Restaurant Review: The Oval Room

My husband and I recently went to the Oval Room for Restaurant Week 2010 in Washington, DC. Every January and August we always choose one restaurant that is voted top ten in the Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants list. The Oval Room was ranked number seven in 2009, so we decided to try it out.

Walking into the Oval Room and being escorted into the back dining room, we immediately were taken aback by the enormous glass chandelier that protrudes from the ceiling. Its lights were dim and the chatter was low enough to make this locale the perfect joint birthday dinner spot for my husband and me.

We both chose for our appetizer the sautéed shrimp with coconut and ginger rice and yellow curry and basil oil. The presentation was exquisite with the tender shrimp sitting jovially on top of the rice while the yellow curry and basil oil was encircled around the beautiful mound. The coconut and ginger rice gave a pleasant but subtle crunch to the shrimp and was an all too enjoyable veer away from the rubberiness that sometimes comes with eating bad shrimp. The yellow curry and basil oil was a light sauce that gave an added creaminess and subtle spice flavor to the shrimp. Having just come from the gym, I could have eaten two more plates of the stuff.

For dinner, I chose the New England sea scallops with cauliflower, caper-raisin relish and fragrant oil while my husband chose the crispy salmon with sesame puree, fried Chinese eggplant, and jalapeno garlic. Both meals were presented on simple white plates that made the colors of our dishes instantly pop. I am not at the liberty to go into depth about my husband’s meal since I did not have it, but I can attest to the fact that he could not stop talking about the fried Chinese eggplant. He commented on the fact that he had no idea what flavors this eggplant had been marinated in, but he could taste balsamic vinegar. For that reason, he became extremely enthusiastic about going to the grocery store to attempt to re-create this wonderful dish. Kudos to the chef who cooked the eggplant and for inspiring one of its diners! As for my entrée, I was in the utmost state of bliss. The scallops I had were buttery and soft. There wasn’t that irritating taste of grittiness that often accompanies scallops that have not been cleaned properly. The scallops were presented on top of the cauliflower puree with the caper-raisin relish off to one side just adding enough color to confuse your eyes into darting back and forth between the creamy, white mound and the greenish-purple anomaly. The anomaly, or caper-raisin relish, was unique in that the saltiness from the capers did not overpower my palate. Rather, the raisins added just enough sweetness to keep the salty capers in check. After the satisfying appetizer and entrees that we had, my husband and I were even more excited for the fact that we still had one more course to go; dessert.

For dessert, I chose a pineapple upside down cake with caramelized pineapple and white chocolate ice cream. My husband chose a blondie brownie with caramel, a chocolate bar, and salted caramel ice cream. To our surprise and even angst, dessert was rather disappointing. Having the severe sweet tooth that I do, the upside down cake was dry with no hidden flavors that would suggest it was a pineapple cake. The caramelized pineapple was also a let down since I thought caramelizing a fruit was suppose to bring out its hidden sweetness rather than squash it. The white chocolate ice cream was sweet and for that reason, I opted to eat all three items together in an attempt to quell my sugar proclivity. My husband did not fare much better with his dessert. He enjoyed his salted caramel ice cream and since he does not have a sweet tooth like I do, he appreciated the fact that it was not overtly sweet. However, the blondie was hard to chew, and he said it tasted like it had been frozen, but did not have enough time to thaw. I took a bite (a hard one at that) and agreed with my husband: The blondie had either been frozen or it had way too much corn syrup. Needless to say, dessert was unfortunately a disappointment. Mayb
e the pressures of the first night of Restaurant Week got to the pastry chef or maybe I just have an insane sweet tooth and my husband has weak teeth. Whatever happened with the desserts we will never know. But my husband and I can agree that we enjoyed the Oval Room appetizer and entrees and appreciated the fact that they were executed so impeccably even if it was at the expense of the desserts. Maybe the person who gave the Oval Room a number seven ranking did not eat dessert? Just a thought…

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