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Palena


tjaehnigen
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The coup de grace though was this - I ordered a dish that had mushrooms in it (pretty bad allergy)

Just curious, does that cause problems in preparing muxhrooms in addition to eating them?

I try to taste everything every day, sometimes I have to get my sous chef to taste or it'll be curtains. Just started happening a few years ago, experimenting just isn't worth the penalty.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

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Although Cleveland Park is my favorite neighborhood to dine at, I have never been to Palena. A lot has to do with the price and my budget. From what I've read on this thread, dishes seem to be very simple. This discription reminds me of the meals I've had at Obelisk. Can some of you that have been to both restaurants, offer me some comparisons between the two?

Thanks in advance!

(Sitting for lamb chops)

Lamb: Ple-e-e-se Li-i-i-sa I thought you lo-o-o-oved me, lo-o-o-oved me

Marge: Whats Wrong Lisa? Cant get enough lamb chops?

Lisa: I can't eat this, I can't eat a poor little lamb.

Homer: Lisa get a hold yourself, that is lamb, not A lamb.

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I like both restaurants, I prefer Palena.

Obelisk is minimalistic, almost Japanese in it's purity of ingredients. They really don't screw with anything there. If you don't get what they're doing, it's possible one could think it's boring. It's not, but hopefully one gets the point. Take this with a grain of salt, I haven't been in 4+ years (no reason, just haven't been).

Palena is very similar but very different. Some of the items might be close to same (who wouldn't expect to see gnocchi with favas this time of year). I would expect the quality of the two dishes to be the same. As a diner, I can say they are. As a chef (alleged of course), I see more technique at Palena, be it the wonderful housemade bacon, the boudin blanc, or many other items that are easily bought but instead are produced in house.

I feel that service is a little more formal at Palena, as is the ambiance. Haven't seen the price of a meal at Obelisk for a while, I think the three course at Palena was $52 last week.

Unfortunately, you can't do the $9 bar menu style at Obelisk, but having not been to Palena, why not go on Monday night and check it out? We yammer on about the great hot dogs and hamburgers, but there are also dishes that are reflective of what happens on Tuesday through Saturday in the back dining room as well.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

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actually, I would advise against the Monday night idea, or at least like to hear other thoughts. I took my mother last night, and it was the first time I've ever, ever, ever been disappointed in Palena. Both the service and timing was off--either our waiter had a horrible night, or the restaurant doesn't do well at the partial capacity on Monday nights, when it's not geared up for back room service and the full menu. Salad arrived fairly quickly, but the promise of, say, entrees once we had finished with it took an extra thirty minutes. Our waiter finally came over and asked if we were still waiting for our food. When we nodded hungrily, he said he'd go see what was holding the kitchen up. He returned immediately with three plates, saying they'd just been finished--but since my rare hamburger had warmed to _medium_ by that point and the fry plate wasn't nearly as crisp as memory served, I'm not fully convinced. Ordering dessert took three attempts--once telling our waiter that we'd like coffee right away but needed a moment to decide on dessert; once 10 minutes later telling the maitre 'd that we'd really, really like to order dessert, please, and then still another ten minutes later before our waiter came to ask what we would like. (when it came, mind you, it was fantastic...lime tart...mmmhmmm....)

will freely admit that I was sleep-deprived and taking a deadline break for dinner, so this all annoyed me much more than it usually would...but two hours after entering, we were both convinced that we'd never, ever return on a Monday night.

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Interesting, Babka, I think we were there on the same night, I had no such problems. It was busy though, I think we were there for 2 hours as well, but I was busy playing with all the other restaurant types.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

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will freely admit that I was sleep-deprived and taking a deadline break for dinner, so this all annoyed me much more than it usually would...but two hours after entering, we were both convinced that we'd never, ever return on a Monday night.

I've experienced these same problems at the Palena bar a couple of times now. Not sure what happens. Long, long, mysterious waits for food (not roast chicken) when it wasn't very crowded. I can't remember if it happened on Mondays or not, though. Things like that don't bother me much, but I'd brought some hungry friends to try the place one night when we had these problems and felt a little embarrassed. Palena handled it extremely well though-- our waiter apologizing and the hostess bringing us a nice bottle of dessert wine later. This was an especially bad night-- I think we waited 45 minutes for the first course and then another 45 minutes for the entrees (again, not roast chicken).

Edited by cjsadler (log)

Chris Sadler

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it may well have been our waiter, who apparently handling us (table) and some bar duties....and they were lovely about asking how things were in the first part of the meal, while we were delightedly munching on the yawzaa salad (why does this place always nail that dish so well!) but disappeared entirely when we started having problems in getting, say, food. preferably cooked right.

please don't take this as a blanket anything of Palena--I feel slightly guilty in posting since I haven't noted several stupendous, wonderful experiences there in recent months--once when I inadvertently inflicted a table from hell on our poor waiter (a bunch of lovely visiting internationals whom, unbeknownst to me, were fanatically picky eaters and/or indecisive and/or not hungry and/or had had tooth surgery that week....in the linguistic confusion of the meal, our server somehow got the idea that the eight of us were going to pay with individual credit cards. He handled it with a smile and not a hint of censure until he opened the bill and saw just one card, which we'd intended but apparently failed to communicate. I've rarely seen such a lovely smile of relief in a restaurant) and once last week for a birthday celebration--it's just that I've learned to depend on 'em for an oasis of goodness, and they fell so strangely short last night that we suspected a capacity problem on Mondays.

Edited by babka (log)
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Never been to Palena before, but have wanted to try it. It just so happens I need to run an errand in the neighborhood in a little while and was thinking of dropping by for the bar menu. Only problem is, I'm dressed "casual Friday" in blue jeans. Is that acceptable attire there? What about for Lavandou? That's another place I've wanted to try but haven't done yet.

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Only problem is, I'm dressed "casual Friday" in blue jeans. Is that acceptable attire there?

It's fine. In fact out of the half dozen or so times I've been in I think I HAVEN'T been wearing jeans only once (bar visits only, never eaten in the dining room). But then again I never seem to plan on going there, it just always seems like the best option when I feel like going out at the last minute. Gives new meaning to going out for a burger and some beers ...

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Hot off the presses [my comments in brackets]...

4/19/04

Palena's Café menu turns one-year-old on April 15, 2004, and, to commemorate the one-year anniversary, Palena will introduce "Panini and Doughnut Night" by the month's end. Every Thursday night, in addition to the regular café menu, there will be three panini selections and our doughnuts will be added to the dessert menu.

These are not your average sandwiches: Palena paninis are made from the freshest ingredients, Italian cheeses, house made charcuterie, and in-house, fresh baked bread -- a perfect meal before a movie at Cleveland Park's Uptown Theater or a pre-weekend teaser.

Since Chef Ruta began making them, Palena's doughnuts have gained popularity at Amernick Bakery [!]. Now, you don't have to wake up early to have one. Chef Ruta makes the doughnuts in-house at Palena and will serve them every Thursday night in the café. These yeasty treats will be served with a sweetened ricotta sauce for dipping.

Don't make reservations -- just come on in. Palena doesn't take reservations for the Café; and paninis and doughnuts will not be served in the main dining room where you can still expect the same elegant cuisine and refined service. Panini & Doughnut night begins April 29, 2004.

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Hot off the presses [my comments in brackets]...

4/19/04

Palena's Café menu turns one-year-old on April 15, 2004, and, to commemorate the one-year anniversary, Palena will introduce "Panini and Doughnut Night" by the month's end. Every Thursday night, in addition to the regular café menu, there will be three panini selections and our doughnuts will be added to the dessert menu.

These are not your average sandwiches: Palena paninis are made from the freshest ingredients, Italian cheeses, house made charcuterie, and in-house, fresh baked bread -- a perfect meal before a movie at Cleveland Park's Uptown Theater or a pre-weekend teaser.

Since Chef Ruta began making them, Palena's doughnuts have gained popularity at Amernick Bakery [!]. Now, you don't have to wake up early to have one. Chef Ruta makes the doughnuts in-house at Palena and will serve them every Thursday night in the café. These yeasty treats will be served with a sweetened ricotta sauce for dipping.

Don't make reservations -- just come on in. Palena doesn't take reservations for the Café; and paninis and doughnuts will not be served in the main dining room where you can still expect the same elegant cuisine and refined service. Panini & Doughnut night begins April 29, 2004.

Rocks working for Palena now?

Mark

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Now it's all starting to become painfully clear. Why Ann hates the donuts that is. If Chef Ruta is the one making them, I can begin to see why Mme. Amernick does not like selling them in her shop.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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JPW -- You beat me to it! I was thinking the same thing when I read that. :biggrin:

Those paninis sound like they are going to be wonderful! Nice to hear that there are even more reasons to go to Palena!

Edited by mdt (log)
Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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Yes, they are Frank's recipe & made at Palena (it said that in Sietsema's original write-up), that's why Ann was saying to Don "We just don't understand how all these people think that the only thing worth buying at the bakery is a doughnut. And the one thing that we don't make. Think about it. It's so demeaning and hurtful to be confronted with this so often."

I wonder what the price of the paninis are going to be, $9 also?

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Yes, they are Frank's recipe & made at Palena (it said that in Sietsema's original write-up), that's why Ann was saying to Don "We just don't understand how all these people think that the only thing worth buying at the bakery is a doughnut. And the one thing that we don't make. Think about it. It's so demeaning and hurtful to be confronted with this so often."

I wonder what the price of the paninis are going to be, $9 also?

Ah, I missed that earlier piece. Thanks for making the connection for me.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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  • 4 weeks later...

What started as a simple desire to sit outside with Mrs. syzygy8 and enjoy some wine and cheese turned into something much more pleasant on our first ever trip to Palena.

Wandered up the escalator at Cleveland Park and we were quickly seated outside in the sun (about a week or so ago when there were more reasonably comfortable temperatures).

We asked about the cheese assortment. Types, quantity, etc. Is there enough for the two of us? Should we order two plates? Is there enough variety properly ripe that if we order two plates we can try even more kinds?

She returned with 1.5 orders of cheese which gave us two bites of each kind they had ready to be served that night (I think we had seven selections). Some domestic (a bleu from PA was tasty) and many from Italy. A well done plate with enough variety of flavor, texture and milk type to keep us happy. The accompanying bread concerned me at first. (Don't recall the exact name, but some kind of Tyrolean bread rings a bell) It seemed too sweet and fruity at first glance, but it happened to be a great pair with the cheese.

The wine we left to their suggestion. Villa Sant'Anna Chianti Colli Senesi 2001 ($39). Good body and mouthfeel with rich fruit that wasn't so overpowering as to steal from the varying flavors of the cheese. We were quite happy with what we got.

We also left the menu sitting at our table so we could study it a little more. It was our first visit after all. Next thing you know, we've ordered the greens and goat cheese salad for Mrs., the roasted chicken for me, and the Palena fries for the both of us while we waited the 45 minutes for the cooked to order chicken.

The fries were the only disappointment of the evening. I liked the variety of potato styles. Standard fries were alongside whipped potato fries and even fried lemons. But the breading/batter was rather bland and they just felt a little too oily and greasy.

The sun was about to set, and we moved inside just as the chicken and salad was to be served. I still can't believe that chicken is only $9. Normally I'd never order chicken unless I was at an Asian or Mexican style restaurant, but I'd heard plenty of good things here. All correct.

Served on top of some greens and garlic (seemed like spinach, but there was definitely more in there. Chard perhaps?) the chicken was huge. The skin was brown and taut, and when you touched it with your fork and knife you felt and heard the crispness. Breaking into it was like breaking into a creme brulee. And when you completed that crack, the steam poured forth from the opening with the smells of herbs and spices (I could swear I smelled anise in there!)

It was hot. It was juicy. It was everything I thought chicken could not be. And it was only 9 dollars! Thankfully the Mrs. is a vegetarian, or she'd have been very upset when I said, Cartmanlike, "No, it's MY potpie!"

I wish I could remember what we shared for dessert. (I should have written this sooner). But it was very good. (That's helpful, no?).

Palena will find a place in the regular rotation. 9 freakin' dollars for that chicken!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally made it to the cafe last night. My dining companions thought I was nuts for forcing them to order the fried potatoes, roast chicken and cheeseburger.

Then they took a bite of each. Pure perfection, including the lemons.

One friend spent the rest of the night berating me for not bringing her here sooner. "All those wasted calories" she cried, "when we could have eaten roast chicken!"

We also ordered the fried seafood plate. It was the only disapointment. The batter was oversalted, masking the flaovr of the fish.

The blood orange margaritas and side cars were good, but not great. Too much alcohol masked the blood orange.

Derek, by the way, is my new favorite host and person.

If only they were open for lunch :hmmm:

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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  • 2 weeks later...

My two girlfriends and I ate at Palena last night. We got a table outside and decided to order off the cafe menu.

This was the second time that I had been there and remembering the taste of the roast chicken, I couldn't wait to try it again to see if it was as good as I remembered.

I was the first to arrive from my group so I sat at the bar and had a martini while I waited for the others. I was the only one there from about 5:30 to 5:45. I finished my drink and asked the hostess if I could sit outside and that I needed a table for 3. She said that she could not seat me until everyone arrived.

Now mind you, I was the only one there.

Finally, one of my friends arrived around 6:15. Again we asked to be seated and the hostess said, in a very condescening voice, "I told you. You can only be seated when your entire party arrives. It is the policy"

We were still the only two people there.

About 2 mins later my final dining companion showed up, and finally we were seated. All the tables were 4 tops outside.

WOULD IT HAVE BEEN THAT BIG OF DEAL TO SEAT THE TWO OF US???

Now the food was great (we all had the chicken and we shared the cheese and the Palena fries), but I will never go back there because I was made to feel as if they did not want me there at all.

The entire time that we were there, (from about 5:30 when I got there, until we all left around 7:30) the cafe area was only 1/4 full.

I am wondering if I were an older man in a coat and tie if I would have been treated better.

Jennifer
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I was there tonight, with two older gentlemen, and they got the same service. Apparently they are very strict about the not seating until the whole party is there. I suppose that if they were crowded I would understand, but there were at least half a dozen tables empty when I arrived. Derek (who is still my favorite) apologized profusely, but still wouldn't seat us.

That being said, the fries and lemons were still fantastic and the cheeseburger and chicken are the best around.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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:angry:

Woodleygirl please... some restaurants ask that you wear pants and some ask that you wait for everyone before your party is seated. Its just policy. Ive dined there enough times to know theyre not out to get you. Let it go.

BTW Derrick is the man and the chicken is OUT OF THIS WORLD

Edited by horsepuckey (log)
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This is a fairly common policy at restaurants that consider themselves 'elite' I think. I've seen it, for example, at all of Stephen Starr's restaurants in Philly--especially Jones--where my aunt arrived to meet me for dinner at 5 pm on a Tuesday and they refused to seat her until I arrived, even though the ENTIRE restaurant except for 2 tables (and it's a big place) was empty. Outcome? She left and insisted we go elsewhere.

Rather than stating that this is common and one should "get over it" can we discuss why this policy exists, and where it is and isn't productive? Rather than a policy couldn't this be left up to the judgment of a well-trained hostess? If the restaurant is full of available (unreserved) tables, it seems silly to enforce this rule--on the other hand, if it's a Saturday night at 7 pm, and you are a table of 3 (meaning you need a table holding 4 usually), and only two of you are there, then I can see their reluctance to seat you--since if the 3rd person doesn't show, then they've 'wasted' a table of 4 on a table of 2. See?

Others in the industry like to comment?

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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I think maybe you misunderstood. I was just trying to be affable and clever while trying to get across the idea that we cannot make restaurants bend or break for us as patrons.

Ill try to make this brief:

1.Elitism: I genuinely believe that Palena is one of the best in the city, its reviews, acclaims and threads of posts should certainly support that theory. However, I think its unfair to compare a restaurant of this caliber to something like JONES. Having read the review http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/entertain.../4783985.htm?1c

(BTW Im particularly fond of the IZOD clad waiters, and home style fried chicken) Im not entirely sure that there can be a sturdy connection there. Outcome? Palena, modern Amercian Fine Dining at its best. Jones: another cliche already worn out.

2.Policy: First of all, if youre late to work does your boss apologize to you. Just be on time, and this isnt even an issue. Why does anyone want to sit alone at a table waiting for someone to show. Sit at the bar or lounge, have a drink, read a magazine and try to enjoy every facet that a destination has to offer. Sometimes restaurants have to be careful and make sure that they dont crowd to many people at once. It just makes for a bad experience for everyone. They know whats happening behind their curtain and the guest doesnt, so just be patient. You want to be taken care of and restaurants want to take care of you.

3.Industry: I am in the industry, and I believe that I work at one of the elite restaurants in D.C.. And I think that people are just a little too persnickety sometimes.

And really, unless there is a fly in your soup, or the waiter french kisses your wife how can anyone be upset at Palena. Its cafe menu is $9.

BTW Derrick is still the man and the Chicken rocks

Edited by horsepuckey (log)
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And really, unless there is a fly in your soup, or the waiter french kisses your wife how can anyone be upset at Palena? Its cafe menu is $9.

Male waiter or female waiter? Both would get me hot and bothered -- just, well, differently...

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Not to echo another post in another thread, but I finally had dinner at Palena's bar last night. Seriously, Palena's bar food, where have you been all my life?? You are splendid and inexpensive, just my kinda soulmate.

Tried the lamb breast (not breast at all, but maybe formerly breast, ground--like lamb sausage, breaded and served with a 'red' sauce that definitely had some peppers in it); the wild Alaskan king salmon (AWESOME dish, served with porcinis, baby carrots, roasted garlic, tender flavorful salmon as I've ever had); the burger with the fried things (potatoes, lemons, onions, Nuff said), and the best roasted half-chicken of my life. $9 for a big plate of juicy chicken? In DC? That outdoes El Pollo Rico? Not kidding, I'm in love.

To top it off, Derrick (Jarad's not-so-evil twin) is all he's cracked up to be, and then some, and my adorable server, former Marine Corps now heading for law school, knew exactly what he was doing.

Oh Palena, I'll be back. :wub:

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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