Monday, January 15, 2007

Circle Bistro (Foggy Bottom)

Circle Bistro
1 Washington Circle NW
Washington, DC 20037

I thought I'd missed Restaurant Week when I checked OpenTable last week and discovered that most of the good places were already booked up. But Tom and I got lucky and scored a reservation at Circle Bistro for Sunday night, the last night of Restaurant Week. I've heard fairly good things about the food from both the Washingtonian and from DCFoodies. However, the service has been rated surprisingly poor for such an expensive restaurant. Our experience prtty much reflected what all the reviews have said.

The restaurant was under construction so that might account for the rather claustrophobic feeling of the small, narrow dining room (only seats about 50). Circle Bistro has large curving glass windows but they were covered by boards during our visit. Otherwise, the soft lighting from Japanese-style paper lamps provided a nice ambience with the minimalist decor in subtle tan colors.

This being our first time there, I was not sure if the menu offered for Restaurant Week was inclusive of all regular menu items, but there was a very good selection with a few upcharges (of which we were not aware until we received the bill, not knowing what "2 supplement" or "3 supplement" meant on the menu - an extra $2 or $3 as it turns out).

For starters, I had the diver scallops, which were a tad on the small side but they went perfectly with the bed of leeks and a delicious lemongrass sauce. Tom had steak tartare which came with an adorable paper cone of perfectly crisp pommes frites and garlic mayonnaise (perfect for this mayo lover). The tartare itself was well-seasoned with a lovely sushi-like texture. Next, I opted for the hanger steak as a main course, while Tom tried the risotto. Both were excellent choices. While not terribly original, the steak was perfectly medium rare, juicy and tender, with a savory sauce, fingerling potatoes, and wilted greens. The risotto was a flavorful combination of creamy arborio rice that I thought was too chewy but Tom loved, with small bits of pancetta and blue cheese. For dessert, I had a chocolate bourbon cake and Tom ordered the madeleines. The cake itself was a poor imitation of the molten chocolate cakes served at many famous steak chains, but it did come with a delicious shot of cinnamon hot chocolate topped with a rich whipped cream. Tom's madeleines were mediocre, nothing special, with a sour cherry compote that was just that - sour.

The service was decent, although our water glasses were not topped up as often as I would have liked. Also, several tables near us waited fifteen minutes each for their checks, although the waitress did offer to bring at least one table another round of drinks as they waited.

Overall, it was a good experience but probably not a place I'd go back to until I've tried all the other places on my list! And oh, the list is long...

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