Last Thursday was my wife's birthday so my son and I took her to dinner at Gabriel on Saturday night. I had attended a dinner there with a group of guys who make up the DC Cru wine group in January and we had a wonderful time so I decided to go back.
Ruqaiyah (the restaurant manager) met us as we came in with a big hug (lucky me) and wished my wife happy birthday. My son, being his usual weird self, decided that it was a perfect occasion to dress up in his kilt. (I said he was weird) Ruqaiyah was losing her voice, but was her usual exhuberant self.
We took two bottles of wine with us, a 2000 Argyle Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Nuthouse and a 1999 Château La Roque Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St.-Loup Cupa Numismae.
Dinner was superb. Chef Burrell sent out an amuse of the Crispy Tuna, wild mushrooms and a braised scallop for each of us. My son started with the Mascarpone Ravioli with Roasted Wild Mushrooms. It was served with thyme butter and arugula. He then had the Saffron Tagliarini with Braised Artichoke, confit tomatoes, nicoise olives and lamb sausage. His next course was the Crispy Tuna with Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, baby bok choy and sea urchin soy foam. His last dish (before dessert) was the Balsamic Poached Lamb with rapini, oven roasted tomato, goat cheese and black olive jus.
My wife started with the Chestnut Bisque with Pear and Blue Cheese Strudel. The bisque was creamy with a not overpowering taste of chestnuts. Excellent. She then had the Grilled Shrimp and Grits with Andouille sausage, haricot vert, lemon and tomato butter. For third choice she had the Seared Scallops with wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes and thyme cream.
I started with Mixed Greens with Roasted Shallot Dressing, bleu cheese, sliced pear and crispy onions. Next came the Shrimp with Grits and I chose the Grilled Venison with Juniper Roasted Pear.
For dessert I had the cheese plate, my son the vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and my wife the trio of sorbets (green apple, lemon and prickly pear) Coffee for the wife and I, a double expresso for my son finished the meal.
We all tasted each other's meals, and I think that the Mascarpone Ravioli, the grilled shrimp, and the seared tuna were the definite dishes of the night. Of course, everything was great. Presentation was delightful and each dish was just large enough that you enjoyed it but didn't feel stuffed. Three or four dishes makes for a great meal, and everything was the kind of dish where you took a bite and then put down your fork so you could savor it before going for the next bite.
Ruqaiyah made sure we were treated famously. She stopped by constantly to make sure we were ok and to talk. We insisted that she have some of both wines (of course since she had been so much fun at the wine dinner and tasted right along with the rest of us) and I sent a glass of the La Roque back to Chef Burrell. Later in the evening he came out to talk to us for a bit and asked us to be sure to come back when they have their spring menu ready. Not only were we treated like regulars, but honored regulars at that.
I think the food and service here can rival almost any restaurant in DC.