The kitchen has done an about-face in this formerly hamburger-oriented restaurant. Gone are the potato skins. Now the menu is a showcase of New American cooking, from quail with fresh blackberries in season to the fancy new pizzas and pastas that California reinvented. In general the cooking is good; sometimes it is terrific. While the pizzas and pastas have been heavy-handed and short on flair, the successes easily outweigh the disappointments. Fried squid is very well prepared, and an appetizer portion is enough to share or would serve as a meal for one. Among main dishes, the rack of veal for one is at least for one- and-a-half; it is not only large and thick, but deliciously charred with a faint rosy interior and topped with wonderful buttery baby artichoke hearts -- fresh ones. Quail might be served with polenta and wild mushrooms if not with blackberries; in either case it is nicely cooked. And shrimp are big and beautiful, though ours were singed to excess. Along with these luxurious main dishes are whole baby vegetables -- quite pretty, but in need of seasoning. And for dessert there are such fancies as "pate" of chocolate and nuts, which is the mainlining a chocolate fanatic might delight in, and homemade ice cream of slightly grainy character but in interesting flavors. Then there are fruits -- fresh berries and the like -- with a nice zabaglione.
In all, this has become an ambitious kitchen, and carries out its promise rather well considering the modest price for such exotica as baby vegetables, fresh herbs, wild mushrooms and luxury seafoods. In addition, the service is both polished and personable -- though the kitchen can be excruciatingly slow.
This culinary exotica is served in a dining room of particular charm, with high ceilings supported by columns painted dusty rose. And sometimes your waiter sings or plays the piano. Trumpets still has its rough edges, but it serves a lot of imagination and entertainment for the money. 2655 Connecticut Ave. NW. 667- 5115. L $4.95-$7.95, D $10.95- $12.95. L daily ex Mon, D daily. AE, MC, V. Res sugg. Full bar.