My friend and I dined at Aria restaurant which opened recently in the Ronald Reagan building on Pennsylvania Avenue at 13th Street in the District. We were seated in their enclosed atrium overlooking the plaza which was pleasant enough though a bit loud with the echoey, live acoustics. Inside, where there's an open kitchen, looks cozier and is quieter. We first encountered a basket of different types of breads, the foccacia being stale on one side (I asked and received a basket of fresher bread none of which was stale) but the others being fine with the multigrain being the most delicious, a friendly but professional waitress, and a menu that was rather limited, only six or so choices of antipasto, pizzas (baked in their woodburning oven), pastas, entrees (one chicken, two fish, lamb stew, and stuffed veal), and sides. We started off splitting the smoked salmon antipasto which featured three spears of smoked salmon filet in a delicious olive oil, garlic and wine marinade underneath frisee lettuce curls, pickled miniature red onion, and pumpernickel crisps, a delicious combination in which the flavors didn't fight one another. For entrees my friend ordered the lamb stew, a comforting, tender braise of lamb in a subtly sweet (but not too!) red wine sauce over creamy polenta. I ordered the sauteed Anglerfish, a firm fleshed fish similar to monkfish. The anglerfish was tender and sauced lightly and subtly with white wine and garlic and served over chopped tomatoes and al dente green beans. We split a side of rapini, a quite bitter (could have been cooked to be less so) miniature broccoli/greens cross sauteed with garlic. We had to use copious amounts of salt to blunt the bitterness, but still the rapini was nicely not overcooked and did have some flavor other than bitterness. For dessert my friend tried the Nutella bread pudding, Nutella being a hazelnut and chocolate paste. The bread pudding was tasty with not overwhelming hints of Nutella. Homey tasting. I ordered the baked apples which were baked perfectly so as to be tender but not falling apart and a pool of zabaglione flanked by a relish of cranberries. The apples, zabaglione, and cranberries proved a nice mixture of sweet and sour.
Overall, we were pleased with our meal at Aria and would like to try the restaurant at lunch when their antipasto bar is featured. For $5 one can order from a spread that changes daily due to the chef's desires. I have heard that the antipasto bar is to be recommended.
Aria's phone number is (202) 312-1250.