I visited right after Cherry Blossom Parade. Have never been to D.C. in the Spring and it was gorgeous! Here are a few notes from some of the restaurants I visited:
Del Campo. I started with a cocktail that I just have to figure out how to make at home. It was a Smoked Pisco Negroni – Pisco Porton, Campari, Carpano Antica, and Orange Bitters. The cool thing is that they put the cocktail glass over smoking wood to infuse the interior, and then poured in the cocktail. My app was the Grilled Octopus (braised, then grilled, creating crispy exterior and smooth, scallop-like interior) topped w baby potatoes, two fried crabs and grilled sliced avocado, served over two potato purees – one green onion, one ancho pepper. This was spectacular. I also loved their charred bread with a really nice Spanish Olive Oil. The Peruvian chicken was incredibly tender, nicely grilled, served with green chili sauce that was heavily laced with garlic, which I loved but might be strong for some. Also tried the Del Campo Chorizo w/chimchurri sauce, which was not as spicy as I expected, though still flavorful – picked up lots of pimento flavor. My side was the charred (grilled) cauliflower- nice way to prepare this vegetable. The atmosphere was hopping (late Saturday night) and bar area was very, very loud, though the dining area was much quieter, yet still lively. I loved this place.
Fiola Mare. Started with Oysters – Kusshi and Pianno. They were very fresh, very crisp. Next had the Columbia River Salmon Sashimi with Oregon Porcini, marinated grilled ramps, and smoked steelhead trout roe, presented on Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Block. Very, very good, liked the combination of ingredients, and the little balls of trout roe just popped in my mouth. This landlocked woman was craving fresh fish and seafood, so I ordered their “Under the Sea” – a lovely grilled platter of Branzino, Maine Lobster, Langoustine, Scallops, Calamari and Swordfish, which I enjoyed with a ½ bottle of 2012 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir. They added a serving of grilled vegetables and a serving of red beans. It was way too much food, and no room again for dessert, but I did do the platter justice. The grilled seafood was so good – you could smell it coming well before it arrived. I asked to be seated on the veranda overlooking the river right outside the more formal dining room, as it was a beautiful, warm night. Service was outstanding. Another excellent dinner. If I lived in D.C. I’d go here once a week!
Blue Duck Tavern. I like restaurants like this when you can smell all the beautiful aromas. Was seated directly in front of open kitchen and had fun time watching all the creations while I dined. I started with the Smoked Beet Salad, Ewe’s Blue Cheese, Candied Walnuts, Beet Relish, and Sherry Vinaigrette. This was a great salad, very large portions, fresh greens, and the smoked beets were divine. Then I tried the Cured Carolina Mountain Trout with Blood Orange, Jalapeno and Trout Roe – wonderful combination of flavors. Next I had the Seared Diver Scallops – perfect preparation and nice smoky flavor. I finished with the warm Almond and Pear Galette that was light and flaky with soft slightly caramelized pears – delicious. The service here was casual but sound. Restaurant was pretty but quite loud owing to the cement floors and pillars and open concept. Overall, I had a nice experience at this restaurant.
Jaleo – D.C. As a well-dressed, single 50 year old, I do not like being walked through the entire restaurant to the very last table in the room when the restaurant is empty. Though the table was on the window, I have to carve big points off for this. Saw another guest treated the same. Several times the servers had what were obviously personal conversations within feet of my table. And the waiter was uninterested. Not an ideal dining experience. The food was great – but I don’t think I could recommend this place unless it was for a larger group of peeps, which seemed to get the preferential treatment. The Sangria was very fruity and had a nice kick. The tapas were excellent – one after another of perfect small plates of bursting flavors. I had the Toasted slices of bread brushed with fresh tomato, Don Bocarte Spanish anchovies, Malaga-style chilled almond soup with crab and grapes (Fabulous!!! Very unique soup, several large pieces of succulent crab), Salad of red beets, citrus, Valdeón cheese and pistachios with Sherry dressing; Shrimp sautéed with garlic. Again, the food was superb, but the service and attitude less so.
Estadio. (Brunch) Sangria was very refreshing – red wine and cachaça, lime and mint. I had the Wild mushroom croquet with roasted peppers, nice flavor on the interior, but I wasn’t a fan of the heavy breading; Blistered Shishito peppers with olive oil and sea salt – simple but addicting! The grilled country bread with jamon, manchego and fresh tomato rivaled Jaleo’s. Scallops with roasted cauliflower and salbitxada was outstanding. Manchego cheesecake with quince jam and pistachio granola was very original and, for me, superb. I loved the interior of this restaurant. Surrounded with wood on the floors and walls, beautiful old wood tables, very comfortable chairs, several areas for seating – the main room, the bar area, about 15 chairs around the open kitchen, a couple of high communal tables and a nice little nook with two tops along the wall with large windows overlooking the side street. With its casual but friendly service, this is another restaurant I would visit often if I lived in the area.
I had a wonderful trip, and I thank you Chowhounds who guided me to (and from) some great dining experiences!
p.s. I stopped in one afternoon for a Bloody Mary at Off the Record (Hay Adams Hotel) which was top notch, and the service was elegant. I thoroughly enjoyed their Charcuterie Board – Saucisson, Coppa , Proscuitto, Chicken Liver Pate, breads, cornichons, and grainy mustard. I also stopped another day for a Bloody Mary and Oysters at Old Ebbitt Grill – nice cocktail, outstanding Oysters and Shrimp, indifferent service.