Sunday, January 20, 2008

The masque of Italy

As soon as I walked into Teatro Goldoni last Thursday, my suspicions were confirmed: this is the quintessential K Street power lunch venue. Having their target audience down pat, they do not need to put in extra effort to reap the benefits of Restaurant Week - introducing more people to your menu and aesthetic. After mushing through the snow to make my reservation, I met my party at Teatro with a minute to spare. Though there was hardly a crowd, the hostess seemed quite frazzled; checking my coat took several comings and goings. Again, not a place that is used to many late dinners.

I walk by Teatro Goldoni often on my way home. I've always been curious about it, but had skipped it on previous Restaurant Weeks because of their very limited offerings. I had heard a lot about its decor and though I love an exposed kitchen (a great innovation back in 1999), Central and Brasserie Beck have this kitchen beat by a mile. From where I was seating I could see the service corridor more than anything that was happening in the line itself. The lighting scheme and carnevale maks are quite theatric, but the overall impression is of a dialed-down Las Vegas. The music featured jazz vocalists, which works very well.

B. had the roasted carrot soup for a first course, while the rest of us had Prosciutto di Parma. It could have been a run of the mill Italian appetizer, but the ingredients were superb - fresh with just the right amount of fat, and paired with oven roasted tomato, bell peppers and aged balsamic vinegar reduction. I've never had bell peppers and prosciutto in the same bite without bread, but it was a wonderful surprise.

For second course, B. had the salmon (oh so pervasive on Restaurant Week menus for all the obvious reasons). The salmon came with giant beans stew, and roasted rapini, and was herb crusted. A pleasant dish. F. had the Parmesan Style chicken breast with crispy eggplant, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce. Though the presentation was lovely and eggplant is always hard to get just right, F. declared it a dish he could replicate. He ordered a side of pasta from the open menu. J. and I had the
buckwheat fettuccini with Bolognese sauce. The sauce was perfectly made - meaty without being soupy. The pasta was freshly made, as anyone should expect at those prices. The parmesan did not get to me until halfway through my entree, but it was an excellent addition.

The dessert options were a Pandoro amerene cherries pudding with illy espresso sauce and mint ice cream and a bittersweet warm chocolate cake with gingered mango sauce. I don't associate mangos or ginger with Venice, so I had the cherries pudding which reminded me of a bread pudding made out of pannatone for a very interesting effect, and the mint ice cream was powerful without being overwhelming.

Overall, a perfectly pleasant meal, but not enough of a preview to convince me to go back and order from their open menu for dinner any time soon. I'll have to try their bar menu for lunch one of these days.

Teatro Goldoni
1909 K Street, NW
Washington DC
Teatro Goldoni on Urbanspoon

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