I was just in DC for a conference, stayed at the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle right on P Street. Ate very, very well - mostly just a stone's throw from the hotel.
I got there on Friday, Jan 9th and had reservations for Central. This was my second trip to this restaurant, and I certainly branched out this time! Victor was my waiter, and after he realized that I really was interested in a great meal and wine, he was wonderful! I ended up with a glass of sparkling wine to start, and the frog legs. They were really tasty - tender and very garlicky! I don't have a lot of experience with this dish, but I do know that this tasted very good and was a great first course. I followed that up with the rabbit - my first time! That mustard gravy was sooooo good, the rabbit was tender and moist, and the spaetzle was a great counterpoint (and soaked up that delicious gravy!) I was too full for dessert (my first trip I didn't have an appetizer and had the famous Kit Kat Bar), but Victor poured me a glass of red dessert wine that was the perfect ending to a great evening. I loved the bustle of the dining room, and I had a great view of the kitchen while I ate. I'll definitely be back to try more of that menu!
Saturday night, after a long day setting up and working, I called Pizzeria Paradiso and ordered an Atomica pizza and pears marsala for carryout. It was absolute heaven to sit in my jammies, eat that delicious pizza and have a few glasses of red wine. The pizza was the perfect combination of briny olives, spicy salami and creamy mozzarella, with just the right amount of pepper flakes to wake your tastebuds. I loved the chewy, crispy crust, and the carry-out service was prompt and very friendly.
On Sunday, after another long day, I was walking back from the metro and on impulse stopped at Mark and Orlando's right near my hotel. The greeting and service were so gracious and welcoming, I felt right at home. The upstairs was closed, and the downstairs had 3-4 tables full. They sat me at a nice two-top right by the window and took great care of me! At one point, Mark (at least I think it was Mark) asked me how I'd heard about them, and of course I said "Chowhound!" I ordered the char with kalamatas, roasted garlic and gnocchi - and while it wasn't relevatory, it was very well-prepared and the flavors went well together. The fish was perfectly cooked and the gnocchi were nice and light. I decided to have the trio of homemade ice creams for dessert - the flavors were vanilla, pumpkin and strawberry. Of the three, the vanilla was the standout - rich and creamy witha pronounced vanilla flavor. The pumpkin and strawberry both suffered from being too icy, but the strawberry had great flavor.
Monday night was another gem right near my hotel - Pesce. I had stopped on the way back from the metro to look at the menu, and the lobster risotto looked too good to pass up. So I went to my room, changed and walked the two blocks back. Again, the staff welcomed me graciously and were attentive and friendly. I ordered the Ceasar salad with anchovies and the lobster risotto - the Ceasar was delicious - not overdressed, fresh crunchy romaine and the anchovies were perfect. The risotto came with a healthy portion of lobster, which was well cooked but had an odd-tasting (almost cajun) seasoning. I liked the pieces that were less seasoned the best. The rice was fine, but I think I'd go for the mussels next time.
Finally, on Tuesday night I got done with work at about 9:00 and decided that carry-out pizza was about all I could handle. So I called Pizzeria Paradiso again and this time ordered the Genovese - pesto, potatoes (add olives) and a salad. The pizza was very good, but I think would have been too bland without the addition of the olives, and the potato slices were a little thick. But still much better than anything I can get here in Iowa City!
All in all, I had a great trip and ate very, very well - especially considering that I rarely wandered further than a few blocks. I really wanted to get to Teaism for breakfast on Wednesday morning and to stock up on salty oat cookies for the plane, but a blizzard in Chicago prompted me to hurry to the airport instead. For all the good that did me!
Can't wait to come back!
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