Monday, November 19, 2001

Blue-velvet couches and leopard-print carpet sounds tacky, right? But actually, it works at the chic Topaz Bar.
The individual elements, which in themselves may seem a bit flashy, come together to create a cozy and hip ambience at the tiny bar nestled in the new Topaz Hotel on N Street in Northwest.
Upon entering the hotel, one might feel one has dropped in on the set of the movie “Aladdin,” A doorman dressed in some sort of opalescent ethnic garb comes out to greet you and kindly points you in the direction of the bar. The shimmering doorman, combined with the exotic decor, resemble what the inside of a genie’s lamp must look like.
The bar is quiet, with only the faint sound of light music. Decorative lights around the room periodically change from blue to pinkish-red. The change is so subtle, it’s almost unnoticeable.
Situated around the room are just a few tiny tables, which hold drinks comfortably but are overcrowded when entrees are delivered. The table-top menus highlight an exotic mix of Middle Eastern and Asian foods.
The bar opened about a month ago, and Chef John Wabeck says he is still in the process of figuring out what dishes to keep on the 10-item menu. Every dish from the Yellowfin Tuna and Avocado Tartar to the Shrimp and Pork Dumplings has been a hit with guests. Still Mr. Wabeck plans to change it in a few weeks just to add some variety.
Last week, the Topaz Bar was one of more than 120 area restaurants taking part in “Restaurant Week,” a promotion offering three-course meals at lunch and dinner for $20.01 and $30.01 respectively. Restaurateurs hoped the promotion would drum up more business for an industry that is hurting after the September 11 attacks.
On this day the Topaz Bar’s “Restaurant Week” special included Smoked Salmon Sushi Rice Tart, Stir Fry of Sea Scallops and Coconut Serbet. A soy-wasabi sauce complemented the rice, salmon and the portobello mushrooms in the sushi appetizer. The Stir fry of Sea Scallops offered an interesting blend of shiitake mushrooms, gingered grits and scallops, all topped off with a smoked bacon vinaigrette.
The coconut sorbet was served with a shot-glass full of lemongrass jelly, which wasn’t really needed since the sorbet was so rich.
Another lunch consisted of the sliced smoked duck on a bed of Yaki-Soba noodles, which was done just right. The rich chocolate cake, accompanied by pistachio ice cream, hit the spot. It was served with what the menu referred to as a “strong” coffee sauce; for a non-coffee lover, however, the taste was not too overwhelming.
But if you’re looking for a good burger, this isn’t the place to go. The Topaz Angus Beef Burger was disappointing.
Although juicy, even after being cooked well done as requested, the patty itself lacked any distinct flavors. The dry and flaky bun took up about half the sandwich. The only unique part of the burger, the soy tarragon hollandaise sauce, arrived cold and congealed in the miniature pitcher. The french fries or “pommes frites” were tasty but nothing special.
Overall service was good. Without interruption, our waiter replenished a nearly finished Diet Coke.
Our first course and main entree were served in a timely manner; dessert, however, seemed to take an eternity, leaving us wondering if the cake was being made from scratch right then.
Our lunch didn’t include alcoholic beverages, but Mr. Wabeck says drinks can be the main attraction, depending on the night of the week. At night the music changes to acid jazz, the lights flash a little more frequently and the drink of choice is the Blue Nirvana, a blend of champagne, Skyy Vodka and blue curacao.
The stiffest drink at our table was a decaffeinated cappuccino topped with extra thick foam.

Topaz Bar

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