Tag Archives: steak

DC Restaurant Week at Adour

29 Aug

Rachel and I were rather strategic about this year’s Restaurant Week. We wanted to a) dine somewhere we have never been to before, b) make sure the $35 price tag was worthwhile, and c) eat at a place that offered the full menu.

Adour covered two out of three of those prerequisites – they only offered a limited menu – but given that Alain Ducasse’s DC establishment serves entrees that are typically priced over $35, we made an exception to that last condition.

With our party of six promptly seated for our 7:30pm reservation, the staff was already very hospitable given that one of our friends had brought their newborn along to dinner with a stroller. Adour isn’t one of the most baby-friendly restaurants in the city, but they were very courteous given the situation, though I think the highest honor should go to baby Micah himself. He was very well-behaved throughout the evening and barely made a peep.

Carrot Ginger Soup

While reviewing the wine menu, our waiter dropped off a plate of warm gougères which were quickly devoured by the table. After placing our orders, we were presented with an amuse bouche of carrot ginger soup. Delightfully creamy, it was a nice way to start the meal off.

Daurade Ceviche

For our first course, I ordered the daurade ceviche. The fish, which was served atop a layer of avocado, was light and refreshing. On top of the daurade were kernels of fresh corn as well as popcorn. The latter was an interesting ingredient to say the least, both texturally and flavor-wise, but it was way too salty and contrasted with the protein.

Path Valley Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Rachel started off with the chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho with compressed watermelon and basil. She debated if this would be a worthwhile Restaurant Week choice given that fact that it was just soup, but after the first bite she knew she had chosen well. The flavor of watermelon was very prominent, and combined with the basil and tomatoes, it was one of the better gazpacho dishes she has tasted.

Braised beef short rib

For our entrees, I went with the braised beef short rib. This dish easily made the meal for me as the short rib was simply outstanding. I barely had to use my knife since the meat was so incredibly tender. Served with sautéed onions, tomatoes, and peppers in addition to a side dish of creamy polenta, I can safely say that it was one of the best short ribs I have ever had. A bold statement, I know, but I was really blown away by the careful preparation of the chef. Considering that this entrée alone is regularly priced at $37, it’s a steal to say the least.

Seared Scottish Salmon

For the entree Rachel ordered the seared Scottish salmon. It wasn’t the best salmon she ever had, but it was well-cooked and melted in her mouth. The mussels on top were a nice touch and overall it was a pleasing dish. After having a bite of the short rib she did encounter some ordering envy, but she happily cleaned her plate.

Milk Chocolate Coffee Bar

As for dessert, I ordered the milk chocolate coffee bar. Served with a side of nougatine ice cream, this was a decadent ending to a great meal. Adour’s spin on the Kit-Kat, I would take Ducasse’s version over Hershey’s 11 times out of 10. Topped with crispy rice drizzled with chocolate, it was incredibly hard to put the fork down. Then again, I had to in order to use my spoon to scoop out every last remnant of the homemade ice cream!

Roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet

Rachel got the roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet. She loved the dessert as the flavors of coconut and pineapple blended together in perfect harmony.  Even though she was full from the prior courses, it wasn’t too heavy as she was still able to fully enjoy her dessert.

Overall, Adour was a fantastic meal. After reading some mixed reviews, I must admit that I felt I was going to be setup for a disappointment, but fortunately that was not the case. We had excellent service as they were very accommodating given our friend’s baby. Despite the limited menu options, the food was excellently cooked and even transcendent at times (see: short rib). We even received some complimentary cookies before we got the bill. For all the flack Restaurant Week receives, Adour is a shining example of how it can succeed.

Adour (St. Regis Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Jake's American Grille

16 Jun

Van Ness used to be a barren wasteland for restaurants, but with places like Comet, Acacia Bistro, and Jake’s American Grille bucking the trend, perhaps there is hope for this neighborhood after all.

Rachel and I as well as a couple of our friends went out to Jake’s for dinner last week. We had been looking forward to dining there for quite some time given the expansive menu and diverse beer list, especially in a location where it is somewhat difficult to find both of these things in one setting.

There is a relatively large bar area on the left side of the room which looks like it would be a great happy hour spot. In fact Jake’s offers two happy hours: 4pm to 7pm, Monday through Friday, and a drinks-only “reverse” happy hour from 9pm to close, Monday through Thursday.

Red Curry Yellowfin Tuna

We were able to secure a table as soon as we arrived and were seated towards the front of the house. The interior gives off somewhat of a homey, neighborhood feel to it with its brick walls, wooden floors, and dim lighting. The menu primarily consists of tavern fare which featured an array of burgers, sandwiches, chicken, and fish.

I went with the red curry yellowfin tuna while Rachel ordered the southwestern tilapia. When I ordered my tuna, the waiter didn’t ask for a cooking temperature, but assuming that the kitchen would cook it on the rare side anyway, I didn’t think much of it at the time. When the dish arrived, the tuna was definitely rare, if not a little undercooked.

The parts of the fish that were cooked at the right temperature weren’t bad, but the quality of the tuna itself was just subpar. Considering that I have had similar dishes at other restaurants, I was slightly disappointed. I did, however, enjoy the side of buckwheat soba noodles that featured baby corn, broccolini and edamame which was covered in a red curry-coconut sauce.

Southwestern Tilapia

Rachel certainly liked her tilapia, but she felt that the dish was missing something as it only came with a side of black beans. It could have been accompanied with some sort of vegetable, rice, side salad, something! She put it best when she described it as “a plate of fish and beans”. I mean, this is supposed to be an “American grille”, not a taqueria.

All and all, outside of spending some quality conversation with our friends, our meal was pretty forgettable. Nothing really stood out in regards to the food, and while the prices were rather reasonable (our two entrees combined cost us $31), everything was just average.

We’re hoping that Jake’s will improve with age as it’s a great space in a location begging for business, but until the kitchen improves, we’ll probably just stick to happy hour visits in the interim.

Jake’s American Grille is located on 5018 Connecticut Ave in the Van Ness neighborhood of DC.

Jake's American Grille on Urbanspoon

The Inn at Little Washington: A Tale of an Anniversary, Redemption, and Closure

8 Mar

Before we get into today’s post, I have to recount a story that will help explain why this post is titled as such.

The first time we ever dined at the Inn at Little Washington was exactly one year ago. Rachel and I had just got married and we went on a “mini-moon” in Washington, Virginia immediately following the wedding.

Staying at a nearby bed and breakfast, the main attraction was our reservation at the world-renowned Inn for dinner. As someone who not only loves food, but is also considered a “bottomless pit” to some, what happened next was, dare I say, tragic.

That morning, I had contracted some sort of stomach illness. Any desire of hunger had disappeared, replaced instead with sharp pains in the abdominal region. It wasn’t really the greatest trade off.

Since we were mere walking distance from the restaurant, and because there would be a cancellation fee for reservations changed within 24 hours, I felt that I could whether the storm and try to enjoy dinner to its fullest.

Amuse bouche of pork belly, "gin and tonic" foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball

While I recall the deliciousness of the herb-crusted baby lamb Carpaccio, once I had reached the second course, it was all downhill from there. The pain was intensifying and the sight of food was increasing my nausea. The waitress, who felt terrible about the predicament, kept graciously supplying me with glasses of ginger ale. I barely touched my entrée and had no recollection what it tasted like because I was so ill.

As someone who rarely gets sick, this was my worst nightmare realized.

Ever since that fateful evening, I have vowed to return to the Inn at Little Washington not only healthy, but with a hearty appetite. It’s eaten away at me (no pun intended) for a year now, and I was determined to come back and enjoy the best dinner we was supposed to have that night.

I wanted closure, dammit.

White bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit

With our one year anniversary coming up, we felt it was a perfect opportunity to return to the countryside of Virginia and dine at one of the area’s (if not the country’s) very best restaurants.

The service at the Inn is unlike anything else we have ever encountered. When we arrived in the pouring rain, attendants came with umbrellas to make sure we wouldn’t get wet from the nasty weather.

Once we were inside, one of the hosts noticed my camera and asked if he could take a picture of us in front of the warm fireplace, to which of course we obliged. Shortly after, we were escorted to our seats in the gorgeous dining room where another host asked us if he wanted to take our picture at the table.  To say that you are treated like royalty would be an understatement when dining at the Inn.

Chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette

We started the evening off with a bottle of chardonnay from the Winery at LaGrange, which is a winery we had debated visiting this past weekend.

Shortly after our wine was served, our first amuse bouche arrived. Delicately placed in four individuals spoons were miniature bites of pork belly, “gin and tonic” foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball. We obviously couldn’t share them so we each ate two. For such small portions we were enamored with how each tasted.

Our next amuse bouche was a small serving of white bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit. The two items flawlessly complemented one another. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded a whole bowl of the soup just for myself based on how rich and delicious it was.

Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream

For the first course, I ordered the chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette. The lobster knuckles were just as exceptionally good as the beautiful presentation. While it slightly reminded me of the lobster meat found at Red Hook Lobster Pound (yeah yeah, I’m well aware I’m referencing a food truck, but come on, their lobster meat is undeniably good), head chef Patrick O’Connell finds a way to take something and make it that much better. The orbs of avocado were also a really nice touch and melted in my mouth with each bite.

Rachel decided to get the Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream, and we both agreed that it was one of the prettiest dishes we had ever seen. It seriously looked like a painting, and the combination of the miniature ice cream balls, Carpaccio, homemade croutons, and spear of romaine lettuce with fresh cheese made each bite a perfect play on a classic dish.

Seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive

The second course featured a seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive. While the scallop was impeccably cooked, I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed by the size of it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very enjoyable piece of shellfish, but for the price we were paying, it’s a shame that it could not have been at least a somewhat larger portion. The way it was prepared, however, made me savor each bite more than I would have with a larger plate.

Always a fan of anything lobster, Rachel got the lobster fricassee for her second course as I had lobster for my first course, not to mention that she had the lobster entree during our visit last year. This is one of the Inn’s characteristic dishes, and once you put all the components on your fork, you get to relish a perfect bite of lobster meat, gnocchi, walnuts, and stem mushrooms in a light butter sauce. It’s a dish that could be very filling if you had a full plate of it, but the portion size was perfect as a prelude to what was to come.

Fricassee of Lobster with Potato Gnocchi, Green Grapes and Curried Walnuts

As for the entrée, it was only a matter of time that I would face the dish that simply teased me when we last met a year ago. Having no memory of what it tasted like, I wanted redemption on one of Patrick O’Connell’s classics: the pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon.

Topped with seared duck foie gras on charred onions with a burgundy butter sauce, this dish met its lofty expectations immediately after the first bite. Not only is the quality of the fish top-notch, but then when you add in the fact that you’re also having the most savory piece of foie gras your taste buds have ever encountered, you are in for quite the treat.

Pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon

What is amazing is that you really do lose sight that it’s not beef you’re enjoying, but rather tuna. Between the outstanding cut of fish, foie gras, and burgundy sauce, it’s a recipe that has stood the test of time. When I finally put the fork down after the very last bite, I ultimately reached the feeling I had been yearning for so long: closure.

After some debating and suggestions from our ever-patient waiter, Rachel decided to steer clear from her usual choice of fish and get another Inn classic – the beef two ways. The two versions of meat were striking in contrast on the white plate. On one side, you had a braised short rib that was slow-cooked for hours and fell apart with the touch of your fork, and was accompanied by a delicious barbecue sauce that was sweet but not overpowering, along with mini walnuts and vegetables.

Beef Two Ways

On the other was quite possibly the most delicate piece of meat we have ever tried. It was a miniature filet mignon, cooked rare and wrapped in Swiss chard. When I tried a bite, I realized this is why people go to the Inn: to experience somewhat familiar foods in completely new ways. To top it all off, a small portion of potatoes au gratin provided even more indulgence to an already decadent dish. It very well might have been the best cut of beef I have ever tasted.

Nearly stuffed, we still had to order dessert! After glancing over the menu, I opted for the Seven Deadly Sins: a sampling of seven of the Inn’s richest desserts. When it arrived, I was not only floored by the presentation but also by the wide range of pastries found on the plate. If memory serves me correctly, it included an apple crisp, molten chocolate lava cake, panna cotta, a scoop of butter pecan ice cream, black forest mouse, mint chocolate cake, and a vanilla chocolate ice cream roll in the center. Unfortunately, I could only tackle six of the seven desserts (rest assured, the apple tart is in the refrigerator). Nonetheless, I was very satisfied with my choice.

You have to tip your hat to the staff at the restaurant. They go above and beyond in insuring that your experience at the Inn at Little Washington is one you will never forget. For instance, our waiter noticed that Rachel had only a few bites of her butter pecan ice cream sandwich with hot caramel sauce. He asked if she liked it, and as soon as she hesitated, he promptly asked what she would like instead. Moments later, a fresh plate of bread pudding appeared on the table. He could not have been more gracious.

After we settled the bill and received our personalized menu to take home along with a miniature version of the Inn filled with treats, we learned via The Bethesda Foodie that you could ask for a tour of the kitchen. We grabbed our waiter’s attention, and before we could even finish our question, he already knew what we were going to inquire about. One of the hosts soon took us to the back, and before we knew it, we were inside the Inn’s kitchen.

Soutern Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich

As we were whisked inside the heart of the operation, Chef O’Connell himself greeted us, shook our hands and wished us a happy anniversary! We thanked him for providing such a great meal while our host showed us about the different stations. Before we knew it, we were outside the kitchen, starstruck. It didn’t even occur to us to ask for a picture with the Chef, but he did look extremely busy and we were grateful he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to meet us. We’re sure we weren’t the only people who asked for a tour that night.

Victorian lampsFaira the CowMiniature Inn stuffed with treats

Finally, it was time to go. Happily full and content, a hostess already had our coats ready at the door and a valet was warming our car for us before we ventured out into the sleet and rain.

If you’re ever thinking about going out to dinner for a very special occasion, we cannot recommend the Inn at Little Washington enough. Between the food, ambiance, and customer service, it’s not a meal, but rather an experience – one that you will treasure for a long time.

The Inn at Little Washington on Urbanspoon

Galileo III: Third Time Is a Charm for Roberto Donna

19 Oct

Roberto Donna’s long-awaiting Galileo III recently opened in Downtown DC, and DMV Dining could not hold out another day without trying the Italian chef’s newest venture. Let’s just say we’re glad he’s back.

We were able to grab a last minute reservation for last Friday, and had less than 24 hours to process the notion we’d actually be spending our evening dining on fine Italian cuisine from one of the area’s most beloved chefs rather than catch up on hours of DVR from this past week (ah, married life!).

Located in the space previously occupied by Butterfield 9, Galileo III is situated in a prime location in Downtown Washington. Valet parking was our only option as it was still rush hour, but for $8, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Bread PlateThe hostess was very warm and friendly and immediately sat us near the front of the house. The space is very modern yet homey at the same time, but that could be because Roberto Donna’s wife Nancy, who was making the rounds at every table, makes you feel like you’re a part of the family. We struck up a nice conversation with her as she wholeheartedly approved of Rachel making the wine selection instead of myself.  Little touches like that go a long way.

Our waiter asked us if we wanted sparkling or still water, and when we had asked for still, he immediately brought over a bottle of water and poured it into both of our glasses before we had enough time to realize that we had really asked for simple tap water. We noticed other tables around us also had tap water, but because the waiter never even mentioned tap as an option, we had simply assumed that “still water” meant “tap” in this particular case.

The waiter not initially offering tap water as an option was obviously an error on the restaurant’s part, but we also did not act soon enough to deny the water before it was too late. Both of us were not vocal enough about the gaffe, but seeing how the restaurant was only in its second week of operation, we still probably should have said something.

Wine: Considering the price for the meal itself, it was refreshing to see a good number of wine bottles priced at $30. We chose a Bordeaux that had a very distinct taste to it. We were a little unsure of our choice and I noticed that other tables had a sommelier spend more time in helping other diners choose, but they were likely buying a bottle that was probably at least twice the price that ours was.

Carne Crude All' AbeseFirst course: I decided to order the Carne Crude All’ Abese, which was layered hand-chopped veal with slivers of rich Parmesan cheese, slices of mushroom, artichoke chips, and a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. As the beginning of my meal, it certainly raised the bar as to what was yet to come. I had no idea veal could taste this good, yet Chef Donna pulled it off with ease. It was an excellent first course as the succulent veal blended well with the dressing, not to mention its gorgeous presentation.

Tonno Delle IsoleRachel went with the Tonno Delle Isole which was tuna prepared three ways, but only two of the methods were easily distinguishable. One was more of a thinly sliced piece of smoked tuna, and the other was a tartar below that, with little balls of couscous holding it together. There were small pieces of lettuce on top and a hint of orange dressing. The tuna tasted delicious, but it didn’t stand out as a must-try dish.

Raviolini del PlinSecond course: I went with the Raviolini del Plin – small pinched ravioli stuffed with three meats and served with veal au jus. Another fine dish as the homemade pasta was simply delicious. For one reason or another, it just felt that there was a lot of dedication from the kitchen in concocting the pasta considering how authentic it tasted.

Rachel opted for the Porcini Mushroom Two Ways, which meant stuffed legs with fonduta cheese, breaded & sautéed, and roasted head with garlic & parsley, with black truffle sauce. This was a dish that looked much different than she thought it would when first reading it on the menu. Porcini Mushroom Two WaysIt seemed like the mushrooms would be displayed as the stem and legs as the star of the dish, but when Rachel received it, the main component was a fried tart stuffed with creamy cheese and mushroom stems. The second part was a thin piece that lay on the tart, accompanied by a truffle sauce. The flavors all mixed well together, but it was a little heavy and after eyeing someone else’s scallop dish, she wondered if that would have been a better choice.

Pappardelle Al CinghialeThird course: It is pretty amazing when the following pasta dish is able to top the previous one, but that turned out to be the case as the Pappardelle Al Cinghiale was simply divine. This was my favorite course of the meal as the fettuccine was perfectly cooked while the wild boar sauce was the best ragu I had ever tasted. Seriously, I wish I had a jar of this stuff to take home with me.

Mezzelune di Melanzane E GranchiRachel’s next pasta course was the Mezzelune di Melanzane E Granchi, and the flavor combination was very unique. The half moon shape pasta was filled with spinach and crab meat, with a light tomato sauce, finished with a hint of orange juice. There was a stark contrast between the tomato and the orange flavor, which was enjoyable but also overpowered the filling of the pasta. It was hard to taste the crabmeat, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a winning dish. It was certainly her favorite of the pasta dishes that night.

Tagliata (beef rib eye)Fourth course: I ordered the Tagliata (beef rib eye) and it was perhaps the only misstep of the evening. I had asked for it to be prepared medium-rare, but when it arrived, the majority of it was more on the medium-well side. It was also a bit dry, but the sun-dried tomatoes it was topped with aided the overall flavor of the entree. I’m not one to send a dish back unless it is extremely necessary, so there was really no reason to ask the waiter to have it prepared again as it was still good overall. Out of all the courses thus far, this was the weakest in terms of execution.

Rachel was in a predicament as she was originally set on trying the Branzino, especially since it received rave reviews from those who have tried Galileo III during the first few weeks. Always a big fan of lobster, she had planned on getting the Taglierini Neri All’Aragosta with lobster tail as one of the earlier courses, and then the Branzino for the entree. However, there was a significant upcharge for the whole fish, and when spending so much for the meal to begin with, it just didn’t seem necessary when all the other entrees were most likely just as good.

Arogosta E CalamariIn the end, she went for the Arogosta E Calamari (lobster tail), which came with calamari stuffed with cabbage and pancetta, as well as cubed red beets and creamy polenta. The dish itself was delicious and very unique. The calamari side with the cabbage tasted very similar to a stuffed cabbage dish, and was perfect comfort food. She said she would eat more of that even just as a main dish! She wasn’t sure how well it went with the rest of the entree, but the lobster itself was perfectly cooked, and very delicate.

The only thing she noticed was, at the table next to us, that the person who ordered the lobster appetizer had a significantly larger portion of lobster than what she had for the main entree. It was hard to complain with so many courses, and considering the fact that if the portion was any larger she would have been completely stuffed. It just made her think that if we ever came back, that she would definitely try the lobster pasta starter dish.Torta di Cioccolato

Dessert: For dessert, the waiter recommended the Torta di Cioccolato. It proved to be a great suggestion as the tort was very rich while the small portions of basil and coconut gelato added some variety to the dish. Rachel went with the Crostata di Mele, which was essentially a small apple tart with caramel ice cream. It was a simple dessert and the apple combined with the caramel ice cream was a perfect way to end a delicious meal.

Crostata di MeleOverall, Galileo III turned out to be a great experience. It’s not the best meal we’ve ever had, but I can easily see it becoming one of the city’s best Italian restaurants once they work out the kinks both in the kitchen and on the floor.  The service was otherwise top-notch.

Let’s just hope that the waiter will actually offer us a third water option on our next visit…

Galileo III on Urbanspoon

Cuba Libre Opens Its Doors in DC

8 Oct

There has been buzz growing for quite some time about Cuba Libre, a new upscale Cuban restaurant in Penn Quarter. The mini-chain has other locations in Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and Orlando, but this is the company’s first foray into DC. When we heard that not only were they opening October 1st, but that for the first week all food items would be 50% off, we snagged a reservation on OpenTable right away. We somehow were able to add our friends as well, so the four of us ventured there on Wednesday to check it out.

(Note: apologies for the camera phone pictures. We had showed up with our actual camera only to find out that the battery was not charged, so we had to make due with Rachel’s Android instead. C’est la vie!)

We arrived for our 8pm reservation and the place was packed, notably with people crowding the bar area. The place itself is pretty impressive, with balconies overhead and colorful walls that made it look like you’re stepping into Havana, not that most of us would know what that looks like given that we’ve never actually been to the Caribbean country, but I digress.

While waiting for our friends we decided to try some of their supposedly famous mojitos. There are 14 varieties to choose from, as well as specialty cocktails, caipirinhas, an extensive rum menu, and of course beer and wine. I decided to try the grilled pineapple mojito after hearing a recommendation from a friend on Facebook, and Brett went for the classic variation. They even had flavors such as an energy mojito with Red Bull, and one that included basil and beet puree.  Both of ours were tasty, but I definitely think I liked mine better of the two.

The menu is broken out into Piqueos, or small tasting plates, aperitivos (appetizers), ceviches, and entrees. We were told that the ceviche is what they are known for, and the James Beard award-winning chef of the chain even has a cookbook dedicated to them. So we opted for the sample of all five varieties.

Ceviche AssortmentNormally, we would have just left it at that, but since in the back of our minds we knew everything was half price, we decided to also go for an appetizer of Mariquitas Cubana, which was essentially a trio of dips with different chips to try. The dips were a black bean hummus, rum-cured smoked marlin salad, and Haitian eggplant spread, essentially a play on Mediterranean dips. The chips were plantain, malanga, and yucca, and looked like large Terra chips to me.

We figured the ceviches would be smaller since it was a sampler, but we were able to taste each one. They included smoked salmon, diced tuna, scallops, shrimp, and Maryland lump crab. It was nice to see a local touch on the menu with the crab, although we were skeptical about how it would taste in a ceviche. Some were definitely better than others. The salmon had roe on top and a dusting of popcorn which provided an interesting flavor combination, but the winners in our opinion were the scallop and crab ceviches.

Mariquitas CubanaThe dips were reasonable and definitely something different than your traditional hummus or eggplant. The smoked fish salad tasted more like a traditional white fish salad, something I would normally eat with bagels and lox than at a Cuban restaurant. Overall, the spread was nothing spectacular and the portions of each dip were small, especially to share. For the regular price of $13, I don’t think I would get it again.

There were several different choices for entrees, with most of them being Cuban-inspired but with a twist from the chef.  Again, since everything was half off, we probably looked at the menu a little differently than we normally would have as we went for the dishes that were more on the expensive end. Brett got the Bife de Nueva York which was a 12 ounce strip steak with caramelized shallots, steamed kale, polenta fries and accompanied with tamarind ketchup and steak sauce.  The entrée normally costs $32, and since Brett is already a steak lover, he opted to go with that.

I was torn between several dishes; either the paella with black forbidden rice, whole boneless sea bass, filet of salmon, or BBQ shrimp. I decided to try the jumbo shrimp, or Camarones con Cana, which was prepared in a mango BBQ glaze. I was a little skeptical with the sides, which were listed as “crispy Anaheim pepper stuffed with creamy quinoa, sweet potato and Mascarpone cheese.” It was also served with chunky guacamole as well.

Camarones con Cana

The shrimp were great, some of the biggest I’ve seen, and the sauce on them had a nice flavor, especially eaten together with the guac. It was the side of the pepper that I felt didn’t really fit with the rest of the dish. I thought it would be a green pepper with some quinoa inside, but it wound up being a huge, fried jalapeno pepper with a creamy mixture within. It was essentially a giant jalapeño popper. Granted, I ate most of it, but I felt fairly ill after and thought it was way too heavy compared to the lightness of the shrimp. It might have been paired better with black beans and rice instead.

Brett thought his steak was excellently cooked as the kitchen perfectly accommodated his medium-rare request. The steak was supposedly marinated but Brett thought it was more on the dryer side but was tender nonetheless. The provided steak sauce helped things as it had its own unique flavor while the polenta fires and tamarind ketchup were a nice compliment to the dish.

Bife de Nueva York

Our friends got the paella and the sea bass and liked both of their dinners as well. This night was a case when I had food envy and wish I had chosen one of those dishes instead. Don’t get me wrong, I liked mine overall, but I think I would have enjoyed one of those better.

Torta de Chocolate y Dulce de LecheWe were all pretty stuffed at that point, but again, at half off the food bill, we thought in order to give a full report we should order some dessert too. We all shared the Torta de Chocolate y Dulce de Leche, basically a chocolate lava cake. The soufflé was layered with dulce de leche, and served with dulce de leche ice cream, a chocolate orange sauce, and blueberry compote. If I was not so full I would have devoured it, but the few bites I had were delicious. The server told us if we liked chocolate that we should get this dessert, and she was ultimately right.

When we got our bill, it was enclosed in a large wooden box. We noticed other tables had this as well. Some tables received cigar boxes while others, such as ours, received ones suited for baccarat. We said this was something that seemed like a good idea in theory, but could increasingly get annoying with the awkwardness of carrying around boxes and having customers dig into a box to fish out different credit card receipts. We wouldn’t be surprised if they did away with it within a few months.

Bill in Baccarat Box The 50% off deal is a great idea, both for the diners and the restaurant itself. Customers get a chance to try different things on the menu and splurge a little since everything (excluding beverages) is discounted. The restaurant is able to feel its way the first week or two if some dishes are a miss as well as hear feedback from the diners. Plus, if service is bad or if something is off, it’s hard to complain when you’re getting such a great deal. The 50% special is over, but you can still take advantage of 25% off food items from October 8th through 13th.

Overall, we felt it was a fun, new addition to the DC dining scene. The service was fairly slow and a little uneven, but we’ll chalk that up to first week opening craziness. One thing that was a big turnoff was the kitschy Cuban music in the background. It was loud and distracting, and didn’t add anything to our dining experience.  The food was good and unique, but didn’t wow us by any means. Looking at what the prices normally are, we all agreed we would be hard pressed to come back and order the same dishes. Most of them were in the upper $20 range, and while that is now becoming the standard for nicer restaurants in the DC area, some of the dishes just didn’t seem to warrant those prices. Especially with specialty drinks like the mojitos costing $10 or more, the meal could easily rack up to at least $100 or more for two people.

The website currently doesn’t offer much information about the DC location outside of saying that it is officially open. You can view the menus if you go to the other cities, and they all seem to be fairly similar. I would say to definitely check it out if you’re curious, but I could honestly see myself going back more for a girls’ night of drinks at the bar than for a date night.

Cuba Libre on Urbanspoon