Our experience at Tosca redeemed my faith in the potential of Restaurant Week. When a restaurant does it right, Restaurant Week can be a great deal. So what did Tosca do right? First, they offered choices from their entire menu instead of some piddly little Restaurant Week menu with the cheapest items on it. Second, the service was efficient yet attentive, and the servers did not look down their noses at us or make us feel like riff raff that had been dragged off the street. Third, the food was outstanding top to bottom.
For the first course, you could select either an appetizer (7 choices) or a pasta (7 choices). B chose the black ink tagliatelle with jumbo lump crab meat ragu, artichokes and roasted garlic and was in pasta heaven. Perfectly al dente pasta paired with lump crab (that was as advertised: jumbo), equaled one of the best pasta dishes we've had in these parts.
Saving the pasta for my main course, I choose the prosciutto di parma with burrata cheese, marcona almonds, and pearl onions. This dish is a prime example of what happens when you take top-notch ingredients, put them together, and get out of their way. Silky, salty, savory perfection. Oh, and by the way, have you ever seen such big Restaurant Week appetizer portions?
Each day, Tosca features different grilled fish served with seasonal vegetables. B's eyes lit up when our waiter announced that they were offering a simply grilled salmon and his eyes rolled back in his head when he tasted this fish. Tosca's chef offered the antidote for the epidemic of overcookedfishitis that has been spreading like wildfire.
There are very few things I love more than noodles. While I'm an equal opportunity noodle eater, I have a special crush on wide noodles. Call me a chubby noodle chaser, if you will. When I saw pappardelle on the menu, I squealed. (Don't worry, it was a quiet, restaurant-appropriate squeal.) However, when I saw that the pappardelle was served with a rabbit ragu, I had a momentary crisis of conscience.
You see, when B was getting his PhD, he did super important research that was completely beyond my level of comprehension. Because I rarely understood any of the words he used when describing his research, I tended to focus in on those few words I knew. So, when B came home one day and said he was working with rabbit proteins, I was intrigued and proceeded to ask way too many questions about how he procured his vial of rabbit proteins and whether the rabbits have names and babies and whether he sings to them. (B says: The answer is that I never dealt with rabbits, just a tiny vial of clear liquid that had proteins from rabbit muscle in it)
So while I eat all kinds of animals, I have some weird soft spot for rabbits. At Tosca, my love of wide noodles won out over my love for rabbits, and I went for it. My dear, sweet rabbits, you made a really tasty ragu.
After such an incredible start, we were primed for a dessert course letdown. What restaurant doesn't serve a flourless chocolate cake? Snooze. However, we were happily proven wrong by Tosca's version with warm Nutella sauce and hazelnut gelato. I had to wrestle it away from B so I could taste it. And B doesn't even really like chocolate all that much!
My rice pudding with pineapple compote and coconut crumble was similarly epic. The coconut crumble added an interesting crunch and, when paired with the pineapple compote, reminded me of pina coladas served on white sand beaches.
I'm already planning our return trip to Tosca. Lucky for us, they have a $35 pre-theater menu that we can enjoy long after Restaurant Week is over.
Second Thoughts From B
The perfect Restaurant Week experience can be summarized thusly (I really just wanted an excuse to use "thusly"): That was a great meal that I'd happily to pay full price for.
Hear that DC restaurants? See how easy it is to grab another loyal customer? Just put aside the attitude and serve up the same good food you normally do. Simple, right?
Not all of us are VIPs that require the care and anxiety of a Top Chef judge's table. We get that. It's not like I'm the senior-most Supreme Court Justice or the mayor of the country's second largest city (both made appearances at Tosca while we were there). But we also don't need to be reminded that we are not the restaurant's top priority.
So kudos to Tosca's chefs but also to their service staff. In our eyes, you've won this edition of Restaurant Wars.