Nora

Nouveau American
$$$$ ($25-$34)
Organic ingredients make up the dishes on this menu.
Mon-Thu 5:30-10 pm
Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30 pm
(Dupont Circle)
Dupont Circle (Red Line)
202-462-5143
79 decibels (Must speak with raised voice)
'

Editorial Review

2010 Spring Dining Guide

By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nora Pouillon was one of the first East Coast chefs to sing the praises of organic food, and she walked the talk with the green movement, too. (Even the servers' 100 percent certified organic cotton shirts involve dyes that are environmentally sound.) Here's the frustration: The food at her eponymous restaurant in Dupont Circle is unpredictable. The problem starts with a menu that's way too long, both in description and reach. "Blood orange, pickled jalapeno, watermelon radish, pepitas, red onion, chili oil, cilantro sauce" contribute to the ceviche of wild Georgia shrimp, according to a recent bill of fare, but never have so many enhancements delivered so little flavor (plus, the shrimp tastes fully cooked rather than raw or rare). Same goes for a lobster risotto, pretty as a picture in red (seafood) and gold (saffron), but ordinary eating despite the inclusion of "leeks, peas, asparagus, baby spinach [and] romesco sauce." On any given night, there might be a mix of Italian, Japanese, French and Indian combinations; arid chicken and cashew curry points to a kitchen that can't do it all. It's not just the food that's mixed. Servers can be smart and sweet or insufferable. ("Ready to order?" a waiter with less personality than Lurch welcomed me this past winter.) And the handsome quilts on the walls of the main dining room don't seem to stifle the noise of the crowd on a busy night. Don't get me wrong: I've had some distinguished dishes here. Silky black cod with a frizzle of carrot and a gingery finish (I'm abbreviating now) comes to mind, as does pork loin served with a golden croquette, ramp spaetzle and some beautiful spring vegetables. Is the owner paying attention? Hard to tell. But all three times I've dropped by this year, I've spotted Pouillon, supping with friends at the lone alcove table in the front of the restaurant. I wish I could recommend her food as much as the recycled paper on which it's detailed.