07 September 2007

Restaurant Review: Dino

Finally getting around to reporting on our last "Restaurant Week" experiment: Dino, in Cleveland Park. There's a lot of buzz about this place in food circles and in wine circles and I can see why.

Ambiance: 20/30. The place is great if you want to sit outside and watch the world go by. If you want to sit inside, be prepared for a more than "cozy" (in real estate terms) experience. The downstairs space is a very small dining room with tiny tables and the waitstaff is constantly whizzing by, making me snatch in my large menu from the edge of the table more than once for fear that someone would bump it and everything would go flying. There are a few Italian or Italian-looking touches (Venetian (?) glass lights, tapestries, etc.) and the general atmosphere is casual.

Service: 22/30. To their credit, the servers did not knock into any tables or each other, which is nothing short of miraculous. The water pourer was a bit over-zealous, interrupting an intimate conversation with his pitcher, but that was the only nit. The waiter was knowledgeable about the course options and the wine. Plus the owner was there, making the rounds, and confirmed his suggestions for wine pairings. Food came out promptly and attractively and all suggestions were on target.

Food: 25/30. Good stuff! Italian fare the genuine Italian way. Quality ingredients chosen and flown in are the main feature here. So it's hard to go wrong, but I've seen some chefs muck it up anyway. This chef is quite good. The combinations are well-worked without being overwrought. The food is plentiful without being ridiculous quantities. I had a wonderfully light and tasty mixed green salad, the wahu which was grilled to perfection and served with couscous, and marvelous cheeses. Hubby had the stuffed squash blossoms, the sturgeon (with a wonderful sauce and veggies), and cheeses. Again, great ingredients served simply but expertly.

Vegetarian: 20/30. There are options in every course.

Cost: 20/30. Even with the $30.07 per person price for Restaurant Week/Month, we still wound up well over $100 because of all the tempting wine options. They offer 3 oz servings as well as more standard sizes and it's easy to be tempted into sampling a number of them. Regardless, we can hardly complain in that Dino gave us any appetizer, entree (except a few steaks which we weren't interested in), and either dessert or 2 cheese courses off their varied menu for that measly $30.07. And it was all quite good. Not to mention the bread basket. :) Don't despair that the Restaurant Week deal is now done. They offer Menu della Sera!
3 courses for $24 Sunday through Thursday when ordered by 7:30 pm.

Extras +2: The owner is not above clearing plates from tables or doing other things that need to be done and he's a pleasant, personable sort who clearly loves Italy. Also, the cheeses--all four that we tried--were remarkably good. And Dino is right next to a metro stop!

Overall: 22/30. This was a very good experience and worthy of the buzz. So here's a bit more...buzzzzzzzzzzz.

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