Tag Archive for Italian

Elisir’s Tasting Menu

Roasted lamb

Three hours and seven courses later, I can only say that Elisir’s seven course tasting menu ($75) was average when compared to other tasting menus I’ve experienced.  In my book, it’s a bad sign when I’ve finished an extravagant meal and long for a nice, juicy burger to quell the lingering hunger.  My dining companions and I all felt the same way as we tried to make each course last longer by eating it in four bites instead of what could easily be done in one or two. While Chef Enzo Fargione and his team produce well-executed, balanced, and flavorful dishes that are also interesting to look at, I found that no one dish was memorable.

Ironically, the whimsical and colorful nature of Fargione’s dishes was in sharp contrast to the army of well-trained, suited and serious staff that catered to our every need — so much so that they ended up hovering over us.  It was a little disconcerting and contributed to the overly stuffy ambience.  This was no less evident when our service captain needed to correct the positioning of plates that had been set down incorrectly throughout our meal.  I applaud him for his conscientiousness, but my friends and I couldn’t help but be amused by the whole process.  At one point, we just broke down and tried to engage our service captain in some well-intentioned teasing.  His stoney demeanor quickly softened and he turned out to be quite pleasant.  That change quickly transformed the entire tone of the meal into something more enjoyable.

Halibut

I have to take a brief moment here to vent.  I’ve been disappointed with the continued popularity of foam and “dirt” (i.e. food made to look like dirt) on fine dining menus.  At best, these items add marginal value to dishes.  Why would I or anyone else want to eat anything that resembles dirt? Is it just me? Does anyone else feel the same way? Chef Fargione used these items more than once during our seven courses.  One type of “dirt” appeared in the deconstructed beet salad.  It was a mixture of dried mushrooms, coffee, and almonds.  I understand the need to provide different textures, but I would have preferred a different approach.   Next, the halibut came with a sauce made with oil mixed with the burnt parts of roasted vegetables.  I applaud Fargione for creativity, but I didn’t particularly like the taste of it. I was barely able to tolerate the foam in the tuna tartar.

Deconstructed beet salad

There were several relative high notes to the meal, however.  I really liked the olive oil/chocolate popsicle.  It was an unexpected flavor combination that worked quite well.  The goat cheese gelato in the beet salad was a nice, creative twist. It tasted great on its own as well as when paired with fresh beets.  The ravioli were delicate and pillow-like.

Olive oil and chocolate popsicle

Ravioli

I found the televisions in the front dining room, broadcasting images from the kitchen’s plating station to be a little odd. However, I was thankful for them when my friends and I waited patiently and hungrily for our next course to be served.

All in all, I doubt I will find myself going back to Elisir.  It was an average experience and not really worth the price in terms of food or ambience.

Elisir 
  427 11th St. NW
  Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202) 546-0088
Hours:
Bistro Lunch       Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner             Mon-Thurs: 5:30-10pm
                   Fri-Sat: 5:30-11pm
Bar Happy Hour     Mon-Fri: 4:30-6:30pm

Elisir on Urbanspoon

The Hamilton: A little of everything

Gnocchi (courtesy of The Hamilton)

The Hamilton sounds too good to be true.  At 37,000 sq. ft and three floors, this ambitious new venture from Clyde’s Restaurant Group that occupies the old Borders space at 14th and F St. NW, seems to do it all. It’s open 24 hours, has a live music venue, and several bars and dining rooms.  Its menu seems to have been cobbled together using menus from diners and Korean, Japanese, Italian, and BBQ restaurants.  Its late night menu offers pancakes, burgers, and everything in between.  I’m tired just thinking of all its attributes.

The question is with such a huge menu and varied cuisines, can the kitchen really master any of them?  And moreover, does it have to? The answer to both questions is no.  While some dishes were better than others, nothing was outstanding and nothing was offensive.  So while the “kitchen sink” approach to cuisine seems inherently offensive to me, I can see how a little of everything, even if mediocre, can often times be good enough.  This is especially true when you’re with a group of people who can’t settle on one type of cuisine or when you “need” that late-night, post-drinking grub.  I also imagine the Hamilton will be a favorite among restaurant industry folks who need to unwind after working a long shift.

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Restaurant review: Isabella’s Graffiato is pretty damn good

Damn you, Isabella.  Damn you.  I hate to say it, but nice job with Graffiato (6th & G NW).

Why do I hate to say it? I’m conflicted.  Like others, I thought you were too arrogant during your first season on Top Chef.  Then, you made me a fan when you returned to compete in Top Chef All-Stars.  It was clear to me that you had come back a much more focused and humbled chef than your previous Top Chef-self.  In other words, you kicked some Top Chef ass.  I followed pre-opening reports about your restaurant and asked myself: Would Graffiato be worth the hype?  Then, I got frustrated because I couldn’t get a reservation and I just resigned myself to answering “no” to that question.

Right.  So, where was I? Ah, yes.  Damn you, Isabella.  Damn you.  I’m no longer conflicted.  I can openly and confidently say: great job on the food and the ambiance.  I will be back.

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Restaurant review: Al Tiramisu — an oldie but a goodie!

photo_reasonably_small
So far I’ve written about new places, or at least places that are “new” to me.  Al Tiramisu is different.  It’s been around for 15 years (for good reason) and I’ve been there many times before.  The first few years I lived in DC, I often dined at Al Tiramisu.  Suddenly, I just stopped going.  Come to think of it, I began avoiding all Italian eateries period.  I’m really not sure why, but I think the timing may have coincided with following a low-carb diet.  (Darn you South Beach and Adkins!)  Last night, I became re-acquainted with Al Tiramisu after a long sabbatical thanks to my friend who chose it as the venue for her birthday dinner.For those that have yet to try it, you really should.  Italians seem to like this place, which is always a good sign.

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