Friday, August 23, 2013

Eating hard - DC Restaurant Week

Along with the week between Christmas and New Years, the week of my birthday, and any week-long vacation, DC Restaurant Week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.

Twice a year, more than 200 DC restaurants offer 3-course lunches for $20.13 and 3-course dinners for $35.13. The list of participating restaurants always includes many of the top rated (and normally super expensive) places in town, making it a great chance for people like me with foodie aspirations and slim wallets to live the high life at a reasonable price. 
Because of my undying love for the event, three dinner reservations is a totally acceptable number to make during restaurant week. And the great deals on good food totally trumps any worries about overindulging. 

Here's the low-down on where the bf and I ate this week.

NoPa Kitchen + Bar

NoPa is a fairly new offering from DC power-restaurateur Ashok Bajaj of Rasika, the Oval Room, and Ardeo Bardeo fame. The Washington Post's critic gave it a pretty harsh review, but we thought restaurant week would be a perfect time to check this new place out without breaking the bank.

It was pretty good but didn't blow us away. I ordered the chicken because it was one of the few things the Post critic did like, and it was just ok. Well cooked but not really exciting. I left about half of it on my plate.

The best thing on our table was these brussels sprouts which were an extra $6 add on. Worth. It. They were super crispy and were roasted with pear, sesame, and some kind of magic. We may or may not have gotten into a fight over them. And there were only two of us.

Besides the brussels sprouts the second best thing about NoPa was the wide range of tasty craft cocktails at the reasonable (for downtown DC y'all) price of $10 a pop. I had the Chinatown Shake and the Mojito which I enjoyed, and the bf's 800 F and Tonic (with house made tonic and lavender) was amazing! I probably wouldn't do dinner here at normal prices, but might come back just for drinks. And a side of brussels sprouts.

Capital Grille

The Capital Grille is not my favorite steakhouse in DC, but we went with a big group and they are one of the few places that always have reservations for large parties open during restaurant week. And $35 is a pretty good deal for an app, steak, and dessert. 

I had a clam chowder for my app that was good but pretty unremarkable (even forgot to take a picture). My filet mignon was cooked perfectly and super tender, though the bf thought it was too salty.

The Capital Grille also has a pretty sweet wine deal during restaurant week. The appropriately named Generous Pour gets you unlimited glasses of wine from a set wine list for $25. This is a great deal since most of the wines on the full wine list are in the $10-$15 range, which means you get your money's worth if you have two glasses, and REALLY get a bargain if you have 3+ (not that I would know...) I especially loved the selected Pinot Noir.


We saved the best for last with a reservation at Graffiato Thursday night. Graffiato is run by former Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella and serves Italian inspired small plates family style. I love small plates because you get a lot more variety. And I love family style because then I get to go halfsies on all the food instead of fighting over the best dishes with the bf, as in the case of NoPa's brussels sprouts. 

Everything we ordered was good, but I particularly liked the heirloom tomato gazpacho which included "compressed melon" which tasted like the essence of a fresh, sweet, summer squeezed into a candy-like little melon package. The spaghetti was also really fresh tasting, and the handmade noodles were awesome. The Jersey Shore Pizza was not our favorite, although we still liked it. I mean, you can't really go wrong with pizza topped with an entire serving of calamari. But, even though the pizza itself was good (I would eat multiple Graffiato pizza crusts plain if they were ever giving out extras), the calamari had a little too much oil and breading and got lost in the pizza.

The ricotta cavatelli was probably the best thing on our table. The sauce was a warm and hearty lamb ragu which tasted lamb-y in the best way and balanced the ricotta cheese perfectly. The cavatelli were like smaller, lighter and fluffier gnocchi. It was the perfect comfort food, which is exactly what I want out of a great pasta dish.

Dessert was a close second to the ricotta cavatelli, especially the panna cotta. I have no idea what lemon-opal basil sorbet is, but it was ah-mazing, really fresh and light, and sweet and tart at the same time.

The service at Graffiato was also excellent. In addition to attentive and fast service, the staff was great when I somehow managed to dump my entire glass of (delicious and homemade) prickly pear and jalapeno soda all over my lap and the table at the start of our second course. The waitstaff came over immediately with towels, thoroughly cleaned off the table and my chair, replaced my soda, and offered club soda to try to deal with the bright red stain on bright yellow skirt situation. I would definitely love to return in the future after restaurant week is over!

All in all we had a pretty delicious restaurant week this summer. Restaurant week officially ends August 25, but some restaurants have extended the special menu for another week. To find a reservation, visit the event website here.

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week or any of the above restaurants in any way. I just really like great food and good deals. If anyone wanted to give me a free dinner to write a review, I'd probably do it, but no one is offering. So my blogger integrity is definitely intact and all opinions are 100% my own. :)

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