Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dino- Restaurant Week

Two hours of great wine, food and friends, at a place I had not tried yet but will definitely be back to- this is what restaurant week is all about! I kicked off the season at Dino in Cleveland Park...and it did not disappoint.

I had an old friend in town (a self-described knuckle dragging airforce pilot). He stopped off in DC en route to Del Rio Texas from Japan, and I thought before he goes to the only place I know more isolated than San Angelo, I should get some tasty non-cheddar based food in him. Another friend of mine, Michael (who is about the best dinner partner a girl could hope for - never less than three courses, 2 hours, and 2 bottles of wine!) has been raving about Dino in Cleveland Park, so I thought this might be a good try. Of course, Michelle came along too!

Dino's is doing restaurant week all of Aug, and pulling no stops. The whole menu is on order, so you can get whatever you want for each course. In my mind, this is what Restaurant Week is all about. We each ordered different things and shared, while settling in with two wonderfully selected bottles of wine brought to us by a waiter that was pretty delicious himself.

Appetizers consisted of :
Veggie Antipasto - with imported stem artichoke, mozzarella di bufala (flown in fresh from Italy on Sun and Thur, I think), pecorino cheese
prosciutto - made in the old fashioned manner by a small family prosciuttificio where they age these hand salted gems a full 500 days.
Soft 3 Cheese Polenta {Asiago, Fontal & Gorgonzola} with assorted roasted mushrooms
Braised Meatballs - traditional Venetian snack: braised veal & pork meatballs with ricotta, garlic, herbs, egg & bread crumb in a light tomato sauce.

The mozzarella is out of this world- unlike anything readily available in the US. Light and fluffy, with a strong but amenable taste, and perfect compliment to the prosciutto. The Polenta was my favorite (really!)- just the right amount of flavor, creamy, and with a hint of earthiness that went wonderful with the potent vinegar used to marinate the veggies.

For our main course, we requested a wine that was more 'grrrrr' than the previous bottle- really, we were a little tipsy already. Our tasty waiter paused, and said "got the perfect thing". And it was. I really can't compliment enough the uncanny ability of the waitstaff to match well with our orders- I expect it from a sommelier, but its notable in a waitstaff, especially during a week of puny Restaurant Week tips.

Mains were:
Pappardelle ai Cinghiale - Wild Boar - house made ribbon pasta, chunks of wild boar, crushed tomato, onions, golden raisins, celery, carrots, red wine, garlic, herbs & spices, grana cheese Maialino - Milk Fed Young Pig - herb rubbed, roasted on the rotisserie with smashed fingerlings
And a delicious Venison steak I can no longer find on their online menu.

The pasta was a good base, although nothing to make you weak. Personally, I adored the venison, although Michael was less than enamored. This might have been because he had been devouring the delicious Maialino- so soft you could almost spoon it up- and the more gamy taste of the venison was harsh after the Maialino. The juices were wonderful when mixed with the noodle dish. Great portions as well- just enough for all four of us to have a good portion of each dish, but not necessitating a superfans heart restart.

Dessert was inspired. Michael's favorite is hands down the espresso and homemade gelato. His description of its various delicious stages of melting and blending as you taste it, mixing of hot and cold, sweet and bitter, left all of us a little breathless and red from inappropriate thought (oh who am I kidding, there is no embarrassment here, I was ready to sneak off upstairs with whoever walked by next). It was exquisite. Michael says he often comes by late at night just to get the dessert, after the kitchen is closed, and I believe it. This habit would probably be bad for any relationship I were in though, as I am pretty sure that there is no sensuous energy left after this. Its like frozen birth control.

I had a peppercorn gelato with candied plums that was out of this world. The perfect balance of strange and powerful tastes that was just the perfect finish to a strong meal. I left feeling indulged, full, and glorious (the two bottles of wine and free shot of something that comes with the dinner probably helped that along).

The other desserts, “Cappuccino” di Nutella- nutella & mascarpone crema, bourbon soaked sour cherries topped with whipped cream & cocoa powder and Gianduia - “Nico” hazelnut gelato with toasted hazelnuts atop bittersweet chocolate gelato with chopped chocolate, chocolate sauce & whipped cream were less uniquely inspiring but good nonetheless.

All in all, we all left full of great conversation, wine, and some of the best restaurant week food I have had. I will DEFINITELY be going back sometime soon. We closed the place down, and I would absolutely recommend you do the same. Spend a few hours, try everything, and take advantage of the great wine parings. Its worth every minute and penny. Not a place to rush.......Make it a Sat night, with a few old friends, and try a little of everything. This is eating at its best.

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Kate ( said...

Your first posts just appeared on Urbanspoon! Check it out:

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Kate ( said...

Hi again,

We recieved your blog claim on Urbanspoon. However, since your Urbanspoon account comes from Facebook, we don't have an email address for you yet. Could you please email me at kate at urbanspoon dot com to complete your blog claim? Thank you!

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