Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fiola

Fiola is Chef Fabio Trabocchi's first owned restaurant located in the heart of DC's Penn Quarter on Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 6th streets with its main entrance on Indiana Avenue.  It is a modern upscale Trattoria and uses the freshest ingredients for its daily changing lunch and dinner menus. Fiola's wine list is extensive and great variety is used to compile wines from Italy, Spain, France and the U.S.  Closest Metro is Archives.

While I had never been to Chef Trabocchi’s original restaurant, Maestro, I have always heard great things about his food and reputation, and I was very excited to try Fiola, which has been receiving rave reviews since opening last year. In fact, Fiola ranked #4 in Washingtonian's 100 Very Best Restaurants 2013.  For my birthday this year, Keith prepared in advanced and chose Fiola for us to celebrate and have dinner.

Photo via Fiola website
We were seated in the main dining room area, and I was a little taken aback by how packed the entire restaurant was for a Wednesday night.  The jovial buzz made for an interesting atmosphere, much different than the posh one I was expecting.  We first ordered a lovely Italian Trebbiano/Grechetto white wine from Umbria - “Salviano”, Classico Superiore, Orvieto 2010, and then our server explained the two menu options - a 5 or 6 course tasting menu or a la carte choices featuring many seafood highlights from the Adriatic coast where Chef Fabio is from.  We decided to order a la carte and first shared the Burrata of Buffalo Mozzarella with a salad of sardine escabeche, baby artichokes, and basil pesto, topped with a bread tuile.  They split the course for us, so we each had our own plate, which was a nice touch.  The burrata was seductively creamy and went well with the bright pesto.  The salad itself was slightly overdressed, but was still a wonderful beginning.

I was thinking of ordering a pasta dish as my main course, but Keith suggested we split a pasta as another appetizer instead.  We chose the Hand-Rolled Garganelli “Matriciana Style” with housemade Guanciale, roasted tomatoes, and Pecorino di Fossa cheese.  The tubular pasta had a perfect bite to it and the sauce was layered with flavors from the salty pork, rich cheese, and a hint of red pepper spice.  This dish was also split for us, yet still seemed like a generous portion.  I really enjoyed this pasta dish and am glad we decided to share it.

For our main courses, both Keith and I chose a fresh fish.  I settled on the Spanish Branzino with mushrooms, Fava beans, and a sweet sauce I couldn't quite decipher.  The fish was lightly grilled, minimally seasoned, and topped with crawfish, which added a different sweetness to the mix.  The fish fillet was a nice portion size, and overall the dish was very clean with umami essence from the mushrooms and beans.  Keith chose the Potato Wrapped Wild Cod stuffed with whipped Baccalà, Umbrian cicerchia, and served with razor clam gratin and charred spring onion.  The fish was well cooked and the Baccalà added a lot of flavor as did the razor clams.  All the ingredients in each of the fish courses were very complex and allowed for multiple layers of textures and tastes that could have benefited from a little restraint.

Though full, we had to splurge on dessert.  It was my actual birthday after all.  Keith chose the Bomboloni - Sardinian ricotta doughnuts served with a potent espresso gelato.  The donuts were light and warm, and wonderful with a simple sugar coating.  They paired well with the strong coffee gelato.  I ordered the Vanilla Panna Cotta served with diced mangoes and a tart passion fruit sorbetto.  The panna cotta was expertly dense while still maintaining some jiggle and had a decadent creamy vanilla flavor.  The tropical fruit elevated this dish, and made me smile with each spoonful.  As is customary in some restaurants, out came a third 'birthday' dessert of chocolate mousse cake adorned with a lit candle.  But this cake came with a signed letter from Chef Fabio himself wishing me a happy birthday.  That was definitely a nice little extra touch.

The plating and presentation of dishes were a little more traditional and comforting than I expected, but was still innovative with the combination of ingredients used.  Service was very attentive, almost pampering.  To end, we were treated to a glass of dessert wine - Maculan Torcolato, which means "twisted" as this sweet wine is made from grapes that are hung in twisted cheese cloth.  All in all, we had a great meal and rolled out of Fiola fat and happy from all the Italian food and wine.

Total Rating: 4.38
Food: 4.5, Price: 4, Service: 4.5, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Burrata of Buffalo Mozzarella
Sardine Escabeche, Baby Artichokes, Basil Pesto, Bread Tuile
  
Hand-Rolled Garganelli
Housemade Guanciale, Roasted Tomatoes, Pecorino di Fossa Cheese, “Matriciana Style”

Spanish Branzino
mushrooms, Fava beans, crawfish

Vanilla Panna Cotta
mangoes, passion fruit sorbetto

Plus Keith ate:
Potato Wrapped Wild Cod
Whipped Baccalà, Umbrian Cicerchia, Razor Clam Gratin, Charred Spring Onion

Bomboloni
Sardinian Ricotta Doughnuts, Espresso Gelato

Fiola on Urbanspoon

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