Just returned from a lovely dinner at Obelisk on P Street NW in Dupont Circle. Definitely worth a review! The occasion was my parents' 55th anniversary, so very appropriate given the restaurant's $55 prix fixe dinner. As it turns out, they were not interested in a full meal each (having had a very filling dimsum lunch at Maxim's earlier in the day), but the restaurant was very accommodating and let them split a meal between the two of them (bringing a spare plate with each course to facilitate sharing--a nice touch).
The prix fixe dinner has about 3-4 selections for each of the three courses, all very interesting and none of them the sort of thing you'd find in a run-of-the-mill Italian restaurant. For example, the starters included a blood orange salad with fennel and slices of botarga (a sort of sliced, dried, tuna roe that works out like prosciutto) that was absolutely delicious, and a roast squab breast with squab liver pate on toast. Very interesting.
The second course is sort of soup-y and pasta-y. The eggplant ravioli were scrumtious, with a very powerful topping of black walnuts (I think) and cheese. Another choice was a sort of giant matzoh ball (called canederli here--reminiscent of knoedlen) in broth. Also very tasty--though the ravioli were better.
Third course is meat-y and fish-y. We had veal tenderloin and a sort of wild chicken at our table, though other choices included shrimp and some sort of fish (memory fails me). As with the other courses, excellent, though perhaps not as interesting as the previous courses.
After the meal a plate of cheese is presented--today we had a lovely parmigiano reggiano, very fresh and nutty and a wonderful interlude before the exquisite desserts, which for us were a chocolate hazelnut torte, a moscato pudding (wonderful) and an amazing scoop of caramel ice cream with caramelized bits of apples and pears worked into it. That was surprisingly the winning dessert.
The wine list is quite long, if pricey, and we made do with a 1/2 bottle of a Grattamacco 1997 split among the two of us drinking wine. Very dry, but with a wonderful variety of fruity flavors. Yum.
Service incidentally was flawless, and our waiter went through the menu to explain the less familiar items (and some that were more familiar, too) and was very patient with our dry sense of humor.
Definitely a place to visit again.
Obelisk is one of the best Italian restaurants in the U. S. Even with the prix fixe $55.00 and a moderate mark up on wine I consider this a bargain for the quality of what you receive. Like so many of the better restaurants in Italy Obelisk is really a celebration of simple but pure and intense flavors and textures. As an example it is virtually impossible to find fresh shrimp in the D. C. area. Occasionally you might find Carolina shrimp on Maine Avenue but never will you find fresh 10-15 count there, Jessup or anywhere else. But you will find them at Obelisk where the chef/owner has them flown in from the Gulf. The cheese course features some of the finest artisanal cheeses available on this side of the Atlantic (many from the Virginia and Pennsylvania countryside) as well as some from Europe that he imports himself.
My wife and I have had over twenty meals there over the past five or six years. Every single one has been exemplery. Even on returns from Italy and meals at one and two Michelin starred restaurants there has not been a moment of disappointment at the P street restaurant. It is their equal. We are lucky to have it.
Lovely review, James! From the setting and the service to the wonderful foods you were served, it sounds like you selected the perfect restaurant to celebrate your parents' 55th. I haven't been to Obelisk yet, but it's been high on my list for some time. Based on your comments and Joe's, I will make a point of dining there soon.
Remembering the very positive review you posted after your meal at Maestro, I'd be interested in your thoughts as to how the two restaurants compare.