Restaurants in The InTowner
The InTowner
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Restaurant Review: Dirty Martini

Believe it or not, Google lists about 112,000 entries for a drink called “Dirty Martini.” Comprised of vodka or gin, vermouth, green olives and a drizzle of olive juice, this not-quite-martini cocktail also happens to be the name of a Connecticut Avenue restaurant/lounge that looks more upscale eatery than good-times cocktail destination. In fact, if you are wandering around Connecticut and M or N at noontime and don’t want to face a burger-and-shake lunch across the street, stop in for a sleek table, pleasant service, and a thoughtful menu.

Take our recent lunch as an example. You have the option of ordering from what management dubs “Dirty, Dine & Dash,” a select menu featuring portable goodies to eat on the run…or at a desk. For a mere $12.99, patrons can select a side (how about fries made from eggplant or sweet potato?) and a handful of sandwich-type entrées, ranging from a Caribbean Jerk chicken wrap to a Jalisco burger, to a tomato-and-buffalo-mozzarella panini, to a grilled chicken flatbread. And at the bottom of this menu, script informs that the chef sources many local, seasonal products to fill up his cook pots.

But if you opt to sit and not to run, whole vistas of possible eats open up. For one, you can order the soup of the day, or start with one of the salads – though not all of them are available at lunch, and that’s a shame, for the idea of an offbeat grilled watermelon salad appeals. On the other hand, the mixed greens with roasted pecans, crumbled bleu cheese, and caramelized Asian pears makes a fine prelude to any luncheon-sized entrée.

If you are lunching with friends, Dirty Martini offers assorted small plates and what management tags as “tidbits and morsels.” Three lobster sliders at $17 would definitely qualify as a morsel, but a scoop of sun-dried tomato hummus for $9 and accompanied by toasted pita becomes the ideal sharable small plate. Add to that a $13 order of pan-seared jumbo lump crab cake with a garnish of grilled papaya salad, and that could just become lunch.

The balance of the menu encompasses several pasta dishes — ask about the pasta of the day — plus several sturdier options. A pesto Parmesan salmon fillet competes with the skirt steak or grilled beef medallions. Dinnertime includes the Dirty Martini lobster served with grilled baby bok choy and black risotto and a sizeable veal chop marinated with bourbon.

Of course, the full range of sandwiches are also included, and burger lovers, daring to encounter a few blazing mouthfuls, will adore the Jalisco burger, fired up with Pepper Jack cheese and fire-roasted jalapeños. Too hot? Order a beer to cool down.

Quite possibly the dessert menu changes often, but if you learn that the Tahitian cheesecake with passion fruit is on the menu, order at least one portion. And if the “lollipop” of cake, with firmed yogurt and a chocolate coating is the kitchen special for the meal, be sure to order this as well. Shaped like a sort-of lollipop, this is a fork-only sweet and deliciously unusual.

Another fact you should know about Dirty Martini: it is more than a restaurant with a downstairs bar and dining room. On the second level, presumably where all the after-hours activity takes place, is a lounge/nightclub. It’s also being touted by some as the newest DC hotspot. By the way, Dirty Martinis are on the bar menu.

Dirty Martini |1223 Conn. Ave., NW; (202) 503-2640. Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11am-2am; Fri. to 3am; Sat. 2pm-3am & Sun. to 2am. Entrée price range: Lunch, $10-$18.