Wednesday, January 20, 2010


This is yet another post I've had in reserve for awhile. Now that I've started this blog, I'll try to include photos where I can. And I think I may have taken more photos at Liberty Tavern, too. But that was months ago, and well, now they've disappeared. Stupid procrastination. Anyway...

Mark and I are anniversary people. As in, we celebrate each month. Lame, you say, celebrating month anniversaries? That’s…fair. But we really just use it as an excuse to go out to a fancy restaurant. Initially, for our six-month anniversary, we had planned to go to Teatro Goldoni, a much-touted Italian restaurant downtown. However, confronted with the torrential rains and shockingly cold winds outside, the relative expensiveness of our first choice, and slightly dampened spirits after watching the Phillies lose Game 2 of the NLCS to the Dodgers, we decided to keep it closer to home and headed to Urbana, a restaurant/wine bar in Dupont Circle, on P Street. Urbana is located on the ground floor (sub-street level) of Hotel Palomar and is much bigger than I expected, but it still manages a cozy elegance that strikes just the right note for a rainy night outing.

Click below to see what we ate!

We started out with the beet salad (with goat cheese foam, crispy candy striped beet chips, baby mizuna and vinegar, $9). The beet salad was not spectacular, but good, with a nice proportion of beets to greens. I liked how the slight spiciness of the mizuna (think mild arugula) combined with the sweetness of the beets, but generally thought that it was too lightly dressed and a little under-seasoned. The “goat cheese foam” was served in a mound off to the side of the plate, with a single candy striped beet chip sticking out the top. It made for a pretty presentation, and the foam was interesting – light and airy – but I would have given up the novelty of the foam to have the goat cheese integrated with the rest of the dish, as its creaminess would have tied together the salad better.

We also got a half an order of the house-made linguine (with heirloom grape tomatoes, baby zucchini, mint, basil, pine nuts, and brown butter, $10), a more impressive effort than the salad. There’s nothing I like better than a simple and well-executed dish, and this light pasta was a good example. Despite the dreary weather outside, the freshness of the ingredients recalled sunnier days. While the fragrant brown butter sauce was very rich, it avoided being too heavy, and really allowed the taste of the excellent pasta to shine through.

In the mood for seafood, I ordered the Alaskan halibut (with Virginia top neck clams, Spanish chorizo, sweet corn, baby globe artichokes and roasted sweet Georgia white prawns, $29) for my entree. The halibut was perfectly cooked and the chorizo gave the dish a really wonderful spicy saltiness. Unfortunately the clams and shrimp were a little overdone, giving them a rubbery texture. Overall, though, the dish worked well.

Mark had the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin (with Anson Mills polenta, melted Vidalia onions and baby carrots, $26). I didn’t try the polenta, onions or carrots, but I did have a slice of the pork, which was juicy, tender, and full of briny, bacon-y goodness.

After a quick glance at the menu, Mark gave into his crippling addictions and ordered the chocolate peanut butter mousse. I feel completely unqualified to comment on his dessert, since I am just a casual chocolate & peanut butter eater, but the bite I had was very good, surprisingly not overly sweet. The crunchy hazelnut crust provided a nice contrasting texture. I was too full to order my own dessert, but felt like I needed something to finish off the meal, so I ordered my very first glass of grappa ever. I felt very sophisticated, indeed, until I realized that grappa is potent enough to get you drunk with just its fumes…In any event, our Urbana experience was good, if a little overpriced. While it’s a decent, close option for a nice night out, I don’t know that it rises to the level of a “go-to” for me.

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