DC Trip Report from NYC Hound: Rasika, Proof, The Columbia Room, Poste, Zaytinya, and Paul Bakery in 24 Hours
We had a very short amount of time in DC this past weekend before heading off to a wedding in Manassas, VA, so I strategically planned revisiting some favorites from a previous trip, as well as trying some new places.
Rasika: Excellent! The raves are deserved. The food and service was great. I've gotten a 6:30pm reservation for a Thursday night about a month in advance (the time available), and the place was packed. Oddly, half the cocktail list wasn't available (annoying) and when my husband asked for a negroni, we were told that the "bartender sticks to the classics." (If the Negroni isn't a classic cocktail, then I don't really know what is?)
In any case, the food more than made up for it. Fabulous Tawa Baingan (eggplant, spiced potato, olive oil, peanut sauce). Nicely cooked eggplant rounds, that were so very tender, alternated with this deliciously spiced potato puree. The Palak Chaat (crispy baby spinach, sweet yogurt tamarind, date chutney) more than lived up to the raves. Deep fried spinach, creamy yogurt, sweet chutney. Marvelous textural contrasts all around. We also loved the slow heat of the Chicken Green Masala, especially when we dipped pieces of our garlic naan in the sauce or ate the fragrant rice with the sauce alone.
The only clunker was the pineapple lamb dish (I don't see it on the online menu). The lamb was very high quality and braised to be perfectly tender, and fell apart very nicely when prodded by the fork. But the sauce? Kind of bland but creamy. There were two large chunks of pineapple buried in the bottom that I found only at the end that would have provided something more interesting going on, flavorwise. We ended up basically pouring the Chicken Green Masala sauce on top of the lamb. Probably should have gotten the famous cod, but I wasn't in the mood for fish that at moment in time. Everything else was fantastic though. I dream of that Palak Chaat now!
Proof: We stopped in for a post-dinner drink at the bar on the way to the Columbia Room. I really enjoyed my small glass of wine. I wish more places did 2 oz. pours. so you could try more things. My husband's negroni (yes, he finally got one) was excellent.
The Columbia Room: amazing as always. Wonderful atmosphere and service, I only wish there was more air conditioning in there. We started off with a a fresh white peach Bellini that they only serve a few weeks out of the year -- only when white peaches are in season. Next up was a mezcal smash with basil, watermelon, and black pepper tincture, which was lovely. Smoky, fruity, herbal, with a hint of spice. With this drink, we were served a compressed watermelon rectangle with feta cheese, mint, and jalapeno. Our final drinks were customized to our preferences. I asked for something with gin, tequila, or a light rum, with citrus, that was crisp and refreshing. My husband asked for something with a peaty scotch. They did a preserved sour cherry gin fizz for me, and a Mimi Taylor for him (Corsair whiskey, spicy ginger ale, lime). Both were excellent. To finish, we were served some delightful French green olives, that were very fruity. Great, great place.
Poste: Had a quick breakfast here before heading off to a White House Tour as we were staying in the attached hotel. I'm not usually a huge fan of challah French toast (prefer brioche) but I enjoyed how creative theirs was. Two slices of French Toast, with a loose Grand Marnier custard in between, and a few slices of high quality bacon. The toast had a nice crispy edge and was creamy in the center. My husband's poached eggs were good as well but nothing out of the ordinary.
Zaytinya: We stopped in pre-Newseum visit for an early lunch. We were seated in the L off the main dining room but had no air conditioning problems at all, unlike other posters here. I didn't really care for the Seared Halloumi and Melon Salata with compressed watermelon cubes, preserved cherry tomatoes, pickled watermelon rind, mint. A single solid block of seared cheese that was a little overpowering didn't seem to go well with squares of mellow watermelon. The flavors just didn't add up--nothing meshed. Probably should have gone for the special peach salad with Marcona almonds and arugula! However, I did like the Kibbeh Nayeh a lot. Thanks CHs for the recommendation. Really nice beef tartare, well seasoned, and I loved the spices on the pita chips. Very flavorful and refreshing, especially on a warm summer day.
We adored the seasonal mushrooms with dates and toasted almonds. The sweet dates worked well with the earthy roasted mushrooms, and I'm definitely stealing this idea in the fall. The falafel was good, much like last time. We also ordered Lamb Mahanek, which was on the specials list. The housemade Border Springs lamb sausage was served with fingerling potatoes, pine nuts, red wine, and parsley. The combination of the pine nuts and sausage was excellent, but this dish was a little hard to eat as pine nuts are slippery little buggers!
The best part of the meal was finally getting to try the rightly famous Greek yogurt with pistachio and apricots. I really liked that you could get a half portion, too. Tangy, creamy, sweet, fragrant. Wow! My "full" husband devoured this one -- again, thanks for the recommendation, 'Hounds!
Paul Bakery: On the advice of a friend in NYC, we stopped here on our way back to the hotel before departing DC. I ordered a chocolate almond croissant which was wonderfully flaky and buttery. I don't think you see the combination of chocolate and almond in croissants a lot in NYC, so I really liked trying this! My husband also really enjoyed his brioche beignet with "red fruits," which was essentially a high end jelly doughnut. Fluffy and sweet. Service was a little scattered, and we had to chase someone down to get napkins as our order was to go, but I'd come back and try some of the other items.
Thanks for a delicious 24 hours, DC!
633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004
701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001