Sunday, September 10, 2006

return to TALLULA and the dish on DISH

It's been a busy weekend with my parents visitng and we decided to take them (and my nephew) on Saturday night to TALLULA in Arlington ( as we had such a wonderful time two months ago, and it was very convenient to their hotel in Rosslyn as well. I, admittedly incorrectly, also thought that staying out of DC, we could perhaps have a quieter dining experience. As you know, we try to avoid weekend dining in DC and our ONLY complaint about Tallula on Saturday was the fact that we could barely hear each other over the heaving crowds and high noise levels.

The beautiful tin ceilings don't help the situation, and I think the next time we head back to this wonderful spot, it WILL be a weekday! I think the fact that Tallula is such a dining destination, and the only one for some distance around in the Pershing neighborhood, easily explains the crowds. We arrived at 7pm, and it was relatively quiet as we settled into the comfy circular booth overlooking the dining room, but by 8pm, there was not an empty seat, and we could not easily hear each other in muted conversation.

Last time we went I got several inquiries about the name, which comes from the Native American term for "running water," not the famous Hollywood icon! That explains that, and now onto the WONDEFUL meal.

We had a wonderful server, Derrick, who was quite attentive, although, we could not help feeling they needed one more employee in the room, by the time we were ready to leave, as it was so busy. We started with a bottle of green apple intense STEININGER "STEVN HOLL" 2005 Gruner Veltliner (Austria) that was a perfect aperitif. As the fall, comes, the G.V. loses its excitement since it really is a warm weather wine for me. A small cast iron pot of hot house-cured olives came accompanied by brioche toast and a chunk for foie gras for us to share. The olives were amazing; whoever thought to serve them warm and what a great idea?

You may remember that Tallula has a wide selection of small mini-tapas under the category of "Amuse Yourself." I returned to one of my favorites from last time, the superb STEAK TARTARE with Dijon Mustard, Capers in a Parmesan Tuile. It is one of the larger "amuse" and a great deal at $2-3. Each of us chose one or two of these and we also went on to a superb second wine from Uruguay: BODEGAS CARRAU 2005 Castel Pujol "sur Lie" SAUVIGNON BLANC from Cerro Chapeu was a real treat with those citrusy Sauvignon Blanc undertones but a slight oakiness from the "sur lies" that made it tasty and a real novelty as well.

I chose the HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALD with Buffalo Mozzarella, Picholines Olives and Fresh Basil which was quite large, refreshing and had both yellow and red heirlooms that were superb. Some had the excellent, as always, WILD MUSHROOM STRUDEL, a not to miss item that I doubt will ever leave the menu. Entrees varied from the CRAB CAKE appetizer that I had two months ago and rated one of the best in town, to the GRILLED BROOK TROUT with Heirloom Tomato & Sorrel Salad, Anchovy Butter and Crispy Yukon Gold Potatoes, a wonderful choice if you seek fish or less fat. I opted for the DUO of NIMAN RANCH Pork, as I have yearned for this dish since my first visit in the spring of '05. It has a Braised Pork Chop and Belly with Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese with the most MAGNIFICENT Whole Grain Mustard Jus that made the dish. Then chop was superb, but the belly, as it always is, was quite fatty, so I only had a bite or two of the crunchy portion.

My nephew is a vegetarian and Tallula has MANY options for him from the Strudel to three pasta dishes (one starter and two entrees), and many other dishes that can easily go veggie. I think he was quite happy as he also munched on my yummy Broccoli & Cheddar. We had a superb Oregon Pinot Noir from the same vineyard as the previous week's excellent Pinot Gris at Mie N Yu--the GYPSY DANCER 2004 "EMILY's RESERVE" was sheer smooth perfection in Pinot, a wine I shall seek out immediately.

Desserts from Pastry Chef Amy Foster are quite tasty with a creamy and tart KEY LIME PIE with SWEET CREAM & Raspberry Coulis, a tasty BANANA CREAM PIE with Caramel & Chocolate Sauces (they were out of the Mixed Berry Crisp) and some quite good Peach & Strawberry Sorbets. We went home quite happy and satisfied with every bite, but not the noise level.

Yesterday I took a pile of opera stars to a quick dinner at DISH, one of the best bets near the Kennedy Center (in the River INN at 924 25th St, NW). Chef Anthony Chittum was not there, but he has completely revamped the menu and offers a simple selection as well as a very nice tasting (which we did not have the time to partake of due to three airline flights!) menu.

In a nutshell, I was WOWED by the SPICED CORN CHOWDER with Blue CRAB, Diced Avocado and Jalapeno--it was superb. My MUSCOVY DUCK BREAST was a large portion served over "Dirty" Wild Rice with Roasted Black Mission Figs and Foie Gras Sauce..another super choice. Everyone seemed very happy with the food, although a taste of the Lemon Pound Cake left me a bit dry in the mouth. DISH is really (along with sister NOTTE BIANCCHI around the corner) one of the few excellent possibilities less than 3 blocks from the KenCen!