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Apr 24, 2012 06:59 AM

Fiola and Elisir - Lunch vs. Dinner - any experiences?

Hi all,

Heading back to DC again in just under a month and (as usual) planning a relatively packed dining agenda. Still debating a few options, particularly Italian, and both Fiola and Elisir look excellent while Obelisk also intrigues me.

Aside from the obvious lunch vs. dinner menu items, and prices, does anyone have any experience with Fiola or Elisir and how the atmosphere, service, quality, portions, etc differ during the two times? If you could only do one, which would it be, and would you do dinner or lunch?

I'm more interested in pastas than secondi, but tasting menus like Elisirs also strike my fancy.


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  1. Mike, welcome home!

    I'm heading to Fiola next week for dinner and will report back. Haven't heard a whole lot on here about either...I think everyone's minding their P's and Q's so they can continue to get a table!

    8 Replies
    1. re: gregb

      ...not exactly home, only been there once. :-) Will look for your report, though. Particularly wondering what the dessert menu looks like.

      1. re: uhockey

        It was an attempt at humor, Mike!

        What else is on the agenda for your trip? Were you able to secure a seat at Minibar this time aorund?

        1. re: gregb

          There is a story to the minibar reservation that I'll not get into, but suffice it to say I'll not try for a seat ever again. I don't care for their "business" model at all.

          Rest of my agenda down below.

          90% of the trip will be dining solo, also, so if anyone is keen on meeting up for a meal or bites somewhere I'd be game.

          1. re: uhockey

            I feel passionately about Next the way you do about minibar. In both cases, the experience probably trumps our vindictive ways, but sometimes that's just tough to get past, so I understand your frustration.

            1. re: gregb

              Next doesn't lie. minibar does. And I know this for fact.


              1. re: uhockey

                No, they just gouge prices!

                Too bad I'll be in Chicago when you're in town...would love to hear the story!

        2. re: uhockey

          I think you made the right choice with Fiola as a lunch destination. We had a really nice meal there, but it is excessively expensive for the level of food. Based on your experience with Italian restaurants, I think you might be disappointed if you went for dinner.

      2. I am familiar with both of them. If I could only do one, i would do Fiola. I think Fabio has settled into Washington and will be a force on the restaurant scene here for a long, long time. Fiola is also much more italian than Elisir btw. If you want to do both, I would recommend Fiola for lunch, and Elisir for dinner. Fiola gets a real good power-crowd for lunch that Elisir doesn't. Also, Elisir is best enjoyed a bit more formally at dinner with the starched linens and very professional service. Enzo shines best then too, with intricate and imaginative tasting menus.

        Obelisk is different from both. I little more old school. A very small place with a very regular clientele. Very small menu, only a few choices. A real european feel where the table is yours, and dessert comes slowly, usually with a complementary apperitif.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Pappy

          I'd just add that Fiola recently announced a three course-$34 lunch menu going forward.

          1. re: katecm

            Looks as though the ALC option still exists, though.


          2. re: Pappy

            Good points all around - and I sort of assumed night was the time Enzo would be around (the main reason I'm interested, though the pastas are my primary interest.)

            Would you say they are the two best Italian spots in town (already been to Tosca.)


            1. re: uhockey

              I think the food is probably better at Fiola, but I enjoy my dinner more at the sedate and mature Tosca. Bibbiana is also highly recommended.

          3. My husband and I dined at Fiola last Saturday night and while the food was definitely all very good, we weren't overly impressed. The service was pretty robotic and impersonal and the tables we SO close together. So close that they had to be moved if someone wanted out to use the restroom. We went with intentions of doing the tasting menu but once it was described to us (all were selections from the a la carte menu, none of which either of us would have ordered) we decided to do our own three course meal. First courses (tuna carpaccio and foie, both huge portions) and pastas (a ravioli special with asparagus and guanciale, the papardelle with ragu that is currently on the menu) very much outshone the entrees. You can get all of the pastas in half portions and we ultimately wished that we had ordered our third course as yet another pasta course rather than the entrees we had. If I had it to do again, I'd probably go for lunch instead of dinner. I read your blog pretty frequently and based on what I know of your dining experiences, I think the tasting menu at Elisir would probably be more up your alley than the Fiola experience. I'm very curious about what else you have on your DC list this time!

            10 Replies
            1. re: stellabay

              Definite/Maybe meals at this point are:

              5/18 - likely getting to town for dinner. Deciding between Elisir and Fiola. Also really like the Proof Menu and debating 2 Amy's if I get there early enough for lunch. Will be solo this night.

              5/19 - Source for Dim-Sum Brunch. Dinner Rogue 24. Both solo.

              5/20 - Brunch at Palena Cafe solo, Dinner at Trummer's on Main (family in Clifton)

              5/21 - Lunch maybe at Fiola (solo), Dinner at Woodberry Kitchen before Orioles game (family)

              Also debating stops at Ben's Chili Bowl, Old Ebbit Grill, Patisserie Poupon, and Kafe Leopold for breakfasts depending on daily agendas.


              1. re: uhockey

                Seeing what else you have liked, you really must get to Proof. If you're on your own, it's a great place to eat at the bar.

                I wouldn't do Old Ebbitt, even for breakfast.

                1. re: katecm

         looks so, um, touristy and strange - like Durgin Park in Boston (which was also recommended against but oddly a lot of fun.) It can't be worse than the mistake that was Georgetown Cupcakes last time - can it?

                  Was also debating Sushi Taro, though it gets mixed comments from folks I trust.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    OEG is definitely touristy, but not touristy and fun. It's where you go when you have to take your great aunt from Tulsa somewhere unadventurous and reasonably priced and Washington-y, but where you can still knock back a martini and shrimp cocktail (I will admit that their shrimp cocktail is exceptional).

                    1. re: katecm

                      And remember the OEG and Clyde's on 7th Street, NW have a very tood deal at the bar Monday - Thursday, 3 - 6 PM: 1/2 half price raw bar (oysters, clams, shrimp). Many of us think the Cyde's Group has the best oysters in town . On any given day they usually have 5 or 6 varieties. And you don't actually have to sit at the bar itself, it you try to avoid stools, as I do. The bar area (esp. on 7th Street) has plenty of regular booths.

                2. re: uhockey

                  Can't wait to hear what you think about Rogue! We had a great time there and I recall how much you enjoyed your Vidalia 24 meal, so I think you're in for a treat. I find Rogue to be somewhat of a breath of fresh air in the DC scene-- so many of the restaurants can feel sterile, often corporate, because of their settings in hotels and office buildings. Rogue's back alley location and modern esthetic is a nice change of pace. Also really looking forward to hearing about your Woodberry Kitchen meal. It's one of few restaurants in Baltimore that is functioning on a level beyond the Baltimore dining scene. There aren't many places in Baltimore that I honestly believe would be relevant in larger markets with much better food culture, but based on my travels, Woodberry would definitely still make the cut. The small plates are normally more interesting than the entrees and the house made charcuterie is killer. I noticed that you are going on a Monday which is "Meatless Monday" and all specials for the night are vegetarian which you will probably really enjoy. If you miss 2 Amy's and have any extra time or appetite while in Baltimore, check out Hersh's Pizza & Drinks. Great neopolitan style pizza and small plates.

                  Proof is great, as is their tapas restaurant Estadio. I would recommend both. I agree about Old Ebbitt, don't bother.

                  I'd also like to suggest Birch & Barley for brunch. (bacon toffee donuts, anyone??) It's really quite good and the atmosphere is lively. Good choice for dining at the bar solo.

                  1. re: stellabay

                    ...did not know that re: Woodberry. Do they still have meat dishes, or is it purely veg?

                    Will probably leave Old Ebbitt off, though it seemed a fun breakfast menu. Where should I go for a 3rd breakfast then (not brunch, breakfast on a Monday.)

                    Birch and Barley vs. Palena?

                    And, RJ is a total badass, I have no doubt I'll enjoy Rogue.


                    1. re: uhockey

                      I think you would enjoy the dining room at Palena far more than Birch and Barley.

                      The best part about my meal at B&B was the beer pairing. While the food was good, it's not even close really to Palena...especially considering your affinity for pasta courses.

                      Also, for kicks, I'll suggest Eola. I had two very memorable pasta dishes there and a pork belly dish that was second to none.

                      1. re: gregb

                        I mean Palena Cafe Brunch vs. Birch/Barley Brunch.

                        Will look into Eola.


                      2. re: uhockey

                        Birch & Barley and Palena are very different experiences, indeed. I didn't mean one could stand in for the other.

                        If I recall correctly, Woodberry will have their normal menu but because of the seasonal nature of the menu, there is normally a pretty large offering of specials that changes each night. On Mondays, those specials are vegetarian but all of the meat dishes on the regular menu will still be available as will the charcuterie.

                        I can't recall if you do spicy food or not, but Little Serow in DC (same owner/chef as Komi) is one of the best meals I've had in recent memory. It's northern Thai and incredibly spicy but completely delicious.

                3. I think both are egregiously expensive. Both are superb.

                  Elisir has much more of a sense of humor in it's approach to food. There is good theater as well as good food. If you think food should be theater, then it may be better than Fiola. We prefer to just eat and leave our theater for the theater, so we prefer the latter. The famed branzino in cigar box was amazing the first time we had it at Goldoni, and it still is just as good. But the surprise has worn off. It may not be $17 good. The soft shells were amazing in each of the elements, but the dish had too much going on for me to really enjoy. If it had ben a plate of soft shells and a plate of mushrooms etc, the parts would have been greater than the sum of the whole. Our dining companions disagreed. They are itching to return.

                  Fiola may be as good as anywhere right now, but we dropped $200 a person and did not have a great bottle of wine or over indulge in cocktails. No wonder we cannot afford a membership at the gym! Jeff Falle (?) is a superb bartender and the cocktails are great. He is missed at Palena but has come into his own here. Pastas are rich and generally have been what we loved best. The seasonality of the menu makes describing what we had superfluous.

                  If not for the price, we would go back to Fiola but when we can eat a couple of meals at our favorite places, if not three, for the same money, we have not made the effort to save up. We are not saying that Fiola is highway robbery like Graffitio, just not in our price/value sweet spot.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wineo1957

                    This is very helpful.

                    Elisir for dinner and Fiola for lunch, it is.


                  2. Ended up at both and enjoyed both, though they are certainly very different experiences. I'm incredibly backlogged on my blog but in brief I went to Elisir for dinner and found the service subpar at best but the food to be both inventive and delicious. I ordered the tasting and added on both the Fantasy Foie Gras Torchon and the Egg in a nest with favorite dishes being both of the goose liver preparations and the softshelled crab while pastas and desserts were overall quite weak (leading me to CoCo Sala for more dessert afterward.)

                    Fiola, on the other hand, was visited for lunch and while the server was obvioulsy quite used to serving people who don't know much about food (the explanations were tailored for the TGIFriday's Crowd and I actually wanted to tell him to STFU as he explained the Vitello Tonato) they were quite accomidating and we ordered extensively with 4 pastas, 2 risottos, and 3 desserts for the 4 of us.

                    Highlights were the Brandade Gnocchi, Cacio & Peppe, and Cavatelli Sardininian Ricotta Gnocchi plus the Cod and Squid Ink Risotto. Weak points were the raved Lobster Gnocchi, the Vitello, and the desserts (though the Bombollini with Affogato was quite nice.) The house bread is not Italian, but damned delicious also.

                    Overall my trip to DC and Surrounding Environs led me to some GREAT spots and I met some even better people.

                    My total hit list for the trip is below, and reviews will eventually appear in my blog with cross posts here to the DC board.

                    The Ashby Inn
                    2 Amy’s
                    Sushi Taro
                    Kafe Leopold
                    Patisserie Poupon
                    CoCo Sala
                    Society Fair
                    Buzz Bakery
                    The Source
                    Blue Duck Tavern
                    Birch and Barley
                    Virtue Feed and Grain
                    Trummer’s On Main
                    Old Ebbitt Grill
                    Woodberry Kitchen
                    Wit and Wisdom


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: uhockey

                      At Fiola, you didn't mention the saffron risotto served "osso bucco" style, which was fantastic.

                      Basically, my advice for anyone going to Fiola would be: if you see more than one risotto on the menu, dont think "I don't want to order two." Think: "the man is a genius with risotto, bring 'em on!"

                      I could have done without the rest of the meal.