Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 13, 2013 11:52 AM

Restaurant: Obelisk


2029 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Ron and Judy, David and Ethelmary, and Debbie and I had dinner at Obelisk during August. David had suggested the restaurant and made the reservation.

David, who is clearly a fan, said that if he had to choose one restaurant at which to eat every meal, it would be Obelisk. When I asked what he would do about breakfast and lunch, since Obelisk is only open for dinner, he suggested that he probably would not need the other meals.

The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of a row house and is accessed by a steep set of cement steps. There is no sign until you get to the door. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. There are a maximum of 32 seats, 8 of which are on a banquette that extends along the far wall. The tables are located on three sides of the relatively small space. There is a rather long table in the middle of the room that is used by the servers to organize the dishes to be served for particular tables.

There are two seatings per night at each table, but scattered throughout the evening. The tables are combinations of 2s and 4s that can be combined for larger groups, but it is not really a restaurant to which you would take a large group. There is a bar with 3 high stools, but it is not the kind of place at which you stop in for a drink.

If a restaurant can be described as unpretentious, this is it. There is nothing fancy about it (only the food). The tables are of wood. Rather than full table cloths, there are dark brown and patterned covers (almost like large napkins) placed on the table with an edge of wood showing all around. The chairs are not overly comfortable, and they could use some fuller back pillows for those sitting on the banquette.

The level of service could not be better. There are four people attending to those 32 seats. There is a person who can best be described as the hostess, but besides seating you, going through the menu, and taking your order, she also helps serve. There are two servers and one bus person.

This is not a restaurant to which you go for a quick dinner. We arrived on time for our 9 p.m. reservation, but it was a few minutes before we were seated. We left the restaurant a little before midnight.

The menu that is found online gives you a flavor of the kinds of foods that are served, but the actual menu on a given day is much more limited and depends on what the chef finds at his various providers that day.

On the evening we were there, in addition to the antipasti misti, which are selected by the chef for the evening and brought to the table in waves, there were three primi (appetizers), three second courses, a selection of three cheeses, and a choice of three desserts.

The restaurant is not inexpensive, but well worth the cost. The night we were there the complete meal was $85 per person, and paired wines were an additional $55 per person. Those costs do not include gratuity or taxes.

In our party of six people, we happened to order every item on the menu. The antipasti included a small dish of various olives, Buretta, smoked swordfish belly stuffed with greens, Bruchetta with goat cheese and fig, and slightly spicy grilled green peppers.

For the Primi, or appetizer course, Ron ordered the Artichoke ravioli with pancetta, Judy had Zucchini and squash blossom tagliatelle, and the rest of us ordered Lobster soup.

For the main course, Ethelmary and Judy selected the Snapper with filet beans, bottarga and green sauce. Debbie and Ron opted for the Culotte (top sirloin of wagyu beef) with spinach and cipolinis. David and I shared Roulaud of Rabbit surrounded by leeks and chard.

The Formaggi course was Robida Bosina, Sovrano, and Rascheta with green tomato jam.

For dessert Judy, Ron and I ordered the Chocolate Cherry cake with Stracciatella ice cream. Debbie went with the Cantaloupe tart with shipped cream. And Ethelmary and David selected the Poached peach with granita and bay leaf ice cream. At the very end of the meal a dish of small sweets was delivered to the table.

One thing about the restaurant drew my particular applause. When David suggested the restaurant and made the reservation, he asked whether there was anything either of us did not eat. Debbie told him that I did not eat beef or cheese. When we were seated the hostess double checked with me as to those limitations in my diet. As noted above, the first antipasti was Burrata cheese. As the others began to enjoy this course the hostess brought me a small order of Rissotto Croquettes and then later as others were dealing with various cheese-related dishes she delivered a small salad of haricot verts ( green beans).

Dropping in and finding a table is not impossible (especially in August), but reservations are strongly recommended. There is no delivery, no take out, no TV, no Wi-fi, no catering, and it is not wheel chair accessible.

The men’s room is relatively small and quite simple. There is a white ceramic washbasin in the far right corner with a mirror on one wall. A standard white ceramic commode is located next to the washbasin. The floor is covered in large green tiles, and the walls are a shade of gold. One of the people working in the restaurant, when asked for the location of the restrooms, said there were two around the corner and while they were designated for women and men, if your designated restroom was occupied and the other was open, it was okay to use it.

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