DC has a lot of room for improvement in this area - in my opinion. So far my favorite place to get brunch is Tabard Inn. Nothing in this area comes close to the Waffle Shop in State College, PA, though. GO STATE!
Back in October, Kuna closed its doors. Everyone thought they were closed, including myself. Once everyone calmed down, the owners announced that they were simply remodeling and changing the restaurants format. Then in December, they reopened their doors as Opera.
On Christmas Eve, Amy and I decided to stop by and see if the change was for the better or worse. There weren't many customers there and the only people serving food were the owners. Talking to one of them, we found out that the change in format "...all started with a coat of paint." Then they realized that they needed new dishes and once they bought new dishes, they bought new silver, and then table clothes. After the remodeling happened, they felt it was also time to change the format of the restaurant from Italian to French.
Opera's menu is significantly different from Kuna. The pastas that used to make up the majority of the menu are gone - yes, no more penne with vodka sauce. (sob) Appetizers consist of salads and lighter items like steak tartare and country pate. Prices for appetizers range from $6 to $8. We had both the steak tartare and country pate at our last visit and they were very yummy. Nice medium sized chunks of steak tartare are served on top of potato skins. The steak is served with capers and chilies. It was nice and spicy! A "light fare" menu is also available with dishes like assorted cheeses, cured meats, and boudin noir, as well as some lighter choices like grilled asparagus and salmon tartare. Our first trip to Opera, we ordered the cured meats to start. When it comes down to it, cured meats are cured meats. However, you get the pate and garlic sausage with the cured meats, which are very good on their own. The meats were...well, meats. Cured meats, by themselves, get a bit boring after a while unless they're served with cheese. I'd recommend ordering the meats and cheeses to share with a table of four or more. Make sure you call and make a reservation if you want to go with a partner of more than four people though. There aren't many tables that can hold more than four. Our last trip to Opera, we ordered the pate on its own. It was served with fig and celery root moutarde (mustard). We enjoyed the pate much better on its own and it left us not nearly as full leading into our entrees. Dishes in the "light fare" menu range from $14 to $17.
Entrees change on the menu quite often. The last time we went to Opera, only two of the entrees remained on the menu from our first trip - the lamb chops and the pork chop, which I happened to order during our first trip. The pork chop comes with knockwurst, garlic sausage, and sauerkraut. The dish wasn't bursting with flavor but it tasted very different from any pork dish I've eaten in DC. Everything in the dish was baked together, almost as if it was a stew. The flavor of the sauerkraut was mixed with the knockwurst and the garlic sausage. The pork was tender and cooked just right - not dry, but juicy. You wont find lots of heavy, starchy side dishes served with Opera's entrees. Everything on the plate is meant to compliment and add to the flavor. Our last trip, I had a tenderloin dish served with potatoes, yams, carrots and onion. I wasn't so crazy about this dish because the way it was cooked (similar to the pork chop) kind of ruined the meat. The tenderloin was chopped up into small chunks and only a few were actually cooked medium rare the way I asked. Amy ordered a fried risotto dish that reminded us of the suppli that 2 Amys serves, only Opera's version is served with a vodka sauce (the vodka sauce returns!). It was pretty good, but in order to keep the fried risotto from getting soggy, the outside is made very crispy and ends up being a bit chewy.
This is a little off topic, but I've gotta mention it...Our last visit, there was this woman a few tables over who'd obviously had one too many glasses of wine and was talking very loud for the size of the dining room. She had ordered a dish with a thick bacon as one of its ingredients - a different version of the pork chop dish I'd ordered our first trip. Just think of someone with a nasal, Fran Drescher-esque sound to her voice saying this over and over, "I CAN"T BELIEVE HOW BIG THIS BACON IS! HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SUCH HUGE BACON?! THIS IS THE BIGGEST BACON I'VE EVER SEEN!" It was all very phallic and Amy and I and the tables around us couldn't stop giggling.
Another significant renovation occurred in the area of the bar. The tiny serving area that used to be the bar has been increased in size considerable, and now there is room to store many more liquors. The drink menu has been expanded as a result. We've found ourselves ordering a few drinks each which has made our bill more expensive than it should have been. Drink prices range from $8 to $10. The wine list is not huge, but has some good wines on it from Italy and France. There is even the Insolia which is one of our favorite wines from 2 Amys. One draw back to the new format - the free wine tastings that Kuna used to have while you waited for your table are gone.
We have yet to try the desserts at Opera and haven't seen anyone else order them either. Both visits, we were too full to eat anything else after the entrees. Just to name a few though - panna cotta, chocolate torte, and tea poached figs.
We were pretty happy with both of our trips to Opera. As I said before, both times we ordered a few drinks each which caused our bill to be over $120. The drinks alone added $45 to our bills. Overall, I'd say the menu at Opera is very reasonable, with no dish costing more than $20 (with one exception - the tenderloin I ordered at our last meal was $22).
Is Opera better than Kuna? I'd say it's all a matter of personal taste. Personally, I'd have to say it's not. I miss the pasta dishes I loved at Kuna. However, there are lots of good things about Opera like the country pate and steak tartare that are worth going back for. Plus, there are plenty of other places in DC to get good pasta.
1324 U St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: none - street parking is a rare commodity in the U Street corridor. There is no Valet either. I recommend cabbing or taking the metro. The U Street stop is a block away.
OK guys, If you haven't made reservations yet...Now's the time.
I made reservations for Komi today. Sebastian answered the phone and was like, "Hey, weren't you just here?" Anyway, not that I've decided where I am going, I thought I would make a few recommendations for places I like to go to for a romantic Valentines Day dinner. Do yourself and stay away from the places doing a "special" menu.
- Komi - This is definitely my favorite restaurant in DC right now. Komi has a cool, swanky atmosphere. It's not the quietest restaurant, but the tables aren't right up close to each other, so you'll have a decent amount of privacy.
- Little Fountain Cafe - This little restaurant located in the basement of a townhome in Adams Morgan serves great food and has a quiet, romantic atmosphere. It's very reasonably priced as well.
- Palena - Even though I haven't had the best experiences there lately, I still say Palena serves great food. The atmosphere is wonderful for a romantic dinner. Price fixe three, four and five course menus can be ordered for $50, $57 and $64 per person.
Uh...I'm in heaven. I just ate dinner and I'm starving again thanks to TiVo and Iron Chef America. I'm watching the first episode right now and I won't be missing a single episode. I'm looking forward to seeing our very own Roberto Donna go up against Morimoto on Mar. 6. What I wouldn't give to be a judge on this show...
Well, it's been a great week of food. This week was gluttony at its worst for me, and my waistline and my wallet are feeling the pains of it. It was worth it though. I had some much grander ideas of what I was going to do this RW, planning to go somewhere every night. However, reality set in when I went to make reservations. I was just so hugely busy at work, I was not going to be able to go out every night. So I ONLY ended up going to Saveur on Tuesday night, Corduroy on Wednesday night, TenPehn on Friday night, and Tarbard Inn on Saturday for lunch.
I had high hopes for Tuesday night at Saveur. Their online menu had a bunch of dishes that I was very eager to try. Too bad I missed the whole thing about it being a "Sample Menu". It turned out only a few of the dishes from their menu online were actually on the menu when we went. In January, they actually do Restaurant Month. For the whole month, they are offering a RW style, 3 course dinner for $35 (although for Restaurant Week, they were actually charging the correct $30.05). The problem was the available dishes were seriouly limited. If you look at their dinner menu online now, it's actually been updated since I looked at it when I was writing my Restaurant Week post the week before. However, their dinner menu used to look more like their lunch menu. To start with, there were only two desserts and both of them were uninteresting. You had a choice between an walnut parfait and an ice cream sandwich. Granted, the ice cream sandwich was made with brownies and vanilla ice cream, but seriously, those two desserts weren't the most appetizing I've ever heard. They were out of the ice cream sandwich anyway, so I reluctantly had the walnut parfait. The one notable item in the Saveur experience, was the special appetizer I had -- sliced kangaroo loin. It was pefectly cooked medium rare and tender. Some of my slices had this one band of fat going right though them, but it was easy to eat around. There was this sauce the kangaroo was served with that I swore was based on Heinz 57 sauce. Either way though, it tasted great. Overall, Amy got the short straw in this meal. Her sea scallop taco salad was odd -- combining the flavors of bacon wrapped sea scallops with a sweet raspberry vinagrette. They just didn't go. The scallops were good, but she just ended up eating them on their own. For an entree she had the black angus filet. It was either a bad cut of meat, or it was not a real filet mignon. It was cooked medium rare like she asked, but there was just a lot of fat in the steak. I had the braised lamb shank. I thought it was pretty good, but missing something (spices, pepper, salt, anything). The meat was extremely tender and fell right off the bone when I poked it with a fork, but it didn't taste much better than something I'd made in my own crock pot at home.
Corduroy was awesome as expected. Their full regular menu was available (not the same menu as they have online, but their menu changes all the time, and they had comparable dishes available) with some upcharges on certain more expensive items like the lobster salad or the strip loin steak. The service was impeccable in my opinion. We waited just a little more than usual for our check, but I would rather wait for my check than be rushed out. Given how busy Corduroy was, I thought the whole staff did a great job. Our waiter was very knowledgeable. I pretty much gave my decision-making over to him since I was incapable of making one. He was also well-trained on the wine menu and was able to recommend a Pinot Noir to go with my scallops and Amy's strip loin. Amy ordered a "Buffalo Mozzarella Porcupine" -- piece of fresh mozzarella slightly warmed, served with crispy stings of a fried tempura-like batter and several sauces. It didn't sound nearly as incredible on the menu as it ended up tasting. The parmesan cauliflower soup I ordered tasted a little bland to me, but Amy thought it was better than I thought. I merely added some salt and pepper to it which made up for the lack of flavor. Entrees were even better than the first course. Amy's strip loin was perfectly cooked and a wonderful cut of meat. One of the better steaks she's had in a while, "but not the best", as she said. The best thing about her entree though, was not the steak, as much as the little 2"x2" square of scalloped potatoes it was served with. It's the little things that count. In a rare occurance that only happens when the moons of Venus and Saturn line up, Amy actually finished her entree, leaving only a single, leftover bite for me. My scallops were perfect as well. There we no little crunches which I always fear I'll find. There were only four of them, but they tasted great. Served over mashed sweet potatoes and garlic butter, the combination of the three went well together. Desserts didn't disappoint either. Amy had a vanilla creme brulee which was a little to soft for her taste, but I thought it was perfect. I ordered a warm chocolate tarte with vanilla ice cream that tasted like the inside of a chocolate volcano cake.
I wasn't all that impressed with our meal at TenPenh. I mean, everything was pretty good, but nothing really blew me away. We went with our friends Mike and Jen, so we still had a really good time. Drinks from their drink menu were interesting, but expensive, all running at about $9 or more. I had a saketini which came with a baby octopus in it. Do yourself a favor and don't try to eat it. Tenpehn's attempts at Asian fusion are valiant. The fried pickled ginger panko crusted tuna I had for my entree was okay. I like my tuna extremely rare - practically cold in the middle. And it's tough to do so when you have to brown the outside crusting. One who likes their tuna a little closer to medium rare would probably love this dish. Mike and Amy ordered the Chinese Style Smoked Lobster which sounded better in theory than reality. The lobster is smoked, boiled, and then stir fried with crispy fried spinach and vegetables. The result -- a slightly overcooked lobster. Jen ordered the crispy whole fish, which we all ended up wishing we'd ordered. Served with a tamarind dipping sauce, it tasted so good on it's own that you didn't really need the dipping sauce. Desserts weren't eactly memorable -- at least in my opinion. I had a ginger cake that tasted like your average carrot cake. I love carrot cake so that was good, but I kind of expected something else. Amy and Jen had a coffee tarte with cardamon ice cream and a mini cup of hot chocolate. They all agreed that the ice cream and hot chocolate were wonderful, overshadowing the coffee tarte. Not to be forgotten is the feng shui martini which was made with vodka and ice wine garnished with frozen grapes. It was very strong, but at $11.95, kind of expensive. Amy and Jen ordered a couple and really enjoyed them. At that price, I'd rather had some straight Grey Goose or Belvedere.
The morning after our night out with Mike and Jen, we decided to go to Tabard Inn. Do yourself a favor and don't try to drive and find a parking spot in that neighborhood like we did. It's a short walk from the Dupont Circle metro. We spent forever trying to find a parking spot in that neighborhood. The restaurant at the Tabard Inn is not very large. It's in a small room in the rear of the first floor of the inn. There were no tables available, so we just sat at the bar. (If you want to sit at a table, I suggest that you make a reservation. ESPECIALLY FOR BRUNCH. Not to give away the rest of this review, but we liked our meal so much at Tabard Inn that we tried to return again today (Sunday) for their brunch. I called at 9 AM to make a reservation, and they were completely booked.) The full menu wasn't available, but you had plenty of choices. I tried a new beer - Sam Smith's Organic Lager. Very good. For appetizers, we both ended up ordering a fresh mozzarella salad that was fantastic. It was made with slices of fresh mozzarella served with basil, kalamata olive confit, olive oil, and marinated roasted red peppers. Mmmmm. It was heaven. I love a good fresh mozzarella salad!
It was hard to believe it, but the entrees we ordered were even better. I was in the mood for hangover food so I ordered the poached eggs with ham, home fries and hollandaise sauce over a muffin. I know in Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain says he never orders hollandaise sauce at a restaurant because it's a hot bed for bacteria, but Anthony, it's worth ordering at Tabard Inn. Amy ordered a tart with leeks, roasted peppers, potatoes, chives, fontina cheese and spinach. She thoroughly enjoyed it. When I tasted it, I thought it was very good as well. It was a very popular choice since shortly after Amy ordered, it was 86ed. Desserts were pretty good. I had a white chocolate tangerine cheese cake with raspberry creme frache. It was a little too sweet for my taste. The raspberry frache overpowered the rest of the dessert. Amy liked her vanilla creme brulee better than the same dish at Corduroy. We hung out at the bar for a little while after our meal was over and talked with the bartender who was very friendly.
Overall, what was my favorite meal?
Well, it was a close tie between Corduroy and Tabard Inn.
This month was tough again. Some of the restaurants that I expected to make the list, turned out not to be so great, and others were better than I expected.
1) Komi - As a commenter said -- KOMI ROCKS!! I couldn't have said it any better. Our recent meal there was one of the best we've eaten in a long time.
2) Heritage India (Dupont) - A meal composed entirely of appetizers shouldn't be so good.
3) Ceiba - Ceiba continued so satisfy us this month at Amy's birthday dinner.
4) Tallula - My trip to this promising new restaurant with Jen and Mike was a really fun night.
5) 2 Amys - It's hard for me not to put this place on my top 5 list. Make sure you order the Rabbit or mozzarella from the Bar Menu. Scott, at the bar, will thank you.
Ok. Today is De-Lurking Day in the blog world. For those of you unfamiliar with that, it is the day in the blogging work where we give lurkers out there the chance to finally leave a comment and out themselves. Now, I check my stats and I know there are people who read this site all the time, but there are not nearly enough comments to represent this. So go ahead - leave a comment. Tell me what your favorite restaurant is, a really good meal you've have in the last couple weeks, or just say hi. It's ok, I won't bite. ;)
I've been doing some research to see what restaurants are doing for Restaurant Week (Jan. 10 - 16). I'll be posting my picks for Restaurant Week here soon as well, once I am done calling all of the places. In the mean time, you can continue reading to see what I've gathered so far. Check back here for daily updates.
Update: It's Sunday, and most places I've called still don't know what they are doing for Restaurant Week. I updated the listings for Bombay Club, Clyde's, Oceanaire Seafood Room, Vidalia and the Federalist. A majority of places are saying they wont know until tomorrow, so expect to see a lot of updates then.
Update: I updated Ristorante Tosca, Ceiba, DC Coast, and TenPehn. All of them will be excellent deals with pretty much their full menus available. I'd go back to Ceiba alone for their black bean soup. I also updated Yanyu, who is doing their usual special Restaurant Week tasting menu, as well as Sesto Senso. Taberna del Alabardero, Saveur, Sea Catch, Zola, Lavandou, Kaz, Heritage India, Caucus Room, and Primi Piatti also have updates.
Update: Well, It's Tuesday and I received a few updates from restaurants, but not many. I guess they don't want the free advertising ;). I've updated Sam and Harry's, Ella's Wood Fired Pizza, Georgia Brown's, FIN, Heritage India and Finemondo today. I don't know about you guys, but Colvin Run Tavern's menu sounds excellent to me. I also updated Pallete thanks to rbh at eGullet.
Update: OK . I'm ready to give my recs. I've received all the info I'm going to and I'm ready to move on to a new article. So here they are -- one for every day.
1) Ceiba - Last Restaurant Week, Amy and I had a great time at Ceiba. I think all of you will as well. Make sure someone at your table orders the black bean soup!
2) Ristorante Tosca - I plan to go here myself. Their full menu is available and you can't get much better than that during Restaurant Week.
3) Saveur - Another place I plan to visit. Like Tosca, they will have their full menu available. Try some if these dishes on for size: Sauteed Scallops wrapped in Serano Ham, Mozzarella with Asian Pear, or Three Ducks (Roasted Hudson Valley Duck Breast, Duck Leg Confit and Duck Foie Gras). On Tuesday they have half-priced wine or you can bring your own bottle with no corkage fee. After eating at Saveur tonight, I withdraw my rec. Saveur does not have it's full menu available. They have a different menu through this entire month. Some of the dishes are available, but it's not nearly as large as it usually is. There were only two desserts available (and they were out of one) and neither of them were terribly appetizing. I don't like being misled.
4) Spezie - Even though I didn't get a response from Enzo...I'm sure Spezie's offering will be excellent no matter what they have on the menu.
5) Colvin Run Tavern - I've never been to Colvin Run Tavern, and I don't know many people that have, but their menu looks just too good to pass up.
6) Corduroy - With their full menu available, I'm sure going to try to get a reservation. Hopefully there are still some available next week.
7) I Ricchi - I think it's about time I tried this place. Plus, anyone who serves a chocolate pear tarte is alright with me. I just hope they are serving it the day I go.
Make sure you call and make a reservation, as the more popular places will fill up fairly quick. Also, be sure to tell the restaurant that you are making a reservation for Restaurant Week as well. This not only helps the restaurant but it confirms for you that they are actually participating.