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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

DC’s Most Notable Chefs to participate in Toyota Farm to Table Tour Thursday, July 29.

On Thursday, July 29th at FRESHFARM Market by the White House (810 Vermont Avenue NW), some of D.C.’s most talented Chefs will participate in the Toyota Farm to Table Tour which showcases the connection between farmers, chefs, farmers markets and the communities they serve. Now in its second year, the Toyota Farm to Table Tour is visiting 11 famers markets across the country this summer to showcase the bounty of local farmers and to give market shoppers the opportunity to experience Toyota’s hybrid vehicles.

At the event, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. nine of D.C.’s most notable chefs will partner with market farmers to create bite-sized complimentary treats for visitors – all featuring farm-fresh ingredients.

Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora with White House Kitchen Garden with Assistant Chef and Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass.

Nora Pouillon and White House Chef, Sam Kass

Washington D.C.’s line-up includes:
Ryan Wheeler of Restaurant Eve
Kyle Bailey of Birch & Barley
Scott Drewno of The Source, by Wolfgang Puck
Mike Isabella of Zaytinya
Olivier Perret of Ici Urban Bistro
Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora
David Varley of Bourbon Steak
Paul Stearman of Marcel’s
Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana

Interested in what the Chefs will be preparing? Chef Nora Pouillon will serve an assortment of Organic Ham Salads–Ham and Root Vegetable Salad, Ham and Parsley Terrine, Ham Mousse on Heirloom Tomatoes.  Chef Ryan Wheeler will serve a fresh White Peach Panna Cotta with a Hazelnut Tuile. Nicholas Stefanelli will serve Ricotta with Grilled Peaches and Pistachios.

“Over the past 30 years, I have been delighted and encouraged to witness the steady rise of farmers markets in D.C.”, said Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora, America’s First Certified Organic Restaurant.  “They bring our communities together and showcase the importance of fresh and seasonal food so that everyone may reap the pleasure and health benefits of local produce.” The White House Organic Farm website said, “Nora was also instrumental in reviving DC’s farmers’ markets and is a frequent shopper. ”

In addition to complimentary tastings, visitors who participate in the day’s activities will have the opportunity to select complimentary potted culinary herbs from the Highlander Hybrid Mobile Garden as well as enter for a chance to win a culinary trip to Santa Barbara. At the Highlander Hybrid Mobile Garden, a Mobile Garden Herb Specialist will be on hand to pot the plants for visitors and answer general questions about gardening.  All herb plants are sourced from local vendors at the market.

“Our FRESHFARM Market, by the White House, is pleased to partner with Toyota’s Farm to Table Tour and the Farmers Market Coalition to launch National Farmers Market Week,” said Bernadine Prince, co-director of FRESHFARM Markets and vice president of the Farmers Market Coalition. “We’ll have nine chefs at the White House market on July 29 to showcase the bounty of local foods from the Mid-Atlantic region at our producer-only farmers market. Farmers markets continue to be a vital source of support to local, sustainable, family-owned farms in our region and across the country.”

I will do my very best to be there at the event. I hope to see you there!

Rammy 2010 Winners Announced.

RAMW President Lynn Breaux with Scott Drewno and Barbara Fairchild. Photo by Michael Birchenall.

Last night, Sunday, June 6, 2010, over 1,500 restaurant industry members and guests celebrated the announcement of the 20th annual Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) awards, or “Rammy’s” at the Marriott Wardman in Woodley Park, Washington, DC. Attendees were dressed to impress wearing 1940’s glam to fit the Casablanca theme of “We’ll Always Have… Restaurants” at last night’s RAMMY Awards gala. The 2010 Rammy’s gala was particularly special this year due to several changes including the new format. After 28 years, this year, in lieu of presenting awards during a seated dinner, awards were presented during a theatre-style seated ceremony. A celebration with dinner and dancing following in the Salon ballroom.

The new format came after many 2009 Rammy attendees complained that the awards presentation was too loud, hot, and lacked sufficient quality of food considering the audience of the attendees. Tim Carman of the City Paper commented that last year’s Rammy’s were like, “a sauna in the Sahara on Sunday night” and that most Chefs attending the dinner wouldn’t dare serve the food provided in their restaurants, “no chef in the ballroom would have allowed out of his own kitchen, under any circumstance.” 

Luckily, the food offered this year was fresher, more flavorful, and there was a greater variety offered. The carving food stations allowed attendees to watch as the carver sliced the chicken or beef right in front of them before placing it on plates while another culinary worker quickly drizzled it with sauce, dressed it with greens, and placed accompaniments on each plate.

Scott Drewno, Executive Chef of The Source by Wolfgang Puck in Washington, DC took home the highly coveted Chef of the Year award and 2941 in Falls Church, VA was named the Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year.

Birch and Barley team accepts New Restaurant Rammy. Photo by Michael Birchenall.

Also honored was Nicolas Stefanelli, Executive Chef at Bibiana as Rising Culinary Star; Alexandria’s Vermilion won Upscale Casual Restaurant; DC’s BLT Steak captured the title of Power Spot and Best Wine Program went to Proof. The publicly voted Your Favorite Restaurant award went to Co Co. Sala, last year’s Hottest Bar Scene winner. Birch & Barley won as Best New Restaurant and PS7’s as the first-time Beverage/Mixology Program of the Year category winner.

Michael Birchenall, Foodservice Monthly said, “The Restaurant Association celebrated the industry in a spectacle of hospitality and camaraderie that showed off DC as a culinary powerhouse. You could see from the acceptance speeches (that you could actually hear) that we still have that human, down home element that makes us different from some of the other major markets. We had three top winners (Birch & Barley, The Source and 2941) where the chefs left New York to make a lifestyle as well as professional change in their lives … they are now part of our community and we are all better for it. A splendid evening on every level.”

Mistress of Ceremonies Sue Palka, was stunning as always in her 40’s hair and gown. She concluded the awards with, famous Casablanca line, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

2010 RAMMY Award Winners:

Chef of the YearScott Drewno -The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Washington DC

Fine Dining Restaurant
2941, Falls Church VA

Rising Culinary Star
Nicolas Stefanelli – Bibiana, Washington DC

Best New Restaurant
Birch & Barley, Washington DC

Power Spot
BLT Steak, Washington DC

Neighborhood Gathering Place
Cork Wine Bar, Washington DC

Upscale Casual
Vermilion, Alexandria VA

Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene
Birch & Barley/Churchkey, Washington DC

Pastry Chef
Anthony Chavez – 2941, Falls Church VA

Joan Hisaoka Associate Member
ProChile/Wines of Chile

Beverage/Mixology Program
PS7’s, Washington DC

Wine Program
Proof, Washington DC

Restaurant Employee
Adolfo Cajchon – Seasons, Washington DC

Restaurant Manager
Mark Politzer – Bourbon Steak, Washington DC

Your Favorite Restaurant (voted by online/newspaper ballot)
CoCo. Sala, Washington, DC

Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award
Bob Madigan

WHERE MAGAZINE Visitors’ Choice Award
The Capital Grille

2009 RAMMY Honorary Award
The Monocle on Capitol Hill

Rammy nominations announced!

RISING STAR CHEFS ... Liam LaCivita, The Liberty Tavern; Jon Mathieson – Inox, Mike Isabella Zaytinya; Nicholas Stefanelli – Bibiana; Shannon Overmiller – Majestic Café. Photo by Michael Birchenall http://bit.ly/d6XeMU

On Tuesday, March 23, 2010, restaurateurs, celebrity chefs and key restaurant industry players flocked to The Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC for a celebration as the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington announced the 2010 RAMMY Award Nominees. Hosted by emcees Nycci and David Nellis, hosts of Dishing it Out on Federal News Radio, Washington, DC’s only food and beverage centric radio show.

The nominees for the DC’s “Oscars” annual restaurant awards, aka the Rammys Winners from the following categories will be chosen by a panel of judges, and announced June 6. The following nominees are chosen by an anonymous panel judges comprised of  esteemed food/restaurant writers and critics:

Fine Dining: The nominee is a member restaurant that demonstrates an unwavering standard of dining excellence in food, service and ambiance.  The nominee must have been in business a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009. 

Fine Dining Finalists: 2941, Michel Richard Citronelle, Minibar by José Andrés, The Oval Room, The Source by Wolfgang Puck

Upscale Casual: The nominee is a member restaurant that demonstrates a commitment to dining excellence in food, service and ambiance. The dining experience may be more casual than Fine Dining, the price point lower, but the commitment to excellence is paramount. The nominee must have been in business a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009.  

Upscale Casual Finalists: Central Michel Richard, The Liberty Tavern, Proof, Vermilion, Zaytinya

New Restaurant: A restaurant that must have been opened between December 1, 2008 and November 30, 2009 and already distinguishes itself as a pacesetter in food, beverage and service.

New Restaurant Finalists: Bibiana, Birch & Barley, Bourbon Steak, Eventide, Inox

Chef: The nominee is an executive chef or chef de cuisine who demonstrates consistent standards of excellence and serves as an inspiration to other food professionals.  The nominee displays a dedication to the artistry of food, exhibits an ongoing commitment to the community and may be from any type of establishment.  The nominee must have been a chef for the past five years with a minimum of two years based in the Metropolitan Washington area.

Chef Finalists: Bertrand Chemel of 2941, Scott Drewno of The Source, Daniel Giusti of 1789, Vikram Sunderam of Rasika, Haidar Karoum of Proof

Rising Culinary Star: The nominee is an “up and coming” chef who demonstrates exemplary talent, shows leadership and promise for the future.  The nominee must have been based in the Metropolitan Washington area for a minimum of two years.

Rising Culinary Star Finalists: Michael Isabella of Zaytinya, Liam LaCivita of The Liberty Tavern, Shannon Overmiller of The Majestic, Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana, Jon Mathieson of Inox

Pastry Chef: The nominee is a restaurant pastry chef who prepares desserts and pastries and demonstrates a high standard of excellence and culinary artistry.  The nominee serves as an inspiration to other food professionals.  The nominee must have been a pastry chef for the past five years with a minimum of two years based in the Metropolitan Washington area.

Pastry Chef Finalists: Anthony Chavez of 2941, Amanda Cook of CityZen, Josh Short of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Fabrice Bendano of Adour, Travis Olson of 1789

Wine Program: The member restaurant is distinguished by the quality, diversity, clarity and value of its wine program.  The nominee’s wine program best suits the cuisine and style of the restaurant while enhancing the dining experience.  The nominated restaurant must have been in operation for a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009.

Wine Program: 2941, Michel Richard Citronelle, Dino, 701/Ardeo/Bardeo/Bibiana/Bombay Club/The Oval Room/Rasika, Proof

Beverage/Mixology Program: New for 2010! The member restaurant is distinguished by the quality, diversity, creativity, clarity and value of its beverage program.  The nominee’s beverage program best suits the cuisine and style of the restaurant while enhancing the restaurant experience.  The nominated restaurant must have been in operation for a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009

Beverage/Mixology Program Finalists: Brasserie Beck, EatGoodFoodGroup (Eve, PX), Founding Farmers, PS 7’s, Tabard Inn

Manager: The nominee is a manager or general manager in the food service industry who displays the highest level of professionalism and leadership with a member business. This person must be an inspiration and mentor to all his/her co-workers displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image.

Manager Finalists: Souheil Moussadik of CoCo. Sala, Ryan McCarthy of Passion Food Hospitality, Ashley Williams of Mie N Yu, Mark Politzer of Bourbon Steak, Fernando Contreras of KAZ Sushi Bistro

Employee: The nominee is a non-managerial employee of a member business who serves as a model employee by displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image.  This nominee must have been working in the food service industry for a minimum of three years by December 1, 2009.

Employee: Corina August of Mie N Yu, Joe Bolam of Urbana, Adolfo Cajchon of Seasons, Marco Guzman of Café Atlantico, Jose Orantes of Dino

The public at large will have the esteemed opportunity to weigh in and choose the winners in the following category with a special ballot appearing in The Washington City Paper April 29 or online at www.ramw.org:

Neighborhood Gathering Place: This nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a high standard of quality and congeniality rooted in its neighborhood.

Neighborhood Gathering Place: Bar Pilar, Belga Café, Cork, EatBar, Kemble Park Tavern

Restaurant Power Spot: This nominee is a top choice member restaurant, a spot to “see and be seen” with the movers and shakers on the national and local political and business scene.  It best exemplifies “how Metropolitan Washington works.”

Restaurant Power Spot: Art & Soul, BLT Steak, Bombay Club, The Source, Teatro Goldoni

Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene: This nominee is a member restaurant or hotel bar that is innovative with an energetic scene (atmosphere, drink menu, etc.) with a hip and eclectic crowd and is a great people watching and meeting place.

Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene: Birch & Barley and ChurchKey, Bourbon Steak, Masa 14, Posto, POV

The 2010 RAMMY Award winners will be announced at the RAMMY gala on June 6, 2010 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. The theme of the 2010 RAMMY Awards is “We’ll Always Have… Restaurants,” and is a play on a famous line from the 1940’s movie Casablanca. 1940’s era glamour will influence the décor and attire and infuse the evening with an air of intrigue. Tickets to the RAMMYS may be purchased by calling 202.331.5990 or by email at rammys@ramw.org.
 
A portion of the proceeds from the gala will benefit the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Association Education Foundation to fund scholarships for culinary education students, enabling them to develop and expand their career opportunities in the restaurant industry.

A State Dinner for Those Washingtonians Who Didn’t Crash The Party!

The Bombay Club

After DC area  socialites, Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq, made headlines by so-called “crashing” President Obama’s first State Dinner, there was a great deal of concern that the White House security procedures were inadequate.  There are reports that these supposed, “crashers” were in fact invited. Maybe it’s just a cover up … we won’t ever really know, just like the JFK assignation. No matter … we have moved on as the nation’s capital. In fact, we’re going to have our *own* dinner … right next door from the White house! And even better, everyone is invited – for a small fee, of course.

Photo courtesy of Washington Flyer, by Joshua Roberts

Acclaimed restaurateur Ashok Bajaj has a special invitation for those Washingtonians who were not invited to President Obama’s first State Dinner in honor of His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh Prime Minister of the Republic of India and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur. 

On Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 7:30 p,m, The Bombay Club, just steps from the White House at 815 Connecticut Ave. NW, will attempt to duplicate the official Obama State Dinner menu … and only a reservation is required, no party crashing is necessary. The four-course menu will be priced at $65 (excluding tax and tip) and a wine pairing option featuring the same selection of wines from the State Dinner will be available for $25 per person. Preparing the dinner will be a talented team of chefs from Bajaj’s sister restaurants including Executive Chef Nilesh Singhvi of The Bombay Club, Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam of Rasika and Pastry Chef Adrienne Czechowski of The Oval Room. 
 
The  menu will showcase dishes from the actual State Dinner: Potato Eggplant Salad; Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Cheese; Roasted Potato Dumplings with Tomato Chutney, Chick Peas and Okra; Green Curry Prawns, Caramelized Salsify with Smoked Collard Greens and Coconut Aged Basmati. For dessert Pumpkin Pie Tart with Pear Tatin will be presented along with an assortment of Petits Fours.
 
Celebrating 21 years as Washington’s famed power dining location, The Bombay Club,  which opened in 1988, has been revered by presidents and the political elite. It features a beautiful updated décor reminiscent of the old clubs in India. Esteemed guests who have frequented the restaurant included Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former President George H. W. Bush, President Nelson Mandela and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to name a few. From the silver screen, notable stars such as Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have also been fans of the authentic Indian fare. Since opening The Bombay Club, Ashok Bajaj has added several other highly successful restaurants to his collection in the nation’s capital, including 701, the Oval Room, Ardeo, Bardeo, Rasika and the newly opened Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca.

DC Restaurant Week Top Ten Picks

Here are my top ten picks for Winter 2010’s Restaurant Week based on their reputation, quality of food, restaurant week menu offerings, or based on my own restaurant week experience. If interested, check out my Summer’s Top Ten picks. Remember: Restaurants that offer their full menu are considered the best deal. The restaurants that already offer prix fixe menus or pre-theatre menus all year-long, such as Oya or Cafe Atlantico, you can take advantage of anytime. In addition, restaurants that offers any small-plates/tapas/mezze, such as Zaytinya, Jaleo, Oyamel, Me Jana, all great, but already generally offer good deals year-round. Some restaurants offer only limited selections, or include various surcharges (sometimes called supplemental fees) for some of their better dishes – these should be avoided.

** Note** I did not include VOLT in the top ten listing due to proximity and unavailability (VOLT was booked the hour that the dates were announced.) Also Vidalia was ousted from the list. I organized a RW group outing in August and was almost embarrassed; none of my guests were particularly impressed.

  1. Adour – Situated inside the elegant and luxurious St. Regis Washington, D.C., Adour offers Washingtonians a glimpse into legendary Chef Alain Ducasse’s culinary mastery. Since it’s opening in September 2008, the restaurant was nominated by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Area of Washington as the ‘Best New Open Restaurant’. Although they offer a pre-theatre menu for $49, the RW offering is just $35.10 with no surcharges! (See menu here);  it’s an excellent value at one of DC’s most romantic restaurants. Some of their main course offerings include the slow cooked beef short rib with confit shallot, winter vegetables and bordelaise sauce or the seared haddock “grenobloise”  with brandade, capers and fried parsley or choice of  
    roasted chicken breast “grand mere” with button mushrooms and pearl onions. In addition, Adour will be extending the promotion almost the entire month of January until the 23rd.
  2. Bibiana – It’s new but it’s fabulous and you will experience some of the best food and service of your life. Check out my review from Opening Day.
  3. Kellari Taverna – Another new kid on the block, with its recent opening in October but has been around long enough to work out some if it’s initial opening kinks. RW is a great time to try this new Greek hot spot.
  4. Zentan – Heading here with a group of food writers for RW. It’s new but has been doing well since it’s recent opening. Located in the Donovan House this Pan-Asian hot spot is the place to be on most nights … let’s see how it handles the RW crowd.
  5. The Oval Room – A power spot; can’t go wrong here. It’s listed as #7 in the January 2010 Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants issue which is no surprise; Chef Tony Conte – a protege of Jean-GeorgeVongerichten and one of Ashok Bajaj’s top successes. I had some of the best dishes of my life here, the Parmesan custard and the butter-poached lobster with curry (check out my mention here).
  6. Rasika – My #4 pick from the summer RW; Chef Vikram Sunderam’s offers deliciously authentic Indian cuisine. Rasika has been ranked within the top 25 of Washingtonian’s Very Best list for years and in January 2010, it earned three and a half stars out of four ranked at #8. Chef Sunderam’s restaurant week lunch menu is the most promising at such an excellent value and includes its much-praised palak chaat, lamb roganjosh and for dessert, carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon. For dinner, enjoy some his best dishes, the palak chaat, black cod lightly sauced with star anise, dill, and honey and for dessert enjoy the carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon. Bread or rice comes with each main course. Owner Ashok Bajaj is the best in the business. You can’t tell? I’ve included two of his other restaurants in my top ten, Oval Room and his latest venture, Bibiana.
  7. Tosca – My #2 pick for the summer RW; – Executive Chef Massimo Fabbri has earned a superior reputation for making some of the best pasta in the city, which is house-made fresh daily, Tosca ranked within the top 25 of Washingtonian’s Very Best list two years in a row earning three stars out of four. (((Their restaurant week SUMMER menu was one of the best – by offering diners their full dinner menu, including some of Chef Fabbri’s signature dishes black sea bass tartar, Veal Ravioli, Risotto with saffron, and carrot pappardelle with a rabbit ragu)))) Tosca already has a wonderful pre-theatre dinner for $35 with wonderful choices, otherwise it might be ranked higher.
  8. 1789 – Offers a monthly prix fixe menu for $40 but RW could be an opportunity to try out some of Dan Giusti’s Rammy nominated cooking, if you haven’t been able to make it in beforehand.
  9. Againn  – The new British Gastropub will shock you, this is not your usual British fare. Executive Chef Wes Morton, joins Againn after having worked at some of the fine kitchens of Washington DC such as Citronelle and CityZen. The restaurant is new but you won’t be able to tell – the kitchen is in sync and the beverage program is well-developed. I recommend trying out Againn for RW lunch.
  10. Bistrot Lepic -Recently, I had the pleasure of dining at Bistrot Lepic & Wine Bar, the neighborhood French bistro located at 1736 Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park. It was my first experience dining there but I was very impressed with its charming, quaint, and romantic atmosphere.  Lepic will celebrate it’s 15 year anniversary this year. I plan to help spread the word about this neighborhood gem and It’s on my list to take my husband this year.

Honorable Mentions:

Poste Modern Brasserie – Poste already offers a pre-theatre menu for $35.09 everyday; however, it is only available from 5pm-6:30pm, which is difficult for most diners.

Dino – Dean Gold always gets into the spirit of RW by offering a glass of house wine. Dino is excellent authentic Italian food using the best ingredients.

The New Bibiana: A First Look on Opening Day

BibianaThe award-winning Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj’s newest venture, Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, a 140-seat Italian restaurant at 1100 New York Ave, NW is officially open for business as of today, Friday, September 4th. Bajaj is also the owner of Bombay Club, 701, Rasika, Ardeo, and sister wine bar Bardeo – some of the best restaurants in the city. I slipped in for lunch and was surprised to see that it was quite busy. I just assumed opening a new restaurant Labor Day weekend would generally mean business would be slow – not today. Most of the tables in the main dining room and the private dining area that seats 50 were full. Bajaj was greeting guests as they were being seated and General Manager, Christian Pendleton was walking around checking to make sure that each table was happy.  

It was announced on July 10, 2009 that Nicholas Stefanelli, formerly of Maestro in Tysons Corner was tapped to be the Executive Chef.Bajaj said, “the entire menu is from Nick. All of the dishes are of his influence.”

Baccala’ – Cod Fritters

The authentic Italian menu offers a variety of different  “Piatti Piccoli” or small plates including Saffron Rice Fritters with parmiagiano, Fiori di Zucca – fried squash blossoms, Polpettine, – veal meat balls in sugo finto, Crostini di Pollo, which is chicken liver with red onion marmalade and Fichi or Black Figs with Blu Di Monchiniso. I tried the Baccala’ or cod fritters served in a fish sauce, “Pil-Pil”. My server, Arthur from the Ukraine said that “Baccala’ is a traditional dish served around Christmas time in Naples.” Also on the menu is a Pomodoro Heirloom Tomato Salad. I was very tempted to order this, but I think that the Baccala’ was a very unique dish – certainly something that I have never tried before.

Also on the menu is various Antipasti offerings such as Sarde, or grilled sardines with peperonata, and orgegano, Vitello Tonnato which is roasted Veal Sirloin with Tonnato sauce and chicory. I decided to try the Barbabietola,  which is a delicious salad made with three varieties of beets, the traditional deep purple beet, a golden variety and “Cioga”, a white beet that turns pink when it is cooked. The salad is made up of small round thick slices of the varieties of beets, topped with Blu di Monchiniso, a blue cheese cheese from Northern Italy and sprinkled with almonds.

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Bibana is open Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 AM to 10:30 PM; Thursday and Friday from 11:00 AM to 11 PM and Saturday 5 PM to 11 PM. For reservations, please call (202) 216-9550 and patrons can also visit www.Bibianadc.com

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