2011 Fall Dining Guide By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 16, 2011
When customers are shelling out hundreds of dollars per person for a single meal, an exclusive restaurant has to distinguish itself not only from the luxurious competition but from any lofty recollections a diner might have. The top spots can't afford to rest on their accolades. That's why I so admire the most formal of Cathal Armstrong's dining rooms in Old Town. The chef constantly pushes himself to please. If you haven't reserved in a while, you'll be pleased to see that the garden is the source of more ingredients (artichokes, herbs, pumpkins) and the dining room is bigger and plusher, dressed with huge chairs the staff refers to as "thrones." If you've never been, here's what you might find on Armstrong's five-, seven- and nine-course tasting menus: hats of pasta filled with lemony soft cheese and presented on beet butter in a copper pan; sweet lobster poached in bacon fat and arranged with near-melting sweet potato gnocchi; marvelous veal sweetbreads and croutons made with head cheese, their decadence tempered with tangy sauce gribiche; a button of smoked cheesecake glinting with gold leaf that is introduced as a "pre-dessert"; and … well, you get my drift. Just do it. Are the meat courses less thrilling than everything that comes before them? Just a tad. I've never been a fan of mingling chocolate with booze, but mix master Todd Thrasher converted me with one of his latest cocktails: an Atypical Martini created with stout, rum, cocoa nibs and house-made bitters. The result is surprisingly elegant and not at all sweet. Eve marries fun with finesse; yes, they really do iron the linens right on the tables. "What a pity this is not in Washington," a companion says as we spoon a glorious liquid salad of succotash. This District dweller selfishly concurs.
You have chosen to submit a user review for possible removal by our editorial staff due to its offensive or inappropriate nature. Please confirm that you would like the review submitted for evaluation. If our editors find that the review does not fall within our user review guidelines, then it will be removed promptly.
The user review that you selected has been submitted for evaluation by our editors. It usually takes us about 5-7 days to evaluate a review.