Back during Restaurant Week, my lovely wife hit two dining spots in Dupont Circle. Due to me first losing her review, then forgetting about it, it’s only now just appearing for your reviewing pleasure. I suspect I’ll be taking her out again this weekend to make up for my faux pas…
So, here it is – better late than never!
As many DC residents know, Restaurant Week is a great way to sample menus from places that have not been or to treat yourself to a favorite that is typically out of your budget. To the owners and staff of these participating restaurants, I say “thank you” for so generously sharing your gourmet feasts at such a reasonable price!
With each Restaurant Week, I like to try two new restaurants. I was very pleased this year to see a couple that I have wanted to try for some time – I Ricchi and Sesto Senso. They both offer Italian cuisine so it made for a nice comparison “review.”
I Ricchi’s greatest strengths are its atmosphere and its staff. From the front it appears to be a beautiful garden villa. However, once you step inside, you’re greeted by a classically-styled interior and a view of their open oven. The staff are quick to know your name if you have a reservation and very keen to be attentive. (I am hoping it was not just because the maitre de noticed me taking notes!) Overall, the food service was slower than I would have liked for for lunch. It took about 25 minutes to get my starter, and I had to get my dessert to go. My waiter did apologize for the delays and explained that Ms. Ricchi herself was currently inspecting the kitchen. Since this isn’t an everyday occurrence, lunch service may be a bit quicker but with such a great atmosphere, it would make for a wonderful lingering dinner.
My starter was a panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) which consisted primarily of fresh greens, tomatoes and croutons. The main was a beef tenderloin served on top of a Tuscan crouton with a side of green beans. The beef was the highlight of my meal, cooked to perfection. For dessert, I tried the chocolate pear tart. Here, I wish to applaud their combination of flavors but recommend a stronger chocolate taste and softer pear slices. (The meal was one created for Restaurant Week, so these aren’t necessarily on the menu year-round.)
For my next culinary adventure of the week, I went to Sesto Senso, feeling curious about how it would compare. Although both have fine Italian cuisine, I found their strengths to be the opposite of each other. Specifically, what Sesto Senso lacked in atmosphere and staff, it made up for in food.
I had heard of Sesto Senso, but found the front facade almost invisible. I can only remember where it is and not what it looked like on the outside! Inside, it is almost theatrical in appearance with high-backed booths and an upstairs loft. The staff were prompt and efficient in bringing the orders, which is great for a lunchtime meal. However, the hospitality was almost quite neutral.
Nevertheless, the food was magnificent. My starter of white beans and fresh tuna was a taste sensation – a nutritious and surprising treat. For my main dish, I chose the tilapia with a rather unusual medley of fruits, nuts and veggies that included golden raisins, pine nuts and some type of pepper. It was one of the best fish meals I have ever had. For the finale, the tiramisu. My lunch companion described it as excellent, so I will let her be the judge of this one (especially since I have yet to find a tiramisu that I love at any restaurant).
So, if you are in the mood for Italian – lunch or dinner – I encourage you to head to the Dupont Circle area of town. I’d suggest Sesto Senso for lunch as the service is quick and prompt, and I Ricchi for a nice, lingering meal to end the day?