We started off dining out for the new year on the third day of the year and made an excellent choice at NOTTI BIANCHE, which easily wins the category as finest dining closest to the Kennedy Center, as well as just a great place to go. (www.nottibianche.com). It was also fun to be on our first night out here in Washington, the newest SMOKE-FREE dining and bar zone citywide!
While NOTTI BIANCHE may have only taken home Rammy in 2006 for Best Manager of the Year, it received nominations for both Rising Chef and Pastry Chef, and I am quite confident we will see more nominations again this year from them.
The ambiance is simple, quiet, subdued with exposed cielings, mirrors and not much froufrou; it is the food that stars here. I adore the modern Italian proverb #15) that is on the entryway, "The use of cell phones interferes with the making of risotto." We allowed CHEF ANTHONY CHITTUM to do his work and just bring us several dishes; there was not one disappointment.
We started with a glass of Prosecco which was joined by a plate of three starters: GRILLED FLATBREAD with WHIPPED SALT COD that was creamy, delicious and smooth. A tasty GRILLED STUFFED SQUID with Pinenuts over ARUGOLA, and a wonderful LOBSTER CANNELONI over Shaved FENNEL and Citrus. It was hard to choose which was best, since they were all terrific.
Next came two dishes which we promptly split: BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO with SEARED FOIE GRAS, Aged Balsamic and Toasted Pumpkin Seed was a dreamy dish, and proves that more and more chefs in DC are hopping on the talented Risotto-makers team started by Roberto Donna and carried on by those who have worked with him over the years. This was paired with an excellent CAMARA white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay & Riesling that was just perfect with the dish.
The CANNELONI, stuffed with AMISH CHICKEN, SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE and served over Sauteed BABY SPINACH with SHEEP RICOTTA & PARMESAN CHEESE, was another brilliant stroke of mixing Italian pasta with some different American ingredients creating a superb union. The amazing KALI-HART PINOT NOIR from Monterey was simply to die for with this as well.
Our entree was again two (times two) dishes which we quickly agreed to split between the four of us, and entitled LAMB ONE WAY and LAMB TWO WAYS, thus making LAMB THREE WAYS: A LAMB STEW with Glazed Baby Vegetables, GREEK YOGURT& FRIED ROSEMARY BREAD BALLS was another ingenious marriage of styles and super-tasty too. The other plate was a simple LAMB CHOP CRUSTED with WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD & Japanese Garlic/PANKO mixture and served with a deconstructed MINTED LAMB RAVIOLI that had a braised lamb stew under the slightly minted green ravioli layer with WHITE CANNELONI PUREE, TOMATO PASTE & LAMB JUS....another dream come true, and I don't car much for mint!
The wine was another novelty called CLA 2003 from Lombardy and is a blend of Barbera, Oltreppo and Pavese grapes with an intense plumminess that has a really sweet nose with lots of fruit like a Pinot Noir, but was excellent on the tongue, with a hint of burnt caramel.
Our server Jason was a dream in filling our glasses and keeping us informed of what was being served, but we were not ready for the lineup of three glasses each for dessert. Two of use received a flight of GRAHAM's TAWNY PORT of 10,20 &30 years old each and the other two a flight of LUSTAU SHERRY consisting of an extremely dry JARANA, an Amontillado called ESQUADRILLA and a superb sweet Pedro Jimenez called SAN EMILIO. We, of course, had to each taste all 6 wonderful pours, but agreed the sweeter sherry and the port were more enjoyable after dinner.
The two desserts which we promptly split came from Pastry chef HEATHER CHITTUM (wife to Chef Anthony) and showed her off excellently. The NOT YOUR NONNA's TIRAMISU is a "trump" on the traditional with a chocolate cylinder box of Mascarpone cream and Chocolate Pearls decorating it with a Lady Finger. It is accompanied by an AFFOGATO or scoop of GELATO in ESPRESSO. While this was novel and fun, it did pale next to the magnificent CREME FRAICHE PANNA COTTA with FLORENTINE ALMOND COOKIE TOP swimming in a luscious compote of RAISINS, CHERRIES, FIGS & CURRANTS. This is one dessert NOT TO MISS!
A great start to what will hopefully be a great year!