209 1/2 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 544-6352. L $11.95- $16.95, D $11.95-$30. L daily ex Sat, D daily. Closed Sun. AE, DC, MC, V. Res sugg. Full bar.
One of the first to fire a round in the new American culinary revolution, 2091/2 remains fresh and pretty, with food that manages to be original with each change of season. Favorites are the crisp zucchini pancakes and the winy marinated figs, plus the annual seasonal delicacies such as softshell crabs with hazelnuts. Cold dishes are particularly good, and traditional dishes are given new and appealing twists such as mustard in the hollandaise for a beef fillet and pesto on cold vegetables rather than on pasta. The menu is fixed-price at dinner; service is painstaking, the wine list is carefully chosen and includes some outstanding after-dinner drinks. While the kitchen occasionally slips (fine liver in a cream too thick and bland), the food usually tastes as good as it sounds and looks --which is very good. One of the most luscious looking little dining rooms, 2091/2 alas packs its tables so closely that it lacks the privacy one would hope for in such romantic surroundings.