If you’re traveling as a couple and want to discover the real deal about a city, you want to stay away from tourist hot spots and instead check out the more intimate local scene and culture. Travel guide books will often describe restaurants and hang outs where “the locals” go, to entice you to a place that has likely become a tourist spot masquerading as a neighborhood haunt. My goal is to lead you away from tourist traps and into spots that are the best for romance as offered by the insiders who frequent there. The insiders I consult are those who live and love their city every day. To that end, I bring you “Locals Choice,” a series of articles that highlight a local resident’s offerings for intimate ventures in their area.
The restaurants below have been selected by my friend and work associate Ajoy Mathew, a successful capitol city attorney with a discerning palate and twenty years of DC eating experience. His restaurant choices are based on his search for the perfect ambience and an inventive chef. I’ve listed his five choices below and provided some information to help you plan a night of romance and intrigue around Washington DC.
1. Central Michel Richard
This American bistro with a French Twist is the recipient of the 2008 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in D.C. Central (pronounced Cen-trahl) is the newest locale for Washington insiders but the environment is anything but stuffy. Todd Kilman on Washingtonian.com put it this way “With its endless blond wood, clean lines, and air of casual brilliance, Central puts you in mind of the sort of late-night New York haunts that make going out to eat seem like the most interesting thing you can do in the city. Five blocks from the White House, you’d swear you were in the heart of SoHo.” Share Michel’s charcuterie tower with meats and cheeses for two, or the gruyere topped French onion soup, the lobster burger or fried chicken and mashed potato. Plenty of fresh vegetarian options as well.
Located at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. For more information: http://www.centralmichelrichard.com/
2. Blue Duck Tavern
“A table in the softly lit inner sanctum is like an orchestra seat on a cooking show,” declares Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post about his experience here. The contemporary rustic combination of strong wood chairs, large open windows and blue burlap walls is on par with the farm fresh American fare served. The Chefs of this restaurant show pride in the artisanal ingredients used in their dishes by giving credit to the regions that contributed to each dish on their menu. Try the wood fired hangar steak from Iowa, or Casserole of Asparagus, Morel Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and Heirloom Grits from Pipe Dreams Farm in Pennsylvania, jumbo lump crabcakes from Louisiana or Ahi tuna from Maine. So many choices, so little room in the belly.
Located in the West End inside the Park Hyatt at 1201 24th Street, NW.
For more info: http://www.blueducktavern.com
3. Bombay Club
“Relaxed elegance” is how Bombay Club bills the dining atmosphere on their website. This is a sophisticated choice for Indian fare. Crispy arugula spinach, Mango Fish Tikka, and Chili Chicken chops are tempting. Or try one of their Thalis, a selection of popular dishes for you to sample from their exotic menu. Those well versed in Indian Cuisine and beginners alike should find comfort in the cuisine selection. Located near the White House, the Bombay Club has entertained the palates of former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, Nelson Mandela, and special guest Dr. Deepak Chopra. Add your name to that guest list.
Located on Lafayette Square near the White House at 815 Connecticut Ave. NW.
For more info: http://www.bombayclubdc.com/
4. Mie N Yu
Described by the Washington Post as “one of the most ornate and innovative spaces in town,” Mie en Yu is an East meets West venture with rich red and gold tapestries, a giant birdcage in the dining area and a happening lounge. Chef Tim Miller uses only fresh local meats and produce for his menu. Food selections range from chorizo stuffed dates to lacquered duck tacos to green tea steak coupled with a fantastic list of specialty martinis and exotic drink concoctions. With the “after work” menu starting at $3 per selection and super drink specials, this may be a fine place to hit for happy hour.
Located in Georgetown at 3125 M Street, NW. For more info: http://www.mienyu.com/
5. Oya Restaurant & Lounge (pictured above)
They call it Oya. I call it Oh Yea. This place is stunning in décor combining opposites for dramatic results in warm and cozy environs. Masculine white marble and swaths of red roses, ivory cushions and steel chain curtains, fire burning behind glass and a waterfall wall all result in an ambient collection of awe. The colors and textures are smooth, sexy and alive together and the menu is no different. Swimming with delightful small plates to share such as braised short ribs, crab cob salad, Chilean sea bass, parmesan flan and chicken pot pie. And designer sushi rolls too. A feast for all the senses.
Located in Chinatown at 777 9th St. NW. For more info: http://www.oyadc.com/
For more information on romantic DC: Top 10 Romantic Walks
For more articles on restaurants in DC: DC Restaurant Examiner
Comments on any of the restaurants above are always welcome.