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Palena


tjaehnigen
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Anyone see the mention of Palena in Newsweek and think it a little odd? It was part of a blurb on places offering "Small Plates". That's not the first thing I think of when I think of Palena unless they are talking about the bar menu.

Palena in Newsweek

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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I agree-- I was at AOC in LA recently, and Palena's approach is generally different. I would think that restaurants featuring main menus with only small plates would be the focus of the article, thus the inclusion of Avec. Otherwise it should be places with bar menus, which often are smaller portions. AOC has big plates too, but many more small plates. I would've added NYC's Tasting Room to that list, and if DC were included, I suppose Jaleo and Zaytinya--tho it seems silly, since tapas and mezze are by definition "small plates." As are all appetizers! Hmm....

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

-- William Grimes

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why do other restaurants bother? why do we bother going to them? sometimes i wonder why i waste money on a place i "wanted to experience" in all its gustatory misery and egregious sauna-like red wine pours.

ah late summer nights, when a young man's thoughts turn to such ponderings (so that was nine dollars: and now metro is 1.35, so for every 6 2/3 metro excursions i will be missing a plate of THAT tuna or pate/terrine or cheeseburger or cheese; perhaps i should transform myself from a masstransport-user to a velocipedal one), strolling, ambling, blundering out of palena to happy and full to care and wanting only a tapeworm to take care of that pesky business of digesting and the concomitantly and infinitely greater and more important result of an empty stomach, the better to not make a dour metro journey home and instead sit down to another extraordinary meal.

where to begin? an antipasto plate of such focused clarity where each and every component shined on its own but the magic didnt start until the leucodermic mozzarella di bufala introduced it's virginal-white creamy-self to the pungent anise and fennel flavored salami; together they rode on the lightest of tomato tart "pizzas" to my ever grateful mouth. hazlenut and artichoke salad was no slouch either. the dining companion's chilled pea soup was simply a revelation, in flavor color and texture; these were no ordinary peas. crawfish tail and summer truffle royale were extravagent additions that still knew that they remained second best. a rose from languedoc we gleefully slurped. life was good. derek was charming as he was from our last trip (and his memory must be sharp as one of frank ruta's knives as he recalled our previous visit. over a year ago.)

i spy the time and notice it creeps toward working time so i will be laconic: a pork-fat nimbused pistachio-foie gras and chicken pate with a robust carmine almost brick color. not so in texture. literally dissolving in my mouth. cubes of salty porkiness led to me to assume the inclusion of pancetta or some such salted and cured meat product. and the perfect square of foie gras in the center, like a beacon to weary travelers sick of dining at establishments that believe they have something to offer (apart from pecuniary draining and disappointed tastebuds). i longed to don a palena sandwichboard and walk connecticut avenue with pate in hand and merely gesture to the foie gras to the sandwich board and to palena.

perfectly grilled tuna recieved a blast from an ignited piquillo pepper puree tempered by an exquisitely airy and cloudlike basil oil (not an infused olive oil but rather basil leaves supreme liquid apotheosis.) and it went on through a completely unostentatious beet salad, a cheese plate with a few (ahem) additions to it (and cheers again derek) and a glass of the black sheep of the sauternes family, lubiac i believe the name to have been (and cheers again derek). utterly and simply delicious with a wave of flavors not normally found in one-dimensional dessert wines which merely taste of sweet; indeed the sweetness whispers itself rather than blaring it out and only for a moment or two as the amber nectar (glorified honey) touches your lips. and the rhubarb tart. goodness.

i cannot say more because of time constraints and the inability of language to convey the experience; apologies for the dismal failure of an arbitrary concept to adaquetely describe the heavenly untellurian evening i spent.

there is no love sincerer than the love of food

- george bernard shaw

i feel like love is in the kitchen with a culinary eye, think she's making something special and i'm smart enough to try

- interpol

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Oh MY..

I do agree, the more experience I gain at special places like Sushi-Ko, Palena, Nectar, and Indique, places where I am consistently satisfied time and time again (ok, in the case of Palena, a place where I imagine myself to be satisfied again), I wonder why I continue to venture out to other 'must try' places. Safe, sure bets that are far from safe = staid are a great thing.

But then again, without those other adventures, I might fail to gain a new regular spot. Say Firefly. Say BDC. Say Eve--I have high hopes for Friday night. Say Ray's--when am I getting there???

Striving for more places to spend heavenly evenings with food and wine is a big part of what makes life fun. :biggrin:

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

-- William Grimes

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Oh MY..

I do agree, the more experience I gain at special places like Sushi-Ko, Palena, Nectar, and Indique, places where I am consistently satisfied time and time again (ok, in the case of Palena, a place where I imagine myself to be satisfied again), I wonder why I continue to venture out to other 'must try' places. Safe, sure bets that are far from safe = staid are a great thing.

But then again, without those other adventures, I might fail to gain a new regular spot. Say Firefly. Say BDC. Say Eve--I have high hopes for Friday night. Say Ray's--when am I getting there???

Striving for more places to spend heavenly evenings with food and wine is a big part of what makes life fun. :biggrin:

i concur. gastronomic wanderlust leads us to the nectar's and palena's and such places, whilst equally driving us to [insert your miserable dining experiences here]. tis a delicate balance and one that merits astute observation.

there is no love sincerer than the love of food

- george bernard shaw

i feel like love is in the kitchen with a culinary eye, think she's making something special and i'm smart enough to try

- interpol

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Well, I indulged my curiosity tonight and ventured solo to try the Cafe menu at Palena....WOW. Is this the best food deal in DC or what?? I stuffed myself silly -- 3 courses, fizzy water, wine & coffee, and still paid less than their prix fixe menu.

Started with the beet & cheese salad, excellent! The beets were plentiful & I think there were several different kinds on there (I'm not a beet expert). The creamy cheese & crisp greens were perfect foils for the beets. Then the infamous roast chicken. Second only to corn-fed scottish free range chicken eaten at The Witchery in Edinburgh (and that cost a hell of a lot more than $9), this is the BEST chicken I've EVER eaten. :wub: Sipped a glass of Pinot Blanc from Alsace that was very nice. (Also no wine expert -- the pinot was the only grape I recognized on the list) Finished with the chocolate hazelnut torte & coffee; the torte is truly heaven on a plate. Maybe a tad heavy for a hot summer evening, but figured I had to try it!

Service was friendly and just chatty enough throughout. Got there at 5:45 and was seated immediately, the place didn't start to fill up until 6:15.

I will be back!

"What, after all, is more seductive than the prospect of sinning in libraries?"

Michael Dirda, An Open Book

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  • 2 weeks later...

FYI I don't think they're doing panini & doughnut night anymore (at least last night they weren't). Did anyone try it while it lasted? Instead, last night I had the bacon, & a galantine of guinea hen & foie gras that was quite tasty.

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FYI I don't think they're doing panini & doughnut night anymore (at least last night they weren't). Did anyone try it while it lasted?

I was told last night that the panini haven't made their debut yet. Frank R. is still tweaking the recipes.

Chris Sadler

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Was there a wait for the cafe seating last night? Anyone been there on a recent Friday night and could advise me on how long a wait I might expect tonite--arriving around 6:30?

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 was at Palena at 6:45 last night and there was no wait for the cafe seating and there were three people at the bar. Later at night (around 8pm) the front part of the restaurant and the bar were full and people were waiting for tables.

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Got there around 7:30 or 8 last night, and the four of us were seated in the cafe immediately. We started with a round of Derrick's fabulous cocktails-- mojitos, sidecars, and the sazernac (sp?). Moved on to the sweet corn ravioli with skate, and a salad. Then on to burgers, chicken and fries. MMM GOOD! Finished off with strawberry shortcake (this was just ok, needed a little more sugar IMO), and the coconut three ways. Plus some more cocktails-- I got a Derrick martini surprise-- salty cantaloupe--absolutely f--in brilliant!!

This is a great place to bring your non-foody friends who still like great service and can appreciate the good life if only you lead them to it first. The prices are spot on, the food can't be beat. And Atomic Billiards is barely 2 seconds away to provide the rest of the evening's entertainment.

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

-- William Grimes

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Got there around 7:30 or 8 last night, and the four of us were seated in the cafe immediately.  We started with a round of Derrick's fabulous cocktails-- mojitos, sidecars, and the sazernac (sp?). Moved on to the sweet corn ravioli with skate, and a salad. Then on to burgers, chicken and fries. MMM GOOD! Finished off with strawberry shortcake (this was just ok, needed a little more sugar IMO), and the coconut three ways. Plus some more cocktails-- I got a Derrick martini surprise-- salty cantaloupe--absolutely f--in brilliant!!

This is a great place to bring your non-foody friends who still like great service and can appreciate the good life if only you lead them to it first. The prices are spot on, the food can't be beat. And Atomic Billiards is barely 2 seconds away to provide the rest of the evening's entertainment.

Well stated, Sara. There's not much else to add except to say that Derrick is a quite a gentleman, a gracious & efficient host, and quite the mix-master.

I could eat the chicken, burger and fries several times a week. And the ravioli was delightful and perfectly flavored. It's wonderful that Palena allows customers to order from the main menu, in addition to the bar/cafe menu.

Go there. Today. Well, tomorrow ... when it's open (Tuesday-Saturday). :biggrin:

Edited to note that the bar/cafe section ONLY is also open on Monday evenings.

Edited by liamdc (log)

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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Waiting for the whole party to be seated.

I agree that this is a pretentious and obnoxious practice. It should have nothing to do with the quality or formality of the restaurant. Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road in London, considered one of the best

in the world, and in my experience certainly the best for service, offers the early arriving guest a choice of waiting in the lounge or being seated at the table. I chose to wait in the lounge, but the head waiter was

happy to accomodate my preference and I think all restaurants should.

Cafe/Bar $9 plates.

I am not sure I understand the options here. Are the small plates available both at the bar counter and at the tables located near it or only at the counter?

Saturday night around 7:30

Given my travel schedule, the earliest I could get to Paleo would be about 7:30 -- 8:00. As I understand it, the cafe/bararea takes no reservations. At that hour on a mid-July weekend, would the place likely be packed. I should add that

last weekend I happened to go by there at around 9:00 and while Indique seemed to be bursting at the seams,

Paleo was doing a civilized and comfortable business.

APOLOGIES FOR THE WEIRD FORMATTING i AM FORCED TO WORK WITH AN OUTDATED BROWSER WHILE MY COMPUTER IS BEING REPAIRED.

Edited by VivreManger (log)
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VM,

The entire area around the bar, with many tables, as well as the outside patio, is known as the cafe. You can order anything off the cafe menu, as well as anything off that night's dinner menu--ala carte. In other words, whereas the dinner menu is only offered prix fixe, like 3 courses for X, and doesn't list prices for separate dishes, you, sitting the cafe, can order anything you want off that menu--individually. It's the best deal around, by far. Those in my party the other night were musing aloud why ANYONE would ever sit in the back, formal part of the resto.

The plates, by the way, ain't that small. There's nothing small about a 1/2 a brilliantly roasted chicken. Or a big ol' perfect burger.

I think you'll be fine going by Palena around 7:30 on a Saturday night, esp during the summer. Just not with a large party--then you're much more likely to have a wait.

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

-- William Grimes

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VM,

The entire area around the bar, with many tables, as well as the outside patio, is known as the cafe. You can order anything off the cafe menu, as well as anything off that night's dinner menu--ala carte.

Those in my party the other night were musing aloud why ANYONE would ever sit in the back, formal part of the resto.

And the bar/cafe area is as cozy and nicely decorated as the main areas of many a DC restaurant. Having the option to order off both the cafe menu and the main menu, I can't see a reason not to eat here.

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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The plates, by the way, ain't that small. There's nothing small about a 1/2 a brilliantly roasted chicken. Or a big ol' perfect burger.

Actually, besides the cheeseburger, chicken and hot-dog, the portions off the café menu are small. The salads are a decent size, but the other dishes will leave you hungry if that is all you order. Last night we had the salmon crab cake. It was perfect, but left my friend hungry. It was smaller than a hockey puck. Fortunately I had enough chicken for the both of us.

My book club had a wonderful evening there last night. Derek, is well, Derek. Certainly my favorite host/bartender in the area. His margaritas are a little tart for my taste, but the sidecar can't be beat. He remembers the smallest details (such as my screen-name which I told him once a few months ago) and knows the perfect time to deliver special bottles of wine (Thank you again, benefactor :wink: )

All in all, if I was traveling to DC I would not miss it.

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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There still remains the Indique versus Paleo question and the other issues raised in my other post. 

Sorry, don't mean to beat a dead horse, but this was the main reason I thought you might be thinking of Jaleo. (It's Palena, not Paleo. Just don't wan't you to look for a place that doesn't exist!) :smile:

edited to add: never mind, I see from a previous post that you know where it is.

Edited by littlechinagirl (log)
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Ate in the bar area over the weekend and was very impressed. The chicken was awesome, the burger had tons of flavor, the fried stuff was great. I found the pillow-like gnocchi to be my favorite. The tuna was a tad over cooked for my taste, but still was very moist. I have been spoiled by nectar, but the cheese was presented as "A goat, two sheeps, and a cow". I felt like the Farmer in the Dell. I inquired about the cookies and caramels and was rewarded. Overall it was a great experience. I wish I lived in the neighborhood. Thanks for all of the tips!

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Palena is definitely on my "want to visit" list. I was hoping they would be participating in Restaurant Week but I see that they do not. Bummer! From reading about the restaurant, I see more references to the bar or cafe menu than the restaurant. How different are the menus?

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What -- do my eyes deceive me??? The fabulous cookies and caramels are again available if you ask??? You just made my day.

Sometimes you don't even have to ask :smile:

By the way, Chef Frank, Derek gets lots of talk around here but it's your chicken, fried potatoes and lemons and cheeseburger that has us drooling for more.

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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Waiting for the whole party to be seated.

I agree that this is a pretentious and obnoxious practice. It should have nothing to do with the quality or formality of the restaurant. Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road in London, considered one of the best

in the world, and in my experience certainly the best for service, offers the early arriving guest a choice of waiting in the lounge or being seated at the table. I chose to wait in the lounge, but the head waiter was

happy to accomodate my preference and I think all restaurants should.

the distinction that needs to be made here is, i believe, that between being not allowed to sit at your OWN table that you RESERVED when a single member of the party has arrived and being refused seating at a more egalitarian, come on-come all, first parties come, first parties served, before the entire party has arrived.

if i have made a reservation and i am the only member thus far (and assuming i'm not terribly early and the previous party at our table to be punctual eaters) to arrive i would be perplexed to be refused the option of sitting at the table i had RESERVED.

on the other hand, think of walking into palena cafe, zaytinya, jaleo, johnny's half shell and other establishments with the no-res policy, at half past six or seven and seeing the entire dining room full of tables, each with only a single occupant, staring longingily out of the windows with more than a glint of hope in their eyes, being deceived by the royal blue mailboxes that match their sisters' outfit that day.

and the bar is rammed five deep, overflowing with sangria and people whose entire parties are there that, because they didnt walk up on the escalator but stood, now must wait in spirit with those lonely souls in the dining room for their companions to arrive. and after that they must wait for the meal to progress. then they may sit down to their dinner.

lastly, i would assume that a restaurant such as gordon ramsay does not expect walk-ins nor would people attempt to show up and have a table without a reservation. thus the problems of which we speak would not be an issue.

there is no love sincerer than the love of food

- george bernard shaw

i feel like love is in the kitchen with a culinary eye, think she's making something special and i'm smart enough to try

- interpol

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Waiting for the whole party to be seated. 

I agree that this is a pretentious and obnoxious practice.  It should have nothing to do with the quality or formality of the restaurant.  Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road in London, considered one of the best

in the world, and in my experience certainly the best for service, offers the early arriving guest a choice of waiting in the lounge or being seated at the table.  I chose to wait in the lounge, but the head waiter was

happy to accomodate my preference and I think all restaurants should. 

the distinction that needs to be made here is, i believe, that between being not allowed to sit at your OWN table that you RESERVED when a single member of the party has arrived and being refused seating at a more egalitarian, come on-come all, first parties come, first parties served, before the entire party has arrived.

I accept this distinction.

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Waiting for the whole party to be seated. 

I agree that this is a pretentious and obnoxious practice.  It should have nothing to do with the quality or formality of the restaurant.  Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road in London, considered one of the best

in the world, and in my experience certainly the best for service, offers the early arriving guest a choice of waiting in the lounge or being seated at the table.  I chose to wait in the lounge, but the head waiter was

happy to accomodate my preference and I think all restaurants should. 

the distinction that needs to be made here is, i believe, that between being not allowed to sit at your OWN table that you RESERVED when a single member of the party has arrived and being refused seating at a more egalitarian, come on-come all, first parties come, first parties served, before the entire party has arrived.

I accept this distinction.

i agree with your thoughts wholeheartedly, i forgot to add. i only thought that a differentiation needed to be added.

there is no love sincerer than the love of food

- george bernard shaw

i feel like love is in the kitchen with a culinary eye, think she's making something special and i'm smart enough to try

- interpol

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Just to add to the seating debate:

I am a hostess in what I consider a posh Washington restaurant, and we were trained to offer a first arriving guest of the party a choice between waiting for the rest in the bar/lounge OR at the table. FYI, about 75% choose to wait at the table, unless they are young. There has never been a policy of "no seating unless all members of the party are here." Why would we want to punish one person in the party for his poor choice of friends (read: habitual tardies)?

Now, don't even get me started on the subject of two people showing up as part of the party of 8 on a busy Saturday night, being seated by yrs truly at a (round) table set for 8, ordering food, and informing me casually as they are tucking into their steaks, "oh, by the way, there will only be two of us...the rest decided not to show up."

:angry:

Resident Twizzlebum

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