- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The year is almost over, but that doesn’t seem to stop the blossoming of new restaurants. The ever-expanding Penn Quarter will be home next month to Ashok Bajaj’s sophisticated new Indian restaurant, Rasika (633 D St. NW; 202/637-1222).

The name is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “flavors.” Rasika’s chef is Vikram Sunderam, who left London’s award-winning Bombay Brasserie to come to Washington, where he will prepare an innovative menu combining traditional Indian fare with a modern twist.

Finn & Porter (900 10th St. NW; 202/719-1600) is another Penn Quarter newcomer, boasting a 30-foot waterfall, 40-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, a sushi and raw bar and a glass-enclosed atrium.

As its name implies, the restaurant will feature fish (fin) and steak (porterhouse) plus lobster, crab cakes, chops, rack of lamb, salads and sandwiches. The house special vodka drink is a Finntini.

Not far away, at 1101 Pennsylvania Ave., is a new Brazilian steak restaurant, Fogo de Chao. The restaurant is a genuine steakhouse from southern Brazil specializing in churrasco, slow-roasted meats, a longtime culinary tradition among Brazil’s cowboys.

The restaurant is the sixth in a chain of U.S. restaurants, and there are four in Brazil. Chefs trained in Brazil — to assure authenticity — will slowly roast 15 cuts of meat and carve them table-side. The restaurant will offer a fixed-price system — $24.50 for lunch and $44.50 for dinner — permitting diners to sample the entire menu.

December is an important fundraising month. The Melting Pot will continue through Dec. 31 to feature a four-course Seasonal Giving Menu fondue dinner for two ($82) at its six area restaurants and will donate $1 for each guest ordering the special menu to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Tomorrow, Kimpton Hotels, including Hotel Rouge and Bar Rouge (1316 16th St. NW; 202/232-8000) are participating in HIV fundraising for World AIDS Day, designed to raise awareness about HIV and generate funds for Kimpton’s partner organization, the National AIDS Fund.

Hotel Rouge is joining the effort by throwing a Red Hot Relief cocktail party featuring $5 Red Ribbontini and Red Cent Bellini, red-themed appetizers and a performance by the Potomac Fever ensemble. All proceeds from suggested $10 donations, the $5 specialty martinis and items to be auctioned off will be contributed to the Every Red Cent Counts campaign.

Acadiana is still hanging in there for Louisiana relief. From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. December 7, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Emergency Relief Fund will seek donations at a Crawfish Christmas at the American Trucking Association, 430 First St. SE. Chef Jeff Tunks will prepare crawfish etouffee, crawfish pies and crawfish hush puppies for the Crawfish Christmas. Checks should be made payable to the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Emergency Relief Fund no later than Monday.

Ristorante Tosca (1112 F St. NW; 202/367-1990) is contributing 10 percent of all sales from its Dine at Dusk menu to a selected charity. November’s funds were donated to Food and Friends.

The Dine at Dusk menu is available daily from 5:30 to 7 p.m., priced at $32 for a three-course meal that includes many of the dishes from Tosca’s regular menu, such as chestnut-flour noodles with wild boar sauce, roasted Mediterranean sea bass, and oven-roasted veal shanks. Diners attending the MCI Center or one of the nearby theaters can leave their cars with the valet and walk to the show or game and pick up their cars afterward.

The Fairmont Hotel (2401 M St. NW) will hold its second annual tree-lighting ceremony in the hotel’s Crystal Garden tomorrow beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The ceremony, which is open to the public, will benefit the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.

Those attending the event are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to be donated. Guests are invited to enjoy hot chocolate and other refreshments as they listen to the Georgetown Visitation Madrigals performing holiday classics. Bob Madigan, WTOP’s Man About Town, will serve as master of ceremonies. Members of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves will perform a presentation of colors, and Santa and Rudolph will make special guest appearances.

In honor of the 12 days of Christmas, Poste Modern Brasserie (555 Eighth St. NW; 202/783-6060) is again hosting its annual Gingerbread House-Making Contest. Participants are invited to design any type of pastry residence no larger than 16-by-16 inches.

The houses must be dropped off at Poste between 8 and 10 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. from Dec. 12 through 24. All participants must provide their names and ages and titles for their creations.

The houses will be on display for judging in the lobby of Hotel Monaco, adjoining the restaurant, until Dec. 24. Then the houses will be donated to the Miracle on Seventh Street event at the District Chop House & Brewery, 509 Seventh Street NW, on Christmas Day. The District Chop House will serve Christmas dinners to about 400 local underprivileged children and their families and will give the participants new clothes, groceries and toys. The gingerbread houses will be offered to the children to take home.

The Christmas season starts Dec. 10 at 1789 Restaurant (1226 36 St. NW; 202/965-1789) with its festive Home for the Holidays decorations. Holiday greenery, flowers, antique toys and candles will decorate the restaurant, while chef Ris Lacoste, who leaves 1789 at the end of the year, will prepare her signature rack of lamb, oysters and champagne stew, and other specialties.

Pastry chef Zoe Trillium Behrens will bake holiday cookies and breads. Beginning Dec. 18 and continuing through Christmas Eve, carolers include the Washington Men’s Camerata.

The Willard Room (1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202/637-7440) is offering a special Nutcracker Brunch on three Sundays in December (4, 11 and 18) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The sumptuous brunch features visits from costumed Washington Ballet cast members this Sunday and Dec. 18. Brunch ($75 for adults, $37 for children) includes parking.

In coordination with the Kennedy Center run of “Wicked,” from Dec. 21 through Jan. 15, the center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant (202/416-8555) will create a dessert called Wicked Witches’ Hat. The hat will be filled with mint mousse, have a flourless chocolate cake brim and be drizzled with green chocolate and garnished with a chocolate broomstick.

Happy holidays.

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