Over the past couple of years, I have gone all out for Rachel’s birthday when it comes to surprise dinners. Not only is it a great gift, but it’s also a fun way to try new restaurants as well as expand our palette. This time, however, I wanted to do something a little more romantic and intimate, but also dine at a restaurant we had never been to before. One destination instantly came to mind: Obelisk.
It’s amazing that after all these years that we had never to been to one of DC’s finest Italian restaurants up until last month. I felt it was an ideal destination given the intimacy (the dining room only hosts a handful of tables) as well as the universal praise. Oh, and compared to past birthdays, it was an incredible value.
Obelisk features a prix-fixe menu – five courses for $75 per person. And while that may appear steep to some, between the quality and quantity of food, it is well worth the money.
After ordering a few glasses of wine and noshing on their delicious bread basket, we chose our primi, secondi, and dolci from the handwritten menu. However our first course, or antipasti, was completely predetermined by the kitchen.
Our waitress soon brought over a variety of plates within minutes of each other, the first of which was their homemade burrata. My goodness was this delicious. Drizzled with olive oil, the cheese was creamy, delicate, and really got our taste buds flowing.
Up next was a salt cod frittata that featured a pleasant balance of sweet and salty. Soon after, we received a fennel and radish salad, fresh-roasted sardines topped with house made breadcrumbs, and finally, swiss chard stewed with wine and crostini. While the burrata was our favorite of the antipasti course, the swiss chard was a close runner-up thanks in part to its savoriness.
After finishing our quintet of plates, it was time to move onto the primi course. Rachel ordered the butternut squash ravioli. Meanwhile, I went in a completely different direction and ordered the lentil soup after the waitress remarked how much she loved the house ground sausage that’s in it. Well, it turned out she was absolutely right – the meat was outstanding. It also wasn’t your typical lentil soup since the beans were pureed, resulting in a much thicker consistency. It practically felt like comfort food considering how cold it was outside. It’s not often I opt for soups for a first course, but I’m really glad I took the waitresses’ advice in this case.
Rachel’s butternut squash ravioli literally melted in her mouth. She savored each bite and reluctantly gave me some to try, which I agreed were incredibly light while at the same time rich in flavor.
For our main/secondi course, I went with the roasted duck breast. Cooked medium-rare, the duck was tender, succulent, and generously portioned. I often forget how fatty duck is, and given the size of the portion, there’s a considerable amount of fat to work around. Nonetheless, I have to tip my hat to the kitchen on the execution of the dish. It was wonderfully juicy, full of flavor, and cooked at exactly the right temperature.
Rachel had the grouper which was lightly seared with artichoke, pork belly, and onions. The fish was superbly cooked and even I agreed how well the artichokes and pork went with the fish, and I’m not even a fish person. To put it succinctly, I would have ordered this dish for myself.
Following our excellent entrees, we then moved onto the cheese (formaggi) course. We received three different varieties of cheeses as well as a side of sour cherries. I’m not going to lie, we forgot to take notes at this point in the meal (blogger fail), but to my recollection, we had Pipe Dream Farm’s goat cheese, Bonrus (a soft sheep’s milk cheese), and Pecorino (a harder sheep’s milk cheese). Again, I am not entirely sure if these were the exact cheeses we received, but the sour cherries were a nice accompaniment.
We had finally reached the dolci part of the evening, and given how much food we had consumed up until this point, it was a good thing that this was our final course! Naturally, it did not disappoint. I went with the chocolate cake accompanied with a mint crème anglaise. I, like others I’m sure, love the combination of mint and chocolate and this dessert absolutely nailed it. The chocolate cake was wading in a small layer of anglaise which contained just the right amount of mintiness. An excellent dish all around.
Rachel didn’t want to get the same dessert as me, so she got the pear polenta tart with basil ice cream. This was the only dish she was a slightly disappointed with as it was tasty but didn’t really wow her. She felt she should have ordered the chocolate cake after she tried a bite of mine, but what is the fun in that?
We had an exceptional meal at Obelisk and I was very glad we ended up going here this year for Rachel’s birthday. The service was pleasant, helpful, and we never felt rushed. We were even more amazed that we received so much food for just $75 per person. While DC is in the midst of opening more restaurants than ever before, it’s good to know that Obelisk has proven that they are still one of the very best in the city.