On this trip to DC, I did a little exploring and determined, in advance, where I could make a reservation for dinner that was on one of my lists. I knew that the top spot on my “to-do” list did not take reservations (Rose’s Luxury), so I looked at other choices. From the Southern Living “100 Best Restaurants in this South” article from last summer, I chose Fiola Mare. Based on where the cab went (straight down K street), I never would have guessed that we were in Georgetown, until the driver told us where we were. We pulled up in front of the Washington Harbour complex, just across the Potomac from the Kennedy Center (and the Watergate complex).
Fiola Mare opened last year (the third DC-area restaurant from chef Fabio Trabocchi) and was nominated for a James Beard award as the best new restaurant in the country last month. We were seated in the Florida room (for lack of a better term), just outside the main dining room, with a beautiful view of the sunset on the Potomac.
For a really nice restaurant, the decor where we were seated was the same as was on the outdoor patio – the seats were slatted wood, like you would see on a boat. The white tablecloths didn’t do much to disguise that. This lack of formality, in the setting, was something of a juxtaposition, after looking at the right side of the menu.
We asked for a recommendation and the server said that his favorite meal they ever had on the menu was tonight’s special – a three and half pound, wild caught bar de ligne (bar de ligne is a Meditereanean sea bass, also called loup de mere). We were sold and ordered the dish with two sides (potatoes and spinach) and waited. The chef sent out a sampling spoon, containing peekytoe crab, topped with cheese and trout roe, on a sprig of mint.
I thought this to be quite tasty, although I’m not much of a crab guy. The chef then then sent out a pasta appetizer with pine nuts, mushrooms and ricotta. This was good, but not great, so I ate a bit of the pasta and left room for the fish. While we waited, we watched the food come to the tables around us, seeing a harbinger of what was to come. Then the whole fish arrived and was fileted, gracefully, tableside, while we chatted with the chef. We each ended up with a substantial filet, which was topped with olive oil and a bit of lemon. This was, quite possibly, the tastiest fish that I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. It was tender and moist with only the slightest taste of “fish”. The sides were not particularly share-able, based on their size, which was fine with me since I didn’t want any of the wilted spinach. The whipped potatoes were listed as smoked herb potatoes, but tasted of nothing that we could ever remember eating before. After talking with the server, and getting an answer about non descript “herbs”, we pressed and he said that they were actually smoked with burning hay, prior to being mashed – that’s why we didn’t recognize the taste. We don’t eat much grass.
Aside from the potatoes, the meal was outstanding.