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Washington, DC, United States
"A rose is a rose is an onion." -Ernest Hemingway


Zola (DC Restaurant Week)

800 F Street NW
Washington DC 20004

After my unfortunate experience at 15 ria, I decided to take another stab at Restaurant Week. I'll be honest-- I stumbled upon Zola because it was at the end of the Restaurant Week list. What a fabulous coincidence!

Located next door to the International Spy Museum, Zola blends modern simplicity with coziness. The dining area is divided into relatively small, intimate rooms; very large parties are seated in booths surrounded on three sides by sound-absorbing cushions. As one of the few college students in DC who saves for fine dining rather than clubs and clothes, I've become accustomed to feeling a bit out of place among professional 30-somethings who've just gotten off of work. S and I were some of the youngest in the place, but the wide variety of ages made us comfortable and relaxed. DC can be a bit unfriendly, especially to a rural girl like me, but we found ourselves chatting with our next-table neighbors. Great atmosphere!

As at 15 ria, S and I each paid $35 for our three course meals. (Okay, I paid a bit more, but only for an exquisite drink!)

I normally stick to water at fine restaurants (though I did wistfully look over the fabulous wine list), but our attentive waiter charmed me into trying the Fresh-Squeezed Ginger Lemonade (complete with hibiscus syrup). Playful, pretty and perfectly yummy!

I had the Lamb Meatball Sliders for the first course; S had a mushroom ravioli. I only had a bite of hers, so I can't give as detailed a description as I'd like, but rest assured: it was delicious, and she raved about it. My mini lamburgers were quite rare, tender and scrumptious. The goat cheese aioli, coupled with the romaine and red peppers made the dish. The portion size (3 sliders) was perfect, but I could have eaten 15 of them.

For the entree, I ordered the roasted veal tenderloin. S had the skate wing. Mine was served atop a mound of blue-cheese infused "pasta bites" (think spaetzle, but smaller) and butternut squash, and I simply can't say enough good things about it. Tender, mildly "beefy" and just barely salty. I brought the last bit home; J liked it, despite being a self-proclaimed Veal-Phobe. S let me try a bit of her skate wing; it was my first taste of this variety of fish, and I loved it. Sweet, buttery and salty-- probably the most mild fish I've ever tasted. Yum!

Our desserts were the perfect end to such a fabulous meal. S, predictably, ordered the Glazed Chocolate Mousse with the pears, hazelnut crunch and passionfruit sauce. Without question, the lightest, fluffiest mousse I've ever tasted. Perfection! I had the Apple-Quince Pie, complete with Pomegranate Syrup and Gingersnap Ice Cream. I only have one word, and that word is: phenomenal.

Zola on Urbanspoon

We'll be back. I'm already working on finagling another Zola dinner out of my parents the next time they visit!

If you're in the DC area and a fellow foodie, you might want to check out the cooking classes online.


15 ria (DC Restaurant Week)

15 ria
1515 Rhode Island Avenue NW
Washington DC 20005

I have to take full responsibility for our experience at this restaurant; I should have consulted Zagat before making the reservation.

That said, let the review commence:

15 ria is located inside a Doubletree hotel, and is just three blocks from Dupont Circle. I was excited by the decor-- a mix of trendy simplicity and vintage chic. The dim lights, crackling fireplace, and low music were appealing and lent a fabulous, comfortable atmosphere to the place. The presence of khaki-shorts-and-hawaiian-shirt clad tourists (many of whom were loudly recounting their day via cell phone) interrupted the ambiance and reminded me that 15 ria is a hotel restaurant. The service was decent, but not good enough to make up for the food.

J and I each paid $35 for our three course meals, as per Restaurant Week prices.

The bread which came with our waters was a bit on the stale side, and a little too "eclectic" for his taste. I was intrigued (but not particularly impressed) by the trio of sweet butter, hummus and olives which came with the bread.

For the first course, I had the Roasted Parsnip Bisque-- thick and hearty, sweet and simple. It was great-- but I found myself peering around my bowl in search of the promised Shiitake Crisps and Frizzled Prosciutto (our server feigned ignorance over the matter). J had the Beef Short Ribs, which were succulent, tender and falling off the bone. In a word: delicious. I found myself snitching bites of his truffled mashed potatoes throughout the first course.

For the second course, I ordered the Seared Scallops-- I'd had my eye on them for weeks after checking out the menu. The four they served were unevenly cooked; one was quite burnt on top, another still white. They had the "fishy" smell and taste that I've come to associate with fish just past its prime, and each scallop was gritty. The black forbidden rice with carrot sauce was easily the best part of the dish, though it wasn't meant to be. J ordered the Cocoa-Chili Dusted NY Strip Steak. As with my entree, the tasty "sides" overshadowed the main event: his Brussels Sprouts were sweet and mashed potatoes creamy. (I raised an eyebrow when I saw that the two beef dishes on the same menu came with mashers.) As for his steak, which was cooked to medium rare...well- the texture was similar to that of my boat shoes. Gristly, tough and unpleasant.

By the time our desserts came out, we were both frustrated and ready to leave. My Caramel Cheesecake was good, albeit lackluster. Again, I found myself searching for the promised "extra" - this time, Pecan Brittle. J's Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Torte tasted fine but was a bit grainy, and didn't make up for our unimpressive main courses.

15 Ria on Urbanspoon

As J put it after we left: the appetizers were delicious, and the desserts decent, but 1.5 out of 4 is still failing. We won't be going back!