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; a thali is a full meal 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 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
1101 K St. NW
A lot of good things are going on at Robert Wiedmaier's new restaurant, Brasserie Beck. Terrific baguettes are baked on premises and served with sweet whipped butter. Salads are excellent. First courses include a wonderful pea soup with veal cheek meatballs, fine quiche Lorraine, delicious crusty shrimp croquettes; house-made pate.
Fork-tender roast pork tenderloin was superb. Grilled sirloin in a peppercorn and cognac sauce — at $24 the most expensive entree — was cooked as ordered. Coq au vin was served in a thick, unattractive brown onion sauce. Mussels — the high point of a Belgian restaurant meal — were oversized and mealy. Beck's Belgian main courses include beef carbonnade, chicken waterzooi, and sauerkraut with sausages baked in pastry.
Beck tends to be super noisy, but its prices are unusually reasonable for food and wine. Its list of Belgian beers is extraordinary.
— Corinna Lothar
Kentmorr Restaurant and Crab House
910 Kentmorr Road, Stevensville, Md.
The area's crab houses are wonderful meeting places for family and friends. One such is the Kentmorr Restaurant and Crab House in Stevensville, Md., a small Queen Anne's County community about five miles south of the Bay Bridge.
Its sunset views of the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis are backed up by a menu that offers something for everyone.
Cream of crab ($6.99) follows the traditional recipe, smooth and creamy, with a generous portion of crab. The half and half ($5.99) is an interesting twist: It is literally cream of crab soup ladled into a dish of vegetable crab soup.
The broiled crab cake sandwich ($13.99) was served on a soft potato roll and accompanied by coleslaw and a pickle. The cake was bursting with crabmeat (very little binder) and was melt-in-the-mouth good.
The soft-shell crab sandwich ($16.99) sported two nice-size crabs on potato bread. The crabs were sweet and plump and expertly prepared — crisp on the outside but still moist on the inside.
Steamed crabs available this evening were brought in from Texas. Large males were priced at $48 per dozen, medium males at $36 per dozen.
The crabs were heavy, and the meat was sweet. The J.O. seasoning made them finger-licking good.
— Scott Haring