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Restaurant Nora
By Phyllis C. Richman
Washington Post Restaurant Critic
From The Washington Post Dining Guide, November 1996

| 2132 Florida Ave. NW
(202) 462-5143

Hours of Operation and Prices
Dinner: M-Th 6-10, F-Sat 6-10:30
Entrees: $20-$25
Closed: Sun

Other Information
• Credit Cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa
• Reservations: Recommended
• Dress: Casual
• Parking: Valet (fee)
• Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle

For some diners, Nora, with its Organic American Cuisine, is a respite from chemicals, a culinary statement about wise methods of farming. For others, it is merely a quietly attractive and very good luxury American restaurant. For me, it is somewhere in between. Nora Pouillon paid attention to organic ingredients long before most of today's' chefs ever heard the term. And she still seeks out farmers and purveyors of high commitment. But if she once was ahead of the pack, the pack has now caught up. Such quality is now widely available.

So one must admire Nora for more than its ingredients to make its steep prices worthwhile. I find the dusky, quiet dining room a solace, a museum of American quilts and a haven of unfussy comfort. The staff is knowledgeable and smoothly professional. The menu is not particularly long, but ranges from India to California, from austere to rich. Two appetizers illustrate: Quail is poised on spicy lentil dal with mango sauce and antennae of pappadum; ancient India meets contemporary America, and they have a fine time together. And a clay casserole of mussels is bathed in garlic, leeks, peppers and white wine; modern farmed mussels meet Portuguese tradition in a delicious mingling.

Nora is a magnet for complaints: Prices are too high (I agree, particularly for appetizers, desserts and wines). Cooking is erratic (true, as in strong and juiceless lamb and an underflavored lemon tart with knife-resistant crust). Service is indifferent (a problem I, recognized as a critic, have not encountered). Still, Nora's standards are high, and more often than not you're charmed and sated by the likes of huge, perfect scallops teamed with celery root puree and fat, flavorful asparagus or apple and blueberry crisp that tastes intensely of fruit and not too much of sugar. At the end, there's some of the best coffee in town.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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