Fiola: Checking it Out

I am one of those people who lives by a to do list.  In fact, I have a few to do lists:  things to do in the house, my work to do’s, and of course there is my husband’s to do list, which I am kind enough to manage.  I take great satisfaction when I can cross something off of any one of my lists.

The proliferation of new restaurants in DC is making it difficult for me to make significant progress on my restaurant to do list, which focuses on my desire to conquer a majority of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants before year end. But I am hoping that some of the new restaurants will be on the 2012 list and then I will be ahead of the game.  I am betting that Fiola will make the cut.

Chef Fabio Trabocchi is a James Beard award-winner (best chef Mid-Atlantic 2006) who was at Maestro in Tysons Corner (which is now home to Michel at the Ritz Carlton.) There was much excitement in the DC blogosphere when it was announced Fabio was returning from Fiamma in NYC to the DC area to open Fiola. I must proclaim my ignorance here as  I never made it to the now-closed Maestro.  But I am a sucker for a James Beard award-winning chef, so I was definitely excited to try Fiola.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law come in from Baltimore to join us on our journey.  We are immediately taken by the beauty of the place.  It is elegant and sophisticated but at the same time modern.  At 6:30 the restaurant is just beginning to fill to capacity. Happily, the design is such that the noise is absorbed and it never feels too loud, at least in the room we are in, which is on the side of the restaurant.

side room before the crowds arrive

The sommelier comes by almost immediately and asks if we need help selecting a wine.  We all state our various preferences which range from Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon.  He suggests a Frieisa D’Asti, which ends up being a perfect compromise. At $43 a bottle, we are quite pleased.

My sister-in-law begins asking the sommelier questions about the menu, thinking he is our server.  He does not hesitate to respond.  When asked, he tells us that the crostini with spicy ahi tuna comes with three crostinis to an order.  (more on that later).  Our real server brings bread, which looks like a cross between a croissant and a brioche. It is buttery and salty and crunchy and wonderful.  There is olive oil and salt for dipping but it seems like overkill.  This is best eaten as is.

For starters we have the ahi tuna, and burrata of buffalo mozzarella, roasted tomato, and pesto. A friend has recommended this to me as one of the best appetizers ever. The burrata is excellent but it’s only been a week since I enjoyed the burrata at Obelisk, and I have to say in the burrata challenge Obelisk wins.

When the tuna crostini arrives there are only two on the plate.  We remark to the runner that we have been told there would be three pieces..  He apologizes and tells us he will bring another piece.  He comes back with another full order, compliments of the chef.  This is very much appreciated although we all agree that the spicy tuna is not particularly spicy.  We would have liked this dish kicked up a notch.

We order two salads, which is more food than we usually order but I don’t protest.  I manage to eat my half of the La Misticanza which is Davon Crest lettuces, herbs, Chianti-pickled red onions, and sheep’s ricotta crostino.  The cheese is a standout.  The salad makes for a light and refreshing transition to the main course. Unfortunately, I realize that I am becoming far too accustomed to eating multiple courses of food these days, and this is ultimately not a good thing.

My sister-in-law and I both have lobster ravioli, which we are told is a popular dish here, as it was at the former Maestro.  The lobster is plentiful and the noodles are surrounded by a beautiful foam.  I don’t know why but foam always makes me smile.  My sister-in-law thinks the lobster is too fishy-tasting.  I disagree.  I thoroughly enjoy the delicate flavors.

this looks mushier than it was when served

My husband orders black bass with smoked potato.  When the dish arrives there is a sauce that the server begins to pour on to the fish.  My husband inquires about the sauce and is told it is made from shellfish stock.  This is a no no for my Kosher-keeping husband.  The server apologizes and brings a new order of fish, without the sauce.  The fish is well-prepared but it is an incomplete dish.  It could use some sauce.

My brother-in-law has Il Brasato, which is slow cooked kobe short ribs.  I would definitely return to Fiola for this dish.  They are tender, rich, and for lack of a better term, yummy.

We are totally stuffed but there’s always room for gelato.  We have nutella and vanilla gelato as well as lemon verbena with passion fruit seeds.  I prefer the refreshing lemon verbena gelato, but then again I am not a nutella fan. We are also each served a complimentary plate of small cookies.

Fiola just opened in April which is hard to believe.  Despite a few snafus, we all agree that we’ve had attentive service and while not perfect, an excellent meal.

When Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants is published in 2012, I hope I can check Fiola off as having
“Been There, Eaten That.” There is nothing so satisfying as checking something off your list before it’s ever on it.

Fiola, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   4.3

Fiola on Urbanspoon


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