Saved by Indique ($1.79)

This is about restaurants. Over the past few months, we have eaten out less often that our norm. I’m not sure why – perhaps the weather, perhaps to save a little money. Who knows? Perhaps it is because restaurants (or is it food) have seemed less interesting,

This week, however, we reverted to past practice, and I ate a number of meals in restaurants, mostly in restaurants that we have previously enjoyed. And the experience wasn’t the greatest.

For example, last weekend, we stopped by at Bethesda’s Shangri La, a relatively new Nepalese restaurant where we had enjoyed a meal shortly after they opened. We thought we had discovered a new hit restaurant. This time, ordering a Nepalese chicken curry and some vegetarian dishes, we were mildly disappointed. The food was fine, just fine. But it wasn’t spectacular and, although I would guess we will try it one more time, we probably would not go back, had we not had such a good meal the first time we were there.

This past week, we ate at two of my favorite restaurants in Washington itself. It was restaurant week in Washington, which means that participating restaurants (and there are many) offer three course lunches and dinners for $20 and $35 respectively. Tuesday night we went with friends to Le Chat Noir, our neighborhood upscale French restaurant, for probably the fourth time in the past year. Each of the other times, the food had been wonderful. This time, again the food was good, and probably worth the $35 per person. But again, it wasn’t spectacular. I had a salad with some spicy chicken on top as an appetizer, a cassoulet as the main course, and (believe it or not) I have already forgotten what I had for dessert. I probably ordered wrong – the meal was too heavy for me, and the cassoulet, although tasty, probably had too much salt, and other things I should try to avoid. Again, I am sure we will go back to Le Chat Noir, but not an additional time if the next time doesn’t match our previous experience.

I have to add one thing, however, in the restaurants’ favor: I received an email from Le Chat today saying that on Thursday they are having a pay-what-you-want three meal dinner, with all the proceeds going to two prominent charities operating in Haiti. I hope they do very well that night.

Last night, still restaurant week, we went with friends to another Indian restaurant, Indique on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park. It was excellent, and made me think that I had not stopped appreciating good food out, that I just hadn’t found it recently.

It was interesting that, while Le Chat Noir kept its regular menu for restaurant week (you could order any appetizer, any entree, any dessert), Indique had a special menu. I had a spicy lamb appetizer and a fish stew for my main course, while everyone else had a vegetarian meal, and we all shared. Because vegetarian food is normally less expensive to prepare, and because the Restaurant Week price was fixed, they permitted you to get two entrees if you ordered vegetarian. So, for the four of us, we had four appetizers and seven entrees, along with dessert. And we each got a glass of wine. Could not have been better.

I should also add that I had an excellent lunch (salmon, green beans, potatoes) at the Iron Gate Inn, on N Street, one day last week with a friend. Talk about a place where the food is consistently good – this is it, although I don’t think I ever have gone there for supper. I also had a nice flat bread (with tomato, feta, spinach and carmelized onion) and a small Caesar salad at the National Gallery one day, which was light and just right. And I had a chicken/cranberry wrap (I don’t like wraps, so I just eat the innards) and a mango/papaya smoothie at Robeks – which was only so-so (but that’s all I expected), and only cost me about $6.50. I could figure out why it was that price – it seemed to me that the wrap was $5 and the smoothie close to $4, but I was assured that $6.50 was correct. So for the price…….

We will see what this week brings – maybe we should go back to Le Chat Noir and give a boost to Haitian relief at the same time. We shall see.

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