Tag Archives: Downtown

Lincoln — Lunch on 30 January 2020

Lincoln

Lincoln

Last stop on the January 2020 Restaurant Tour: Lincoln. Lincoln is the sister restaurant—brother restaurant?—of Teddy & The Bully Bar, our previous stop. The restaurants are owned by the same people and have similar menus. Lincoln actually came first, with Teddy opening a few years later.

If the owners ever decide to open a third restaurant with a complementary theme, they could name it after President Eisenhower. “Ike’s Place”, possibly.  After that, they’d be in dangerous territory, because they’d have pretty much exhausted the list of Republican presidents who don’t cause at least mild nausea and indigestion among a sizable portion of the population. Tricky Dick’s Cafe? Donnie’s Wall-burger?

Bacon & Apple Croquettes

Bacon & Apple Croquettes

Brussels sprouts were on the menu here, too, and because I’d so liked the Brussels sprouts at Teddy’s the other day, I was tempted to try Lincoln’s variation. I went with the bacon and apple croquettes, with brown butter-pear puree, pickled cipollini onion, and fried sage instead, because I’d already decided to have steak for the main again, and repeating both the starter and the main seemed a little too OCD.

Grilled New York Strip Loin

Grilled New York Strip Loin

This time, the New York Strip Loin came with smoked fingerling potato, grilled broccoli, and a sherry-mushroom fricassee. Nicely done.

Heirloom Carrot Cake

Heirloom Carrot Cake

Dessert was carrot cake and salted caramel ice cream.

Taberna del Alabardero — Lunch on 13 January 2020

Taberna del Alabardero

Taberna del Alabardero

I really, really like Taberna del Alabardero.

The restaurant is High Spanish. The original Taberna del Alabardero, which is near the Royal Palace in Madrid, opened in 1974, and continues to thrive. This American outpost has been around for 31 years, which in restaurant years is the equivalent of somewhere between two and three centuries.

The food here combines traditional Spanish cooking with some modern twists. Taberna does not fear innovation.

Crema de Bogavante con Mejillones, Queso Fresco y Picatostes

Crema de Bogavante con Mejillones, Queso Fresco y Picatostes

My server started the meal by pouring a rich lobster cream into a shallow soup bowl that held five little islands made of mussels, croutons, and microgreens. So good!

Solomillo al Whisky con Patatas Asadas y Ajo Confitado

Solomillo al Whisky con Patatas Asadas y Ajo Confitado

The main was a very generous serving of Whiskey Pork Tenderloin with tiny roasted potatoes and garlic cloves. Excellent as well.

Tarta de Calabaza con Queso Crema y Helado de Calabaza

Tarta de Calabaza con Queso Crema y Helado de Calabaza

Pumpkin is the new kale—it seems to be everywhere this season. Dessert was a pumpkin-flavored cake with cream cheese and a serving of pumpkin spice ice cream.


I’ve dined here half a dozen times, and I’m eager for more. The food is always both delicious and surprising, while the service is consistently top-notch.

Café du Parc — Lunch on 17 August 2019

If you’re a regular reader here, you may have noticed a recurring thread running through some of my more recent posts.

Probably because my own surroundings are far from sumptuous these days, I’ve become downright obsessed with the charmed lives of Gerald and Sarah Murphy, close friends of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and partial models for the main characters in Tender Is the Night. I even have a wrist band with WWGaSMD? etched into the leather to remind me to ask myself “What Would Gerald and Sarah Murphy Do?” before I make any major decisions.

So. This day’s lunch was part of my pursuit of Murphyesque elegance.

Entry Hall

You can enter the Willard Hotel’s Café du Parc directly from Pennsylvania Avenue, but I prefer taking a slow walk through the interior of the beautiful Beaux-Arts building. The Willard can trace its origin back to six small houses that served as a hotel on this site more than 200 years ago. After repeated cycles of decline and rebirth, the hotel was restored to its current magnificent state during the 1980s and 90s.

Abraham Lincoln stayed here before his inauguration, and six US Vice-Presidents have lived in the Willard during their terms in office. This is where Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1861, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the “I Have a Dream” speech 102 years later.

The entrance to Café du Parc is just off the lobby.

I decided to lunch on the café’s patio instead of inside the café proper. I chose a table bordering the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk and, following the old gamblers’ admonition about keeping your back to a wall, I chose a chair facing west. The White House is a six-minute walk in that direction, and I didn’t want to be surprised by some rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouching towards the Trump Hotel to be born. Safety First.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

It seemed a little silly to order French Onion Soup in August, but I like what I like, and there are few things that I like more than that classic combination of caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, beef broth, bread, and a dash of sherry.

My Apilco Lion’s Head soup bowl runneth over with goodness.

Salmon

Salmon

Chicken or fish? Fish or chicken?

Or, as the  Café du Parc menu put it, “Poitrine de Poulet Rôti au Jus or Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon”?

Chicken and fish dishes are default main courses on many an RW menu, because they’re cheap, fast, and easy. * Add Salade Niçoise to those choices, and you have the day’s three main options at Café du Parc. A little disappointing—The restaurant is usually more innovative in its offerings.

I had the salmon, with pesto mashed potato, heirloom carrots, and a tomato beurre blanc sauce. It may not have been a life-changing original, but it was damn good.

Dessert

Dessert

The menu called this “Pot De Crème au Chocolat au Grand Marnier” and describes it as “Baked Valrhona Guanaja 70% Chocolate Custard With Grand Marnier Liquor, Crème Diplomate Orange Confit, Buttery Langue De Chat Cookie”. I

I couldn’t put it better myself. /s

It was one of my favourite desserts of the week.


* “Cheap, fast, and easy”, btw, was my nickname in college. I guess they called me that because I ate in a lot of fast food joints back in those days.

Woodward Table — Lunch on 15 August 2019

Summer Restaurant Week is long passed, but I never got around to posting all of my notes and now my OCD has kicked in and won’t let me rest until I finish the project. I’ll be posting some much-belated comments over the next few days.

Woodward Table

Woodward Table

I had an unimpressive lunch at Woodward Table years ago, when it first opened. I have no recollection of what I ate, but I do recall that the service was terrible. The servers, who seemed to be involved in some very important business in a back room somewhere, had mastered the art of avoiding eye contact with patrons on those rare occasions when they scurried through the dining area. I briefly considered stringing piano wire between my table and the bar in an attempt to get their attention, but thought better of it. Instead, I just crossed the restaurant off my list.

Last July, Woodward Table announced that it was closing at the end of summer, and I decided I should give it one last try.

That was a mistake.

Mussels

Mussels

The steamed Blue Bay mussels starter sounded good. It came with the traditional grilled bread, and a sauce made with garlic, shallot, leek, fennel, tomato, tarragon, pernod, and creme fraiche. The mussels were tiny, not unlike the muscles I myself had had in fifth grade. (I chuckled quietly at the cleverness of my simile. I do that a lot.) The server had forgotten to give me a spoon to manipulate the mussel shells, but brought one on request.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Note to servers: Shrimp and grits is not finger food.

Eventually, I caught the attention of a server at a nearby table and began frantically miming someone carving a turkey. He got the idea, and brought me the missing knife and fork I needed.

Dessert

Dessert

Dessert was a clever idea. Instead of settling on a single dessert, patrons could order a sampler of nine bite-sized treats. The execution didn’t live up to the concept, though, because many of them tasted the same.


With all of Washington to choose from, I should have eaten elsewhere. Woodward Table was, once again, a disappointment, with forgettable food and poor service.

PS The Woodward Table location has already been optioned. It’s being taken over by The Cheesecake Factory.

The Occidental — Lunch on 13 August 2019

The Occidental

The Occidental

That little rectangular patch of gold and navy blue near the center of the picture is one of the entrances to The Occidental, viewed from Pennsylvania Avenue. This might be the most impressive approach to a restaurant in Washington. All it needs is a trumpet fanfare to mark the arrival of diners. Every time I reached a new landing on the stairs, I was tempted to turn and wave graciously—regally—to the crowds of impressionable tourists below.

Most diners use another, more easily accessible entrance at street level a few feet further down Pennsylvania Avenue, but it lacks the grandeur of all those steps. Besides, a regal wave is difficult to pull off when you’re standing at the same level as the people you’re regally waving at, especially if they’re taller than you.

Occidental Interior

Occidental Interior

The walls of The Occidental are covered with pictures from the restaurant’s collection of over 1,500 photos of well-known guests who have dined there. This being Washington, it’s heavy on politicians. One wall displays large photographs of the last few Presidents. I asked to be seated with my back to that wall, since I had no desire to spend my lunchtime looking at Mr Trump.

Frito Misto of Calamari, Shrimp & Bay Scallops

Frito Misto of Calamari, Shrimp, and Bay Scallops

This was one of those lunches where the starter and the dessert were the best part of the meal. There was a lot of tastiness on this little plate, which combined calamari, shrimp, and bay scallops, with zucchini, baby eggplant, pickled peppers, and spicy aioli.

Flat-Iron Steak

Flat-Iron Steak

I’m by no means a vegetarian, but it was the roasted heritage carrots that delighted me most about the main. The flat-iron steak with a Marsala reduction and a streak of cauliflower-burrata puree was just a bit tough.

Chocolate Passionfruit Parfait

Chocolate Passionfruit Parfait

This Chocolate Passionfruit Parfait wasn’t the prettiest dessert of the week, but it was my favourite so far. Dig-Dugging my way through successive layers of white chocolate mousse, chocolate cremeaux, passionfruit gel, and Chantilly cream kept me pleasantly entertained for 15 minutes.

Great room, very good meal.

Taberna del Alabardero — Lunch on 12 August 2019

Taberna del Alabardero

Taberna del Alabardero

It’s a True Fact© that Taberna del Alabardero, a couple of blocks from the White House, is Washington’s best Spanish restaurant. As its website notes it’s “the most authentic Spanish restaurant outside Spain since 1989”.

The restaurant is part of Grupo Lezama, which has operated in Spain since 1974, when it opened the original Taberna del Alabardero next to the Royal Palace in Madrid. The Madrid restaurant continues to thrive.

My meal at the Washington outpost was a delight, from start to finish.

Ensaladilla de Cangrejo con Espuma de Mahonesa de Zanahoria y Brotes de Guisantes

Ensaladilla de Cangrejo con Espuma de Mahonesa de Zanahoria y Brotes de Guisantes

I didn’t even try to approximate the pronunciation of the names of the dishes on the menu. This starter was described as a crab and potato salad with carrot mayonnaise foam and pea shoots. Interesting dish, but I tasted only a hint of crab.

Chipirones a la Parrila con Cebolla Confitada al Oporto, Alioli de Tintade Calamar y Patas Crujientes

Chipirones a la Parrila con Cebolla Confitada al Oporto, Alioli de Tintade Calamar y Patas Crujientes

This was a brilliantly-plated work of art. It was so beautifully done that I was reluctant to disturb its symmetry, but, somehow, I managed to cut into the grilled squid and take a bite. And another. And another….

The menu described it as grilled baby squids with oporto caramelized onion, squid ink allioli (the Spanish version of the French garlic sauce aioli), and crisp potatoes. Before my waiter served the dish, the “grilled baby squids” part of the description had me expecting tiny pieces, but the squid sections were huge—the largest I’ve ever seen.

Tierras de Chocolate con Yogurt, Frutos Rojos, Pistachos y Sorbete de Mango

Tierras de Chocolate con Yogurt, Frutos Rojos, Pistachos y Sorbete de Mango

Loved the dessert, too. Chocolate crumbs with yogurt, berries, pistachios, and a mango sorbet. The berries were a mix with one or two berries of each type, which made eating this dessert something of a happy treasure hunt.

Service throughout was impeccable and friendly.


About Those Grilled “Baby” Squids

As I noted above, what the menu described as “grilled baby squids” were, in fact,  gigantic. I thought the meaning of the Spanish phrase had been incorrectly translated until something happened shortly after I left Taberna del Alabardero.

I was walking home, past the branch of the Potomac River that flows down the middle of 17th Street, when I saw this:


It was the enraged mother squid (technically, the “Queen Squid”) attacking one of the restaurant’s supply ships. I’d always thought the “The Giant Squid of the Potomac” was a myth or an urban legend, but here I was, seeing it with my own eyes. As the Giant Squid dragged the vessel beneath the waves, I quickly snapped the above photograph. There was no time for a second shot, as the squid, the ship, and the unfortunate crew were swept over the 17th Street Falls and deeper into the river, which flows under the White House and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Thank goodness I was able to get a clear photograph as proof of what I saw!

(I’m available for media interviews, with reasonable compensation.)

Charlie Palmer Steak — Lunch on 18 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Two, Day Five

Charlie Palmer Steak, a short walk from the Capitol, is made for power lunches. The number of fellow diners that you might recognize is directly proportional to the amount of time you spend watching C-Span.

The rooms are airy and beautiful. The food is first-rate.

Organic Pork and Beef Meatballs

Meatballs

A small serving of organic pork and beef meatballs, with house-made cavatelli pasta, roasted garlic marinara, pecorino, and oregano.

Beef Short Rib

Beef Short Rib

The beef short rib was glazed with smoked chili and citrus, and supported by olive oil crushed potatoes. I’d just had short rib at Honeysuckle a couple of days ago, and I was a little leery about ordering it again so soon. I’m glad I did. This combination really worked.

Dessert

Dessert

Lavender Pot De Creme, with a brown butter sable cookie. You could really taste the lavender.

All in all, a very good meal.

I’d planned on a visit to the nearby National Gallery after lunch, but the day was brutally hot, and I was full, so I made my way to the subway instead, went home, and took a long nap.


Inside Charlie Palmer Steak. Pictures from the Web.

Main Dining Room

Main Dining Room

Wine Racks over Interior Pond