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Celebratory Dinner in D.C for NJ/NYC hound....and more

I have spent some time perusing the boards here to look for the perfect restaurant for a celebratory dinner Saturday (albeit a bit late) and have mixed feelings and thoughts and hoped some of the locals can help me out

My wife and I are driving to DC to meet with some of our friends to celebrate their recent engagement. I'm looking for a restaurant that while price is not an object , is not too fancy or pretentious as I don't think that would come off well. Still, I want the food and atmosphere to be appropriate for the occasion.

We are all in our 20s and 30s, and I've looked at Citronelle (too fancy for this occasion, but definitely a must try in the future), Vidalia, Komi, etc....and even went as far to book Cafe Atlantico in case. I know I'm looking late, but if I'm looking for a celebratory, laid back place with fantastic food and drink, restaurant in DC on somewhat short notice, am I looking the in the right way or is there a better restaurant to choose

Also, if you had to choose 1 or 2 tasting menus or extremely fine dining in D.C (for a different event - I'd prefer no extremely long tastings for the dinner on Saturday) where would you recommend? I have to be in the same area for a wedding later this year and would love to set one or two reservations as we will be down there for a few days

Thanks for all of your help!

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Cafe Atlantico
405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Citronelle
3000 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

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

Vidalia
1990 M Street, Washington, DC 20036

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  1. Komi would be great, but I'd be stunned if you could get in at this point (you'd surely be put on the waitlist, and probably be pretty far down it). The dinner at Cafe Atlantico is nothing special, although the cocktails are nice; even on short notice, you can probably do better. I haven't been to Vidalia in years; it used to be one of my favorites, but I hear it's gone substantially downhill.

    Have you tried Corduroy? That might be a really nice fit for your specifications. The food is excellent, it's a nice, classy, quiet room, but not stuffy (unlike Citronelle).

    Rasika might also work well for you--they make some lovely cocktails, and some of the dishes (black cod & palak chaat, I'm looking at you) are as good as anything in DC. It can be a bit loud, but not overwhelmingly so--it might be very nice for a celebration. It's short notice, but since you're eating late they might have availability.

    For tasting menus, I would definitely choose Komi first, it's just a fantastic experience, although I think you might have a tough time getting out of there in under 2.5 hrs (is that too long?). My second choice would be either CityZen or Marcel's.

    Enjoy!

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    Cafe Atlantico
    405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

    CityZen Restaurant
    1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

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

    Citronelle
    3000 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

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

    Vidalia
    1990 M Street, Washington, DC 20036

    2 Replies
    1. re: marcj

      You could always try Bombay Club - similar to Rasika (food wise) but easier to get in to.

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

      Bombay Club
      815 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20006

      1. Many restaurants in DC are quite noisy. I suggest Restaurant Eve in Old Town Alexandria. The Bistro, not the Tasting Room.

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        Restaurant Eve
        110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

        1. My vote goes to one of Ashok Bajaj's outstanding restaurants. I'd specifically recommend 701 or Bibiana. The Oval Room is another excellent choice, albeit a more formal option.

          701: This recently redecorated place has a NY nightclub feel to it. Live jazz plays on the weekend, but the trio (??) never played so loud that my husband and I had to raise our voices. The music just added a festive note to the meal. The food is modern American cuisine and is really delicious. The Penn Quarter draws a crowd in your age range.

          Bibiana is a contemporary Italian restaurant. Sleek decor and really excellent food. (In particular, the meatball appetizer served atop a bed of amazing polenta will have the two lovebirds concentrating on their plates rather than on each other!) Definitely popular with people in your age group.

          The Oval Room has the same high standards for service and food, but the menu is a bit more adventuresome. Just what you'd expect from a chef whose last position was cooking with Jean Georges in NYC. This restaurant is a bit more formal.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Indy 67

            Bibiana is a great choice, but don't forget that Ardeo was recently revamped and some posters have given it good reviews.

            I would add Dino - try to sit in the grotto. I love it for special occasions. I'm 30, husband is almost 26 so we're not a fan of stuffy places but want good food. They also have good desserts which special occasions call for :) Though, Bibiana's desserts are also out of this world.

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

            1. re: Jeserf

              I read the positive things about Ardeo and your post reminds me I want to try it. I left it off the list since I try to stick to places where I have first-hand knowledge when I make a recommendation to someone.

              I left The Bombay Club, the last restaurant in the Bajaj empire, off the list too since I think has an older vibe with its "Last Days of the British Empire" decor. The food and service are great, but it has none of the lively vibe of Rasika.

              1. re: Indy 67

                That was probably me... Ardeo was really good, I found some items better than others, but generally had a great experience. I still want another bowl of the green chile chicken soup.

          2. I'd vote Birch and Barley, but they are likely booked. I like Againn, also. Great unpretentious food, laid back atmosphere, amazing unparalleled beer selection and great beer sommelier at the former and great cocktails & whisky selection at the latter.

            I think of 701 as more a date restaurant, but I've also had really great experiences there.

            1. For a laid back feel but stunning dinner I would recommend Corduroy, Palena or Restaurant Eve's Bistro or perhaps even New Heights (but call them and have them do some sort of special menu).

              For a blow out tasting menu I think Rogue 24 may be open by then... I would also suggest Minibar, Komi or Marcel's.

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              Restaurant Eve
              110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

              Palena
              3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

              New Heights Restaurant
              2317 Calvert St. NW, Washington, DC 20008

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

              1. In terms of the tasting menu I would go to Komi.

                For the celebratory dinner I think Cafe Atlantico would be perfectly fine. It's a fun environment with good food and drinks. Another place to consider would be Central or Bibianna.

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                Cafe Atlantico
                405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

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

                1. Komi is the best restaurant in DC, with minbar, Rasika, The Source and CityZen not far behind.

                  Also consider Brasserie Beck, Bibiana, Blue Duck Tavern or Central for something a little more casual.

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                  CityZen Restaurant
                  1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

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

                  Brasserie Beck
                  1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                  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

                  1. So far we have made a couple changes , based on recommendations and obviously availability

                    My wife and I are going to do Cafe Atlantico on Friday alone. We have two sets of reservations for Saturday - one for CityZen at 8pm, and one at Blue Duck Tavern at 10pm (haven't confirmed with other couple if they want to eat that late) and Marcel's on Sunday.

                    Thanks for all of your help - we are going to book Komi and Minibar for our return in a few months.

                    -----
                    Cafe Atlantico
                    405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                    CityZen Restaurant
                    1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

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

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

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gwh912

                      Okay, I wholeheartedly agree with heading over to Estadio. Great food. Really fun place. Except that they do take reservations now, and the only one available for 4 people is at 5pm. But a lot of people probably don't know that, so maybe walking in would work?

                      For places with open reservations on Opentable I'd go with:

                      701 - lots of times, classic American cuisine, I think I said upthread it was kind of date place, but it's classy with good food (quail, get the proscuitto-wrapped quail), live piano, and a nice wine list

                      Bibiana - 6:30 or 9, great Italian, downtown location, fairly new, reputation for great desserts

                      Corduroy - 6:30 or 8:30p, very, very well-reviewed American cuisine; everyone that goes here seems to love it. Close to The Passenger, which serves up great custom cocktails in a hipster-like bar with a very mixed crowd, if you like that kind of thing

                      Proof - 9:30, but otherwise *perfect* - excellent food, variety of options of small or large plates, stellar wine selection, even by the glass

                      Having said all that, if someone wanted to take me to CityZen, I would not complain at ALL. But I would go to the four places listed above over Blue Duck, even though I love the chicken and apple pie at Blue Duck.

                    2. some alternatives not already mentioned
                      Ceiba (pan latin), DC Coast, Jaleo (tapas), Zaytinya(middle eastern small plates) are all upbeat fun places that fit the bill for a celebration with good food.

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                      DC Coast Restaurant
                      1401 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                      1. If you find yourself willing to dine at a not prime time (i.e. not 7-9:30), then I would recommend Estadio. They don't take reservations (hence the recommendation to only go if it is non-prime time), but the food is fantastic. It is tapas, but I personally find it much better than Jaleo. The food is inventive, fresh, season, and just delicious.

                        1. Ended up at CityZen. Enjoyed the food but not sure I'd return , though it served it's purpose
                          As everyone we dined with loved it. Definitely some hits and misses and for the price, I don't know if it's worth it.

                          Also ate at Cafe Atlantico ( which was really disappointing - im glad you steered me away for group dinner .

                          Made reservations for Komi for next time

                          -----
                          Cafe Atlantico
                          405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                          CityZen Restaurant
                          1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

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

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: gwh912

                            Cafe Atlantico has a great Sunday brunch they call latino dim sum. Aside from that, it is the major disappointment of the Jose Andres restaurants. CityZen was underwhelming the one time I was there, and it seems to be a recurring theme for visitors.

                            -----
                            Cafe Atlantico
                            405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                            CityZen Restaurant
                            1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024