• Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 4,714 other followers

  • Twitter Updates

  • Advertisements

Return to Bibiana: A second look.

My very first visit to Bibiana was for lunch a year ago on September 4, 2009, its opening day. Since, I have recommended it so highly to everyone. I had such a wonderful meal with top-notch service, which is usually difficult to find the same day a restaurant opens. Bibiana’s servers were knowledgeable about each dish on the menu on day one — impressive. I shouldn’t have been surprised though since Bibiana is in the family of DC restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, who has earned coveted James Beard Foundation nominations for service and also was named one of the “50 Most Powerful People in Washington” by GQ magazine last year. Bajaj is also the owner of Bombay Club, 701, The Oval Room, Rasika, Ardeo, and sister wine bar Bardeo – some of the best restaurants in the city. Bajaj owns two top restaurants in DC that specialize in Indian cuisine, two in American and with Bibiana, Bajaj is throwing his hat in the ring of authentic northern Italian fare.

Bibiana Executive Chef Nicholas Stefanelli

The restaurant has been a huge success since its opening, as well as the executive chef Nicholas Stefanelli, a Maryland native, who has worked in the kitchens of Roberto Donna, Fabio Trabocchi, two of the best Italian chefs in the area. In June 2010, Stefanelli was named ‘Chef of the Year’ by DC Modern Luxury Magazine and won the 2010 Rammy for Rising Culinary Star. For a young chef, he’s well on his way to a very successful career.

I was excited to return to Bibiana for a second look — this time for DC Restaurant Week. I made the reservation online through Opentable.com and invited a dear friend, Rick to dinner. We both arrived a few minutes early and the General Manager, Christian Pendleton suggested that we grab a drink at the bar while we wait. I was interested in their handcrafted cocktails but I ordered their seasonal Bellini, which was very sweet but delightful. The bar, which seats 12, has a vibrant glass backdrop with small rectangular cut outs that allows diners to steal glimpses of the foxy Chef Stefanelli and his team at work in the kitchen. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Stefanelli is a DC area heartthrob.

While sitting at the bar, I spied Mr. Bajaj in the kitchen speaking to Chef. When he passed by the bar, I got his attention. It made my evening that he remembered my name but once again, I shouldn’t have been surprised since his ability to put faces to names is his claim to fame.  As we were being seated, he comes over to the table and smiles and says, “Ah Lisa! Does this look familiar?” He remembered the exact table where I  sat during my last visit, a year ago.

Polpette with polenta. Photo by L. Shapiro

Once we were seated our server offered us the Restaurant Week menu which was a three-course pre-fixe menu. Most of the dishes on the menu were well described beneath their Italian name, except the Burrata, which we later found out is a rare imported Italian cheese. For the first course I ordered the Polpette, a braised meatball in Sugo Finto with Anson Mills White Polenta and Gremolada. The meatball was very tender and flavorful. The polenta was creamy and paired with the meatball, it reminded me of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. More importantly, the polenta came from Anson Mills in South Carolina, which harvests and mills near-extinct organic varieties of heirloom corn which were once abundant before the Civil War. This is a great testament to the care that Chef puts into his food by using the finest available ingredients. The meatball was served with a rich tomato sauce Sugo Finto or “Fake Sauce” which in Tuscany, the word sugo by itself means meat sauce. Mock meat sauce, sugo finto, is made like meat sauce, but the meat is left out. Capice?

Calamari with Squid Ink. Photo by L. Shapiro

Rick ordered the Calamari with Sopressata, Potato, Lemon with a Squid Ink Vinaigrette. Sopressata which is an Italian dry-cured salami is a specialty of southern Italy. The squid was tender, neither tough nor chewy. It was really very flavorful and the squid ink with its deep color provided excellent contrast.

Baked Atlantic Cod. Photo by L. Shapiro

For the main course, I ordered the Stocafissio or the Baked Atlantic Cod with crushed potatoes, onions, fennel and tomato. The fish was so delicate, tender, and flaky that one might suspect that it was undercooked; however, it was perfectly cooked and seasoned.

Rick said that he had never tried Skate before, which I described to him as having the same texture as a scallop, so decided to try it.  The Razza or Plancha Seared Atlantic Skate, with Caponata, which is a Southern Italian Eggplant dish, and orange was spicy and I’m rather certain that the dish had peppers, of which I’m allergic. So I didn’t really try very much.

Zuppa Inglese

For dessert, I usually don’t order rich chocolate desserts. I tend to go for the lighter fruitier option, such as a panna cotta. I had high expectations of Bibiana’s pastry chef Douglas Hernandez, formerly of Central Michel Richard, well known for their “kit kat”.  For dessert, I ordered the Zuppa Inglese or the Peach Soaked Cake with Peach Pastry Cream, Macerated Fresh Peaches and Caramelized Meringue. (Sorry, the photo doesn’t really do it justice). It was a beautiful presentation. The peaches were very fresh and the meringue on top was just a tad crispy. It was like breaking the crème brulée. Some people are addicted to that. I thought that it was a light and refreshing conclusion to a deliciously but very filling meal.

Ciocolate or " Milk Chocolate Mousse"

Rick and I have been friends for over 10 years and I predicted that Rick would order the Ciocolate or Milk Chocolate Mousse with Gru Chocolate Tuile and Hazelnut Sauce. The chocolate mousse was rich and creamy but not overly so. The rich flavor of the mousse was accentuated with just a little bit of each of the tuile and the sauce with each bite.

Overall, Bibiana doesn’t really need to participate in DC Restaurant Week because it has steady business regardless, but I think that the fact that Mr. Bajaj does participate is an even better reason to dine there. The service is the best-in-the-biz and Chef Stephanelli’s cuisine is authentic Italian, yet modern. I’m looking forward to continuing to recommend Bibiana to my friends, family, and readers. In addition, I’m eagerly anticipating what fall dishes Chef will add to his menu. I’m looking for spots that I can refer to my sister to. She has been asking me for recommendations of where she can find butternut squash soup. Hint Hint …

For more information: www.Bibianadc.com
Address: 1100 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 216-9550
Closest Metro: Metro Center


4 Responses

  1. I agree that Bibiana doesn’t need to participate in Restaurant Week, especially since they already have a pre-theater menu. Everyone is always raving about Bibiana, and my boyfriend surprised me with dinner there one night a few months ago. Unfortunately, it was one of my worst dining experiences ever, including service and food. I saw Mr. Bajaj there, but only interacted with the server, Manager, and various in-between employees (other severs, busboys, etc).

    • Nicole,
      I’m sorry that you didn’t have a good experience. I’m surprised.
      Did you tell your server, or better yet, the Manager while you were there? They can’t correct something that they aren’t aware of.

      • Haha, of course I told them! (That’s why I met the manager later). The server and the manager were both unapologetic and chalked it up to the fact that “some people just don’t care for our food”. The worst thing was it was prix-fixe for the table, so me sending back a dish mid-way through the meal led to my boyfriend getting his dessert and finishing it while waiting for my entree. they also took away our bread, drinks, and silverware while i was waiting for my entree and i had to ask for it back.

  2. […] Cooking explores Moroccan flavors at Ici Urban Bistro. • Dining in DC takes a second look at Bibiana. • Robyn Webb explains how to get rid of the garlic smell from your fingers. • Capital Cooking […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s