Food

Palena

Frank Ruta's lusty, inventive cooking makes for one of the most superb dining experiences in the city.

From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants

THE SCENE. White House kitchen veterans Frank Ruta and Ann Amernick have teamed up to offer one of the most extraordinary dining experiences in the city. Perhaps most extraordinary is that, in a Cleveland Park neighborhood aswarm with lawyers, talk of government regulations and tort reform gives way to talk of food once the first courses arrive. That's the power of great, fully committed cooking.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Choosing between front-room informality and back-room informality doesn't mean having to choose between cafe and restaurant menus. You can opt for casual and delicious or more formal and more delicious–at two different price levels.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Service isn't always as smooth as it ought to be. Nor is the wine program as ambitious as the quality of the food might lead you to expect. And while Ruta's cooking gets better and better, taking new chances, adding new flavors, the classicism of the dessert menu sometimes can come across as conservatism and timidity.

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