I loved how Fiola looked. I like Penn Quarter, and I liked that the restaurant was on the backside of Pennsylvania Avenue, making it a bit harder to find, so you feel very “in the know” when you finally get there. I also like that the courtyard reminded me of London or Cape Town, like the justice or parliamentary districts there.
Inside, it was louder than I expected. We were shown to a table for two along a row of two-tops, which was fine. My only (minor) issue was that it was so tight getting into my seat that I felt I was sticking my backside into the table of the couple next to me. Oh well!
I experienced immediate sticker shock when I saw the special of the day: a wonderful sounding foie gras which was $28 and an equally delicious sounding sweet corn gazpacho with lump crab that was a mere $24. Yikes!
They brought out bread, which was decadent. A roll that was salty on the outside and perfectly yeasty on the inside. No butter or olive oil offered. None needed. And I’m not usually a bread fan.
Appetizers: G had the tuna carpaccio, which looked good. But let’s be real: we’re heading to Le Bernadin in two weeks or so, so I can’t imagine it was as good. Meanwhile, my chilled corn gazpacho: delicious, delicate sweet corn puree. Yummy! Alas, the lump crab … way too dressed for this purist.
What does that mean, asked G? Uhm, (knowing his – and my – dislike of mayonaise-like substances), I replied with a semi-cryptic: it has too much stuff on the crab, where it would be better without. I liked the pepper, but the sticky substance holding the crab together was too much for me and there was much too much of it. Also, while I love heirloom tomato, it was bitter against the sweetness of the corn. And frankly, neither was a good match with the Brunello G ordered.
My main was quite good, an Adriatic seafood stew, with generous and perfectly cooked chunks of fish and shellfish in a spicy, flavorful tomato broth. Could probably have used some bread or a crouton to soak up the broth … but there was so much food, I certainly didn’t need more.
The dessert was excellent, delicious pannacotta and petit fours. The raspberry sorbet was an excellent pairing, both as a foil to the firm, creamy texture of the pannacotta and as a tart burst against the richness of the custard. Definitely a portion made for sharing.
Overall verdict: good, but with my appetizer a clear miss, too expensive for what it was. In other words, if I’m paying New York prices, then I expect New York quality. Unlikely I will be back. I might try the pre-theater menu (Monday through Friday only, of course), the next time we have a weeknight opening at Shakespeare Theater. Otherwise, I’ll wait for an expense account occasion.