I have nothing new to say about this Italian stalwart in Dupont Circle, and that’s a pat on the back, not a slap in its face. The way I felt about Obelisk two years ago, or even 10 years ago, is pretty much the way I feel about it now. The 30-seat room with its bouquet of bread on a table remains austere; the many excellent antipasti on chef Esther Lee’s five-course menu threaten to ruin my appetite in the first 10 minutes; the pastas (pray for gnocchi with pesto) are almost always superior to the main courses that follow; and the desserts — hazelnut torrone ice cream, chocolate-apricot cake — are divine. The staff run smart and quiet. If someone told me owner Peter Pastan interviewed only graduate students for the restaurant, I wouldn’t be surprised. Around this time next year, this fan hopes to file much the same dispatch, give or take a coat of paint or some fresh art. If anything, Obelisk demonstrates the virtue that is continuity.
2012 Fall Dining Guide
2012 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
Pace yourself. Five courses might not sound like a lot, but the antipasti alone amount to a dinner party. Arancini with cores of braised duck, dreamy burrata lashed with olive oil, and squid rings mixed with green beans were among the snacks that launched my recent $75 “menu complete" at Peter Pastan's long-running Italian gem. As always, I found the opening and closing plates -- the pastas and the desserts -- to be more impressive than the entrees. Saffron tagliolini with sweet shrimp and fresh tarragon, and fig tart with chewy pistachio ice cream, will have you dreaming about them for days afterward; rare squab, on the other hand, is best recalled for its skinny filet beans. The narrow townhouse that doesn't bother with signage could use a refresh, but I admire the quietly smart service. Ultimately, Obelisk is a monument to good taste.
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