What: Westend Bistro
Who: Owner Eric Ripert, Chef Joe Palma
Where: The Ritz-Carlton Washington DC, 1190 22nd Street Northwest Washington, DC 20037, (202) 974-4900
When: Dinner: Sunday-Thursday 5:30-10:00PM, Friday – Saturday 5:30-11:00PM
Open 7 nights a week (Cocktails and Full Menu) Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30-2:30PM
This past Friday I was chatting with a friend of mine over a couple glasses of wine discussing summer trip options. The thing about living in New York is, once the weather gets warm, there is just an indescribable desire to get out of the city on the weekends. Having just taken a mini trip to Washington DC a couple weeks ago, I threw out the idea of DC as an easy, accessible and fun place to get away to for a few days. My friend, a self proclaimed foodie, immediately asked about the dining scene in the nation’s capital.
As with many of my urban contemporaries, I regularly follow renowned chefs around to their new restaurants and projects and maintain a constant 50+ list of “places to try.” Naturally, having just sampled a delicious lunch at the ultra swank Le Bernardin last month, I was extremely eager to make a reservation at Eric Ripert’s more laid back DC outlet- Westend Bistro. Located in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in DC’s burgeoning Foggy Bottom neighborhood, Westend Bistro strikes the perfect balance between upscale, trendy and comfortable. Ripert says that he set out to make it a great American bistro, equally satisfying locals looking for a staple neighborhood eatery, as well as the many travelers that step through the Ritz Carlton seeking a business appropriate venue. Upon entering the restaurant on a Saturday night, after a long day of travel, I immediately understood the appeal of the restaurant. It felt trendy without being pretentious, sexy but still professional, and always warm and vibrant. My boyfriend and I were seated at an intimate booth, slightly removed from the bar and the rest of the restaurant but with a great view of the open kitchen.
We arrived at Westend Bistro just in time to try the restaurant’s new sustainable spring menu, offering fresh ingredients from local farmer’s markets and small scale farms. Chef de Cuisine Joe Palma, who formerly worked with Ripert at Le Bernardin, sources over 90% of his produce within 75 miles of the restaurant, making the cuisine at Westend unique to the community. A sampling of seasonal offerings include Softshell Crab coupled with roasted asparagus, warm black pepper and lemon fonduta; BBQ Lamb served with a salad of pickled watermelon rind, compressed watermelon, sliced spring onions, and mustard BBQ; and a bistro classic, Skate Provencal, sautéed with baby artichokes, fennel, baby tomatoes, black olives, and barigoule.
We started off with a pot of mussels with chorizo soaked in a white wine broth and I thought it was one of the most comforting things I could’ve had after a long day’s drive. My boyfriend, an engineer, marveled at the details of the serving bowl- there is an area sectioned off just for excess broth. I had to agree. Though normally I try to pass on the bread basket, I thought the broth was just too delicious to go to waste and ended up soaking up all the juice with the bread.
Our waiter recommended another appetizer called warm lump crab which is like an inside out crab cake. One of my friends and I who routinely do the press events circuit Monday through Thursday joke that we can never pass up a crab cake so naturally I was sold the second the words came out of our server’s mouth. The warm lump crab is a large, loose lump of crab meat that sits on a blanket of leeks and topped with cromsequi, fried and breaded beranaise sauce. Unlike a traditional crab cake, you break the cromsequi, mix and then enjoy forkful by forkful.
For my entree I ordered the Foggy Bottom Market Salad– I can never resist a local salad nor a truffle vinaigrette and the experience did not disappoint. We also shared the Striped Bass which I thought was very uniquely prepared in a ginger broth with almonds and raisins. I love a sweet surprise in my food, so I thought that was a really nice touch. The remaining entree items on the menu included a mixture of comfort and classic bistro selections including Shrimp & Grits, Pasta Carbonara and of course, the famous Classic Burger.
Service at the restaurant is top notch, yet relaxed. Unlike at Le Bernardin where I was getting a little nervous after my bread plate was changed out no less than five times, I felt very comfortable at Westend Bistro. We were doted upon when we needed to be and left in privacy the rest of the time. After a satisfying meal, diners can enjoy libations at the restaurant bar. Cocktails are also made with local produce such as fresh lime juice and cucumber in the Carte Blanche to succulent raspberries in the 1150 Raspberry.
Westend Bistro is located on the lobby floor of the Ritz-Carlton Washington DC. Reservations can be made at (202) 974-4900