3241 M St. NW
Hook serves superb fresh fish almost exclusively. One evening, the only meat entree was a grass-fed steak. Bluefish, served on a spiced zucchini-potato pancake, was wonderful. A square of white halibut was equally fresh and well cooked; so was the Alaska king salmon.
So much attention seems to be paid to the quality and preparation of the fish that the kitchen appears to overlook interesting side dishes. Watermelon gazpacho was terrific, brilliant red in color, with a lovely depth of flavor. Country ham — excellent — with tiny buttermilk biscuits — cold and mealy — is a fine non-fish starter.
Desserts include lemon pound cake and almond cake, both served with sorbets.
The downstairs is super noisy; upstairs is suitable for conversation.
— Corinna Lothar
8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring
Jackie's Restaurant in Silver Spring serves up innovative, modern American food — much of it organic and locally grown — with an eye toward nostalgic home cooking in a groovy, renovated old warehouse. The decor is mod-inspired and colorful and nicely complements the exposed bricks and beams.
What's not to love?
Well, Jackie's, indeed, is quite loveable, though we had our share of mostly ups but some downs recently. The weak point is the service: a little slow — close to 30 minutes for the not-very-complicated appetizers to arrive — and somewhat indifferent.
Once our appetizers arrived, though, moods around the table improved markedly, because the cooks, including executive chef Sam Adkins, know their stuff. The fried calamari with cilantro chili sauce was as perfect as it was unpredictable. The batter was tasty and crunchy but so light it was barely visible; the fresh, piquant cilantro combined nicely with the chewy texture and light flavor of the squid.
The presentation is simple but elegant on white plates of different shapes and sizes. All offerings are comfort-food and home-cooking inspired, but the kitchen takes those concepts and runs with them.
Overall, dining at Jackie's is very rewarding. The food is solid while pleasantly unpredictable. The decor is fun and comfortable. If only the waiters cared a little more and the noise level bothered a little less, it would be perfect.
— Gabriella Boston
815 Connecticut Ave. NW
Step into Ashok Bajaj's Bombay Club, two blocks from the White House, and you enter India in the days of the British raj. Think high ceilings, slowly moving fans, leafy potted plants against louvered shutters, and over all an aroma of Indian spices
In the evenings, a pianist adds a touch of class. Waiters are attentive and well-informed. A nice buzz of conversation gives life to the room.
The Bombay Club has been around since 1988, and the cooking — under new chef Nilesh Singhvi — is inspired. The menu, identical at lunch and dinner, is a mix of Bombay Parsi meat dishes, Goan fish specialties, North Indian Mogol cooking and the spice of South India.
Appetizers are marvelous. Main courses, which can be shared, are divided into Northwest Frontier specialties and Indian curries, which range from mild, such as white chicken korma, to hot, as in the green-chili chicken.
The meats are primarily cooked in a tandoor, a clay oven. Tandoori dishes include marinated shrimp, lamb chops, trout, salmon and chicken. The salmon is one of Mr. Singhvi's specialties.
The curries are varied, as are the vegetarian dishes. And the kitchen prepares house thalis, which are full meals served in several small cups on a traditional round tray.
Breads from the tandoor are not to be missed. Desserts are a mix of Western and Indian flavors.
Bombay Club has an international wine list and a good selection of beer. Dinner on the patio on a warm, humid Washington summer evening is all you need for gentle transport to India.
— Corinna Lothar
1050 Deep Creek Ave. Arnold, Md.
Deep Creek Restaurant, which sits along Deep Creek and has views of the Magothy River, is a rare pearl in the crowded field of the region's steak and seafood houses.
The lunch menu features 10 sandwiches — among them crab cake, grilled tuna, cheesesteak and shrimp salad. The sandwiches are of good size and come with your choice of french fries or onion rings.
Appetizers are fairly standard, but one that is truly unique is the crab pizza. Because the menu called the sauce Alfredo, we were pleasantly surprised at the lightness of the dish. The sauce provided the perfect backdrop for the sweet crab meat, paired with equally sweet diced tomatoes. A touch of cheese and just the perfect sprinkling of seafood seasoning completed the dish. A better crust would make this truly exceptional.
Deep Creek's signature dinner entrees rely heavily on seafood, steak and pasta plates.
The flounder Veracruz was pan-fried fillets over baby field greens, drizzled with cilantro oil and a jalapeno cream, then topped with homemade salsa.
Steak and cake is a combination of land and sea. Filet mignon is paired with a jumbo lump crab cake finished with a chipotle aioli sauce.
Three of the dessert offerings are home made: key lime pie, apple pie and creme brulee — this last a very satisfying choice.
— Scott Haring
Cafe du Parc
1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Cafe du Parc is the new informal restaurant in the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. The food is neither haute cuisine nor experimental cuisine nouvelle, but excellent bourgeois dishes typical of brasserie fare, some with a contemporary accent.
Appetizers include three small sardines, grilled with garlic and parsley, beef tartare, steamed mussels and pate of veal, pork and duck wrapped in pastry.
A splendid main course is a meltingly tender square of breast of pork. Chicken breast is roasted with a mustard and bread crumb coating. The lunch menu has a plat du jour, ranging from a whole roasted chicken on Mondays to short ribs on Wednesday or lamb for Sunday lunch. For dinner, regional specialties such as sauteed skate with capers and butter and tomatoes filled with vegetables, goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts are prepared.
It's not exactly Paris, but the restaurant retains a genuine French quality without being pretentious or stuffy.
— Corinna Lothar
3529 Connecticut Ave. NW
Pastry chef Ann Amernick and executive chef Frank Ruta continue to serve their high-quality, innovative, modern Italian fare at their Cleveland Park restaurant, Palena, which is really two restaurants in one.
The back dining room is fancy and features fixed-price menus. The front dining room, Palena Cafe, offers cheaper, a la carte fare.
One thing is consistent, though: Whether it's double-chocolate napoleons or braised lamb shoulders, Palena's offerings are always well-prepared and nicely presented.
Among favorites on the fixed-price menu: The lime-and-cumin-marinated ceviche of wild Alaska salmon with Sicilian orange, horseradish and peppery greens; and the pan-roasted loin and braised shoulder of lamb with spring vegetables.
Let's not forget about the classy desserts. The double-chocolate napoleon, which combines flaky (puff pastry) and smooth (ganache) perfectly, is a melt-in-your-mouth masterpiece; the cheesecake (goat cheese and cream cheese) with Amareno cherries in port wine is another delectable treat.
The service is prompt and proper. The ambience is quiet and elegant. From the loud speakers flow only Italian fare from Vivaldi to Puccini. A meal at Palena is fine in the best sense of the word: quiet, innovative and high-quality.
— Gabriella Boston