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Help with a 4 night dining itinerary in DC

A conference will be bringing to DC in a few months and I'm starting to get my dining itinerary together. Always like to try the best a city has to offer with a skew toward fine dining.

Day 1
Dinner: Little Serow vs Rasika (original location)

- I want to see what the hype is about at Little Serow and don't have issues with waiting for a table. Any idea on what the line will be like on a weeknight? What time should I get there if I want to sit around 8PM? Rasika is the back-up plan--already been there and enjoyed it.

Day 2
Lunch: ?
Dinner: Komi vs Rogue 24 vs CityZen vs ?

- The conference is at the Omni in the Zoo area, but lunch doesn't need to be nearby. I'd like to keep it around 1.5-2 hours, including travel time. Suggestions welcome.
- I'm very interested in Komi, but the photography ban instituted by Monis is enough to cut it from the list and spend my money at a more accommodating restaurant. However, if it is "that special" to make it worth leaving the camera in my hotel room, I'll consider it. I understand that Rogue 24 removed their photo ban recently but I wonder if the style may be too similar to Minibar, to which I've already committed. Read very good things about CityZen and it may be nice to have a more "classic" as opposed to "modern" meal.

(Please, no editorializing on photography at restaurants. I'm not one of those people who sets of a flash with every photo or uses a cell phone to take blurry pics. I use a professional-grade DSLR and appropriate lens to capture photos in low light.)

Day 3
Lunch: ?
Dinner: Minibar

- Looking for another lunch suggestion that fits the same criteria as above.
- Minibar is set as I'm meeting with friends who also want to go. Please don't waste your time trying to talk me out of it.

Day 4
Brunch/Lunch: ?
Dinner: Table 21 at Volt vs ?

- I'll be skipping out of the conference on this day to go sightseeing. Lunch could be anything in the city, but convenient to the National Mall area would be better.
- I'm going to try for the early seating at Table 21 at Volt and will be renting a car just for that evening to go to the restaurant if I get the reservation. The back-up plan would be any of the other choices from Day #2.

Thanks for any input you guys have.

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  1. Komi is unique, in a good way. Rogue 24 is similar to Minibar, but cheaper and better in my opinion. CityZen is good but not unique.

    1. If I had 4 dinners in DC, and based on the choices you've listed, I would do the following: LIttle Serow, Komi, Rogue24 and Volt.

      You decide on what days you want to do what, but those would be the 4 four places.

      And, yes, I'm trying to talk you out of Minibar.

      I like Rasika, but you can save that for lunch.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Thanks for the suggestion. Minibar isn't going to be cancelled, so if you had to pick one of Komi or Rogue 24, which would it be?

        1. re: Ponder99

          That's tough Ponder.

          Both are unique in their own way. How often do you visit DC? More importantly, where are you from?

          I ask not to be difficult, but it helps inform my suggestion to you. Let's say you are from SF, for example, I think would do Komi because you can sort of (and I stress "sort of") experience Rogue at a place like Saison.

          1. re: Ponder99

            I personally wouldn't do Rogue 24 and Minibar within a few days of each other, especially since you're doing Table 21 as well. I don't know what's being served at Table 21 these days (haven't been since before Bryan went on Top Chef), but Bryan showed alot of molecular gastronomy techniques on Top Chef Masters. Molecular Gastronomy is fun, but not 3 out of 4 days fun.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Great advice. I'm in So Cal but travel about twice a year to major cities for conferences.

                I figured that Minibar and Rogue 24 were going to be similar as I mentioned in my original post. I enjoy restaurants that showcase molecular/modernist techniques, which are not prevalent where I live now. Three out of 4 days wouldn't bother me a bit.

                Is Volt as far down the molecular road as places like Minibar, Moto in Chicago, or wd-50 in NYC? From what I read about it, I thought it was more subtle, like at his brother's restaurant Ink in LA.

                I had a fantastic meal at Saison. Knowing that Komi in the same vein definitely helps me understand what kind of restaurant it is.

        2. Agreed re: Rasika for lunch.

          Day 1: Little Serrow
          Day 2: Lunch: Rasika
          Day 3: Lunch: Estadio, BLT Steak, Central
          Day 4: Lunch: J&G Steakhouse; brunch: Founding Farmers
          Dinner: Marcel's: for the boudin blanc.

          4 Replies
          1. re: cranberry1

            Thanks for all the lunch suggestions. Is there any difference between Rasika's Penn Quarter and West End locations?

            Is Central the same as Central Michel Richard?

            1. re: Ponder99

              I'm not sure - I think the only difference is decor/newness but I could easily be wrong. I haven't been to the West End location.

              Central is Central Michel Richard. It's close enough to the Mall that it may work well for you. If you do go, get the Chocolate Bar dessert. I don't think I'd "waste" a dinner on it, given your alternatives, but it'd be a great lunch.

            2. re: cranberry1

              Agree with Little Serow for dinner and Rasika for lunch. I like the smaller tawa-griddle menu options at Rasika compared to their entrees since these are you normally don't get at neighborhood Indian restaurants. This will also save you some stomach space for dinner on day 2.

              Day 2 - Dinner: If I were in your shoes this would be a tough choice. Komi is another Johnny Monis restaurant. If you end up going to Little Serow, this makes two Monis restaurants on one trip. The style is totally different but I wouldn't necessarily go to Momofuku Ssam Bar and Ko on the same trip. Rogue 24 the day before Minibar might cause serious restaurant comparisons which might be fun or might leave you feeling like you wasted a dinner. Lastly there's Cityzen. Great service and food but the more traditional high end experience on the list so you may find it a little "boring."

              Day 3 - Lunch: Lobster burger at Central could be a good option.

              Day 4 - Brunch: How about Kapnos for Greek/Med?

              Day 4 - Dinner: Haven't been to Volt. Maybe it's the hour drive that's deterring me. Would appreciate some feedback if you do end up going.

              1. re: shake N baik

                I think the tuna burger at Central is outright better than the lobster. But lobster is more expensive.

            3. For lunch, I'd suggest Bourbon Steak, Vidalia, Blue Duck Tavern, and Tosca.

              For Little Serow, I think you're probably safe - if you are a party of two - lining up 30 minutes before opening on a weeknight. If you are a party of 3 or 4, then I'd suggest 45 minutes before they open.

              In case Table 21 falls through, I'd suggest Rose's Luxury. I think the food there is absolutely outstanding and very creative. Like Little Serow, they don't take reservations. The reviews have been almost universally stellar since they opened in October.

              http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifesty...

              Since you'll be in Woodley Park, I'd also recommend having a drink at the Gin Joint - a great bar that specializes, as the name suggests, in gin. It's the bottom floor of the New Heights restaurant near the metro.

              2 Replies
              1. re: eatdceat

                If I can't get to Little Serow until about 6:00-6:30PM to put my name in for 2 hoping to eat around 8:30PM, is it even worth trying? I don't get in until the late afternoon and there's no way I'll be able to stand in line by 5PM. Unfortunately, moving it to another night isn't an option.

                1. re: Ponder99

                  It's possible. I went on either a Thursday or Friday at 6 and got a seat around 9:15.

              2. I would second the suggestion of Blue Duck Tavern for a lunch, and if you happen to have one of your days fall on a weekend, brunch at Mintwood Place would be convenient to your hotel. What about Toki Underground or Daikaya for lunch?

                Komi would be on my "must" list. Although you might be a food photo-taker (I'm not, so it didn't perturb me one bit) I'd think that Komi would be one you wouldn't miss out on that much -- the style of presentation is simpler, sparser, and not the kind I would imagine would make you go "I *NEED* a photo of this!"

                My trip to Rogue24 (2013) was much more recent than minibar (2009?) so it's hard to give a fair comparison but I really, really enjoyed Rogue24 and getting to interact with RJ Cooper; also, the beverage pairings were better. So good that my recollection gets a wee bit fuzzy towards the last couple courses...

                1 Reply
                1. re: rachelcp

                  Rogue24 is apparently in financial trouble. The chef can't repay his partner and is threatening to quit if issues aren't settled.

                2. Thanks to all for the input. I'm getting near the critical "1 month before" point where reservations for Komi and Table 21 open.

                  Having gone through the "call and pray" technique at other high demand places like The French Laundry, Eleven Madison Park, and Alinea (pre-tickets), should I expect these reservations will be as difficult? (Busy signals for 45 mins, on hold for 15-20 minutes only to get the 5PM or 9:30PM seating, or even worse, the wait list.)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ponder99

                    Guess I'll answer my own question.

                    Volt Table 21: Extremely easy for a weeknight. Called right at 9AM local time. Got an answer, made the res, and got an e-mail confirmation all within 2 minutes.

                    Komi: Not too bad considering I called on a busy day--a Tuesday after the res line was closed on Sunday/Monday and reservations were being taken for Wednesday/Thursday/Friday. Called right at 12PM local time. Got a busy signal for about 2-3 minutes and then waited for 10 minutes on the hold system. They do take their time explaining the menu, which is a nice service touch, but definitely adds to the wait. Maybe I was just lucky; out of curiosity I called back around 1:00 and the lines were still busy.

                  2. Here's my updated itinerary. Dinners: Little Serrow, Komi, Minibar, Volt. Lunches: Central vs Proof, Rasika.

                    Opinions on Central vs Proof for weekday lunch?

                    Because we were assigned a White House tour that will happen right at lunch time, I'm now looking for a Saturday morning breakfast place. It would be ideal if it was convenient to the Metro Red Line. I'd really prefer a place that I can get a reservation as I cannot stand waiting for breakfast. Reminder that we're staying in the Woodley Park.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: Ponder99

                      There are some things at Central - a French take on American classics - that make it unique. Fried Chicken, corned beef sandwich, tuna burger, macaroni n' cheese.

                      1. re: Ponder99

                        Check out DGS Deli, Blue Duck, and Le Diplomate.

                        1. re: Ponder99

                          Proof is hands above Central in my opinion. I have not had anything I don't like at Proof and love their cheese, charcuterie (sp?), and risotto. The wine and cocktails are winners too.

                          I have been to Central only once but don't see myself returning. I had the steak tartare that I had read good things about but felt like it was buried in ketchup, which I am not a fan of and my friend was disappointed in her mussels.

                          1. re: Ponder99

                            I'm not a huge fan of Proof at lunch -- it's really more of a dinner place to me. So I'd say Central.

                            Liberty Tavern in Arlington would be a bit of a trek, but has a stellar breakfast/brunch table that opens at 9 am on Sat & Sun and takes reservations via opentable. It's a block or so from the Clarendon stop on the orange line.

                            I also love breakfast at Leopold's in Georgetown (Cady's Alley on M) and Cafe Bonaparte on the north end of Georgetown on Wisconsin. Neither takes reservations that early in the day if I remember correctly. Leopold's opens early (8?) but some of their hot daily special items don't end up being ready 'til 9 or 10. Bonaparte opens at 10.

                            Busboys & Poets is a "local color"-type place that prepares good food, with a focus on organic and veg/vegan options (a plus for me, but not everyone). And there's always Le Pain Quotidien. Saturday breakfast is not loaded with options.

                            Bidwell is brand new, in the Union Market building, and I believe is open for breakfast/brunch on Saturdays. There were people eating there when I was at the market the other weekend, at least...not sure if many reviews are out on it yet.

                            1. re: Ponder99

                              Between Central and Proof, I would opt for the latter.

                              1. re: Ponder99

                                Founding Farmers is a pretty good breakfast. Open City is good too, and is in Woodley.

                                I wouldn't go out to Arlington just for Liberty Tavern.

                                You won't regret Komi!

                                1. re: cranberry1

                                  Thanks for all the great replies. I didn't mention that we probably need to be seated around 9:00AM for breakfast to be on time for the White House.

                                  We were originally going to do Blue Duck Tavern for lunch, but I see they have a breakfast too. I narrowed it down to that or Founding Farmers for Saturday morning. Never expect to be blown away by breakfast and just looking for something delicious with local flair.

                                  Still trying to figure out Central vs Proof for lunch. How's the noise level at each compare at lunch? It would be nice if it wasn't deafeningly loud.

                                  1. re: Ponder99

                                    Don't miss Blue Duck. For lunch or for breakfast, their food - and service - is exemplary. Please make room for a meal there on your itinerary.

                                    I've just come across your thread and must echo the praise for Serow. The queue forms around 430 (sometimes a bit earlier) even on the weekdays but the restaurant is my most favorite in DC and possibly, some days, in the country.

                                    Central for lunch, if given a choice between that and Proof, in my book. Its busy...and definitely has a DC "hum" at prime meal time, but the acoustics aren't deafening and you can definitely ask for a table toward the back, away from the more central (pun really not intended) hubbub. Proof may be on the quieter side when comparing the two but I really enjoy the food at Central. Don't miss the tuna burger or gougeres.

                                    1. re: Ponder99

                                      You could also have breakfast at the Willard Hotel before the White House, perhaps. It is just steps away from the security line for White House tours. I haven't had their breakfast buffet, so I'm not speaking to the food quality, but it's probably not bad and the Willard is certainly worth a visit when touring DC, anyway.

                                      Open City is good, not fancy, for breakfast, too, as mentioned above -- and will be very convenient to you, if you're staying in Woodley Park.

                                      1. re: Ponder99

                                        Proof is always quiet. Central is laid back and quiet at lunch. Great macarons, by the way. Six for $10.

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          Well this pretty much seals it in favor of Central. My wife loves macarons.

                                          We'll keep Blue Duck for breakfast before the White House. I'll look into Open City as a pre-conference breakfast spot.

                                        2. re: Ponder99

                                          Blue Duck's brunch is great, assume their breakfast would be worthwhile as well.

                                        3. re: cranberry1

                                          If you go to Open City, bring a salt shaker. No flavor whatsoever.

                                        4. re: Ponder99

                                          I would not go to Volt. I have only been once and will never return. We got the tasting menu and I only enjoyed 2 things. You can do so much better. Not even for a free meal. It was taken off the Washingtonian's top 100 for a reason.

                                          If you're willing to drive all the way out to Volt, I would suggest you consider the Inn at Little Washington. In my opinion, it is hands down the best restaurant in the DC area. Everything about it is a work of art.

                                          I don't make it to breakfasts very often, but the best brunch buffet I've had in the DC area is at Liberty Tavern in Arlington. I'm sure there are better out there, but it's an incredible value, the food is simple but they use great ingredients, their cooking is very consistent and they have a wide variety of options.

                                        5. CityZen was a more memorable meal for me than Komi at a better location and with much better servers.