First Bite

Tom Sietsema's First Bite: Eola in Dupont Circle

By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The lights are on again at 2020 P St. NW.

Dark since spring, the former site of Mark and Orlando's was recast last month as Eola, its name derived from "aeolian or eolian," a Greek word that refers to being carried by the wind, says the new restaurant's chef, Daniel Singhofen. The term also describes his cooking style: "loose and free," says the Florida native, 31.

Singhofen is fairly new to Washington, having come here 1 1/2 years ago from a restaurant in Orlando after his fiancee got a job with the World Bank. For Eola, he has brought together a staff with experience on the local scene. His sous-chef, Brian Wilson, worked at New Heights, Palena and 2941, among other kitchens, and his manager, Scott Stone, comes from behind the bar at Palena. Desserts are made by Donald Smith, previously at Potenza.

The ensemble is off to a satisfying start. Sheep's-milk yogurt and a bit of honey add creaminess and a hint of sweetness to a robust red pepper puree. Greens and ricotta cheese fatten house-made ravioli garnished with beets and more pinches of ricotta. There's pork belly, because apparently you can't be a restaurant and not serve it, and salmon, a safe fish entree that gets a nice assist from wild rice on the plate.

Desserts show polish, evinced by an "orchard trio" we sampled late last month; apple cropped up in a tiny tart and a spoonful of granita, while pears carved into marble-size balls were poached simply in red wine.

Eola, which Singhofen owns with his parents, offers both regular and tasting menus in its small dining room on the first floor, decorated with exposed brick, yellow walls and broad Mission-style oak tables. Upstairs is a casual bar that the chef hopes to fill with the after-work crowd.

Dad didn't contribute just money to the project. Those are his photographs of U.S. Highway 1 on the walls of the second story. The collection traces a journey from Key West to Washington -- not unlike the one undertaken by his son.

2020 P St. NW; 202-466-4441. Entrees, $21-$28.

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