- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

There's no doubt 1331 is a powerful place.

The new bar and restaurant, tucked away on the mezzanine level of the JW Marriott Hotel downtown, radiates a strong, contemporary atmosphere as business travelers sit around in cozy booths solidifying deals. However, the dark woods, illuminated by warm lighting, are inviting, not intimidating.

The new 115-seat restaurant, named after the hotel's 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. location, replaces the upscale Celadon restaurant. After an $850,000 renovation and more than three months of construction, the 3,300-square-foot location opened in September.

Giving it several months in operation, my lunch companion and I figured it was safe to venture into this sophisticated world for a lunch time meeting.

A hostess greeted us outside the restaurant and brought us to our seats a booth of sorts with a couch on one side and two oversized comfortable chairs on the other. Our own cool platinum Samsung television hung on the wall, tuned in to sports highlights with the volume down low.

The hostess handed us two copper-covered long menus filled with seasonal fare with Asian and Mediterranean twists. Almost instantly our server greeted us and took our drink orders arriving back only a few minutes later with our beverages.

As we slouched down in our comfy seats, we still had no trouble hearing each other. It wasn't too loud even when it got busier when nearly all the seats were filled about a half hour into our lunch. Our booth provided some privacy from the other business lunches.

After perusing the menu, we narrowed our choice for an appetizer to the Maryland crab cake and lobster tempura, which was served over fried spinach. The appetizer arrived at our table in what seemed like just a few minutes. Three large chunks of fried lobster were strategically placed on the square plate pointing to the crab cake in the middle.

My lunch partner and I both tried the lobster first. Not a second into the bite, she noticed an infomercial for the "Ab Doer" an exercise machine to help trim the tummy airing on our own private television set. After just a slight pause, we contemplated the consumption of a fried food and what it means for our abs, but it didn't matter. The lobster, which melted in our mouth, won and we continued devouring the appetizer. The crab cake had just the right blend of seasoning.

Our meals came almost instantaneously. I chose the Tuscany chicken pasta, which included grilled marinated chicken, tortellini, mushrooms, roasted garlic and pine nuts in what the menu called a "light cream sauce." The sauce was a bit more thick than I had anticipated but tasty nonetheless. Large slices of mushrooms and chicken made for a monstrous portion.

As I was beginning to feel full, it didn't even look like I put a dent in the meal, which ended up being my dinner that night too.

My lunch partner had the Santa Fe salad, a heaping of lettuce, grilled sirloin tips, marinated shrimp, tomato, onion and cheese mixed with ranch dressing served in an oversized tortilla basket.

While eating our meal, we noticed the restaurant had gotten quite full with a lunchtime crowd and couldn't help notice the absence of our server. Lucky for us the couches were comfortable.

We were obviously finished picking at our half-eaten meals but our server was nowhere around to clear our table or take our dessert orders. Finally she arrived but couldn't offer us any suggestions on what to try for dessert. She was obviously preoccupied with the other tables.

Finally 30 minutes after taking my last bite of lunch our dessert arrived. Time had run out for both of us and we could barely enjoy the succulent chocolate fondant and heavenly creme brulee we ordered.

We did take enough bites, however, to realize the desserts were superb. As a result of the delay, our server did not charge us for our desserts.

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