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Restaurants & Bars

DC Report

Bob Libkind | Jul 9, 2003 01:37 AM

Spent the long holiday weekend and a few days more in DC with She Who Must Be Obeyed, braving the Independence Day crowds and trying to find, unsuccessfully, somewhere decent to eat near our hotel (Loew's L'Enfant Plaza, where we ensconced ourselves to attend a wedding there Saturday night).

The hotel "pub" was passable, though it was the same menu as the dining room. Burger was decent, as were the accompanying fries. Turkey sandwich had fresh cut meat with excellent homemade potato chips. Otherwise, typical overpriced, unexciting hotel fare.

So, we ventured to other locales. After viewing the Marsden Hartley exhibit at the Phillips (highly recommended; we meant to catch it in Hartford but never did) we braved the sweltering sidewalks during Saturday's heat and made our way to La Tomate, just a few blocks away on Connecticut. SWMBO found La Tomato about 15 years ago during a previous DC trip, and she insists on eating there whenever she's in town. Me? I can find better red gravy Italian in our home city of Philadelphia. But I did enjoy the antipasto salad with fresh lettuces and some other greens generously topped with salami, some sort of ham (capicolla?), prosciutto, and, most welcome of all, a decent mortadella. SWMBO finished her plate of Bolognese.

The next day we met friends from Bethesda on their turf. In this case, Athena Plaka on Woodmont. Now, I enjoy Greek food. I especially like taramasalata. I especially like a Greek restaurant that puts up a gorgeous Sunday brunch buffet with an endless supply of taramasalata. The smoked salmon was not exactly Greek, but I'm a sucker for that, too. The usual omelets and waffles made to order, but lots of steamtable-friendly Greek items. There was a superlative slightly sweet eggplant dish, in addition to the regular eggplant salad. For $18 bucks, you can't go wrong. I would go back not only for the buffet, but to see how they do with dinner fare.

For dinner I couldn't resist Vidalia. We should have. Not to say it wasn't good. It was very good. The onion soup was quite different from the gloppy norm; basically duck soup highly reduced with various root vegetables to create an intense sweetness, laced with five onions and some Grafton cheddar (I might have used a different cheese) and spoonbread. SWMBO had a green salad, which was fine. She went with the excellent rib steak; I find it difficult to pass up lamb. Both were good pieces of meat, tasty, the sauces intense, the various vegetable garnishes interesting. Each of us had a glass of California syrah. We shared the Valrhona torte and SWMBO had a coffee. The problem (like many Washington expense account venues, I'm sure) is the price. As good as it was, I just didn't feel we received good value for the tab. ($140, including tip.)

I do think we received decent value the next night at Les Halles. Someone on this board recently complained that it's degenerated into a cigar bar. That may well be. But on the Monday after the holiday weekend (admittedly, probably one of the slowest nights of the year) cigar smoke was no problem. And I found the hanger steak to be as tasty as any I've had on either side of the Atlantic. It wasn't a huge portion, but it was satisfying. Above average frites. In true brasserie spirit, I went with a bottle of Alsatian ale (Fischer) to accompany the meat. This brew was much better than any other French beer I've consumed. Of course, on a hot, muggy night like Monday was, I'd settle for a Bud. SWMBO went for a "light" meal. Ha! She cleared a croque monsieur and most of the frites off her plate, spurred on by a rather large G&T. I finished with coffee (Illy) and the fruit tart (if only they had selected the strawberry for its flavor rather than its beauty).

Next trip, I've GOT to make it to Ben's Chili Bowl.

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