I'm a MA hound and I'll be in D.C. for a conference at end of August/beginning of September. I'm charged with organizing a dinner for 6-8 people in honor of a good friend and colleague who will be winning an award that day and who has learned to let me pick the restaurants in unfamiliar cities. I don't know D.C. well at all, though I've spent some time searching the board to refine my question to you. Please help. Here are the needs/constraints/ideas:
The honoree says I can choose anything but Indian/Pakistani food. I want (above all) the food to be exciting but also for the place to feel in some way (choose one) inviting, hip, fun or somehow special but not (this is important, too) overly formal or stuffy (no jacket and tie only places). Some of my colleagues are (alas!) less willing than I am to shell out for a meal (Citronelle is out of reach, e.g., and, as a rough target, anything that required each colleague to spend over, say $60 plus tip might start getting me in trouble). Some of these folks, including the honoree, may also be less willing to travel for food than I am, so I've ruled out, say, Southeast Asian food (a love of mine) in the burbs. We'll all be staying at or right by the Omni Shoreham, and the further beyond 15 or 20 minutes we go from there, the less popular I'll be. My search of the board has given me the following list. My question to you is both what you'd recommend from this or alternatives in the same spirit.
Jaleo (I've been, loved it, and Zaytiniya, too) but my one visit was with the colleague in question, so I hesitate to do a repeat for him)
Palena (some colleagues might blanch at the price on the 3 or 4 course menus, but should be ok with the $56 for two)
PS7's: (I personally don't care about cocktails though perhaps some in the group might, but I'm more interested in opinions on the food)
Blue Duck Tavern
Any advice from local hounds would be much appreciated.
777 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
223 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003
Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037