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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ The Lafayette / Hay-Adams Hotel, 800 16th St., NW

    Welcoming spring! Celebrating the end of winter can come in many forms: enjoying the cherry blossoms; sitting blissfully on a sunny park bench; grilling outdoors for friends; and splurging on a luxury meal. What should come to mind, then, is a dinner at the very, very upscale The Lafayette in DC’s likely most famous, most elegant hotel, the Hay-Adams across from the White House.

    The dining room itself is a perfect fit for this hotel. Up a flight of stairs and lighted by glorious overhead crystal chandeliers, the formal area matches what the French executive chef, Nicolas Legret, and his pastry chef, Josh Short, have dreamed up behind the kitchen doors. Seated at tables with linen cloths and napkins and serenaded by live piano music, patrons can feast on elegant eats from breakfast (such as Chesapeake Bay crab cake Benedict or Brioche French toast; to lunch (such as pan-seared Diver scallops or Maine lobster salad); to dinner (such as spiced Muscovy Hudson Valley duck breast or Black Angus beef tenderloin Rossini). And desserts? Grand Marnier soufflé, Meyer lemon and Vermont mascarpone tart are special treats.

    And coming along are these spring dinner offerings, accompanied by a Pisco blossom cocktail with Pisco brandy and with a scattering of blossoms, should you choose. High-end wines such as Oregon’s Lavinea Pinot Noir pair well, so be sure to ask the staff for the right choices for each course. And as you sip away, enjoy each bite of the five-course meal accompanied by a basket of rolls, raisin bread slices, and crispy flat toast.

    Well, you can cut down to three or four courses, but you certainly do not want to miss the Chesapeake crabmeat mille-feuille appetizer is a layered treat of thin slices of heirloom tomatoes, ripe avocadoes, and crabmeat. Also known as a “Napoleon” in everyday parlance, a mille-feuille is really a multi-layered pastry with a custard or cream filling. But chef Legret takes the classic idea to a very different level.

    Another tasty appetizer is the porcini mushroom ravioli, which comes as a ravioli shell stuffed with a filling and with oxtail beef and a vegetable consommé. The pasta itself is thin and delicate, and you may wish to order a second or third helping.

    And as for entrées, chef Legret knocks it out. For seafood lovers, he has created a dish of poached Maryland rockfish, served with a side of grilled baby fennel and topped with a garnish of diced olives pequillo peppers, plus a fennel vinaigrette. But if you prefer lamb, the Shenandoah Valley lamb cutlet, or chop, served medium rare and with a side of shredded braised lamb shoulder, a braised artichoke heart, and a sprinkling of fava beans is a take-home prize.

    With the meal winding down, do not skip past the Grand Marnier soufflé served with scoop of chocolate ice cream: as the staff explains, you puncture the top of the soufflé and spoon in the ice cream, which melts into a creamy chocolate filling.

    The Lafayette / breakfast, lunch, dinner daily and Sunday brunch. (202) 636-6600.

    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.