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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ Fiola Mare / 3050 K St., NW

    The Big Splurge. Holiday costs may crimp your dining out days for awhile, but the foodie in all of us cries out for an occasional splurge, a whopping one that will erase any holiday blues. The ideal DC location for this superb meal-about-town is Fiola Mare!

    Another Fabio Trabocchi (he of Fiola and Casa Luca restaurants) smash hit, this waterfront destination offers prime seafood fare for both lunch, brunch, and dinner — but note that the brunch and dinner menus offer  a very limited option of land-fare dishes, such as beef tenderloin and duck ragu. Otherwise, to enjoy Fiola Mare, you and your friends must crave lobster, crab, king prawns, quality oysters, calamari and scallops. If not, pick a landlubbers destination, instead.

    As chef Trabocchi’s website commentary clearly points out, he and staff take great pains to purchase its seafood from the freshest, most sustainable, and purest sources so that the kitchen’s creations sparkle with flavor and an appealing elegance. Besides, Trabocchi and wife have worked hard to create a replica of perhaps a luxe Italian seaside eatery. Of course, at Fiola Mare it’s not the waves of the ocean you spot but busy boating on the Potomac.

    Water viewing aside, the real reason, and probably the only one, you should carve out time and money to eat at Fiola Mare means food quality. Consider the lunchtime appetizers (though the menu changes a bit each day). You can start with a spread from the raw bar that for $80 to feed two to three includes oysters, Maine lobster, prawns, clams, mussels, tuna tartare and Alaskan king crab, plus even sea urchin. Or you can shift starter choices to a selection of bivalves, such as oysters and clams.

    Slightly less fish-oriented, the antipasti choices include a Sicilian garden salad, a portion of burrata (buffalo mozzarella) with hay-smoked beets, or ahi tuna tartare with an eggplant spread. The last affords you the chance to spread the tuna on slices of the kitchen’s freshly baked bread.

    As for lunch entrée choices, seafood dishes capture the menu. And if you are happy to settle with three pre-ordained choices, go to the Maria menu (named after Fabio’s wife, Maria) that includes an appetizer salad, possibly of grilled lettuces with beets and mushrooms, a main course (this has been cod and skate), and a simple dessert, possibly of Mandarin sorbet and blood orange meringue.

    But don’t skip past the main menu and those entrée choices. Pasta options — not surprising for a basically Italian menu — include spaghetti with Alaskan king crab, Maine lobster ravioli, and risotto with black truffles. Lunch entrées include a lobster roll and a fabulous jumbo lump crab cake that has the distinction of containing no breading but plenty of flavor. If that’s not appealing, select some grilled seafood or shellfish choices, or pick out a whole fish for tableside filleting and feasting.

    To start the meal and to carry you through to dessert, scan through the cocktail and wine menus and pick out some tempting libations. Sipping a Bellagio (vodka-based) or Sapore Vero (rye-based) cocktail could provide head-spinning cheer, but gor non-alcoholic drinks, the list of “mocktails” may suit folks better. And, of course, there are always wine choices.

    To wrap up the splurge, luxuriate in a decadent dessert: a recent menu showcased bomboloni, or Sardinian ricotta doughnuts with gingerbread gelato. And as a final note: use the valet parking. Nearby street and garage parking mean extra walking, but with the valet, the entrance to Fiola Mare is simply steps away. How convenient!

    Fiola Mare / lunch, Tue.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner, Sun.-Thu. 5-10:30pm, Fri. & Sat. to 11pm; brunch, Sat. & Sun. (202) 628-0065.

    Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.