Tag Archive for Penn Quarter

Early look at Azur

Octopus & pork belly

Octopus & pork belly

Open for just over a week, Azur seems to be getting off to a mediocre start.  Who hasn’t been looking forward to the opening of Frederik de Pue’s second DC restaurant (Table, being his first) in the former Cafe Atlantico/Minibar space?  (Read my write-up on the Daily Meal here for more background.)

Azur has many ingredients for success.  Among other things, there’s the chef’s experience at acclaimed seafood restaurants abroad; the seafood-centric menu, which includes a raw bar replete with a variety of East and West Coast oysters, house cured salmon, and caviar; and the lack of seafood restaurants in DC.  So far the reality has not lived up to its potential.  In the words of a young girl in an often-played ad about a cellular provider, “We want more, we want more.”  Overall, the food was fine, the portions were too small, and the price tag was too hefty. » Read more..

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.


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


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.

  427 11th St. NW
  Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202) 546-0088
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

Restaurant Review: America Eats Tavern – Best for a cocktail, some learning, and supporting the National Archives

I’m a fan of Jaleo and Zaytinya and of José Andrés generally.  So it hurts a little to say this, but I don’t know what to make of America Eats Tavern, the newest José Andrés restaurant to join Penn Andrés Quarter.  Wait, I take that back.  I think America Eats is a good way to support the National Archives and learn a little about our country’s culinary history while enjoying a cocktail.  I guess my dilemma is that America Eats seems to pale in comparison to Andrés’ other restaurants.  The food is just “okay,” relatively speaking.  One of Andrés’ many skills is his ability to create a menu with a variety of small plates that can be mixed and matched easily to form a complete meal.  You’ll understand, then, why I was surprised to find myself asking how am I supposed to make a meal out of these dishes?  Now, I know that America Eats is not a tapas-style restaurant.  Yet, it seems to be having some sort of identity crisis, hovering somewhere between a tapas-style restaurant and the rest, but missing key components of each.   I’ll explain more.  Keep reading!



July 31, 2011: Jazz brunch at Acadiana. Three courses for $32 plus $1 bloody mary’s and mimosas. Need I say more? I started with the charbroiled oysters which were prepared with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese AND came with warm french bread to dip in the garlic butter. So . . . hard . . . to resist. For my second course, I chose the crawfish etouffee, which was flavorful (hello butter!) and spicy. Very nice. Finally, because I hadn’t undone any buttons on my pants yet and because the brunch comes with three courses, I ended with beignets. They came with a chickory coffee cinnamon creme anglaise that I kinda wanted to drink because it was so good. Thank goodness for naps.

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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