First Bite

At Mar de Plata, Not Everything Goes Swimmingly

Head chef Miguel Alfaro prepares a helping of zarzuela at Mar de Plata's spinoff in Dupont Circle, which has been open for about a month. A dozen members of the Alfaro family are involved in the new restaurant and in the original, in Logan Circle.
Head chef Miguel Alfaro prepares a helping of zarzuela at Mar de Plata's spinoff in Dupont Circle, which has been open for about a month. A dozen members of the Alfaro family are involved in the new restaurant and in the original, in Logan Circle. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The co-owner of Mar de Plata in Logan Circle can think of a dozen reasons why it's good to have opened a second restaurant with the same name in Dupont Circle.

"We have a big family!" explains Pedro Alfaro, whose six brothers and five sisters all play a role in the business. "Why work for someone else?"

At the new seafood restaurant (1827 Jefferson Pl. NW; 202-293-2650) off Connecticut Avenue, Alfaro watches over the dining room while brother Miguel, a veteran of La Tomate, whips up an array of tapas, paella, pasta and seafood dishes. The format in the gently lighted underground venue is similar to what their brother Joaquin created for the original location.

At both, the portions are generous, and at both, the cooking is a bit heavy-handed. Crostini with mushrooms does a good impression of a cheese melt, and the signature zarzuela partners less-than-pristine seafood with saffron sauce. The tapas -- chicken-artichoke croquettes, blood sausage with a nest of cabbage -- yield only slightly more charm. The most memorable part of a recent taste test of the younger restaurant was the effusive greeting and nonstop attention; the water level in our glasses wasn't allowed to drop by even a centimeter.

Mar de Plata No. 2 slipped into the former home of Bacchus about a month ago after a renovation that added a small bar and put the kitchen on display; diners seated in the private room in the rear of the place can watch the cooks in action. Someone should tell them we're watching for signs of improvement.

Entrees $21.95-$28.95.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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