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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review: Estadio

For at least a year, local foodies have made a very big fuss over a Logan Circle restaurant by the name of Estadio — or stadium, in Spanish. While it in no way resembles a sports arena, or even any building that is remotely rugged, it does present for potential patrons a certain challenge: How do I get a table?

If you keep an eye on local tabloid talk of dining spots and must-go destinations, you already know that rumors of lines out the door are probably not too far from the truth. It seems that the restaurant’s popularity has finally caused the owners to relent and institute lunchtime hours. Nevertheless, call ahead! Make that reservation, especially for a party of six or more after 6 p.m.

It also seems, if you read some of Estadio’s online reviews, that its atmosphere can be a bit intriguing, if not offbeat. How many places in DC are the scene of a mustache night? On the other hand, another comment reads, “The MOST amazing food in DC.” While that is a slight hyperbole, Estadio does live up to expectations and all of the hype that have put this on everyone’s radar.

Dressed up in dark woods, wrought-iron panels, a smattering of terracotta, and tile work that suggests a Spanish villa, Estadio’s chef has drawn up a menu of Spanish tapas, mini-sandwiches (bocadillos), and larger plates of meats or seafood. In short, in this city with its multiplicity of restaurants of virtually every cuisine, Estadio strikes a Spanish home run.

Where to start? Just about anywhere, from the “to begin” selections, which are really mouthfuls and can be easily paired together, all the way over to the entrées. But you should scan through each section, picking out temptations that fit with your palate — and definitely come with a pal or two, because then you can order plenty for sharing. Favorites include the egg tortilla (omelet) with ham and onions; the sautéed chorizo sandwiches (the size of sliders, the waitress explained); the open-faced sandwich topped with serrano ham and manchego cheese; and the larger order of hanger steak accompany by bread salad and tomatoes. Full of flavor and super tender, the beef is delicious, and you’ll wish the portions were really full size —- that is, steak house sized.

That’s a lot for one person, you say, but sensibly, you have at least one other person with you. That being the case, add on the arugula, pepper, and hard-boiled egg salad, which complements the spiciness of the other fare. And, if you don’t mind a few extra calories, the pork belly sandwiches with pickled peppers is a treat. And, as a real meal launcher, be sure to start with some of the crusty house-made bread —- delicious and yeasty, it acts as a fine sop for the accompanying olive oil.

Because Estadio is noted for its fine selections of Spanish wines, sherries, and beers, plan on studying the flip side of the menu. Will it be Jolly Pumpkin, La Roja beer or a slug of Estrella Damm, Lemon Soda, listed in a section prefaced by “Drink at your own risk,” perhaps not ideal for midday libations. Drinks may come with the meal, but a dessert obviously puts the period to your eating escapade. Sadly, Estadio’s kitchen —- at least recently —- offered only two sweets, a manchego cheesecake with quince and a flourless chocolate cake with Xocopili ice cream.

Still puzzled by the restaurant’s name? Their website explains it, after all. Seems that the restaurant walls, enlivened with murals of bullfighting and flamenco dancing, give the place a theatrical air. What is also evident is this: Estadio is very popular, and as a management type stated, “It’s our busiest Tuesday lunch of all time.”<ENDMARK>

Estadiio | 1520 14th St., NW; (202) 319-1404. Hours: Lunch, Tue.-Fri. 11:30am-pm; Dinner, Mon.-Thu. 5-10pm., Fri. & Sat. to 11pm., Sun. to 9pm; Brunch: Fri. & Sat., 11am-2pm. Prices range from $4 to $14.

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.