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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Pinea / (W Washington Hotel) 1515 15th St., NW

Cheers for Pinea and Chef Koslow.

For DC foodies who keep an eye on who is where, great news about chef Barry Koslow, lately of DGS Deli in Dupont Circle. He is at it again, a super chef behind the stove at the W Washington Hotel’s Pinea restaurant. Formerly the site of J&G Steakhouse, the restaurant’s reincarnation as Pinea presents an Italian-Mediterranean array of foods that Koslow cleverly creates.

Setting the scene for its revival, the restaurant is now a vibrant turquoise with white-trimmed arched windows. Splashy and colorful, Federalist-inspired murals catch the eye, but so, then, does the mirror-backed bar that glitters with an array of bottles. Casually dressed staff in countryish attire graciously seat and take orders, adding to the appeal of this high-end eatery.

But really, the main reason patrons should rush to Pinea is not the décor nor the affable staff but for Koslow’s food. Let’s start with the lamb burger, offered at both lunch and dinner. A tender and juicy patty with a full lamb taste and seasoned with harissa and feta cheese, this burger ranks as one of the best in DC. What rounds out the order is a side of polenta (yes, polenta) fries with a red pepper-goat cheese dipping sauce. Ketchup would be so wrong! If Pinea were closer to home, I would order this lamb burger three or four times a week.

But no patron should skip past the appetizer choices: the French onion soup is composed of mild onions that have been so perfectly cooked that they melt in the mouth. The charred octopus pieces are tender and not at all rubbery, as is so often the result of clumsy cooking. And the Caesar salad — as its creator, Caesar Cardini intended — has balanced garlic and Parmesan flavors with a garnish of anchovies. Few such renditions in DC really capture the spirit of this classic salad, since most chefs simply try to interpret it in their own way. Wrong.

Other lunchtime entrées include spinach pappardelle with spicy Calabrian pork ragout; spring pea risotto; grilled salmon; and a tuna Niçoise salad, among others. Dinnertime, of course, offers patrons a wider selection, especially among the entrée choices. Once again, the lamb burger stars, but patrons can also select a rack of lamb, bouillabaisse, and roast duck breast. Pasta dishes also are included, and range from the pappaardelle and spring pea risotto of lunchtime distinction to saffron linguini with lobster.

Desserts seem to change according to seasonality: recently the menu offered a pineapple tarte tattin with a caramelized pineapple ring on a puffy crust garnished with pink peppercorns and a scoop of ice cream. Other options might include a goat cheese cheesecake, a honey panna cotta parfait, a tiramisu bread pudding, and a Black Forest cake.

Loads of after-dinner drinks are companions to the range of cocktails and wine selections the restaurant offers. Besides, specialist drinkers can find a whiskey haven in the downstairs Root Cellar Whisky Bar, where they can sip through top-ranked scotches, whiskeys, ryes and bourbons, and can pair drinks with Koslow’s bar snacks. How about country-style pâté with violet mustard.

But in the end, it is really the lamb burger with the side of polenta fries that really wins the day. At least, for me.

Pinea / Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily; brunch Sat. & Sun. Visit http://tinyurl.com/lzj6obb for specific serving hours or call 202-661-2440.

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.