Do you want to win $100 toward your dream dinner at Palena? We thought so! Read on....
Palena is James Beard Award-winning chef Frank Ruta's homage to "cucina genuina" or genuine cooking. The Cleveland Park restaurant is really 3 spaces in one: 1) the Dining Room (fine dining prix fixe menu); 2) Palena Cafe (more casual a la carte experience); and 3) the Market (featuring imported and artisanal products used in the restaurant, as well as coffee, and ready-to-eat sweets and savories).
The folks at CityEats recently gave us $50 toward our meal in the Dining Room at Palena. I logged on to CityEats to make our reservation and check out the menu. Palena requires a credit card to confirm the reservation and charges a no-show fee if you don't cancel your reservation 24 hours prior, so make sure you either stick to it or cancel!
When we arrived for our 8:00 p.m. weeknight reservation, the bar and Cafe area were bustling, but the Dining Room was quiet and sufficiently walled off from the noise next door. The Dining Room has two menu options:
- $75 menu where you select 3 courses from about a dozen options and get to choose a dessert from a list of a half dozen choices; and
- $95 set menu of 5 courses plus dessert. You get the five courses and dessert listed on the menu and you can't substitute things from the 3 course menu to mix and match (we heard a fellow diner ask if he could).
For maximum flexibility we ordered from the 3 course + dessert menu. I had the Fall Salad (butternut squash, mushrooms, greens, cheese); medley of mushrooms (mushrooms, polenta, cheese in a rich tomato sauce); duck breast (with juniper sauce); and the dark chocolate torte. B had the consomme (oxtail broth, mushrooms, vegetables); lobster roe saffron pasta; cod (which he pronounced perfectly cooked but too salty); and a pear dessert.
With the addition of complimentary items including two amuse bouche, a bread basket, a pre-dessert sorbet, and a selection of sweets with the check, Palena put us into a completely blissful food coma.
Second Thoughts From B
It was certainly a treat to be able to take advantage of CityEats' generous offer at one of the few places that remained on our DC bucket list. At the same time, it is a challenge to provide an unbiased description of our experience. If we're too complimentary, then people will think we were bought out. Too harsh and we must be over compensating...
As I sat there enjoying the refined atmosphere and thoughtfully constructed plates of food, I debated how I would characterize my experience. I apologize to our non-sports loving readers out there but in my mind, Palena seems to be a "professional hitter." Let me explain.
The title of professional hitter is given to a player who goes to bat with a plan and executes it well. He knows his strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the other team. He thinks about the game situation (outs, runners on base, inning, score, etc.) and determines the best approach. Even if he fails, he makes the other team work during his at bat.
While it may seem that being a "professional hitter" is high praise, it is also somewhat of a backhanded compliment. Professional hitters sacrifice bunt, allow a runner to steal, hit the ball to the opposite field, or hit a scoring fly ball. Superstars don't need to do that. They just hit homeruns.
On this night, I don't think Palena was a homerun. A month from now, I don't know that I'll remember anything in particular about my meal with the possible exception of the pear dessert. It was, however, a lovely evening of good food and excellent service that provided the perfect mid-week escape.
$100 to Palena can be yours!
Now that you've had a chance to check out our thoughts on Palena, it's your chance to win your dream dinner in the Dining Room. Check out the menu on CityEats here and leave a comment on this post or tweet us (@twodc) by 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, October 23rd a description of what you would order at Palena. We'll choose a winner and announce it on TwoDC next week! CityEats will give our lucky winner $100 credit toward their meal in the Dining Room (listed as Palena Fine Dining on the CityEats site).