DC Restaurant Week: A Trio of Meals
Ah, DC Restaurant Week. A perfect opportunity for food lovers to hit the town and cram in a slew of new restaurants they might not otherwise visit. This year was just as fulfilling (and filling) as ever. All of the restaurants I visited delivered memorable meals and quality service. I managed to get to three of my top choices in one week.
My first stop on this dining extravaganza was Urbana, located conveniently just off Dupont Circle. I have been wanting to try this place for quite some time after tasting Chef John Critchley's small plates at Taste of the Nation and the DC Lamb Jam. His flavors are always assertive and perfectly balanced. I was very pleased to see that Urbana decided to offer their entire menu for restaurant week with surcharges on a few of the pricer options. Personally, I think all restaurants should consider taking this approach. You certainly can't accuse a restaurant of not showing the best they have to offer when everything is available to sample. If Restaurant Week had any negative effect on Urbana I certainly didn't see it. The service was friendly and accommodating, we were never rushed, and the food was excellent.
Two of the stand out dishes for me were the foie gras corn dog; a house made foie gras bratwurst in corn dog batter with chopped relish and a cognac mustard, and the pappardelle; squid ink pasta tossed with maine lobster tail, lobster roe and chartreuse (both pictured). I would definitely order these again, especially the pappardelle!
Photos: Dakota Fine Photography
After a day off to give my tummy a rest, I made my way over to Fiola, which was recently voted best new restaurant in DC. Needless to say my expectations were high. A word of warning if you've never been: the address is 601 Pennsylvania Avenue but the entrance is actually the next block over on 678 Indiana Avenue. I rushed out the door without noticing this detail on their website and was quite confused when I arrived at the location. After walking back and forth, thinking I had written down the wrong address, someone stopped and asked me if I was looking for Fiola and then pointed me in the right direction. I'm guessing I'm not the first one to wander around that area looking confused! I'm not sure why it was set up this way but be prepared.
Back to the food. There were many standout dishes including the steak tartar, ricotta cavatelli and my favorite, the Fiola meatballs (pictured). The meatballs were incredibly tender and everyone raved about them. All and all it was a very good, if not flawless meal. A few dishes that I probably would not order again include the endive salad and the risotto with basil pesto. The flavors were good but I'm not sure I wouldn't find the same thing in another restaurant. The service, though very friendly, was slow toward the end of the meal. But I left feeling satisfied and would be quite interested to give Fiola another try when I know where I'm going and have access to the full menu.
Photos: Abby Greenawalt
The last stop on my Restaurant Week eat-a-ton was Mike Isabella's newest restaurant Bandolero in Georgetown. The décor of the restaurant is very similar to Graffiato; dark, cozy and sexy with hip background music. I've met Mike a few times now but still always do a bit of a double take when I see him in person after watching him on TV for so long. That night he was chilling at the bar with a drink. It's good to be the chef!
We were greeted and told we could only do the restaurant week menu if everyone at the table agreed to order off of it. Not a problem since that was the plan but I'm not sure what was accomplished by not giving us the option to order additional menu items. No matter, the food we did order was delicious. Since the menus are small plates, we were offered four courses instead of three. My favorites of the night were the suckling pig taco (pictured), the cazuela with its perfectly cooked calamari, and the coconut flan (pictured). The suckling pig taco was outstanding and probably the overall highlight of the week for me. I've never found that name very appetizing, but once I took a bite I didn't care in the slightest what the dish was called. The mustard seeds were spicy with habanero and the apple offered a refreshing crunch and sweetness. I will most certainly be back to try the full menu.
Photos: Greg Powers
Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to hit the gym!
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