Garden Terrace Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel
2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-342-0444
Tinkling jazz piano sets the mood for this ultracivilized afternoon tea that makes you feel as if you’re playing hooky from the world. Though presumably you come to sip, not snack, you’ll find a well-considered if costly mini-meal ($37 a person) of delicate crustless sandwiches that range from the unexpected (chicken salad with hits of pistachio) to the old school (smoked salmon with a dollop of caviar and the quintessential cucumber with crème fraîche). Sweets arrive later on a tiered platter: The shot glasses of creamy chestnut-chocolate mousse and the intense chocolate truffles are especially fine, though petite scones with clotted cream are worth saving room for. As for the tea, a wooden case with a dozen or so vials of leaves to sniff and ponder offers an array of options; when in doubt, there’s always the classic Earl Grey with a dash of citrus. The British have got it right: There are few ills a good cup of tea can’t cure.
701 14th St., NW; 202-393-3983
The mojitos are still some of the city’s best—strong and not too sweet—but much of the cooking at this Central and South American eatery, part of the Passion Food group (DC Coast, TenPenh, Acadiana), has lost its focus. On a recent visit, muddy flavors, bland sauces, and overcooked seafood upended nearly every plate. Portions are still generous, and both cocktails and desserts are carried off with flair, which may be why the place draws a noisy crowd before a ballgame or play.
Gerard Pangaud Bistro
915 15th St., NW; 202-737-4445
This fall, vaunted chef Gerard Pangaud said he’d give a for-the-masses overhaul to his rarefied dining room, Gerard’s Place. So far, though, the biggest change is the restaurant’s new name (entrées still hover around $30). Problem is, the cooking has become less precise. One winter night’s cold pâté en croûte was followed by a filet of halibut that had been rubberized in the oven and egregiously oversalted.