Find party invitations for any occasion at Personalize, preview, and order your invitation instantly.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Thing 56: 15 ria

Many things came together yesterday that allowed me to eat a three course lunch at 15 ria on a Wednesday.

1. The Cap Lounge (and thus, my office space) was on fire, and so I was working from my home.
2. It's restaurant week, and three course lunches are only $20 at participating restaurants.
3. It was H-O-T, and 15 ria is actually nearest restaurant to my front door. 50 feet, tops.

I had never been to 15 ria, mostly because it is normally a bit too pricey to justify eating there often, and also it's in a Doubletree Hotel, which is strangely off-putting. Prejudiced? Yeah. But when the Boyfriend and I go out in the neighborhood, we generally frequent Stoney's for price, atmosphere, convenience, and super grilled cheese.

But what the heck! I can spare $20 on a place to try it out, right? So I headed over around 1:30 when I knew it wouldn't be too busy, and requested a table for one.

15 ria.  Prom, is that you?The dining room is trying very hard to not look like the dining room of a Double Tree Hotel. It ends up looking a little bit like the high school prom instead, but it's definitely an improvement over, say, Corduroy. There is a lot of two-toned satin draped over most walls, creating an iridescent bronze and purple effect, with small framed mirrors lined horizontally across each wall. The chairs are hotel chairs -- nave blue with a funny polka dot pattern -- but they are deep and comfortable. The dining room is fairly small and not too noisy. I could easily eavesdrop on my neighbors, so I don't recommend this restaurant if you are divulging state secrets.

The service was incredibly gracious. You hear a lot of horror stories from restaurant week, of cranky, mean waiters being overworked and significantly under tipped with the prix fixe price point, but my waiter was nothing but kind, attentive and very good natured. Although I was eating by myself, he never made me feel bad about, and was eager to make sure my experience was a good one. Maybe too eager -- he asked me if I'd like a drink or a glass of wine even before I'd been given a menu!

Unfortunately, I did not think the food lived up to the high level set by the service. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was great. It was very run of the mill cooking, nothing that I would necessarily crave or go back for. I started with the cold cantaloupe and mint soup.

Minted cantaloupe soup
It was delicious, as a dessert. Unfortunately, it was my appetizer. It was really sweet, with no salty, sour or spicy accents to counter balance it. It was really just cantaloupe pureed with mint, and it would have been delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center. As it was, it greatly improved with a nice shake from the salt and pepper shakers, desperately in need of balance from the heat and the salty. Imagine the possibilities with a drizzle of chili oil, a squeeze of lime, or some cubes of feta or a grilled halloumi cheese.

My second course was a blackened ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes, baby bok choy and a soy ginger sauce. I'm not entirely sure where it fits into the overall theme of this "contemporary American cuisine" restaurant, but it was definitely the best of my three courses. The tuna had a delicious, salty crust and was topped with some sea vegetables, the baby bok choy was not overcooked and still had a bit of crunch to it, and the wasabi mashed potatoes were powerful enough to hurt my sinuses! (To me, that is a complement. If you are sensitive to heat, you would not enjoy these, but to me they were my favorite thing from the entire meal. They made my eyes water a bit!).

Ahi Tuna with some wasabi mashed potatoes that will make you cry.  In a good way.
Finally, for dessert, I ordered the fruit tart. If you know me at all, you know I take pastry very seriously, and this was a hugely disappointing course for me. I'm pretty sure this tart came from Whole Foods or some other commercial bakery. There was nothing local or seasonal about the fruit (kiwi, pineapple and, sigh, canned mandarin orange?) and the crust was soggy, as though it had travelled quite a distance. As an avowed sweet tooth and dessert snob, this tart made me sad. Actually, it made me miss the cantaloupe soup, which would have been a lovely, refreshing end to my meal.

Fruit tart.  Sigh...
I lingered over my soggy tart, eagerly reading my book and slowly sipping the glass of pinot grigio I'd ordered (three courses and wine? How very Euro of me!). When the bill came, it was for less that $30, which I can certainly appreciate. But would I go back and eat at full price? Doubtful. Maybe to enjoy those mashed potatoes and the very nice waiter.

And then it was back across the back alley 50 feet to my apartment, sweating the whole way. And to think, there was a time when I was looking forward to summer in DC.

So that is my first restaurant week experience so far. I'm headed to Georgia Brown's tonight and then Sushi Ko on Friday. Enjoy your restaurant week, and stay cool!

Note: New! The DC365 City Guide! Available here and also linked to on the right side of the page. Hopefully, this will be a quick and easy way for you to reference things you've read about, and find them by activity or neighborhood.