There are countless perks associated with living on the grounds of the sprawling Westchester apartment complex in Northwest Washington. Among them are a grocery store, a gym, a barbershop, a library -- even a single-pump gas station. Designed as an eight-building luxury retreat in 1929, the developer's dream was interrupted by the Depression; only four buildings actually made it up. But, in the Westchester's heyday, the apartments housed a who's who of senators, congressmen and Cabinet officials.
The Westchester Restaurant, off the lobby of the main building, looks as if it stopped aging in, oh, 1950. Little lamps and fresh roses grace the linen-draped tabletops. Bird prints decorate the walls. The carpet is thick, the ceiling soars, and mirrored columns only add to the expansiveness. The dining room, whose curtained windows look out onto a green lawn, could pass for that on a vintage ocean liner, or at a poor man's Greenbrier.
The menu embraces yesteryear, too. When's the last time you spotted vichys-soise or chopped steak in a restaurant? But there they are, sharing a few pages with fillet of sole, an omelet, eggplant Parmesan and -- baba ghanouj and lamb kebabs? It turns out that the chef, Hakki Muslu, is from Turkey, as is his wife, Ayse, the restaurant's hostess. The bow-tied waiters who deliver your chilled cucumber soup (rich with yogurt and dill) or chopped steak (a patty of ground beef sauced with brown gravy) are Turkish, too.
Several visits have taught me to stick with the kitchen's succulent kebabs and Turkish liver -- thin slices of liver sauteed with oregano, parsley and a hit of cayenne -- and to avoid fish and desserts, which taste tired. There's nothing sleepy about the man behind the meals, though. Muslu, who makes frequent rounds of the tables to chat up his patrons, counts three decades of service under his belt here. He's 67 years old and has no plans to retire (thank goodness).
--Tom Sietsema (June 8, 2008)