Friday, June 26, 2009

Dino: Great Wine List

With our friends Rusty and JP, late of our New Mexico adventure, we convened at Dino in Cleveland Park for a late Friday evening supper. Despite its proximity to Bardeo, one of our usual hangouts, we had never eaten at Dino, which has a reputation for an awesome wine list.

We got off to a slightly awkward start as there was no record of our OpenTable dinner reservation (which could have been my fault). However, the restaurant was not full and we were quickly and cheerfully shown to a table...we chose one in the quieter upstairs area.

JP and Rusty arrived rather damp from a tremendous thunderstorm that had caught them walking to Metro, and had to fortify themselves in the bar before facing the arduous set of steps up to our second floor table. Rusty had grabbed a glass of rose on the way up, most likely the Dal Maso Tai Rosso from the Veneto, which we all agreed (I helped myself to a taste) was pretty unexciting...not a great start. Meanwhile, JP, in need of more fortification, had tried a "spa" cocktail which mixed Hendricks gin, cucumber flavor, and lime juice among other things. It was tasty on first sip but we also agreed that the cucumber and lime were not such a good mix, the lime being a bit too acrid.

Things improved after that. Michael and I each ordered a rose tasting flight, which seemed expensive at $15 but it turned out to be three pretty hefty portions of wine. The only one I can remember is the first, a Littorai Pinot Noir Gris from Anderson Valley, which was off dry and delicious. The other two were also extremely tasty and increasingly hefty (in fact the third one seemed a lot more like a red than a rose to me) much so that when Rusty and JP had polished off their rather unfortunate first drink choices they joined us in the tasting sampler.

Since we were in no rush we ordered some appetizers for the table...a plate of burrata, a cured meat (salumi) plate, and an unusual black cabbage bruschetta which was, basically, upside down (the bread was on the top). All were tasty and quickly consumed. My impression was that the portions were not overly generous but when you have four hungry men picking at an appetizer, it's not going to last for long.

After the appetizers, we each had a half portion of pasta...Michael and I had boar tagliatelle and Rusty and JP had something else, all delicious (enough that I wished I had ordered a full portion) but not particularly memorable.

Service was very professional and attentive (and provided by an extremely attractive waiter, who caught the attention of more than one person at the table).

Having dessert waiting at the house, we finished our wine and departed, with a group of satisfied boys and plans to return soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cafe St-Ex

I dropped by my friend Bill's house to visit with him, his mother (visiting from Boston) and his toddling daughter Eileen. After some pleasantries, we ventured around the corner to Cafe St-Ex, one of my favorite little places in DC.

We were seated promptly at an outside table, which proved to be a mixed blessing as it was early (6:30) and still quite warm. We all anxiously awaited the moment when the sun dropped behind a nearby apartment building.

The restaurant quickly filled up. We were there to catch up and keeping Eileen reasonably close to the table (she has recently become proficient at walking and is happily exercising this new power) took precedence over food and drink. Nonetheless, we had a very pleasant meal.

We started with a shared appetizer of "chicken confit sliders" which was perhaps the least successful dish I have ever had at this restaurant. There is probably a reason why I have never seen chicken confit anywhere else as I think it is just too insubstantial to stand up to whatever treatment it received. What we got was two small buns smeared with a chickeny paste which was more or less the exact consistency of tuna salad. Not bad, but not good, and distinctly odd.

Main courses were more successful. Bill and mother Jean had the burgers which were as good as always. I briefly pined for one but was very happy with my choice, a fried green tomato BLT which was both delicious and relatively light, given the heat, and accompanied by tasty sweet potato fries. (The regular fries that came with the burgers were also excellent).

With dinner, and before, I had a couple of Unibroue Maudite beers. I mourn the disappearance of Delirium Tremens from the draft beer menu here and hope the management will restore it (it is still on the bottled beer menu, at a staggering $24 per 750 ml bottle). However the Maudite was an excellent substitute, a bit darker than DT but with the same quality and overall taste. Bill had some sort of nondescript lager and Jean had a G&T, neither worthy of special note.

Cafe St Ex remains one of those great local places that makes me wish I still lived closer.