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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.
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 Alaskan 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
By Robert N. Tracci
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