Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Review - Palena Cafe

Getting into an argument with the guy who signs your paychecks isn't a good idea. Though I knew this was one that I could easily win.

My boss, Jay, is an old New Yorker - and thus, feels that any restaurant located outside of "the city" is nothing short of crap. "Washington has the worst food in the world", he says - he should have joined me at Palena Cafe last night.

If what I had last night was the "worst food in the world", I should just quit right here - give up this whole food blogging thing and talk about seagrass.

But I'm quite confident in my judgement, and when I say that it's restaurants like Palena/Palena Cafe, and chefs like Frank Ruta, that make DC a first rate food city.

Again accompanied by Agatha, we showed up to the very conveniently placed restaurant almost immediately after it opened at 5:30 and decided to enjoy the weather and sit outside.

I was honestly shocked when we were given both the tasting menu and the cafe menu - and were told that we can order a la carte off of the tasting menu - what an incredible deal!

I however knew what I wanted before I even got there - a cheeseburger and fries.

So you're asking yourself right now; you could have gotten that at McDonald's? Yes, but no. This was honestly the best hamburger I've ever had (sorry dad!). How? Let me count the ways. First: the meat, cooked perfectly medium rare, was like eating room temperature butter - the texture, not even mentioning the wonderful taste, was simply divine. Second: the bun is homemade, and again, texture-wise went perfectly with the burger. Throw in a slice of cheese that's perfect in every way and a garlic mayo and you've got a wonderful burger.

The fries, usually a side, were a dish by themselves. At $10, it may be a bit much, but these just aren't fries - there were wonderfully cooked shoestring fries, onion rings, dauphine potatoes, and little slices of fried lemon that were incredibly refreshing. I'd put this up there with Citronelle and Amsterdam Falafel with the best fries I've had in the city.

Before the gluttony ensued however, Agatha and I both split a wonderful salad that was incredibly fresh and had some nice big pieces of beets - always a plus.

For Agatha's main course she got the Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi off of the tasting menu. I've had my fair share of gnocchi in my life, but this was (again) the best. Light and fluffy to the point of rediculous, it went perfectly with the roasted purple cauliflower, honshiimeji mushrooms, Castelmagno cheese and aged balsamico.

To finish everything off, we split a concord grape sorbet with pistachio and Greek yogurt tartlette, and myer lemon confit. The dessert was incredibly light and very flavorful with a portion large enough to split.

If you're under the impression that DC is a poor food city, you're living in the past - in the time when you had to be buttoned up and on someone's expense account to get a good meal.

Palena Cafe is a restaurant with neighborhood charm and national recognition; and one that puts one more hole in the argument that DC has, "the worst food in the world".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

SOOOOOO, what's your beef with seagrass? Not cool.