Fare Minded

Dishes That Left Us Begging For More

By Eve Zibart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 29, 2006

This time of year, looking back on favorite dishes can leave a bittersweet taste in the mouth. Some places haven't lived up to their promise, others have gotten careless -- yes, your customers do keep us informed, so don't think we won't be back -- and still other restaurants have closed altogether. (On the other hand, some have new chefs, so hope springs eternal.)

Even so, some meals come to mind with real pleasure and make me want to clear room on the schedule for one more visit. In rough order of pleasure:

The overall best-meals-of-the-year award goes to Butterfield 9 (600 14th St. NW; 202-289-8810), which offered such dishes as tarragon- and butter-poached baby lobster with braised fennel and cherry jus; soft cheese grits as the "white" for a quail egg yolk; various composed suites of goat (really kid); and velvety clam and scallop seviche with yuzu vinaigrette.

Tough choice: the foie gras with watermelon pickle and dark gingerbread or the veal cheek over bacon, egg and tomato risotto at Nage (1600 Rhode Island Ave. NW, in the Marriott Courtyard Embassy Row; 202-448-8005)?

Another quandary, this at Indique Heights in Chevy Chase (2 Wisconsin Cir., above the Friendship Heights Metro; 301-656-4822): fragrant ginger-, chili- and mustard-seed-flavored calamari ullarthiyathe or chicken chettinad in freshly toasted and ground Tellicherry pepper?

The Occidental has just undergone a huge renovation (1575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, in the Willard Hotel complex; 202-783-1475), but chef Rodney Scruggs's butter-poached lobster over chestnut custard was already in fine shape, a near-rival to . . .

Chili belly pork, a firecracker of a slow-cooked slab and, at $8.99, a bargain pick of the year, at Myanmar in Falls Church (7810-C Lee Hwy.; 703-289-0013).

Tapas outshone entrees at Agua Ardiente (1250 24th St. NW; 202-833-8500), the best being octopus carpaccio in paprika oil and a first-rate terrine of foie gras layered with slightly sour chevre.

The phrase "Irish haute cuisine" may raise an eyebrow, but the house-smoked venison loin at Flanagan's Harp & Fiddle in Bethesda (4844 Cordell Ave.; 301-951-0115) is a step toward that distinction.

Longtime Adams Morgan fave Perrys (1811 Columbia Rd. NW; 202-234-6218) is upscaling its sushi bar offerings, most memorably a crepe-soft fresh tofu skin in white miso and a perfect soft-shell crab tempura over a black mustard sauce that tasted like a cross between squid ink and black fig vinegar. And the Gruyere-inflected "cauliflan" is a star of a side.

You can have the most fun, and often the best food, at McLean's Capri Ristorante (6825-K Redmond Dr., above the Giant; 703-288-4601) by letting co-owner Nicky di Chiara or chef Raffaele Mastromariano suggest something market fresh, from roast whole fish to rabbit (if you're lucky). If you have a craving, call the day before; if you're shy, get the linguini and clams, just turned with olive oil and lemon.

Offal, ain't it? Loved the lamb tripe with jalapeƱo at Etete (1942 Ninth St. NW; 202-232-7600).

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