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The Tastes of Vacation: Wrapping Up DC Restaurant Week

Crostini at Fig & Olive

Crostini explosion at Fig & Olive DC

Our DC Restaurant Week extravaganza wrapped up on Sunday evening with our 7th restaurant in 7 days: the new Fig & Olive DC in the glamorous Foster + Partners and Shalom Baranes Associates-designed CityCenterDC complex (home to the 1% who want to live in a fashionable downtown apartment…but I digress.) Six of this week’s seven eateries were new to us, which was part of the allure, and we saved some of the best for last.

Friday evening, Candice and I visited Mintwood Place – a highly rated restaurant where we had sampled brunch in the past. We were excited about this dinner, as the restaurant is ranked #2 in Tom Sietsema’s 2014 Fall Dining Guide and is also a top-ten pick of Tom Kilman of Washingtonian magazine.

After our meal, I’m here to say I cannot understand these rankings.  The food was good, but not the best we had during the week (or even the weekend).  Mintwood did only serve off the Restaurant Week menu, so I understand that some of their outstanding regulars may not have been included, but I frankly expected more. The service was okay but not exceptional. And the restaurant is loud. Really loud. Did I say it is very loud.

The Burrata, kales, hazelnut, apple & tamarind first course offering was exceptional. I would eat kale every day if it was prepared this way.  (I know some of my friends are rolling their eyes, knowing my general feelings toward kale.)  My lightly smoked salmon with cream of corn, baby zucchini and sunflower shoots was good but not an entrée of the second best restaurant in the city. Candice’s rigatoni bolognese was very tasty but heavy (especially for a summer menu). Candice and I came away with three-star rankings. I think we’ll need to try Mintwood Place again when it is not restaurant week, and hope that the exceptional cooking is easier to find.

I’ve already reported on Saturday’s meal at Jackie’s in Silver Spring – which deserves a new look from all the restaurant critics who indicate it has lost its luster.

At Fig and Olive

DJB, Candice, and Andrew wrap up DC Restaurant Week at Fig & Olive

Which brings us to restaurant #7 of the week: the new Fig & Olive DC, which is part of an upscale, national eight-restaurant chain with locations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and now Washington. What a way to end the week!

Everything about Fig & Olive was terrific, beginning with a large and airy dining room above a very sharp-looking bar. We decided to forgo the restaurant week selections and order off the main dinner menu, and we’re glad we did.  Even before we ordered, the wait staff brought out three different olive oils (one each from Spain, California, and Italy) for dipping. We began our two-hour feast with two wonderful appetizers: the Octopus a la Gallega (thinly sliced braised octopus, marinated bell pepper, heirloom potato, black olive, basil, arugula, pimenton lemon dressing with Cobrancosa Olive Oil) and Sea Scallops (seared scallops seasoned with l’orange spice, carrot olive oil tapenade, orange segment, micro greens, citrus dressing with Picual Olive Oil). Both melted in the mouth.

That was followed by six crostini (seen at the top of the post) which were as beautiful as they were tasty.  Our choices?

  • Burrata, Tomato, Pesto, Balsamic;
  • Pea, Asparagus, Ricotta Lemon Thyme;
  • Heirloom Carrot, Charmoula, Carrot Tapenade;
  • Prosciutto, Ricotta, Fig, Olive, Walnut (maybe the best of all!);
  • Crab, Heirloom Tomato, Zucchini Puree; and
  • Shrimp, Avocado, Cilantro, Tomato.

We carefully cut each one into three pieces, so everyone could have a small sample. What a treat!

Our main courses which followed were just as tasty.  Andrew became a big paella fan during his summer in Barcelona and Valencia, so he jumped on the Paella Del Mar with black tiger shrimp, sea scallop, calamari, mussels,saffron rice, green pea, red bell pepper, artichoke, saffron aioli, pimenton & oregano topped with Hojiblanca Olive Oil.  Candice wanted a lighter meal, so she ordered the Fig Gorgonzola Tartlet off the appetizer menu. It featured prosciutto, gorgonzola dolce, fig, walnut, arugula, scallion, tomato on thin puff pastry topped with Arbequina Olive Oil. I had read a review that called out the Rosemary Lamb Chops, so I went with this choice.  The lamb was “grilled, smoked à la minute with a bouquet of Herbs de Provence, goat cheese & chive gnocchi, braised eggplant with honey & thyme” and served with a wonderful rosemary garlic olive oil. In a word: Fabulous!

After all this food, I know you won’t believe that we discussed dessert…but I’m afraid it is true. However, Fig & Olive has something that every restaurant should adopt:  coffee or tea with a one bite-size side of dessert.  What a concept, as one bite is all you want!  We went all in, each of us ordering the Café Gourmand, with a side of crunchy praline and the one bite-sized version of the Chocolate Pot de Crème.  We left wonderfully satisfied (yet not stuffed) and with ratings between 4 and 4 1/2 stars. Yes, it was that good!

We’ve had a delightful week, and when I jumped on the scale this morning, I was able to keep my weight within one pound of the starting mark!  (Exercise every day certainly helps, and I’ve already been to the gym this morning!)

In our delightful Restaurant Week extravaganza, we found that the DC food scene continues to grow and mature – for individuals with all tastes.  After sampling the wide variety this week, we now have five new restaurants to add to our list of regular favorites (which in addition to Jackie’s range from Fiola to Cleveland Park’s Ripple to La Chat Noir to DISH + Drinks to Pacci’s Pizza and perhaps a dozen more).  We’ll certainly return to MXDC, New Heights, SEI, Mintwood Place and Fig & Olive in the weeks and months ahead.

Restaurant Week may be over, but that doesn’t mean the Browns won’t continue to venture out during our vacation.  This evening the three of us are going to another of our favorites – Iron Gate Restaurant in Dupont Circle – for their Agriturismo Menu on the patio, and later in the week Candice and I are going to test out a new Capitol Hill restaurant with one of my work colleagues.  But my days as a food critic are over for now.  It has been wonderful to share a bit of these meals with you, and I hope you’ve found something to enjoy.

More to come…



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