream, served with lemon curd and graham cracker crumble, sounded nice, we decided to go with not cheese and ordered the fondue. While it’s a rich blob of dark chocolate with just the right amount of salt, it’s a very small blob (especially priced at $14). Also, a ‘splash’ of bourbon was just that – a bit jarring in this context and competing, rather than blending, with the chocolate.
We did still enjoy our few bites of chocolate with oat biscuits and meringues. Unfortunately, the green apples and salty hard cheese were out of place, seemingly returning from another time in our meal. I guess we finally reached the point of not needing cheese for cheese’s sake, which could be interpreted as a sign of success.
Sona is worth visiting for the cheese-and-carb-fest that we all occasionally need. You don’t even need to break the bank – go on a weekday between 4 and 8 pm and get $6 house wines with your meal. Still, we hope for a couple of cheese-light, vegetable-heavy vegetarian additions (cauliflower gratin, while tempting, doesn’t quite fit the bill) to round out the menu. How else are we going to get around to that grilled cheese stuffed with mac and cheese?
660 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Eastern Market metro)