- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Pasta Mia

1790 Columbia Road NW202/328-9114

Diners in Washington have a perfect example of the simply delicious in the Adams Morgan area, the carbohydrate-focused Pasta Mia. Owned and operated by a husband-wife duo, Roberto and Antoniette Broglia, the small but comfortable restaurant has been a dining mainstay for nearly 15 years.

At Pasta Mia, the name says it all — my pasta — and that is exactly what you get. From capellini to tortellini and penne to linguine, nearly every main course served here is pasta with one of about 10 sauces. Pasta Mia offers nearly 30 variations of pasta dishes. More adventurous diners can pick one of the house creations, such as cheese-filled ravioli with a meaty Bolognese sauce.

Several entrees would have left us looking for a second helping if it were not for the large servings. The gnocchi with a Gorgonzola cream sauce was a delight to the senses, the pungent Gorgonzola shining through and blending seamlessly with the plump gnocchi. Though a fettuccine or other thick pasta also would have been great with the sauce, the texture of the gnocchi added more depth to the dish.

Pasta Mia does not accept reservations and serves dinner only. If you want to guarantee prompt seating, be there before the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Otherwise, be prepared to wait in line. Reviewed by Thomas Walter.

I Ricchi

1220 19th St. NW202/835-0459

I Ricchi is a bit of Tuscany on 19th Street Northwest, where for 17 years Christianne Ricchi has presided over a kitchen providing good food, good wines and good cheer.

On a recent midsummer’s evening we started with sharing a plate of tortelloni filled with ricotta and spinach in a sage butter. (You have to read the menu carefully as the dish comes alternatively with a tomato and cream sauce, and that’s “or,” not “and.”) The somewhat spare serving of house-made pasta was merely pleasant. The filling was good, but the butter sauce was thin and a little meager, and the pasta itself had a lingering hint of the raw. At $22.95, a bit overpriced.

In addition to the tortelloni, the pastas include tagliatelle with mushrooms, white truffles and peas in a cream sauce; spaghetti with shrimp and mushrooms in a tomato sauce; and wide noodles with a Tuscan rabbit sauce.

One of the house specialties is a roasted New York strip loin. Our waiter enthusiastically described how the beef, wrapped in a coating of herbs and garlic, is roasted up to 24 hours in a slow oven. The result is a tender steak, served medium rare to rare, with an inviting herb and pepper flavor. It’s an excellent cut of beef, well over an inch thick, and served with potato puffs and all-but-raw green beans.

Typical Tuscan dishes such as sausages served on a bed of cannellini beans, or braised marinated pork, or a combination of pork loin, herbed breast of turkey and stuffed veal are well worth trying.

The menu at noon is almost identical to the menu in the evening, with the absence of one or two main courses. Veal steak, for example, is substituted for the veal chop at lunch. Prices, as expected, are lower at noon. Reviewed by Corinna Lothar.

Lisa’s Small Plates and Wine Bar

1235 Shopping Center DriveStevensville, Md.410/604-2550

Lisa’s Small Plates wants you to have fun while you dine. The cozy restaurant and wine bar promotes sharing and trying new foods.

Fairly new to the Eastern Shore dining scene, Lisa’s has internationalized the ever-growing tapas concept by including different flavors and dishes from around the globe. It offers choices of more than 60 plates.

The menu is broken down into nine categories: classics, comfort, nouvelle, Pacific Rim, Mediterranean, Latin, Chesapeake, vegetarian and pub food.

A classic lobster bisque is spiced lightly with paprika and cloves; laced with chopped lobster and garnished with creme fraiche, garlic crostini and cream sherry on the side.

Most comfort-food lovers enjoy chicken pot pie. The kitchen braises chicken in a reduced chicken stock with sweet corn, carrots, potatoes, pearl onions, celery and sweet peas. It is then topped with a pastry crust and baked until golden brown.

Braised rabbit ravioli ($8) tops the nouvelle list. Rabbit is braised in a red wine broth, then mixed with peppercorn Boursin cheese and fresh basil and poached in pasta pillows.

From the Pacific Rim is lightly seasoned ahi tuna ($9) seared rare, sliced and served with a wakame salad, soy sauce, wasabi and Chinese mustard sauce. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to find good tuna in this area. More surprising was the excellent wakame — edible kelp — salad. The wakame was crunchy and dressed lightly with sesame oil. The Chinese mustard sauce provides a nice bite if the powerful wasabi is not your thing.

Traditional Mediterranean paella ($13) features chicken, andouille sausage, calamari, shrimp and saffron broth with rice. All of the ingredients were cooked to perfection, even the calamari. The sausage had just the right kick to balance the mild chicken, and the saffron broth added a wonderful richness to the whole dish. This takes a little longer to cook, so order early.

An extensive wine list covers several hundred labels from around the world. Reviewed by Scott Haring.

Blue Duck Tavern

24th and M streets Northwest202/419-6755

Gone is the elegant Melrose in the Park Hyatt Hotel at the corner of 24th and M streets Northwest, where Brian McBride’s sophisticated haute cuisine satisfied cosmopolitan appetites. Now we have Blue Duck Tavern, where Mr. McBride’s sophisticated interpretations of local products from the field, farm and forest will please cosmopolitan appetites.

The Park Hyatt has redesigned the restaurant. Under the hand of Tony Chi, the Blue Duck has retained its elegance without the formality of Melrose. The look is contemporary and open — open kitchen with a wood-burning oven, open spaces for dining and drinking and a menu designed for sharing. Tavern-style chairs (comfortable) and tables, a bearable noise level and minimalist decor leave the eye to concentrate on the kitchen.

Mr. McBride has not lost his touch. During the renovations, he traveled the world in search of ideas from Tokyo, Singapore and Zurich. The emphasis in the new Blue Duck Tavern is on fresh ingredients provided by local purveyors and artisans; the menu identifies the source of the meat, fish and produce.

It’s always difficult to choose favorites, but the crab cakes, made with lump crabmeat and nary a bit of hidden shell, are outstanding. There seems to be no binder in the crab cake, only sweet crabmeat. Served with a creamy remoulade, the dish can be ordered as an appetizer with one cake or a main course with two.

A second choice would be the large, juicy soft-shell crab, deep-fried and served with an herbed mayonnaise, similar to the remoulade but milder. The crab is crunchily satisfying without the usual grease of deep-frying. It’s served split so it, too, can be shared. Both crab dishes are sensational.

Oysters, clams, marinated sardines and tuna tartar make up the remaining seafood starters, all appropriate tavern fare. Mr. McBride’s version of a marrow bone roasted with herbs and garlic is a treat for aficionados of this rich dish.

Charcuterie, such as a galantine of duck and mushrooms and smoked country pork terrine, are equally fine beginnings to lunch or dinner, their complex flavors a fine contrast to the simplicity of shellfish and salads. The galantine, similar to a pate except that the meat is prepared in chunks and not ground, is served with a cherry compote, adding a bit of sweetness to the galantine, which is studded with tiny slivers of mushrooms and pistachios.

After a string of successes, the baked clams disappointed. The clams are baked with finely chopped bacon, red peppers and garlic, which is a good combination, but our too-large clams were tough and not as fresh as they ought to have been.

The wood-burning stove adds an extra depth of flavor to main courses. A hefty rib-eye steak for two on the bone ($80), almost as tender as a filet, and the roasted duck and chicken are rich, flavorful and satisfying.

Pork chops are often a gamble, but not these roasted thin rib chops, almost as tender as a lover’s kiss. They arrive at the table bathed in their juices and accompanied by a delightful sweet peach simmered in bourbon. The sweet-salt combination works well with the pork.

The lunch menu closely resembles the one for dinner. Steaks, except for the roasted tavern steak, are absent, and entree salads of salmon or seared rare tuna are added. House-made bratwurst is substituted for the entree pork chop, as well as a breaded veal schnitzel. The bratwurst, sometimes made with pork and sometimes including chicken, is served in a tangy mustard sauce with sauerkraut that has been braised in beer, white wine and mustard seeds. It’s a tavern dish to savor.

The Blue Duck is something to quack about. Reviewed by Corinna Lothar.



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