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The Needle: What’s Hot? What’s Not?
1225 19th St., NW; 202-293-9091
The DC branch of this New York–based group is still the go-to spot for power brokers. Caricatures on the wall and a “who’s here?” buzz make a visit more about being there than eating there. This is a menu of retro pleasures: a meaty bone-in New York strip or rib eye, creamed spinach, cottage-style “Palm fries.” There’s also a great steak salad—grilled filet with Gorgonzola and arugula. (It’s not always on the menu, but you can ask for it.) Don’t look for big names in the glass-enclosed patio. A table in the main dining room is still the place to be.
1093 Seven Locks Rd., Potomac; 301-545-0966
One thing this lively Italian restaurant has going for it is consistency. But there’s quality, too. Crisp-crusted wood-oven pizzas such as the Diavola with spicy salami, pastas including mallureddus with pork-sausage ragu, and main courses such as whole grilled branzino with parsley, lemon, and olive oil will put you in mind of trattorias all over Italy. The kitchen is helmed by co-owner Davide Megna, and his specials—such as veal sweetbreads over polenta and pasta with seasonal chanterelles and bay scallops—can be rewarding.
3241 M St., NW; 202-625-4488
The departure of sustainable-seafood champion Barton Seaver may have deprived this Georgetown hot spot of its star power, but the output remains much the same: dazzling highs and curious missteps. Kona kampachi, served raw and seasoned with three different teas, was an intriguing and delicious starter, while an overcooked fried-shrimp appetizer was revived only by a swipe through its orange-paprika aïoli. Featured fishes are often flawlessly executed—a delicate ivory salmon, a silky sablefish—but veggies and sides can be lackluster. The high point: pastry chef Heather Chittum’s desserts. All in all, Hook looks to be sustainable even without Seaver.
This article appeared in the January, 2009 issue of the Washingtonian.