- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It seems as if Halloween has been held over at Fyve, the restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City. The room pulsates with orange and black: orange upholstery, orange swirls in the carpet, orange lamps on the table and bright orange paintings with black abstract designs on walls covered with a shiny cream-colored paint. The tables are dark, almost black, wood.

Fyve — the spelling is old English — takes its name from the Pentagon. The chef de cuisine since May is Amy Brandwein, who worked as chef de cuisine for Roberto Donna at Galileo and Bebo Trattoria. Fyve is neither a bistro nor a trattoria; it´s an expensive white-tablecloth restaurant without the tablecloth. The menu is interesting; the wine list is excellent, albeit pricey. Service gets high marks.

What came to our table did not live up to the promise of the menu. A surf-and-turf starter consisted of a plump scallop and a small cube of braised pork belly. The scallop was perfectly cooked, but the pork was dry and tough. Instead of the “three apple applesauce” on the menu, the dish was garnished with a fennel slaw, good enough but out of place.

“Fig fusion” is described as “fried and creamy goat cheese, drunken fig marmalade, prosciutto.” What arrived was two pieces of heavily breaded goat cheese, deep fried and barely lukewarm, halves of a tiny fig and two crostini with a bit of fig marmalade (with no suggestion of tipsiness). The slice of prosciutto was excellent.

On Sundays and Mondays, the dinner menu is about half the size of the regular menu, with a selection of three appetizers, three salads and seven main courses. Minimeatballs in a tomato sauce, tomato broth, a green salad and an adequate chopped Caesar salad round out the limited starter menu. On other days, Miss Brandwein offers such delicacies as grilled octopus, honey-spiced quail with sour-cream-chive pancakes and roasted squash soup.

Pastas can be ordered as half or whole portions on the regular menu, including fettuccine with butter and Parmesan cheese, pappardelle with a duck ragu, gnocchi with a tomato-basil sauce and ricotta shells with curried shrimp cream. The ricotta shells (cavatelli) and the fettuccine are available on Sundays and Mondays but only as entrees. The fettuccine was curiously bland, served without the requisite pepper and with insufficient Parmesan.

A whole baby chicken, quartered and roasted to a juicy tenderness, on the other hand, was a fine main course. The little bird had a pleasant lemony flavor. It was accompanied by a ragout of chanterelle mushrooms and a sprinkling of toasted Spanish almonds. Very nice.

A crab cake, which ought to be a signature dish in these parts, had not been picked over properly, and almost each mouthful contained bits of shell. Not so nice. Moreover, the crab was mixed with a heavy dose of mayonnaise, giving the cake a mushy consistency.

Duck with seared Belgian endive, sea bass with gingered ratatouille, cod in tomato-cumin broth, grilled lamb chops with artichoke ragout, a filet mignon and Alaskan halibut with a cauliflower risotto are more promising entrees. Only the halibut and the cod - a dish called “Amy´s Purse” - are available on the shorter menu.

Desserts include excellent sorbets, souffles and an apple tart (15-minute wait indicated). We ordered the apple tart, and within five minutes, it arrived almost bereft of fruit and tasting as if it had been made the previous day. The 15-minute-wait notice suggests something warm and freshly baked.

Appetizers, soups and salads at lunch are identical to those at dinner. In addition to a few of the dinner main courses, the lunch menu includes a tuna bread salad, grilled chicken Caesar salad or grilled chicken BLT, a burger, and eggs poached in tomato and basil.

Wines range from $32 for a Washington state Riesling to $330 for a Napa Valley cabernet blend, with most wines in the $40 and $50 range.

The chef’s talent and the interesting array of dishes promise a good dinner, but the promise is kept unevenly. Fyve could be a treat, but so far, no high-fyves.

RESTAURANT: Fyve, Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, 1250 S. Hayes St., Arlington; 703/415-2760

HOURS:Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; dinner 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. daily; brunch buffet 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

PRICES:Appetizers $8 to $13; main courses $14 to $27 (lunch), $14 to $32 (dinner); desserts $8 to $10; brunch buffet $58

CREDIT CARDS:All major cards

PARKING: $7 hotel valet parking; $1.50 evening shopping mall parking

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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