100 Very Best Restaurants 2013: Palena and Palena Cafe (CLOSED)

Palena line cook Emily Hagel puts the finishing touches on a salad. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Palena line cook Emily Hagel puts the finishing touches on a salad. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Mention this Cleveland Park dining room in casual conversation
and you’re likely to hear someone excitedly ask: “Have you had the
burger?” Indeed, the truffle-cheese-topped patty is one of the more
memorable takes in town. But Frank Ruta’s repertoire goes far beyond
that.

A former White House chef, Ruta is obsessed with the craft of
cooking—curing sausages and brining pickles, taking the time to build
complex soups, rolling beautiful pasta. His spare dining room has a hushed
formality and offers a $75 four-course menu or a $100 six-course tasting.
The checkerboard-floored cafe is the place to kick back over an easygoing
dinner that still feels special—and where you’ll find that burger.
Don’t miss: In the dining room, chicken-liver parfait
with pickled cranberries; gnocchi with wild rice and balsamic vinegar;
duck with juniper sauce. In the cafe, Caesar salad; charcuterie;
lobster-roe tagliatelle with crab; roast chicken; cheese plate; kumquat
linzertorte; blood-orange/Prosecco cocktail. Dining Room Open: Tuesday
through Saturday for dinner. Cafe Open: Monday through Friday for dinner,
Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate to very
expensive.

100 Very Best Restaurants 2013

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