Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. AE, MC, V.
The congressional myth has it that our country's legislators work night and day and Sunday, too, on behalf of the public welfare. So public spirit sent me in search of the best Sunday brunches on Capitol Hill to refuel these seventh-day laborers. It looks, though, as if most of the Hill's Sunday laborers are waiters and cooks; it also looks as if they are serving the public welfare very well.
If you dream in mauve and wish you could have creme fraiche over everything you eat, 209 1/2 is your spiritual home. The restaurant is tiny, the better to constantly refill your coffee cup. It is color-coordinated, from the walls to the flowers to the Chinese porcelain. And even the food is arranged with an eye for color: yellow and white diced egg over pale gold sauce maltaise over bright golden yolk of poached egg, contrasted with garden green asparagus. At every turn, the quality is high, the production imaginstive. Fixed-price brunches of $9 to $12 start with a thick bean soup or Chinese cabbage and lettuce salad (a bit too cute, their serving it with chopsticks, and a bit too dull the combination). On a lucky day there will be fruits and nuts in creme fraiche. Continue to smoked turkey and ham salad, cold beaujolais-poached salmon, steak with bearnaise or beautiful seafood dishes. The seafood salad is garmished with zucchini salad and lemon twists, its base being plump, moist shellfish. The hot fish is a filet in a buttery mushroom wine sauce with saffron, brandy and creme fraiche. Each Sunday has its specials, too. The price does not include dessert, which is fudgy chocolate cake, winey marinated figs, or gentle blue cheese spread for crackers and apples. You can start with a $5 mimosa, a very worthy one, and end with good tea or weak coffee. Nibble a brioche. Look forward to a life of weekly Sundays.