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Jul 24, 2000 06:10 PM

dinner downtown?

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I will be visiting DC with a friend in the next couple of weeks and will be staying downtown (PA Ave. Marriott, I think). We would like to have one really fine dinner out but don't want to do a lot of driving. Any suggestions from those of you who are familiar with the area? I was thinking something on the order of Chez Panisse. We both love Asian, Italian, seafood and Californian and don't mind spending $60 - $70 for a good meal.

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  1. A couple of ideas within walking distance of your hotel: Occidental Grill (pretty good seafood) on Penn Ave; Gerard's Place on 15th Street (about a 6 block walk). The latter is run by a guy who was a starred Michelin chef in Europe; Gerard's is considered by many to be one of the best places in town. One of my favorites is 1789 (new American food) on 36th Street in Georgetown. You'd need to take a taxi there. During the week during the summer they're running a prix fixe 3-course dinner for $29 -- a real bargain there. The best seafood in town is (IMHO) at Kinkead's at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., though there are branches of McCormick and Schmick and Legal Sea Foods on K Street. Cheers!

    8 Replies
    1. re: Greg

      I second Gerards.

      1. re: Cap Hill

        Maybe I ate at Gerard's on an off-night, but the only time I went there I was sorely disappointed. A group of us had the chef's tasting menu, and it was good, but definitely not great. I can't even remember what we had, except for some pedestrian gazpacho--and we all left hungry and about $100 poorer.

        What about Vidalia (M and 20th)? I just got back from New Orleans, and I didn't have anything "Nouveau Dixie" there to touch it. Oh, Lord, those thyme biscuits with onion butter! Also, the service is friendly and low-key.

        Just a thought.


        1. re: sgannon

          Thanks to everyone who has written in! Chowhounds are truly a special and dedicated people! Kinkead's sounds like an absolute winner for a great evening, but the $29 fixed price deal at Gerard's sounds too good to pass up, so maybe we'll take a chance on that, too! At any rate, I will check in periodically for further suggestions and let everyone know how we made out later next month. While we are at it, does anyone know of any dim sum places for lunch in the mall area? I love Oriental East in Silver Spring, but won't be able to get there.

          1. re: SarahG
            Leedom Lefferts

            You're missing an excellent bet if you don't try Talay Thai, just south of the Capitol South Metro Exit, sandwiched in between Bullfeathers & a "Mexican" place. We just recently found out about it - it is within walking distance of our home - and we've been there 3 times. It matches some of the best Thai food we've had in Thailand . . . but not the best, of course.

        2. re: Cap Hill

          I heartily second Kinkaid's (2000 Penn. Ave. NW) as having the best seafood dishes in DC. It is absolutely fabulous even at lunch, but dinner is heavenly. And the staff is great. I have never been made to feel like I'm some second-rater there even when I've shown up in jeans without a reservation. (Although I must admit I don't particularly fancy sitting out in the mall tables.)

          1. re: Fred Vinson

            Another second from Kinkead's from me, but I thought I would throw in a note about the service. I was once, in fact, treated as second rate. I had even asked for a specific waitress with whom my family has become friendly, but this gained me nothing. I showed up alone, for lunch, and was seated at the dread outdoor mall area. My order was miscommunicated (not exactly clear whose fault it was), and when I brought this to the attention to my waitress (not the friend) she was dissmissive, offering no fix, or even any sympathy. I have no doubt that the reason I was so treated was that I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and purple fingernail polish.

            This was a few years ago, and perhaps the exception which proves the rule.

            1. re: Mike Zurer

              Your loyalty to Kinkead's despite this bad experience is one of the best recommendations a restaurant could have and makes me even more convinced that this is one of the places we should try while in town. This is why I originally asked for places similar to Chez Panisse, Alice Waters' wonderful establishment in Berkeley CA. While I have been there only twice (and then to the the cafe upstairs, not the restaurant downstairs), service was never anything but wonderful and none of the staff seemed concerned about clothing, although I will confess I never saw anyone there dressed in jeans who wasn't also wearing a regular shirt. I don't think the staff at Chez Panisse would care if you came in wearing Day Glo nail polish, but then, maybe that's more attributable to the difference between Berkeley and DC than to any difference in attitude of the respective staffs. At any rate, we will definitely be trying Kinkead's and possibly 1789, which is having the $29 fixed price special during the summer, not Gerard's as I originally misread.

              1. re: SarahG

                Kinkead's continues to satisfy...don't miss it. Try and make it for dinner, although lunch is slightly less expensive.

                By the way, the chef at 1789 is a Kinkead's alumna, so you probably won't be disappointed there.

                Jim Zurer
                Washington, DC

      2. Many thanks to all who went to the trouble of giving such great recommendations. The popularity of Kinkead's was attested to by the fact that we could not get a 7:00 reservation for any of the three evenings we were in town, so we cabbed it over to 1789 for a wonderful dining experience on our first evening. I thought that the preliminary courses and desserts outshone my rack of lamb entree, but that's only because I feel that garlic and rosemary are necessary for a truly great rack of lamb. My friend's first course of macadamia encrusted grilled shrimp with a chile-citrus accompaniment (either oil or sauce) was possibly one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth, and our salads of roasted baby beets with toasted walnuts, frisee and goat cheese were delectable. Service was excellent and even the cab ride through Washington after dark added a pleasant note to a very satisfying evening. The next day while my friend languished in conference meetings at the hotel, I hoofed it under a broiling August noon-day sun from the National Gallery to Chinatown for lunch at Full Kee, and in spite of the heat, totally enjoyed the noodle soup with shrimp dumplings. Maybe it would help out-of-towners to let them know that personal checks and credit cards are not accepted here. Travelers' checks are okay, though. I wish I had had time to return to sample one of the ducks that dripped tantalizingly on display in the entrance, but I'll save that for a return visit. On our last evening in town, we met friends for dinner at Red Sage - a mere block from our hotel. I understand that this was once one of THE places to eat in the city but that it has disappeared from the Washingtonian's list these days. It is my friends' favorite, though, and we thoroghly enjoyed it. The golden gazpacho with celery and red pepper ices was such a hit with the entire group that I now have instructions to write to Gourmet for the recipe! While I enjoyed a pan-seared duck breast, my more vegetarian-inclined friends had nothing but praise for the vegetable lasagne with morel mushrooms and the twin risottos - one asparagus, one red pepper. As a meat-eater, I would have enjoyed a visit to the DC Les Halles, which was also a mere block from our hotel, but my dieting, near-vegetarian friend would have had a difficult time finding anything to her liking on the menu there. Another one to save for a future visit! Does anyone have any experience with this member of the Les Halles chain?

        7 Replies
        1. re: SarahG

          Funny you should mention the duck at Full Kee. I just two hours ago had that roast duck; and while it was, as usual, very good, I don't think it compares to the roask pork there. Also, I saw a very tasty-looking, unknown dish being served across the restaurant. Upon asking, I was told it was frogs (the whole frogs, not just the legs) with yellow leed flowers, "not on the menu" (which means, I suspect, not on the English menu). Now, I love the green "leed flowers" at Full Kee (which I think are a kind of garlic shoot -- anyone know? what's the chinese name?) as much as just about anything this side of the Soft Shell Crabs; and I fancy frogs' legs, as well. So it sounds very promising for a future visit. But I've never had either whole frogs or *yellow* leed flowers. Has anyone had the frogs at Full Kee? The waitress told me they prepare them several ways, including "crispy whole," but eh sauteed with yellow leed flowers sounds tempting. (They also said, I kid you not, that they taste like "baby chickens.") Worth a go? What are the other hidden treasures not on the English menu (apart from the spicy, fried shrimp, scallop and squid combo, which already is a must-order)?

          Marty L.

          1. re: Marty L.

            I think she may be saying yellow LEEK flowers, if these are the Chinese golden chive flowers.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Well, not that it means very much, bu the menu refers to "leed flowers" in describing the green garlic-shoot-like stuff. They are very chive-like, however . . .

              1. re: Marty L.

                And, this would be the first English misspelling on a Chinese menu?

                Are these yellow leeks flat rather than tubular and very tender?

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Well, now you guys have got me spinning, wishing that DC wasn't a 4 hour drive from my rural home here on the Eastern Shore of VA! Since I do have plenty of friends in the area I can visit, I will surely return to Full Kee. How do I find out what is available that is not on the English menu?

                  1. re: SarahG

                    Most of the "Chinese" specials appear on the typed sheet inside the back cover, but it always pays to ask the waitresses or point to something that looks interesting. Several of them are quite forthcoming with suggestions, explanations and recommendations.

                    Jim Zurer
                    Washington DC

            2. re: Marty L.

              Never had the frogs, but the vegetables are definitely "leek flowers" and a real treat. Another vegetable treat at Full Kee comes in the spring...snow pea leaves.

              Jim Zurer
              Washington DC