The Ritz-Carlton group has been big on chef “consultants.” Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert was tapped to install bistros in DC and Philadelphia hotels, and rumor has it that the Ritz is angling for Hell’s Kitchen chef Gordon Ramsey to oversee the kitchen of what was once Maestro in the hotel’s Tysons Corner branch. For the new Fyve, located in the more conservative Pentagon City hotel (you’ll see as many men in fatigues as women in Theory blazers), the chain looked to homegrown talent: a chef who actually would be working in the kitchen.
Enter Amy Brandwein, Roberto Donna’s protégé at Galileo and Bebo Trattoria. The chef at Fyve shares her mentor’s affinity for robust Italian flavors, and it’s hard not to fill up on the generous basket of crusty country bread and spiced crackers, served with a purée of artichokes and pecorino. Brandwein’s marvelous spring-vegetable soup is a Parmesan-rich broth with a bounty of finely chopped zucchini and cauliflower, sweet corn, and carnaroli rice. More restrained but also lovely is a charred-octopus salad gilded with green olive oil.
So far, main courses are works in progress. A lemon-roasted chicken with almonds and pears would have been delicious had its rosy meat not been as dry as overdone turkey. Amy’s Purse—a filet of cod poached in a cumin-scented tomato broth (and cutesily named for its presentation in a plastic bag)—was about as exciting as spa food. A Moroccan-spiced salmon set over bland olive-scented mashed potatoes was, conversely, far too salty.
Gray leather place mats, orange overstuffed chairs, and a trip-hoppy soundtrack set a modish tone, but the rest of the cream-colored, chandeliered dining room is still very much the old Ritz.
This review appeared in the July, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.