The art of restaurant selection is a balance of many things. There’s the food, the atmosphere, the price, the location, and the ability to converse with the people you are with. If any of these elements are off, it can affect the entire experience.
I needed to make a dinner reservation for a Saturday night out with two other couples. It was almost a month in advance and I was excited about the possibilities that would be open to us. I keep a constantly-changing wish list of restaurants and I always look forward to the thrill of crossing something off the list. It makes me feel so accomplished!
I have been trying to get to Blue Duck Tavern for what seems like years, but they had no tables available. Palena was next. They were closed for a private party. After a moment of indecision, I made a reservation at the new Cuba Libre.
I must admit that the controlling side of me can be thrown when one of my restaurant choices is rejected. So when my friend countered with her own restaurant wish list, I was a tad disappointed. But it was a good list of highly-rated established downtown restaurants. I crossed off the places I had been and checked the rest against Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list. Poste Moderne Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco fit the criteria. I’ve never been. It was #38 on the Top 100 list. I could get a table for six at a respectable time.
When we arrived at Poste, we were ushered into a side dining room. I looked back a bit longingly at the main dining room, which is described in Washingtonian “as a bright and bustling multilevel space.” Our room was more staid, with dark paneled walls and heavy drapery. It felt like the hotel dining room that it is.
On the plus side, the noise level was perfect. The room was filled with diners, but the tables were far apart and we could not hear a word coming from any other people in the room. Our large round table facilitated conversation in a way that doesn’t happen in so many other area restaurants.
This was an “a ha” moment for me. While Cuba Libre would be fun and exciting in its newness, we probably would not have been able to hold much of a conversation. It really is quite pleasant to go out to dinner and hear what your friends have to say without straining. This shouldn’t be a revelation to me, but somehow it was eye-opening. I wish more restaurants would facilitate conversation rather than prohibit it.
|heirloom pumpkin soup|
I struggled a bit when it came to ordering an entree. I considered a goat cheese ravioli dish but it was $27, and I decided there was more value to be had in a fish dish for just a few dollars more. Others at the table agreed, although one person went for the ravioli. I chose the elephant trunk sea scallops with chanterelles, brussels sprouts and parsley root, as did two of my friends.
The entrees were served and initially we were a bit taken aback by the small portions. The brussels sprouts in my dish amounted to a total of one and a half sprouts on the plate. My friend’s ravioli dish consisted of three ravioli. I will admit that the richness of the dishes meant that by the end, the portions were just fine. I enjoyed the scallops dish immensely, as did the other who ordered it. The ravioli and a wild king salmon with mushrooms, leeks, and black garlic were also universally liked. Poste is known for fresh ingredients and on this front, it did not disappoint.
We shared two desserts–a chocolate cake and waffles with pumpkin and Indian spice ice cream. Neither one blew us away.
Our meal at Poste was solid. There was nothing at all to complain about, but I personally may have been a little happier soaking up the atmosphere in the main dining room. As we evaluated our meal, we concluded that our experience would have been a tad better had the prices been a tad lower.
I don’t regret for a moment our dinner at Poste. The end result was a good meal, where conversation took center stage. Cuba Libre will wait for another time, and I suspect that my review of it may very well reflect the fact that it was hard to hear my companions. But I look forward to it, as I know there will be other aspects to enjoy.
The challenge of balancing dining priorities will continue. It’s a challenge that I am more than willing to take on.
Poste Moderne Brasserie, 555 8th Street, NW, Washington DC
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 3.75
Zagat rating: 21