- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

To step into Butterfield 9, an elegant new restaurant in downtown Washington, is to take a step back in time. The simple-yet-swanky decor evokes a 1940s sensibility, but the food is anything but understated.
It's the kind of place you would expect to find Nick and Nora Charles, the stylish couple from the old "Thin Man" movie series. That's intentional. Butterfield 9 owner Amarjeet Singh named his restaurant after a telephone extension for an affluent New York neighborhood mentioned in one of the "Thin Man" movies.
Butterfield 9 is at 600 14th St. NW, the site of the old Garfinkel's department store. Its proximity to downtown Washington's office towers and the Warner, National and Ford's theaters draws executives during the day and theater patrons at night and on the weekends.
The restaurant features a mezzanine, private rooms and a bar that is discreetly shielded from the main dining room. The 1940s-era California decor is subtle but oh-so-cool soft yellow walls, dark-wood furniture and trim, classic white-linen table cloths.
Although you may come to Butterfield 9 for the atmosphere, you'll want to stay for the food.
Executive chef Martin K. Saylor, who once worked as the personal chef for former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, has assembled an eclectic menu that changes with the season.
The winter lunch menu includes a Dijon crusted chicken breast served with au gratin potatoes and haricots verts, sauteed monkfish wrapped in fennel and pancetta, and sauteed crab cakes that arrive at the table with warm slaw, corn and bacon.
The salmon, seared with rapini, orzo and a dual-pepper sauce, is not to be missed. You'll also want to sample the pasta of the day, especially if it is the fettucini with an oil-based sauce, a heaping plateful of food that will nevertheless leave you wanting more.
The appetizer list includes smoked salmon ravioli, a salad of bitter greens and fried oysters and a house-prepared potato gnocchi that is served with mushrooms, parmesan and accented with a light truffle oil.
The list of soups and salads includes a bouquet of mache, lolla rossa, fennel, endive and scallions, all tied together with a long slice of cucumber. It may take a minute to slice into the cucumber to release the greens, but it's worth the effort.
Butterfield 9's lunch entrees range from $15.25 to $24. Prices for the soups, salads and appetizers range from $6.50 to $12.
Food this good has made the restaurant, which opened in May, the new place to see and be seen in Washington. This fall, Vice President Richard B. Cheney emerged from one of his undisclosed, secure locations to dine there with wife Lynne.
Tom Cruise treated a big party to dinner at the restaurant last summer, when he was in town shooting a new Steven Spielberg movie. And this month, CNN host Jeff Greenfield could be seen holding court in a booth.
You'll want a booth, too, especially if you're taking a client.
The booths offer the best place for a quiet lunch. The other tables sit close together, and because this place usually packs a crowd, it can get noisy. You may not mind the noise, though, because the crowd energizes the atmosphere.
Rare is the restaurant that can match style with substance. Butterfield 9 pulls this feat off effortlessly. It's the new standard-bearer for lunch in downtown Washington.

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