The Dish: Nowhere to Hide

chef lets quality ingredients and straightforward cooking speak for itself.

(Photo by )

When Marjorie Meek-Bradley began to think about her next move after long-running stints at now-shuttered Ripple and sandwich shop Smoked & Stacked, she came across a job listing for St. Anselm, a tavern-style concept from restaurateurs Joe Carroll and (of Le Diplomate fame). The veteran chef humbly applied online and received a response from an eager recruiter within the hour. After nine months of preparation and bouncing around other Starr-owned restaurants up and down the East Coast, Meek-Bradley is once again earning praise for her prowess in the kitchen. Eater named her Chef of the Year (2018) and St. Anselm is up for Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s New Restaurant of the Year. The 200-seat eatery next to Union Market recently celebrated its six-month anniversary. Its early success can likely be attributed to the chef ’s no-fuss attitude, which she translates into dishes she wants to eat. “Food is better when it’s a little bit personal,” she says, adding that “simple ingredients, well prepared, seasonally done” are at the crux of every dish.

Vintage gold chandeliers and leather-backed booths add character to the sepia-toned space. (Photo by Jen Chase)

In the spirit of letting quality ingredients speak for themselves, the 33-year-old chef took cues from Starr and Carroll’s first St. Anselm iteration in Brooklyn, crafting a menu that dances between tavern staples and unexpected choices. Although steak gets top billing, sea fare is equally impressive – crispy salmon collar and whole mackerel are diner favorites. Meek-Bradley defies the husky masculine steakhouse cliche by imparting a “lighter touch” with Mediterranean influences. Think less butter, more olive oil, extra herbs and always an added squeeze of lemon.

Meek-Bradley wants St. Anselm to be fun for diners— a gratifying experience that starts with the setting. Americana decor infused with tavern vibes down to hand-curated plateware (consider yourself lucky if you find John F. Kennedy Jr.’s family staring up at you). (Photo by Jen Chase)

The California native strives to maintain environmentally friendly best practices in the kitchen by buying hormone and antibiotic-free meat and highlighting lesser-known cuts that generally get overlooked. The chef also makes a point to order whole animals, noting that an entire pig spread out on the table makes one much more conscious of avoiding waste. “It’s a really good way to teach staff about utilization,” she explains, whether that be by roasting bones or rendering fat for other uses.

As for the simplicity that drives her culinary philosophy, Meek- Bradley points to her basic grilled broccoli seasoned with nothing more than salt, pepper and a twist of lemon. “When you’re sourcing the best ingredients you don’t need to mask them,” she says. Such confidence has led her to fight critics who think simple is boring, proving that simple is actually brave. “When there is nowhere to hide, you have to have perfect execution.” It only takes a bite of a flaky biscuit, a mouthful of hangar steak and yes, a floret of broccoli for her words to ring true.

(Photo by Jen Chase)

St. Anselm | 1250 Fifth St. NE www.stanselmdc.com | 202-864-2199 Monday – Sunday Dinner; Saturday & Sunday Brunch Grilled Entrees start at $24

This article appeared in the April 2019 issue of Washington Life magazine. 

 

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