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NYC Chef returning to hometown for one dinner out...help me choose

My husband and I will be visiting my parents next weekend for a rare trip to DC, my hometown. We're very adventurous eaters, my parents slightly less so. We're looking for something moderately expensive (ie, no Citronelle) and not stuffy or too precious.

A couple of ideas/questions:

-Years ago we ate at Palena and I remember loving it. Is it still great?
-Husband and I had apps at West End Bistro soon after it opened and thought the food was great...the space, less so. Interested to hear how the food is these days. Also is Eric Ripert still attached?
-Just ran across Blue Duck Tavern and I'm intrigued. Can anyone share any recent experiences?

Any other ideas? Many thanks.

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Palena
3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

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  1. 1. Yes Palena is still excellent! The front cafe is more casual with easier price tags (although you can also order from the dining room menu, which is more expensive). The cafe doesn't take reservations so you might be in for a bit of a wait though. If that is the case, you can give the hostess your phone number and she'll call you when your reservation is ready. Head over to Dino or Bardeo for a cocktail/glass of wine.

    2. Eric Ripert is still attached to the restaurant but it's really run by Chef Joe Palma, who is great.

    3. I thought my meal at Blue Duck Tavern was good....but I haven't returned since and it's been about 2 years.

    A few other places you should consider are:
    Central-Chef Michel Richard's more affordable restaurant. His vision and playfulness is still there, but the prices are more moderate. It's classic American cuisine with French bistro charm. Central is one of my favorite restaurants in DC. Make sure not to miss the Faux Gras and Duck Rillettes (amazing!)

    Bibiana- Really good Italian cuisine. The homemade pasta is the best in town in my opinion....cooked perfectly al dente, not overly complicated, allows the ingredients to really shine. (Our favorite pastas have been the pasta with yellowfin tuna and the risotto). The appetizers also are incredible--burrata, risotto ball, meatlball---you can make a meal out of these alone. The service is very good and the environment is chic without feeling formal or stuffy.

    Black Salt--it's hard to get to but totally worth it. Incredible seafood which layers on the flavor and shows some creativity. I went here with my parents and boyfriend and they all thought it was one of the best restaurants in DC...and this was the same weekend they dined at Komi!

    Rasika--Something different---modern Indian (cooked with french technique). This is a great, vibrant restaurant. I find it to be rather noisy, but people on this board have said if you are seated towards the front of the restaurant it is quieter. Make sure to order the crispy spinach dish. Yum!

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    Palena
    3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

    Komi
    1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

    Blue Duck Tavern
    1201 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

    Bibiana
    1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

    11 Replies
    1. re: Elyssa

      Thanks for the many suggestions. Bibiana's menu looks great. My dad is not a huge Indian lover so I think Rasika is out. And I think we'd like something slightly more upscale than a bistro, so we'll have to save Central for another trip when we have more time. I've narrowed it down to Blue Duck, Palena, or Bibiana. Can anyone offer a comparison on Palena vs Bibiana in terms of atmosphere/formality?

      Thanks.

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      Palena
      3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

      Rasika Restaurant
      633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

      Bibiana
      1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

      1. re: robotcoupe

        I would pass on blue Duck-especially when there are far better places in NY for meat (Peter Lugers, Wolfgang's, Minetta Tavern.) I was not overly impressed-although I did LOVE the bone marrow appetizer. How about Komi?

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        Komi
        1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

        1. re: chicken kabob

          Agree that there are far better places for meat in NY, but I don't really think of BD as primarily a meat place. They make nice poultry and seafood dishes, and their sides (esp the fries and the brussel sprouts) are delicious. Still, I think BD is best for lunch, and somewhat underwhelming for dinner.

          Komi is the bomb, but not appreciably less expensive than Citronelle, which probably rules it out for the OP. That said, it's my favorite place in DC, and well worth the scratch.

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          Komi
          1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

          1. re: chicken kabob

            If her parents are not very adventurous eaters than Komi is probably not the best choice. You have pretty much no control over the menu choices except to say you don't eat pork or raw seafood etc. Plus it's pretty pricey...something like $80/person for food alone.

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            Komi
            1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

            1. re: Elyssa

              Actually, Komi is wonderful about menu modifications and special requests, as long as they're made well in advance.

              But $80 is many years ago - dinner is $125pp.

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              Komi
              1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

              1. re: DanielK

                Yes but you can't pre-order dishes nor do you have much control over the menu except for those modifications. I think they are flexible in terms of people's likes and dislikes but it's not like you get to choose each of the many, many courses. I just don't think it's the best restaurant for someone who describes her dining companions as "slightly less adventurous."

                As for the price...sorry I under-estimated. I was lucky enough to be someone's guest for that meal. :)

          2. re: robotcoupe

            They are both Italian but very different. If you are eating in the back dining room of Palena it is far more formal. I believe it is a set course menu (although this could have changed...it's been awhile since I've dined in the dining room). I would also say that Palena is likely more expensive.

            You also can dress up though at Bibiana and wouldn't be out of place. The dining room is elegant.

            I don't think you can go wrong with either. But since you've already been to Palena, maybe you want to try something new with Bibiana.

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            Palena
            3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

            Bibiana
            1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

            1. re: robotcoupe

              Bibiana is sleek, modern, popular, hip, new, in an office building, serving an ethnic trattoria menu (except for the prices!). Palena is in a mostly residential area, suburban, quiet, small, romantic, probably more expensive, serving a chef-driven, idiosyncratic, and modern menu. To look at these places, you'd think the menus would be reversed!

              Just as telling: Palena doesn't have a website, but Bibiana does:

              http://www.bibianadc.com/menu.php?idm...

              There has been a report on CHowhound that Monday night is the chef's night off at Palena, so not a good day to go.

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              Palena
              3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

              Bibiana
              1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

              1. re: Steve

                Palena has a website: http://www.palenarestaurant.com/index...

                Cafe and dining room (sample) menus can be found there.

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                Palena
                3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                1. re: will_5198

                  Thanks for that. First time I've seen it!

                  1. re: will_5198

                    Unfortunately Palena has been terrible in the past on keeping their menu up-to-date. But maybe that has changed since it looks redesigned.

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                    Palena
                    3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

            2. In that range, I'd definitely recommend Blue Duck Tavern, Rasika, or Palena.

              Blue Duck is really the place you can get the best comfort food in town, with meat cooked so beautifully that it does actually melt in the mouth. Plus, the huge apple pie is easily the best in the whole city, especially when it's accompanied by a scoop of the homemade ice cream, served in a silver-plated goblet to make sure it stays perfectly frosty for every bite.

              I'll try to post up a review of Blue Duck Tavern and/or Rasika in the next couple days to help you out.

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              Palena
              3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

              Rasika Restaurant
              633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

              Blue Duck Tavern
              1201 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

              1 Reply
              1. re: The Food Buster

                Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. Komi does seem interesting but, as others have said, I don't think it's the right fit this time. I made a tentative reservation at Blue Duck, but, based on some of the comments here, I'm not sure I'm all that excited about comfort food, even if it's of a slightly more upscale variety. I think we may end up at Palena again, assuming we can get in. Are we likely to have a hard time getting a table for this Sat night?

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                Palena
                3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                Komi
                1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036