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Mar 31, 2011 06:24 PM

Bibiana 3-30-11

For my wife’s birthday I wanted to do something different and I’ve been reading a lot of Anthony Bourdain lately and he always seems to be able to walk into a place a have the chef serve whatever is fresh, or his personal favorite, or some type of special off-the-menu items. I didn’t know if a normal person could do that so I asked about it in here and was advised to call the restaurant and ask, so I did.

When I called to ask about it, I spoke to Francesco, the sommelier, and he told me they could do whatever I’d like and to ask for him when we got there. He said they could do a meal from 2 to 2000 courses; it was all up to me. Too easy.

Right after we were seated, Francesco came over and asked if there was any item we didn't want to eat. Peppers (sweet ones) don't agree with my wife so that was our only restriction. It was also just about the only input we had in the meal. He asked if we wanted wine and of course the answer was YES, and I asked about wine pairings. He actually suggested we just get a bottle because he felt the pairing would be too much wine. When does a restaurant convince you to buy *less* of something from them?!?!? I thought that was really cool and unexpected and left us with a very good taste in our mouths. It seemed to say, "just trust me, I've got your back."

A minute or two later, Francesco, returned with two glasses of champagne as his gift to us for my wife's birthday. No charge!

The first course was Carciofi Alla Guidia, which was fried artichokes. This was the only thing we requested (based on reviews in Chowhound) and I’m glad we did. The artichokes were fried, possibly deep fried, but they didn’t have any breading or batter on them. They were just crispy, crunchy artichokes, but they were really different and really good. Strangely, the best part of the dish, or the most surprising part was the little bits of fried parsley that was like a garnish. The parsley was also crispy and crunchy but still had that distinctive parsley taste. It was almost like eating tiny potato chips that were parsley flavored. I’d get this dish again just for the parsley!

The second course was mozzarella (I think) cheese and beets. It was something I never would have ordered and I was so glad that I left the ordering up to someone else because this dish was another winner. When Francesco delivered the plates he said he picked up the cheese today from Dulles airport and that it was just flown in from Italy. This seemed strange because to me, mozzarella was just something you put on pizza or maybe had with a slice of tomato. Well, this mozzarella was a completely different animal from anything that I’d ever seen. The plate had three little chunks of different colored beets that were (maybe) pickled on one side and a blob of cheese on the other. The blob of mozzarella looked like a soft boiled egg, complete with ground pepper on top. The most amazing thing was that the cheese *acted* like a soft boiled egg too. It was creamy and liquidy in the middle and it flowed out when you cut the outer layer. I don’t know if this a common way to serve this cheese, but I’ve never had it and it blew me away. It was such a weird surprise and very good too.

The third course was the pasta course and it was some sort of homemade linguini but it was two or three times as thick as normal. It also had some sort of spice infused/injected/inserted into the pasta. It was cooked very al dente and was really good. Very hearty. It was served with a hunk or two of lobster which was also great. I couldn’t find this dish on the online menu, and I don’t know if it’s on their regular menu since we never saw one, but it should be! This dish also had those amazing little bits of fried parsley.

The forth course was halibut over some vegetables. I honestly don’t remember what they were. Sorry. They were some sort of pickled thing I think. Whatever they were, they were very good as was the fish. Light and moist. This is another dish that I can’t find on the menu (the online menu).

The fifth course was my favorite of the night and this one is on the menu. It’s called 'Ossobuco Milanese' and it was veal cheek on a bed of mushrooms and risotto. The veal almost had the consistency of pudding and by that I mean it was so tender that you almost didn’t have to chew it. It practically turned to liquid in my mouth. It was amazing and I could have easily eaten 3 or 4 more. Looking back at the online menu, this was another dish I probably wouldn’t have ordered. I probably would have picked the lamb, but again, it was much better that I left the ordering up to someone else because this dish was killer.

Next came the dessert and a special (extra) dessert for my wife for her birthday. Both were great.

The real shocker was when the bill came. There were only three lines on it. One for wine and two for “Open Hot Food” which was code for our tasting meal. The price per meal was only $72. I tried to calculate what it would have cost based on similar items on the menu and I ended with something about $20 more per meal! This seemed like a great bargain to me and (again) the best part was we didn’t have do anything other than enjoy. No thinking, no agonizing over menu choices, just sitting back and waiting for the next surprise to come.

If you’re up for a great meal and a little bit of an adventure, call Bibiana, ask for Francesco and leave it all up to him. We had a wonderful meal, a different experience and a great night. To quote Homer Simpson, this meal was “seven thumbs up!”

1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

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  1. Great review! I love going to chef-driven independent restaurants and just telling them to serve whatever they like.

    P.S. That cheese was probably burratta, which is a mozzarella outer shell with cream and cheese on the inside.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DanielK

      The burrata at Bibiana is incredible. I would be curious if anyone has ever had bad burrata, though. 8<D

      1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

    2. Second vote for the guess that the cheese you had was burrata, and I am exceedingly jealous! Thank you very much for giving us your thoughts on Bibiana; it was very informative! I also have had very good experiences with the food and service there.

      1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

      1. Thanks to both of you for heads up on the cheese. Burratta is on the menu and it describes the beet and cheese dish we had.

        If you go there, don't miss this one.

        1. "Well, this mozzarella was a completely different animal from anything that I’d ever seen."

          So true! Even without the cream center, you were already eating mozzarella from a different animal, literally. The mozzarella prized by Italians -- the one that tops the most famous pizza of Naples and points south to the Amalfi coast -- is made from the milk of water buffalo. (In Campagna, pizza and the ingredients that go into its making are legally controlled by the government. This control is DOP for food and DOC for wine.)

          From now on, whenever you see mozzarella di bufala on the menu in the DC area, you can be confident that the cheese has been imported from Italy and is worth a try even if it doesn't include the further embellishment of a cream center which, as everyone has said, is called burratta.

          If there's any way you can get Bibiana to write out the name of the pasta dish you ate, could you please post it? You seem to be writing about a variation on a type of pasta I once ate in La Marche and which I never thought I be able to get again short of another trip to Urbino. To learn that this sublime dish may be available considerably closer to home is exciting.

          Based on the shape of the pasta you've described, you seem to have eaten Chitarra pasta, literally thick, flat sheets of pasta cut by a device made of guitar strings. However, the spice infused into the pasta seems to suggest sacco di pasta, a dish in which the coarse pasta is infused with spices and, in Urbino, cut in squares and served with truffle and mushroom sauce. Since Urbino is inland, a traditional Italian restaurant wouldn't serve lobster, but I won't tell the Italian purists if Bibiana is doing a lobster variation. This dish sounds sublime!

          1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

          1 Reply
          1. re: Indy 67

            I asked the folks at Bibianna (via their website) for more details. I'll let you know what I hear.

            And thanks for the details on the cheese!

          2. Fantastic post. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Now you can feel like a celebrity!