Just wanted to post about our recent meal at Palena. We ate in the back dining room, and had one of the most memorable dining experiences (and this is in comparison to the other top restaurants both here and in NYC). We have a small child, so a long dinner with an uninterrupted conversation is a rarity for us now-a-days. No one seemed to mind that we lingered for 3-1/2 hours over our dinner, and this wasn't because of poor service, but because of excellent service. Our server clearly saw that we wanted to take our time, and he allowed us to do so.
If you drink, I cannot recommend the pickled martini enough, and I don't even care for gin all that much. Also, the cheeses on the cheese plate were just the right temperature. And if you go now, do order the "BLT;" it is both witty and excellent. It consists of house-cured bacon, wilted lettuce and a tomato filled with the vinaigrette--the acidity from the tomato and vinaigrette balance the richness of the bacon.
I do think that along with Restaurant Eve and Maestro that this is one of the best restaurants in DC right now.