Palena and Dino
I am trying to figure out which place deserves a visit. I keep reading good things about each establishment and then turn around to read off coments about them. Are either of them even worth trying? Are the two comparable in food and service? if so are they any good?
The reccomendation to skip the entrees at Dino's is puzzling to me; my experience has been the exact opposite. I've found the octupus appetizer tough and without much flavor and the crostini apps an overpriced joke (9 bucks for "tuna salad" on a cracker ("olio whipped dried cod"-- whatever) and other wedding reception hor dourves-- this *is* a joke right?) Meanwhile, the large plates seem about right for the price point, especially the whole fish dish, which, the same quality and quantitiy at, say, Cashion, would run 12 bucks more.
My first experience at Dino's exemplified how a restaurant can earn goodwill. We went back in November, and our entres were taking *forever.* Someone had forgot to put the order in. This was a problem, because we had a movie to catch. Eventually they brought the entrees. It really wasn't any big deal, and the food was delicious.
We were not going to complain. Nevertheless, the manager approached us and apologized. That was more than sufficient; we were glad he just apologized. But he also took 50% off our bill -- for a party of four. Just a great way of winning over loyal customers despite a screw up.
Have never been to Palena so I can't comment. But for Dino, I like it a lot. I was there after it opened a year or so ago and was underwhelmed. Portions were tiny, food was pricy for what you got, but they had a superb wine list.
Was there a week or two ago though with a group of friends and had a great time. It wa sa lot better than my previous experience. (I only came back because their wine list is superb - lots of reasonably priced Italian wines - and lots of wines you can't get elsewhere).
We had a few appetizers. One of us had the meatballs - they were pretty bad. One had the marinated artichokes which were superb. One had a salad with fresh mozzerella which was superb as well. So the apps were hit or miss.
For entrees, some had the Lamd dish they were offering, a few had the tuna entree, and two of us had pasta. All were very good, and much better portion sizes than my previous visit.
If you like wine and want pretty good italian food, check out Dino.
Went to DINO's last night. Here's my take for whats its worth:
For app's we ordered the baby octopus(enjoyed it alot) and the Bufala Mozz/Ricotta (very fresh, nice plate presentation).
We went knowing that fellow chowhounds recommended sticking with appetizers vs ordering entrees - but whats the point of going out to dinner? So we tried: Lasagne (nice enough, I give it a 7.5) and the roasted chicken dinner (also a 7.5). Both were satisfying - remember we werent expecting "fine dining". As I see Tuscan food, it is just that - homey and earthy.
We brought our own bottle of wine (2000 Amarone) to have with dinner, but they wave the $20 corkage fee if you buy a bottle of their wine. (Their wine list IS huge..) So we ordered a nice white for starters ($40 Ronco del Gnemiz - Tocai Friulano)... which I strongly recommend.
So in the end it was right under $100 (before tip) for 2 of us.
As for SERVICE - the staff was fine, but not what I could call "professional" and their uniforms of jeans (what i would call "work jeans") and tee shirts seemed out of place......
We noticed as the restuarant began to fill up, the food deliveries got pretty slow, but it didnt affect us since we were there early.
I WILL go back, but I wont be in a huge hurry to do so.
I have been to Dino twice and both times I liked it but was far from blown away. What I'm saying is, if I lived in Cleveland Park, I would probably go a fair bit; I live in Chinatown, and I almost never go.
I wouldn't make a trip for it.
Palena, I've not been to either, but I want to go, so... let us know.
Palena menu is American; Dino is Italian.
Palena is divided into two parts: the full restaurant menu, and the bar menu. The bar menu can only be ordered if you sit in the front room or on the sidewalk patio (no reservations accepted). You can always order from the full menu no matter where you sit.
The star of the bar menu is the roast chicken, which is cooked to order and can take around 30- 45 minutes. All items on the bar menu are reasonably priced and uniformly good, but YMMV.
From the one time I was there, the restaurant menu offered some highs and lows. Expensive. It's a good choice for a high end meal.
Dino is nice enough. I've only been there once, and the food is good. Crostini (snacks) are a good order.
If I had a choice, I would go to Palena without reservations, but try to get there early. I would definitely go for the roast chicken plus order whatever seems interesting from both menus. That way you'll definitely have a hit with the roast chicken, plus you'll get to sample their other offerings.