Visiting Hound needs help near Canadian Embassy
DC Hounds: I'm coming into DC with a big (~20) group. We've got an event at the Canadian Embassy (501 Pennsylvania Ave) and then we're supposed to be going to one of these places which are within walking distance:
701 Pennsylvania Avenue Restaurant and Bar
Which should we choose? I think size is an important consideration given the group size. The style of cuisine is not a big deal to me... I like all kinds of food. A nice atmosphere is a plus, but a place that puts food first and atmosphere second is my kind of place.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Planning for groups, tours and conferences is much different than selecting for groups of friends. You're going to get some attrition anyway but picking the wrong place will guarantee that even more of your group will head for the hills after a long day of being locked into other people's choices. I've found getting a private room for these events is usually not a good idea; it's often hard to get firm numbers for reservations.
Of the places you have presented, 701 offers the widest variety of options to please any group of any age and taste. The food is excellent and ranges from steaks, fish, fowl and vegetarian offerings, all well prepared. For those who don't want a full meal, small plates are available from the bar menu. You aren't locked in to a single style of food as with several of the other places you're considering.
There is live jazz from the piano bar every night of the week which provides a nice atmosphere. It tends to be pretty laid back at night, catering to the residents of the condos in the Penn Quarter area so people will be comfortable taking their ties off.
It's less frenetic than Zaytinya which might be welcome if you've been in meetings all day. The Metro is literally outside the door for anyone who wants to party on in other sections of town after dinner.
We recently had a group lunch at Raiska in their private room -- absolutely wonderful, the house did the selections, so we didn't have to, but (a) the room held only about a dozen (maybe they can accomodate more elsewhere), and (b) total tab per person (tip and tax) was $50. I also think Les Halles has gone downhill, would not suggest it.
In order fo preference:
Zaytinya is mostly Pan-Hellenic small plates. Often, folks who go there order many small plates and share. But it is by no means mandatory to share, so everyone can still order for themselves. However, Zaytinya is very experienced in these matters and can certainly recommend what to order if sharing is desired. At any rate, Zaytinya is a very good choice for the food.
Rasika has very good Indian-inspired food, but definitely prepared with a Euro sensibility.
701 is All-American and a good choice.
I'm not all that fond of Les Halles, A french Bistro known mostly for their steaks.
I haven't tried the others.