Appetizers were abbreviated from their menu; basically all the selections that cost less than $10 were fair game. I couldn't pass up the lobster bisque "with lobster salad garnish." The bisque, satisfying and not overly thick or rich, was well balanced and nicely complemented by the lobster meat on top. That meat sat on top of a crispy fried wonton wrapper which sat on the soup. And that was the salad (I was envisioning something on a plate). The spring rolls next to me have three fun looking dipping sauces but are amongst the more oily food items I've seen. But that doesn't mean they don't look good! Mmm, high-quality grease!
The Hong Kong Style Crispy Whole Catfish is what I came for. They'll remove the head and tail if you want, but half the fun is having the whole 1 foot+ long creature set before you, battered, fried, and ready to be chopsticked apart. The skin is perfectly seasoned and ready to eat as is. The flesh is cooked well, but needs a dip in the chili tamarind garlic sauce it's served with. Catfish is no cod, but it's just pretty bland if not dressed up. A cucumber salad that comes with the dish features the cuke peeled into long ribbony slivers. The dressing doesn't inspire; its pretty much an Italian vinaigrette and you wish that a place known for it's pan-Asian ingredients would go somewhere more creative. Most of the dressing runs from the salad to the underbelly of the catfish, but the unintended bath tastes good on the fish.The eatery does a pretty brisk takeout business, apparently and are happy to give me my Yuzu and Citrus tart with strawberries and Chantilly cream to go. It's waiting for me in the fridge!
The catfish is regularly $17. So I basically got soup and a dessert for $1.54 each. And the fish at lunch is a steal, with no upcharge. The only two RW upcharges are $12 for Chinese Style Smoked Lobster and $9 for whole crispy fish on the dinner menu (both are listed as market price on the regular menu). With the upcharge, I'd presume they're serving a more prestigious fish in the evening. Other dinner entrees start as low as $15 for a vegetarian hotpot, but average $26.
It's the first time I've thought to dine alone at a restaraunt bar. With the practice often extolled by WaPo's Tom Sietsema and others, I decided not to let my co-workers' cancellations ruin my reservation. The bartender was charming, efficient, and we even got to trade stories about our multiple Obama sightings at the restaurant.
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW