I was looking forward to a lunch out with the gals – and fellow foodies from work.
The Oval Room
The Oval Room looked nothing like I thought it would look. I suppose I was picturing something like The Caucus Room, Vidalia, or even Olives, but instead found a pleasantly lit, abstract art-filled dining room split by a frosted glass bar and hostess desk. It felt a little sterile and pedestrian, especially with the flatscreen television forced above the bar.
If there’s something you need for a downtown Washington lunch, it’s speed and precision. But much like the current state of the real Oval Room across the street, things moved slowly, inprecisely, and with no seeming understanding that people have work to do back in the real world.
Our table was not ready when we arrived for our 1 p.m. reservation, so we told we could wait at the bar. After a trip to the ladies’ room and some small talk among ourselves, I asked the bartender for the wine list. (It was for medicinal purposes – I’ve had a cough) After 5 – 10 minutes, no one offered to take my drink order, however a host (manager?) stopped by to take our coats.
When we were seated I immediately told our server I wanted a glass of wine (Malbec Reserva, $10 and not very good – I was surprised it was a reserve) and my colleague metioned we were in a slight rush because we were seated 20 minutes late and needed to be out within an hour. He brought our water and my glass of wine and we placed our order. Because it’s Restaurant Week, all three courses have to be ordered at once, presumably to move people through more quickly.
Fifteen minues later we flagged down another server because ours was nowhere to be seen. He asked what we needed, and another colleague replied, “Our first course.” After that, that server took the time to also check on us periodically. We also spoke with a manager to reiterate needing to be out within an hour after being seated.
Our desserts were brought and placed on the table before the plates from our entrees were removed, and the check dropped off at the same time. In the end we made it out on time, but were rushed in order to do it.
I’ve read excellent things about The Oval Room and was really excited to try it. The Restaurant Week Menu was done well, and I was torn between something in every course.
For my first course, I had the scallops.
They were fine – a little salty, but I liked the crunch of the toast croutons. Julia’s celery root soup was far superior, though, and may have been the best dish of the meal.
My entree was the red wine braised short ribs with a parsnip puree.
It was also just in the fine category – a little fatty and pretty bland. It reminded me very much of cafeteria pot roast.
For our rushed dessert, we all ordered the same thing: a Meyer lemon buttermilk cake with honey cinammon ice cream.
I was especially excited to try this because I make a buttermilk pie myself and the consistancy always turns out a bit like a chess pie, and I wanted to see if their’s would too. Instead, it was a little dry (although great with the lemon) and the ice cream bland.
I was disappointed in my experience with The Oval Room, but will gladly give it another shot in hopes that my lunch was a fluke.