Cafe Atlantico was a fixture in Penn Quarter, back before Verizon Center broke ground, back before there was anything to do in that part of town, other than run for any cab that might wander into the area. You took a cab to Atlantico, Jaleo or the Shakespeare Theater, dodged the empty storefronts, then hoped you could find a cab back. All these years, Atlantico had been an anchor.
We went last weekend (when our attempt to get Caps tickets didn’t pan out). It had been a while, but we were confident the restaurant wouldn’t disappoint. A couple surprises, though.
The first: the menu did not list Katsuya Fukushima as the head chef. He’d been leading the effort at Atlantico for years. We chatted with him at Minibar and cheered him on Iron Chef America when Jose Andres won his challenge … Would it be as good as it had always been?
We split the conch fritters, a classic choice for us. Not bad. Warm, juicy conch filling. Jicama and avocado “raviolis” accompaniments. The batter on the fritter itself was a bit thick though, not as good as I remembered.
The wine was a good match with the food, but a bit misleading. We ordered a carmenere, based partly on Dottie and John’s recommendation – this could be the next malbec. Interesting, herby nose and dark fruity taste. Only problem was the wine was a blend, primarily cabernet sauvignon, not carmenere … false advertising? But still nice.
The main courses were the highlight. My hub got the lamb shank, and that almost made me drool with envy. It looked amazing, falling off the bone, perfectly cooked. I chose the Feijao Tropeiro, deconstructed, of course. It didn’t look quite how I thought it would: an oversized pork chop, topped with foam, on top of an artfully arranged pile of rice, black beans, collard greens and a dollop of incredibly spicy sauce, accented by tiny perfect wedges of tangy orange.
We finished off the night with warm chocolate cake with a side of banana cream.
Almost as good as ever, but still a good choice.