Friday, March 7, 2008

Second Opinions

I try to never write up a restaurant until I've visited it a few times and have more to go on than my initial reaction. The first time I visited Oya was for Restaurant Week last August. A friend suggested we try it for lunch, and prior to that I had never heard of it. Before heading out, I went on their website to verify the address and was surprised to see how much copy they dedicated to their interior design. I called E. and she had gotten the same impression.

The kindest thing I could say about Oya's decor back then was that it was obvious that a lot of thought, care, and money had been put into the different design elements. It struck me as a design project run amok, akin to something you would see on Top Chef's ugly sister, Top Design. Granted, the look of daylight on the different elements in the room - white marble, a feather-covered column, a cellophane-like material surrounding a glass window to the kitchen that had a cascade over it, a fire runner - was simply too much. The lounge area, which features red roses, had no clear connection to the rest of the space. I enjoyed the food, but the place itself distracted me so much that the only thing I could remember were the scallops.

An invitation prompted me to give Oya a second chance. As I prepared myself to be assaulted by the decor, I was surprised that my dinner companions not only did not respond badly to it, but actually kind of liked it. I'll be the first to admit that the harshness is taken away by the soft lightning scheme, and that people all over the dinning room and the lounge seemed to be having a good time.

Upon opening my menu I discovered that Oya has a prix-fix year round - 20 dollars for lunch and 30 for dinner. Since the place is French/Asian fusion, this is a good way to try the different menu elements. I had a cilantro daiquiri (dare you to spot the 10 differences it has with a mojito) but only the bottom was deeply flavored. I should have probably let it seep more, or the bartender should have crushed the leaves a bit to unleash the aromatics.

The three of us ordered from the prix fix - I started with a sirloin tataki on a bed of greens and blood oranges. The tataki (thick slices, partially cooked with citrus) had a wonderful texture, and the flavors combined quite well. As is often the case with fusion places, you never know if you should reach for the fork or the chopsticks, but I knew only my first course would give me such a choice. One of my friends ordered the goat cheese with caramelized apples, and pronounced it a fine plate. For second course, we all had the scallops. The scallops are definitively worth remembering and recommending. They are served with hen of woods mushrooms, truffle jus and long noodles. The scallops are perfectly cooked, slightly sweet, and pair very well with the pasta. For dessert we all had bread pudding with caramelized bananas, which is a good if not stellar dessert.

I am glad I gave Oya a second chance, but for the pleasures of harmonious design, I'll head over to Central or Brasserie Beck.

Oya Restaurant and Lounge
799 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 393-1400
Oya Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I went to OYA today and they have expanded their famous "To Go Lunch in a Bag" menu to now include an even more delicious of sushi. What began with Spicy Crunchy Shrimp, Crispy Tuna, and Rock N Roll, has now blossomed into a full menu array of your selection of either Hamachi Jalepeno, Short Rib Tempura, Spicy Chicken Brown Rice, Maryland Crab, or Mucho Bonito.