Editors' pick

The Monocle

$$$$ ($25-$34)
The Monocle photo
Sean McCormick

Editorial Review

2010 Spring Dining Guide

By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 23, 2010

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein beams at me from a framed collection of power brokers on the wall of a dining room that dates to 1960. Nearby, in a front booth, sits a living, breathing pol, Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. Graying lions in dark suits discussing tomorrow's headlines and tourists hoping to spot someone they voted for come together in a Reagan-red setting; the walls quote sayings such as "An empty stomach is not a good political adviser," painted in gold letters. The menu is a throwback, starting with oysters on the half shell and shellfish bisque, and continuing with liver and onions and pork chops with mustard sauce, everything delivered by no-nonsense gentlemen sporting gold vests. (If "Mad Men" ever films in Washington, here's a camera-ready reference.) Fresh oysters are my preference, but the roasted ones, flavored with curry-laced cream, are tasty, too. The filet mignon is cooked as you ask and plenty tender; cheesy potatoes fill up the rest of the plate. Meals to veto? The signature crab cakes are stolid; the pasta proves indifferent. Indeed, penne with a light tomato cream sauce and stray wisps of spinach resembles a dinner thrown together by a harried home cook from what's hanging around in the fridge. Cast your vote instead for tender grilled shrimp on herbed white beans, an appetizer, or steak salad arranged with rosy slices of smoky tenderloin on greens perked up with roasted red peppers and blue cheese -- a lunch entree. About the closest this kitchen on the Hill gets to contemporary cooking is the chili butter gilding an order of rib-eye steak. Old-fashioned hospitality reigns at the door, too, where Nick Selimos presides as maitre d' -- a job he has had since 1974. How have customers changed since then? "They drank their lunch [in the] wild '70s," says Selimos, and "forgot politics after 5 p.m."