Oval Room: A Round of Applause for Restaurant Week

I am a fan of Restaurant Week.  I am guessing that this comes as no surprise to anyone who is reading my blog.  The moment I get the email announcing the dates, I frantically scroll through the list to see where I want to dine.  I make reservations and then I second guess all of my selections, so I go back to Open Table to see what options might be better.  Often I am already too late for what I have then decided are my “must go to” places.

This time around is no different.  I make a reservation at Tosca and then decide I should go to Oval Room instead.  As Restaurant Week approaches, I read an article on the TBD website.  The article quotes Oval Room Chef Tony Conte as saying that “‘The Oval Room isn’t designed to do that type of volume.’ So in order to meet the demands, he creates a separate Restaurant Week menu—one that’s simple, with dishes that are easy to produce when the kitchen gets slammed.”

This does not sound good.  I am not interested in dumbed down food.  I post an inquiry on Chowhound to see if anyone has been to Oval Room for this year’s RW. I receive one negative opinion from someone who had been last summer and one positive.  I keep my reservation.

My son and I arrive at the restaurant and check in to find that my reservation was an hour earlier.  The person at the desk doesn’t skip a beat says “it’s fine” and seats us.  Very classy.  It doesn’t hurt that there are several empty tables in the room.

There are four choices for each of the three courses.  My son is a vegetarian and he is not thrilled with the one entree he can eat.  We ask if they can convert one of the vegetarian starters to an entree, which they do.

Our bread arrives.  It is crusty on the outside…but stale on the inside.  Uh uh.  I consider asking for a replacement but I decide against it.

My son and I each begin with a warm goat cheese and potato pave with poached cherries and cracked pepper.  The sweet cherries paired with the potato and goat cheese is a wonderful combination of flavors.  I forget about the stale bread.

I’ve never heard of a pave but this is what it looks like

My entree is crispy skate with red curry, root vegetables, and pea shoots.  The fish is cooked perfectly and the curry sauce is so good that I need something else to soak up the remaining liquid once my fish is gone. My only choice is the bread.  I go for it.  (I wish I had a photo of this dish but I am a lousy photographer and the restaurant was very dark, so the photo didn’t come out.)

My son has beet ravioli with brown butter and pistachios.  He is equally enthused about his dish.

this photo looks odd but it is the ravioli

My dessert is citrus vanilla cheesecake with graham cracker ice cream. I particularly like the bits of brown sugar crumb topping.

My son has chocolate ganache with marshmallow.  It’s pretty but he finds the flavor ordinary.

I have forgotten that the sous chef at Oval Room is Tamesha Warren, a contestant on Top Chef DC.   Tamesha made it less than half way through the season, so she isn’t in the forefront of my memory. As we finish our meal, I remember to ask our server if Tamesha is working.  She brightens and tells us that Tamesha has prepared all of our food, and arrived in the early morning to hand roll the ravioli. She seems pleased to know we are fans.

My son, also a fervent Top Chef fan, and I both smile broadly.  The dinner has taken on new meaning.  We get to chalk up another notch on our tally board of Top Cheftestants who’s food we have eaten.

One of the goals of Restaurant Week is to encourage customers to try new restaurants in the hopes that they will come back for another visit… at full price.  My RW meal at Oval Room does just that.  I am intrigued by the food and will definitely be back for more.  Maybe next time, I’ll even get to meet Tamesha.

Oval Room, 800 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C., DC 20006
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   4.0
Zagat Rating: 24
# 16 Washingtonian‘s 100 Very Best Restaurants

Washington Post review

Oval Room on Urbanspoon

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