Fine dining is a luxury often reserved for special occasions. But now and again, it’s a a worthwhile indulgence to visit a white tablecloth restaurant. Dinner at The Oval Room in DC provides an opportunity to enjoy a level of cooking that is top notch. Nearly as exciting is the pleasure of conversing with dining companions without having to shout, the value of which cannot be overlooked.
We are at the Oval Room on a particularly quiet Friday night. I am hoping this is the reality of a higher-end restaurant in the summer, as opposed to a lack of patronage for this fine establishment showcasing American cuisine. Executive Chef John Melfi took over the kitchen in January 2015 after serving as Executive Chef at Fiola Mare. His resume is impressive.
In his Washington Post review this past March, Tom Sietsema gives Oval Room three stars (excellent). I haven’t been here since January 2011, and the Post review puts it back on my to do list.
An appetizer of char grilled octopus captures my attention, as well it should. Crispy chickpeas and olives provide textural contrast to the octopus, while vindaloo emulsion exudes stunning flavor.
Yellowfin tuna sashimi is bright and refreshing with its citrus salad, trout roe, and yuzu emulsion. My friend and I explore the menu more fully by sharing appetizers and entrees. These two starters couldn’t be more fitting companions. The same can be said for a friend who’s willing to defer to my preferences.
A unique take on shrimp and grits incorporates charred onion, local spinach, and an uni emulsion. There is clearly an emulsion theme happening at Oval Room, as three of our four dishes are accented with unique liquid combinations that add interest to the dishes.
Pan roasted duck breast is enhanced by corn pudding and a sweet blackberry sauce (or should I say emulsion?), along with savory mushrooms, herbs, and crisp snow peas.
Frozen strawberry souffle with shortbread and basil is blissfully light, a most welcome conclusion to a richly rewarding meal.
Oval Room is owned by DC restaurateur Ashok Bajaj of Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (Rasika, Bibiana, 701, Ardeo + Bardeo, etc). This sets up an expectation for quality service, which is delivered. Our server is attentive without being overbearing.
Oval Room has a tasting menu for $60, which strikes me as a worthwhile investment. In July the restaurant featured a three course tomato-inspired menu for $39, which was a steal. My husband takes advantage of this and his dishes are impeccable.
Oval Room is not your restaurant-of-the-moment buzzy hot spot. But it should be on your list when you want to dine someplace special. The cooking and service is refined and elegant, and while it may be quiet, it certainly merits a shout out.
Oval Room, 800 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema: “Oval Room: Under a new chef it tastes as vibrant as ever”