100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Palena and Palena Café
No. 17 on this year's list.
Reviewed By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Jessica Voelker, Anna Spiegel
Ravioli with roasted sweet potato, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Comments () | Published January 28, 2014
100 Best Restaurants 2014 100 Best Restaurants 2013 100 Best Restaurants 2012 100 Best Restaurants (2011) 100 Best Restaurants (2010)

Palena
Address: 3529 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-537-9250
Neighborhood: Upper Northwest, Cleveland Park
Cuisines: Modern, American
Opening Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday 5:30 PM to 10 PM.
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Nearby Metro Stops: Cleveland Park
Price Range: Very expensive
Noise Level: Intimate
Reservations: Recommended
Best Dishes Roast chicken; truffled cheeseburger; any of the soups; any pâté, terrine, or sausage; pastas; cookie plate.
Price Details: Three-course menu, $57; four-course menu, $66; five-course menu, $75.
Special Features:
Wheelchair Accessible

It’s a terrific time to try both the low-key cafe and the formal dining room at Frank Ruta’s Cleveland Park stalwart. The more casual room’s two most famous dishes—roast chicken and a cheeseburger—have never tasted better, and a seasonal salad of warm vegetables in walnut-anchovy dressing honors gorgeous ingredients with beautifully balanced flavors.

In the hushed dining room, choose from three- or five-course prix fixe menus featuring lovely fish dishes such as cardamom-rubbed, rare-grilled tuna, and fluke crudo with passionfruit sabayon. Despite the occasional disappointment—roasted red peppers overpowered one clunky salmon-and-shrimp dish—this remains a best bet for special-occasion dining.

Cafe open: Monday through Friday for dinner, Saturday for brunch and dinner. Dining room open: Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. 

Don’t miss: In the cafe: Salad with beets and hazelnuts; brodetto, a broth with fennel, halibut, and shrimp; cookie plate. In the dining room: Pan-roasted sablefish; gnocchi; kabocha-squash agnolotti; wood-grilled venison; chocolate torte. 

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