This restaurant was catapulted into stardom with the Clintons. It recently won four stars from the Mobil Travel Guide as well, so its pretensions are worth investigating, if you have the inclination to experiment. As a general rule, I like to do my experimenting at a lower price level. I will not be a chef's guinea pig at $100 or more per person for dinner.
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A former grocery store, the building was built some time in the late 19th century, and fits well into this neighborhood of late Victorian town houses. On an oddly shaped corner lot, the two storied red brick building is hard to miss.
If you love Shaker quilts this place is for you. That's about all they have here as far as decor is concerned. you can feel politically correct at any time of day here. The main dining room is simple, and would be attractive if they knew enough to dispense with the two cloths of different tones. This small touch spoils the serenity of the room.
The food here is all organic, and they will never let you forget this little nugget of truth. It is plastered on virtually everything there. Actually, the restaurant is the "first certified organic restaurant in the country." I could get more excited about this if i thought the food were worth the high prices.
As with so many places, the first courses here are the stars of the menu. The firmament dims as one proceeds through dinner.
The escabeche with marinated artichokes and black olive vinaigrette was as elegantly presented as it was sublime. The other first courses at our table were equally inventive and beautifully presented, particularly the tower of roasted beets with herbed cheese and apples. A stunning presentation, to be sure.
The main courses are varied, and mostly rather good, though disappointing in comparison with the inventive freshness of the first courses. Offerings might include an Amish chicken breast (does it come with a big black hat, you ask?) with spinach and cheddar stuffing, a flank steak marinated in sake with yam fries and grilled asparagus, or a rack of lamb encrusted in coriander with a salad of sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes. I made the serious mistake of selecting a curried lamb dish they had on offer the evening I was there recently. This dish, while perfectly acceptable, was ordinary. i could have doe far better at the Bombay Club or Heritage India for anything vaguely resembling Indian cooking. This was my mistake entirely, but my father's entree was tepid as well. The pan roasted Pacific cod with chive mashed potatoes and a fennel/tomato confit sounds wonderful. In reality, the fish had been seared beyond redemption, and was rendered as dry as a biscuit.
It is difficult to ruin cheese, and they did not do so here. The selection of organic cheeses is actually rather interesting, and you would do well to include a cheese course with your dinner. Resist the $30.00 glass of port they will try to flog with this.....
Their desserts are actually quite good, even though I had something simple and impossible to ruin. The fresh strawberries with champagne sabayon were firm and full flavored. The waiter was able to produce a good sauterne to go with these.
Other desserts of note are the chocolate souffle cake and the apple cherry crisp. Dessert is one of their more successful endeavors here.
The least expensive white wine on their list is an undistinguished New Zealand sauvignon blanc at $30.00. Likewise, there is a Macon Bussieres chardonnay at $30.00. Aside from these blah wines, you will have to go for something in the fifties to find anything interesting. Wines by the glass are equally priced at punishing levels, with the average being somewhere around $15 for a decent glass of anything. The wines on the low end of this list are hardly suitable for cooking.
The service tends to be professional, yet with a faint whiff of disdain and a silent smirk. The pomposity of the place is in its pretension to plainness.
Get that Platinum Card ready! With starters averaging at $10-$15 and main courses in the high twenties and low thirties, this may not look all that expensive at first glance. After you have added the many wines to go with everything, you will easily double or triple the cost of dinner. our dinner for two was at least $230.00. Was it worth it? in parts, yes. As I stated earlier, at these prices, everything had better be perfect. Guinea pigs should be given better treatment......maybe i should report them to PETA!
Restaurant Nora is open for dinner only Monday through Saturday from 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM (10:30 PM Fridays and Saturdays). The dress code is not strict, but you would do well to wear something attractive in this neighborhood. The restaurant is entirely non-smoking. Credit cards: American Express, Visa and Mastercard. reservations are essential.
They also have valet parking for guests, as it can be impossible to find a parking space in this area of town.
2132 Florida Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
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Kid Friendliness: No
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations All organic menu, the appetizers are more interesting than the main courses