Trip Report- weekend in D.C. (Charlie Palmer, Etete, Pitango and Zaytinya)
So, I ended up fleeing the city because it was the weekend that Sandy hit but before heading home (TOWARDS the storm), I had the pleasure of trying three restaurants. My reviews will not be very complete because I didn`t take notes and the confusion that followed the trip erased some of the details.
Friday night, my Mom and I went to Charlie Parker Steak house. We had decided to walk but it ended up being a little bit farther than we expected because of the NW in the address. (Please pay attention to all parts of the address when you are walking in D.C. ) It was somewhat before the time of our reservation but the hostess greeted us eagerly and showed us to a good table by the window. Mind you, there is nothing to see outside because it is a business district. But, I always like a seat by a window. My neighbor behind me was somehwat close but we only bumped chairs once. The restaurant is not as formal as a similar restaurant would be (traditionally) in Manhattan so there was a great mix of tourist types, families in casual dress, and business people who had clearly arrived straight from work. Large restaurant with a few divided areas and a bar with televisions.
Our beverage charge was 8 bucks for «Pellegrino so I cannot give any advice about their wine list.<
My mom loved the shrimp amuse bouche. It was in a tiny glass and looked like soup. I don`t eat shrimp so I cannot describe it for you.<My main course was the goat cheese agnolotti. Very simple presentation. Moderately small portion but flawlessly executed. I used olive bread to mop up the rosemary brown butter. Mom had the special- steak with vegetables. I don`t remember the cut but it was perfectly cooked and very flavorful.
For dessert I tried the chocolate pyramid. I often find that desserts that are made into shapes are more visually appealing than tasteful but this was not the case with this dessert. The filo tuiles were properly made. They neither fell apart nor required excessive chewing. The chocolate temperature was warm enough that it made a difference but not too hot that I had to wait to eat it.
Mom had the cheescake with strawberry syrup. I didn`t try it because I am VERY fussy about cheescake but she loved it and said that the syrup was not overly sweet.
The bathroom was ok. (This is for the girls). Nothing fancy but clean and not in a weird spot.
After eating we were worried about finding a cab and planned to ask the maitre`d but it was very easy to hail one right from the corner.
Our breakfast was provided free by our hotel.
Saturday for lunch we went to Zaytinya. The only thing that disappointed me was the cheese pide. It looked like a pizza and tasted average. There seemed to be very little effort made in this item. Maybe this is just how it tastes (it is a traditional dish) but it was nothing special.
Everything else was very good. We had tulumu peynir cheese with honeycomb (pricey for a small portion), mercimek kofte (lentil patties), ottoman pilaf (perhaps the best rice dish I have ever had in my life), lamb bahar and beet salata.
Afterwards we did some museums and I orchestrated a stop for gelato at Pitango. I had the cardamom. I can`t say enough about how wonderful it was. I tried it hesitantly. I have never been in Italy so I am certainly no gelato expert but I have had bad experiences. With frozen desserts there is often a problem with consisency- some areas are harder than others due to problems with storage or with the speed of preparation. This was not the case at Pitango. The flavor was full without being aggressive and the texture was smooth throughout. My mom had a raspberry sorbet and after her first bite she exclaimed `"it tastes like REAL raspberries!" I laughed out loud. While we ate, I briefly read some of their publicity information and discovered that the reason for the quality is that they use an organic dairy and fresh local fruit. Excellent.
We went to a museum that was pretty small so it was too early to have supper. My plan was to explore the Ethiopian quarter and perhaps buy some spices or a picture or just wander around. Shockingly, the ethiopian neighborhood is not really what I expected. There were a couple restaurants and a photo studio and almost nothing else. I don`t know how to describe what I was expecting but something like Jackson Heights or Richmond Hill or Flatbush in New York. For non-New Yorkers just picture a Chinatown or Cuban neighborhoods in New Jersey or Miami.
Maybe I was in the wrong part of Little Ethiopia?? Anyway- the point is that we got to Etete more than an hour before our reservation and still thoroughly stuffed from Pitango Gelato. I can`t find the receipt and I cant remember what I ordered but we got a traditional plate with non-vegetarian and vegetarian items. Everything was delicious but I couldn`t finish. I made it through about 70% of my order. With great effort. I couldn`t even look at it after a while. There is a verse in Proverbs that came to mind. "A sated man loathes honey." Oh well, maybe one day I can go back and do it justice. It is certainly better than any Ethiopian food I had in Israel or in New York or in Philadelphia.
Thanks to my D.C. Chowhounds for the suggestions.
Our Ethiopian community never lived in one particular neighborhood - they tended tended to congregate around shared cultural centers like churches and restaurants. In the early 80's virtually all of the restaurants tended to be Adams Morgan, this was the pre-mega club days that ruined Adams Morgan (Millie's and Al's hadn't added the upstairs bar and a 17 year old could still get a pitcher of Natty Bo, or what ever' swill they served, with your pizza.)
The Ethiopian community isn't even one community - it is at least two communities and maybe three. Most of the "Ethiopians" are either Oromo or Eritrean. Very different people and not likely to consider being lumped into one category as benign ignorance. Of the actual Ethiopians, I have not found that that there is further cultural segregation between the Oromo and the Amhara but there may be.
Most of "Ethiopian community" live dispersed across the near-in suburbs like many of our immigrant neighbors, unlike the carpet baggers who whine that they can't get decent Buffalo Wings or pizza here in DC, they simply brought the foods of home here - albeit with any necessary modifications - and made us a better city.
However, calling Shaw "Little Ethiopia" because commercial rents were affordable by DC standards is silly and should be discouraged.
Thanks for your report. You made a lot of smart and helpful observations that we can all learn from.
I haven't checked out Etete in a while, but there used to be five Ethiopian restaurants on the same block plus another six or so within a three block walk, so I think it fairly constituted a Little Ethiopia, though that part of DC is changing so fast - almost on an hourly basis. What was once dead zone has now become the most difficult area in the city to find parking. I imagine any Ethiopian residents have been forced out through escalating rents.
I don't think we have a "Little Ethiopia", or a "Little xxxxxx" at all, really. I guess there's a higher concentration of Ethiopian restaurants around U street, but we don't really have ethnic neighborhoods here like they do in NY. Most of our best ethnic food gets pushed to the suburbs.
reiflame is correct. DC does not have ethnic neighborhoods the way NY or even Baltimore does. They are in the suburbs if anywhere. There is not "Little Ethiopia" or "little Italy" or even a real Chinatown anymore. What they do have is certain neighborhoods where there are lots of restaurants, many of them ethnic. Places like Cleveland Park, the U Street Corridor, Adams-Morgan, etc.