Restaurant Nora

Nora Pouillon's all-organic fine dining room.

Chef Nora Pouillon has acquired a reputation as an advocate of organically grown food. Her Dupont Circle restaurant is "certified organic," meaning that 95 percent of the ingredients used are from certified-organic sources. Belying the stereotype from the days when organic restaurants were the province of a countercultural minority, Nora–its walls hung with museum-quality Amish crib quilts–is one of the most attractive restaurants around Dupont Circle and one of the best run.

What you can always be sure of at Nora is top-quality ingredients. A recent appetizer of grilled shrimp was terrific, the perfectly grilled shrimp sweet and tender, without a trace of iodine. They were paired with a salad of pickled beets and celeriac dressed with lemon, a perfect counterpoint to the sweet shrimp and beets. An appetizer of a "napoleon" of crisply fried potato slices layered with portobello mushrooms and chickweed with horseradish dressing was a lovely play of textures and flavors.

Main courses included roast pork–tender, moist, and rosy pink–with a stuffing of dried figs and apricots in a port-wine jus. As good as it was, it was almost overshadowed by its accompanying purée of parsnips, a delicious root. Sautéed chicken livers, crusty on the outside and rare within, were served over house-made fettuccine and a sweet-tart reduction of balsamic vinegar.

Desserts have always been a strong point at Nora's. Cider-pecan tart, less sweet than the traditional Southern pecan pie, came with a dollop of bourbon-flavored whipped cream; a delicious, tart pear-cherry crisp was served with vanilla ice cream.

The wine list is on the expensive side but offers some good bottles in the $30 range.

-May 2002