Monday, June 3, 2013

Where to eat in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is a culinary mecca: a great place for foodies! There are so many high-end restaurants to explore and I am on a mission. Here are some of the best options in the capital:
1) Edgar Bar & Kitchen at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel ---What to order: This restaurants is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We tried it for breakfast and we liked the service and the menu choices.
Edgar Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon
We shared the cheese board. It came with 3-4 local cheeses, served with fig jam, fig and almond bar, and cracked wheat bread. The bread was not enough for the amount of cheese served, so we ordered a plain bagel on the side. The restaurant doesn't bake their own bread, but still it was tasty.

Local cheeses with cracked wheat bread and fig jam
 2) Fiola by Fabio Trabocchi (Penn Quarter) --- What to order: This was probably the best lunch we had in Washington D.C. This restaurant is so elegant, refined, and upscale. I ordered the Maria's Light Menu (3 courses for $28). It was a great deal. The first course was the Puntarelle Salad with Anchovy, Pane Fritto and creamy dressing. I told them that I am going to split it with my husband and they were nice enough to bring us two salad, so each of us could have its own. Delicious!!!

Fiola on Urbanspoon

Puntarelle Salad with Anchovy and Pane Fritto
For his main course, my husband ordered the Ahi Tuna Burger. It was served with tomatoes and olive tapenade, red peppers, and rosemary fries on the side. He really enjoyed it, the tuna was prepared with soy sauce and cooked medium-rare for a perfect consistency. The homemade ketchup was a nice addition to the whole meal.  

Ahi Tuna Burger with Tomatoes, Olive Tapenade and Red Peppers
My second course was Skate with Adriatic Seafood Brodetto, Quinoa, and Middleneck Clams. It was amazing! The broth was so flavorful, so I soak it all with the crusty bread we were offered. The skate had a very nice texture, and the quinoa was just a small amount, so all together it was a light dish.

Skate (Adriatic Seafood Brodetto, Quinoa, Middleneck clams)
My third course was the Sgroppino Cassis, which was basically sorbet mixed with prosecco. They gave us two servings again, but this time we were no so happy, because we were kind of full, and we really wanted to share just one dessert. But anyway, the sorbet was light and my husband helped to finish it. It was a little bit too sweet for my taste.

Sgroppino = Cassis (sorbet with prosecco)
 3) Range by chef Bryan Voltaggio --- What to order: This is place is very hot now. Bryan Voltaggio is famous enough to attract a great crowd and the location helps (it is located at the new Chevy Chase Pavilion at Friendship Heights). We started with wild striped bass crudo, served with pine nuts, lemon, and coriander. It was really sophisticated, but the size was very small, not good for sharing.

Range on Urbanspoon
Wild stripped bass crudo, pine nuts, lemon, coriander
We shared a wood oven pizza of goat's milk ricotta, Meyer lemon, and arugula. Even though it was a vegetarian dish, we didn't miss the meat. The sweetness of the lemon really brings out the flavors of the creamy cheese and the peppery arugula. The crust was nicely browned and super chewy. Just the way I like it!!!
Goat's milk ricotta, Meyer lemon, arugula pizza
For dessert, we got the Cherry Glenn Farm Goat Mini Cheesecakes. These were 4 small bite-size cakes, two of them served with kumquat, and two of them with blood orange. On the side, there was Meyer Lemon Sorbet, which was a little bit tart in our opinion. The presentation was pretty and elegant.

Cherry Glenn Farm Goat Cheesecake
 4) Boqueria (Spanish restaurant) --- What to order: If you like to eat sandwiches for lunch, this is probably the place to go. They offer a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, with a Spanish twist. My husband ordered the Bikini de Tres Quesos sandwich: Mahon, Idiazabal, and Manchego cheese, marinated tomatoes, and pressed country bread. It came with a side of simple green salad and patatas bravas with Romesco sauce.

Boqueria on Urbanspoon

Bikini de Tres Quesos: Mahon, Idiazabal, and Manchego Cheese
My sandwich was Bocata de Boquerones: pickled white anchovies, goat cheese, green apple, and country grilled bread. It was delicious!!! The saltiness of the anchovies pairs amazingly with the sweetness of the apple. Great sandwich for people who prefer their lunch on the light side.

Bocata de Boquerones: pickled white anchovies, goat cheese, apple
This dessert was amazing (its name Mel i Mato doesn't explains it very well)! The ingredients are simple, yet the result is scrumptious: whipped fresh cow's milk ricotta cheese, candied walnuts, strawberries, blueberries, and local honey. Very different and at the same time similar to what we eat every day at home (Greek yogurt with fruit, honey, and nuts).

Mel I Mato: whipped fresh ricotta and local honey
 5) Filomena (Georgetown) --- What to order: Many people recommend this restaurant, but I didn't like it a lot. It is famous, but very crowded, noisy, and old-fashioned. The décor is too overdone, the portion sizes are enormous (for 3 people to split), and the service is not good. So, here is what we ordered, but be prepared for a little disappointment if you go there.

Filomena on Urbanspoon

The table setting
We started with the Burrata Mozzarella Caprese Salad. There was three pieces of buffalo mozzarella filled with soft ricotta cheese center. It was simple and we liked the ripeness of the tomatoes and the creaminess of the cheese.

Burrata Mozzarella Caprese
We decided to share the Lasagna alla Vegetali. It was so huge!!! Even though we split it, we were full after eating it. It was basically thin sheets of homemade pasta, layered with roasted vegetables, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmigiano cheese. It was covered with the popular Creamy Vodka Tomato Sauce, which was pretty heavy for our taste buds. The server was trying to sell us the most expensive dish of the menu, but I am glad we did not listen to him. Be careful with the servers there, you don't need to order the lobster pasta, you just need one plate for 2-3 people to share. Since dessert were gigantesque, we decided to go to Sprinkle Cupcakes (see my review below).

Lasagna alla vegetali with vodka tomato sauce
 6) Sprinkles Cupcakes (Georgetown) --- What to order: This is probably the most popular place in Georgetown. There is always a line in front of this small bakery and people tend to buy dozens of cupcakes. There are few tables inside and we were lucky to find a place. It was late at night and there was not a great variety of cupcakes, all were gone. Out of the 3 flavors on the display, we got the Dark Chocolate Cupcake. It was really soft, rich, and velvety. They use the finest ingredients when baking these treats and the whole product tasted delicious!!!

Sprinkles Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Dark Chocolate Cupcake
 7) Firefly at the Madera Hotel --- What to order: This is a great restaurant for lunch. The only inconvenience is that it can get busy (we waited for our food about half an hour). I ordered the Roasted Farro Salad with whole grain pita, root vegetables, grilled kale, and a drizzle of Greek yogurt. It was light and healthy, but the pita size was huge. Added shrimp to the dish to get more protein, but then the salad was missing more dressing. It was kind of dry.

Firefly on Urbanspoon

Roasted Farro Salad with pita, root vegetables, kale, yogurt
My husband ordered this Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad. It was composed of avocado, Pepper Jack Cheese, roasted cherry tomatoes, charred scallions, tortilla strips, bacon, fried egg, and chipotle dressing. Again, this was a huge serving, but he was able to finish it.
Grilled Chicken Cobb salad with avocado, jack cheese, tortilla strips
Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream "Sandwich" for dessert was a great idea. Just the best part of this lunch: flourless cake, cinnamon crème anglaise, peanut brittle, and sea salt. It was like an old- fashioned Snickers bar. Next time, I will skip the salad and just order the dessert :)

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream Sandwich with Peanut Brittle
8) Birch and Barley --- What to order: Birch and Barley is famous for its selection of artisanal beer, but also for its pastry chef. We had a great dinner and finished it with an amazing dessert. Here are my suggestions: To start, get the "Red Quinoa Salad" with Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Pecorino, Huckleberries, and Marcona Almonds. I love quinoa. We always eat it at home: it is healthy, full of protein and tasty as well.

Birch & Barley on Urbanspoon

Red Quinoa salad, shaved Brussels sprouts, pecorino, marcona almonds
The bread service is great. It pairs well with the beer and with the food. We tasted 3 different beers and they were all amazing: 1) Beasley's Honey White, 2) Half Acre Lager, and 3) I cannot tell a rye.
Selection of breads, including pretzel, pumpernickel, and corn
My main dish was Olive Oil Poached Kampachi with Roasted Beet Agridulce with Grapefruit, Pine Nuts, and Castelvetrano Tapenade. I loved the texture of the fish. Poaching is a method that maintains the moisture and the flavors of the protein. The execution was just perfect.

Olive Oil Poached Kampachi with Roasted Beets and Tapenade
My husband ordered Vialone Nano Risotto, served with Seared Cuttlefish, marinated white asparagus, tarragon, and squid ink. This was the small portion, but it was just perfect for him: creamy, full of flavors, and very unique.

Vialone Nano Risotto with Seared Cuttlefish, White Asparagus, Ink
This was our complementary first dessert: pomegranate sorbet, white chocolate mini-cakes, and micro-greens. Very pretty on the plate and very refreshing on the palate. A great surprise from the pastry chef.
Pomegranate sorbet, white chocolate mini-cakes
My favorite dessert in Washington D.C. was this "Opera" cake. It was a terrine with white chocolate dust, espresso ice cream, cocoa nibs, and red currant jellies. The sweetness of the pastry was nicely accompanied by the acidic flavors of the jellies. The espresso ice cream was white, because the coffee beans were only placed in the custard for a few minutes and then removed. Amazing job!!!

Opera terrine: white chocolate dust, espresso ice cream, cocoa nibs, red currant
 9) Urbana at the Palomar Hotel --- What to order: The Urbana restaurant is located at the Palomar Hotel, very close to the Dupont Circle. We went there for a lunch and we had a great time. We started with a Frisee salad, served with lettuce, arugula, kumquats, fromage blanc, and grapefruit. It was tossed with yuzu dressing and chopped hazelnuts and finished with argan oil. It was very creative and different. We were also served freshly baked bread, so we tried some bread with the soft white cheese :)

Urbana on Urbanspoon

Frisee salad with arugula, kumquats, hazelnuts
We shared a nice Pizza de Prosciutto and Arugula. Simple ingredients make the best combination: EVOO, mozzarella, garlic, arugula, pecorino, prosciutto, and lemon. The crust was neither thin not thick. It was just perfect.

Pizza de Prosciutto and Arugula
For dessert, we got the Dark Chocolate Pot du Crème. It was served with whipped hazelnut anglaise and house made hazelnut biscotti. It was pretty dense and sweet, so I only ate three-four spoonfuls. But my husband finished the rest with pleasure!!!

Pots du Crème (dark chocolate crème and hazelnut biscotti)
 10) Corduroy ---What to order: This is a very nice restaurant! I recommend it for special occasions: it is romantic, unique, and great for foodies. We started our dinner with 3 Artisanal cheeses: Monte Enebro (goat, soft, Spain); Mousseron Jurassien (cow, firm, France); and Abbaye de Belloc (sheep, semi-firm, France). They were delicious on its own, but the place was not presented very nicely. There were no accompaniments, no jam, nuts, or bread on the cheese plate, which is unusual. We normally get a cheese plate with truffle honey, dried fruits, and/or fig jam. For us, this one was a little bit of disappointment.

Corduroy on Urbanspoon

Monte Enebro, Mousseron Jurassien, Abbaye de Belloc cheeses
My husband ordered the Braised Niman Ranch Pork Belly, served with Tarbais beans, which are similar to cannellini beans. They are often used in the French cassoulet dishes. It was a very satisfying dinner with nice silky touches!

Braised Niman Ranch Pork Belly with Tarbais Beans
I got the Peppered Rare Big Eye Tuna with Sushi Rice and Hijiki. It was served with a little soy sauce underneath (a little spicy). The flavors were reminiscent of a sushi roll. Very light, sophisticated, and creative dish.

Peppered Rare Big Eye Tuna with Sushi Rice and Hijiki
The dessert was Chocolate Tart (very dark), served with salted caramel ice cream, and roasted bananas. I liked the originality of the dessert, but the tart was too dark on its own. It was mandatory to eat it with the sweet cream.
Chocolate tart with salted caramel ice cream and roasted bananas
 11) The Oval Room --- What to order: The Oval Room is a very elegant restaurant across from the White House. You can see a lot of diplomats dining there. We were served by Daniel Velazquez, a great server who explained us the menu very well and was extremely polite all the time. My husband ordered the Smoked and Fried Chicken Sandwich with Mayonnaise and Freshly Made Potato Chips. He really liked the chips and the Ciabatta bread!

Oval Room on Urbanspoon

Smoked and Fried Chicken Sandwich and Potato Chips
I got a very light dish: Fluke filet of fish with grilled Maitake Mushrooms, Yuzu Tea sauce, and Spaghetti Squash. It was really elegant for a lady and the flavor of the fish was super mild, almost like tilapia.
Fluke, grilled Maitake, and Spaghetti Squash
The dessert was a traditional American fair: Walnut Brownie with Salted Nuts, Salted Caramel Ice Cream. I really love the combination of the sweet ice cream with the salt. Salt enhances all the flavors and brings out the sweetness of the dish. Super delicious!!!

Walnut Brownie with Salted Nuts, Salted Caramel Ice Cream
 12) Osteria Elisir (Downtown) by Enzo Fargione --- What to order: Located in Downtown Washington, this is a great affordable Italian restaurant. The prices are not very high and the food is prepared just in front of you (in an open-kitchen concept). We started with a Roasted Beet Salad (yellow and red beets, goat cheese balls, oranges, citrus dressing, mache, and artichoke chips. It was a nice portion!

Osteria Elisir on Urbanspoon
Roasted beet Salad with goat cheese and artichoke chips
My main dish was the Baked River Trout, served with aromatic fennel stick, green olives, Portobello mushrooms, and potatoes. I liked the flavors, but the skin of the fish was very raw. I prefer it more cooked and possibly crispy. The dish had a lot of juices, which were not needed, since everything was already moist. The size of the fish was perfect for 1 person: not too big and not too small.

Baked River Trout with Portobello mushrooms and potatoes
My husband got the Spinach Tagliatelle with duck ragu, porcini, Grana cheese, and red wine. It was very "stick to your ribs" dish and he was happy. All the pasta is house made and in addition, most of the times prepared by chef Enzo Fargione (or his sous-chef).

Spinach Tagliatelle with duck ragu, porcini, Grana, red wine
The best part was the Tiramisu dipped in chocolate, made with Amaretto and served with Pistachio Zabaglione. It was my first time to eat a "pick me up" covered with chocolate!!! It is such a smart idea :) Overall, Osteria Elisir is a great restaurant. I highly recommend it for a casual dinner any night of the week!!!

Tiramisu glazed in chocolate served with Pistachio Sabaglione
 13) Seasons at the Four Seasons Hotel (Georgetown) --- What to order: The Seasons restaurant is great for lunch or brunch. Located at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel, it offers a great menu and it has nice dining room with a lot of natural light. For our Saturday's brunch, my husband ordered the Angus Burger with Vermont White Cheddar, Homemade Mustard Slaw, Brioche Bun, and French Fries. He loved it, but it came with a lot of potatoes and the size of the bun was enormous. 

Seasons on Urbanspoon
Angus Burger, White Cheddar, and French fries
I had the Pan Roasted Arctic Char, served with Meyer lemon puree, grilled asparagus, pear tomatoes, and watercress. I adored this plate. The salmon had a perfectly crisp skin and the texture was moist and rare!
Pan Roasted Artic char with Meyer lemon puree, grilled asparagus and cress
The dessert was huge!!! Cheesecake with Seasonal Berry Compote and White Chocolate Flair. I don't like Chantilly (or whipped cream), but my husband was pretty good and helped me with that part. I liked the texture of the cake and the combination with the fruit! Just make sure you share this indulgence :)

Cheesecake with berry compote and white chocolate flair
 14) 1789 Restaurant (Georgetown) --- What to order: This restaurant is located in an historic old house. The ambiance is very elegant (men are required to wear jacket) and it is a very expensive place (only for special occasions!). First, we were offered an amuse-bouche, which was a carrot soup served in a espresso cup. Very cute!

1789 on Urbanspoon
The table setting

The amuse-bouche
We decided to start with a cheese course. In particular, we selected the Boot's Best cheese selection, served with candied walnuts and house made strawberry jam. The cheeses were Taleggio (D.O.P. Lombardy): soft, raw cow milk; and Pecorino Toscano Stagianato (D.O.P. Tuscany): semi-firm, raw sheep milk, both served with coriander raisin toast.

Taleggio and Toscano Stagianato with raisin toast and candied walnuts
Both of us ordered the Wild Mushroom Crepes: yellow foot chanterelle and royal trumpet mushrooms, goat cheese, butternut squash veloute and vincotto. I was not very impressed by this dish. I was missing some flavor, maybe more salt. I couldn't feel the mushrooms.

Wild mushroom crepes with yellow foot chanterelle and vincotto
Our dessert was Pistachio, Milk Chocolate, and Espresso House Made Ice Cream. All of them were delicious! At the end, we were served a plate with petit fours (Biscotti, Amaretto cookies, and truffles). All the pastries and bread are made at the bakery just next to the restaurant. The service was great!
Pistachio, Mils chocolate, and Espresso House Made Ice Cream
 15) 710 Restaurant by Ashok Bajaj --- What to order: This fancy restaurant serves great Modern American cuisine crafted by chef Tony Coute. It is located on 710 Pennsylvania Avenue, close to the Archives building. The interior is luxurious and people dining there dress up for the occasion. The service is impeccable! We had a quick dinner. We ordered few plates, but they were all delicious. My husband got the Free Range Chicken. The dish consisted of two pieces of chicken (the tight and the breast), served on top of pea puree, cipollini onions, and bacon. It was a clean presentation, a great taste of bacon, and a good portion size.

701 Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Free Range Chicken with sweet pea puree, cipollini onions, and bacon
 I got the Gnocchi with spring vegetables (asparagus and fava beans), morels, and jalapeno pesto. The gnocchi were so delicate and small in size. They were warm and soft. The jalapeno pesto added a nice heat to the dish, but nothing overwhelming. The portion was appetizer size, so if you are looking for something more substantial, order a second plate.

Gnocchi with asparagus, fava beans, morels, and jalapeno pesto
 The dessert was really outstanding. The Soft Chocolate Ganache Torte was full with spices. The crust was spiced with cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne. The mousse-like torte was sweet and tasted almost like Mexican chocolate. The ginger ice cream provided a nice balance to the warmth of the cake. Overall, a very nice ending of a tasty dinner!

Soft Chocolate Ganache Torte with spiced crust, ginger ice-cream, and cream
 16) Poste Brasserie by Chef Dennis Marron --- What to order: Poste is a casual restaurant located inside the hotel Monaco. It is in a 1841 General Post Office building. The chef has a nice herb and vegetable garden outside. We went there for a weekday lunch and I did not like it a lot.

Poste on Urbanspoon

My husband ordered the Chicken Paillard. It was a big grilled pounded chicken breast, topped with arugula, mache, tomato, and goat cheese brule. The chicken was hidden below and at first, he thought that they gave him just greens. The protein was well served, the lemony dressing was ok.

Chicken Pallard with arugula, mache, tomato, and goat cheese
However, my dish was not so good. I ordered the Tuna Nicoise Salad (and I have eaten hundreds of them, in some places, really delicious ones). It was a mixture of unseasoned greens with boiled eggs, potatoes, haricot vert, olives, tuna belly poached in olive oil. All of that topped with only 2 bites of seared big eye tuna and 3 anchovies. For $16, this is so miserable. How come they can serve a whole chicken breast for $14 and only two small bites of tuna for $16. Anyway, what bothered me more, was the fact that there was no dressing at all on the salad. On the menu it said that it comes with black truffle oil vinaigrette, but I did not feel any of that!

Tuna Nicoise Salad with big eye tuna, poached tuna belly, anchovies
The dessert was very tasty, but enormous! We got a very seasonal sweet: Penn Quarter Farmers Market peach tart. It was served with a tiny small scoop of bourbon vanilla ice cream and some cookie crumbles. We wished they gave us less of the pie and more of the ice cream. The proportion of these two was not very well balanced.

Penn Quarter Farmers Market peach tart
17) Ardeo + Bardeo by Chef Nate Garyantes --- What to order: We went to this Cleveland Park's restaurant for a dinner after a long flight from California to Washington D.C. The ambiance is informal, but the food is really on the high end.

Ardeo+Bardeo on Urbanspoon

I ordered the house made black spaghetti with calamari, eggplant-black garlic puree, pine nuts, and ricotta salata. It was a really good portion for me, very satisfying and super delicious. I felt the garlic a lot, the calamari were perfectly cooked, and the pine nuts provided such a good toasty touch.
Black spaghetti, calamari, eggplant-black garlic puree, pine nuts, ricotta salata
My husband ordered the Pork cacciatore with black pepper fettuccine and pancetta. He said that it tasted like "cochinita pibil", which is a Mexican dish made of slowly cooked pork. The pancetta on top was super crispy and the pasta was super al dente!

Pork cacciatore, black pepper fettuccine, pancetta
The dessert was very interesting: Chocolate Pistachio Tart, served with salted caramel, milk chocolate glaze, and candied pistachios. The caramel was just a tiny bit. We wanted a little bit more and the whipped cream was not necessary. We much better prefer a small scoop of gelato. The Tart tasted a lot like pistachios and the texture was dense and creamy.

Chocolate Pistachio Tart with salted caramel

18) Juniper at the Fairmont Hotel by chef Ian Bells --- What to order:

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