Bibiana (1100 New York Ave.) is the latest restaurant in the Ardeo-Bardeo-701-Rasika-Bombay Club-Oval Room group, and has garnered uniformly good-to-great reviews since opening last year. It is swankier than the places we normally frequent, and we thought Restaurant Week would be a good way to check it out, since normally you would pay well over $35 for a three course meal there.
The space looks great, modern, darkly colorful, with a ten-seat bar right inside the door, a small lounge (where we waited fifteen minutes for our table), and a not large dining room that can be sensed but not really seen from the bar/lounge. Nice setup. Everyone — manager, host, servers — looked snazzy and were friendly, thoroughly professional.
Restaurant Week isn’t always the best time to test a restaurant; some fall to pieces in the face of the RW onslaught. Bibiana had no such problems, although I wonder if entree portion sizes are as small during non-RW. I personally thought the sizes were perfectly appropriate, and I didn’t go away hungry, but they were a bit smaller than you normally find these days even in your finer restaurants, and all four of us noticed. But let’s not blame Bibiana for America’s now-standard excessive calorific expectations! Just as well there will be no Biggie-sizing at Bibiana.
Food: most everything our group tried was at least good, but some dishes were clearly superior to others. In particular, the polpette appetizer, a large meatball bathing in tomato sauce and polenta, was amazing — too bad I ordered the calamari, which looked great swimming in its own ink and was incredibly flavorful, but also overcooked and rubbery like whitewall tires. Buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes was also a winner, but at a $5 upcharge.
Entreewise, locally-raised lamb was reportedly fantastic, as was the lemony-fresh agnolotti; my bucatini was excellent, nice kick from the red pepper, though a little light on the guanciale, and Mrs. Me thought her steak was only okay. Dessert: no tiramisu available! We were unexcited about the options. I tried the cheese: one delicious but small and lonely slice of sheep’s milk (I think?) soft cheese with almonds and apricot jam, all good but not much of it. Chocolate mousse was okay. The big dessert winner was the Baba sponge cake — looked like half a donut — soaked (and it was indeed completely soaked) in rum, with pineapple and whipped cream; it didn’t exactly jump off the menu page but the one who ordered it was very happy he did.
All in all, a very good meal, and with it we enjoyed a good-value bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a RW special for $30 (lots of terroir in the nose but all dark fruit in the mouth); I would like to go back and try some other dishes outside of RW, despite the prices being on the high side.
As usual, no photographic evidence from me, but here are some nice shots from DCist along with their review.