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Restaurant Week 2008

August 20, 2008

Zola
800 F St., NW Washington, D.C. 20004
Nearest Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown

photo courtesy of Zola

photo courtesy of Zola

Obviously Erin and I love good food and trying new restaurants. Naturally restaurant week is the time to try fine cuisine at what is a bargain price for Washington, D.C. So, for August Restaurant Week 2008, Erin and I started planning early. When I say early, I mean we met in early July over wine to narrow our restaurant choices. We decided on Zola mainly because we had both had never been and most importantly because the full menu was fair game for Restaurant Week.

First off a big thanks to Erin because she put in the time and effort to make us reservations and then re-made them when I found out two of my good friends from college, P.S. and R.S. would be visiting D.C. on the night of our dinner. Luckily Erin was able to get us a table for four at 9:45.

When we entered Zola, it had a very nice lively vibe and was pretty full of well-dressed patrons. The dining rooms were well lit, spaced-out perfectly, and featured an impressive champagne and wine display.

Peter’s take…

Our waitress was absolutely on top of her game. She was very helpful when it came to recommendations for appetizers and entrees. Erin chose an excellent red wine and our party of four decided to each order appetizers that would be shared. P.S. chose the lamb meatball sliders, R.S. ordered the scallops, I went with the grilled flatbread, and Erin selected the tuna tartare. Erin did not try my flatbread but the three boys all agreed that the flatbread topped with proscuitto, figs, foie gras butter, mascarpone and balsamic drizzle was top notch. In my opinion it was the delicious balsamic drizzle that truly made the flatbread. P.S.’s sliders were on point, and R.S.’s scallops were good but could have been cooked just a smidge longer. Erin’s tartar was the low point of the entire meal. While the tuna was fresh, it was tragically underseasoned and truly unimpressive. I personally thought the tartar was missing an element of acidity.

For our entrees, P.S., who is notorious in Connecticut for his love of pork, went with his gut and got the roasted Vanderose Farms pork loin, R.S. chose the proscuitto seared skate wing, while I opted for the BBQ shrimp with polenta, and Erin ordered the grilled lamb loin served with lemon gnocchi, asparagus, caramelized fennel. The first thing I noticed when the entrees were served was the excellent presentation. But what’s presentation if the food is just mediocre? Well, that’s something Zola doesn’t have to worry about. The dishes were well executed with only some minor glitches.

My bbq shrimp was cooked just right and the polenta was a nice accompaniment. However, the bbq sauce that was drizzled over the shrimp tasted bland and lacked the type of kick that I normally like. I tried some of Erin’s lamb, which was very good, but the gnocchi was overcooked.  But, the asparagus was a nice touch to the overall dish.

Now, I’m not a big dessert guy, but Zola had an excellent dessert menu that I found myself enjoying more than I anticipated.  I ordered the Passionate Tart that consisted of passion fruit, merringue and brandy soaked blueberries. It was an excellent finish to a great Restaurant Week dinner. Now if only Restaurant Week came around more often…

And Erin…

All around I enjoyed my experience at Zola.  And what could be bad?  Meeting two of Peter’s college buddies was a great experience, and there was plenty of wine and food for everyone. 

The food itself was not impressive to me.  As Peter said, out of all the appetizer’s my tuna tartare was the weakest.  And while my lamb was perfectly cooked, and my asparagus fresh and crisp, the gnocchi was over cooked and too soft.  But all in all it as a pleasant meal.  The atmosphere of the restaurant was great, I loved the subtle nod to the Spy Museum which resides next door.  And as Peter mentioned, our waitress was knowledgeable, friendly and patient, which is always a plus during the rush of Restaurant Week.  

It is always a pleasure to see a restaurant take pride in their restaurant and go all out for RW, especially since many restaurants see it as a pain.  Everything we encountered at Zola showed an appreciation for RW and the patrons attending.  But with so many other places to try, it is not going on my list, as the meal lacked that “wow” factor I was looking for.  Until January…

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