Famoso: Restaurant Review

Famoso Restaurant and Lounge
The Collection at Chevy Chase
5471 Wisconsin Ave.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Jay and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary on June 3, but certain circumstances like studying for the bar and living in separate cities prevented us from celebrating until recently. Luckily, we have some amazing parents who provided us with the funds for our anniversary dinner. Jim and Nancy, this post is for you!

I chose Famoso for our anniversary dinner for kind of a variety of reasons, but all of them amorphous and hard to define. A family friend showed me the restaurant after we ate at M Cafe just downstairs, and I wias initially struck by the interior design. Modern yet elegant, housing both updated wood paneling and accents as well as modern art, coupled with white and clean tabletops. The restaurant is also located on the “Rodeo Drive of DC” (technically Maryland), sharing the same building space with Max Mara and housed next to Gucci and Louis Vitton. I mean, how can you go wrong when you’re surrounded by so many fab designers?

Our reservation was for 9pm, our new favorite dining time, and the restaurant wasn’t exactly empty, but was less populated than I expected. When I initially sat down, I felt kind of like a little kid playing in the grown up section. This is in spite of the fact that I consider myself to have decent taste and an elevated pallete. Maybe it was the stand-offish nature of our European waiter? I don’t know what it was, but this was the most nervous I have ever been before eating at a restaurant.

The initial apprehension and concern at what I perceived as “stuffiness” didn’t last long, however. After a specialty cocktail that contained absolutely no hints of alcohol, and some absolutely fabulous and intensely buttery foccacia bread dipped in olive oil and crushed tomatoes, I started to warm up to the place. The impecible service definitely didn’t hurt. I think that by the end of the dinner we had at least 5 different people wait on our table at different times, and by the end of the meal I remember telling Jay “I LOVE the manager!” about every 2 minutes. This is the kind of service that is clearly well-trained and well-practiced, and is certainly some of the best in the city.

To start off our marathon meal (you’ll see what I mean), Jay and I split the calamari, which was cooked on parchment paper and paired with sundried tomatoes and green beans.

Frankly, this is the best calamari I’ve ever had. I’ll just list the differences: (1) as you can see from the picture, the calamari wasn’t cut into rings like you normally see, but instead was served as untouched tubes (that’s probably not the precise term, but you know what I mean), (2) the calamari was baked rather than fried, which frankly I am just tired of, which produced (3) a perfect texture, firm yet not chewy or tough; (4) the flavor was exceptionally light and delicious, with the perfection of the dish coming from its simpliciy; it simply sang with a light lemon and olive oil flavor.

After the calamari, Jay and I each had out own salad. Jay chose a version of the ceasar (“It’s pretty hard to mess up,” according to Jay), while I chose a mesculin mix topped with sliced mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, shaved pecorino, and accompanied by a drizzle of basalmic vinegar.

Salads are pretty hard to screw up, which means it’s also hard to make them remarkable. Nevertheless, it was a good, clean salad. The cheese was fantastic, and the balsamic was very high quality, having an almost syrup-like consistency.

Even though Jay and I had both decided on meat entres, we couldn’t come to a high-class Italian restaurant without getting some pasta, so we split a pasta of penne, pancetta, and onion in a basil sauce.

The pasta was hot and fresh from the oven, and the flavor was full yet fresh. The penne was perfectly cooked and the entire dish was very comforting. As a nice touch, the wait staff split the dish into two separate dishes for the two of us, without either of us having to ask for it.

The menu for Famoso is very extensive, so it was hard for me to actually settle on an entre choice, but I decided to go with a classic, the veal ossobuco. Jay chose the cornish game hens, pictured below.

I didn’t take a picture of my entre because it wasn’t very remarkable visually (see, however, the last picture of both Jay and me, and you can see it). At Famoso, you’re not necessarily going to get a modern or inventive presentation, but the thing is is that you don’t have to, the food speaks for itself. This truly is the kind of Italian food that you would get from an Italian grandmother, at least one with a big budget and lots of time on her hands. My veal was incredibly tender and didn’t even require a knife, and the risoto that accompanied the veal was creamy without being overly rich. The sauce covering the veal was deep and very flavorful, and the peas were even tasty (I HATE peas). My favorite part? The bone marrow, which was thick and pudding-like and absolutely delicious. If you have never had bone marrow, you’re really missing out. If you ever want to try it, get it here in the veal. I think I ate all of the veal, fat and all, because it was all so tender and juicy and delicious. Jay’s game hens were perfectly cooked, juicy and not at all dried out, and it had an interesting and subtle flavor without being too gamey.

Finally, dessert. Everything looked so good, so I solicited recommendations both from our waiter (apple struedal) and the manager (who I was in love with at this point, and he recommended the pears poached in saffron sauce as well as the molten chocolate cake). Because the manager had earned many points throughout the meal by being very attentive and approachable without being too talkative, and because Jay was already getting the molten chocolate cake, I went with the pears poached in safron cream, topped with dollops of ice cream.

Considering the amount of food I had eaten up to this point, my desset was perfectly sized. I’ve never tasted poached pears like these. They were both light and deep, sugary and sweet yet well balanced without going overboard. The presentation was clean and modern, much like the restaurant itself. Needless to say, I ate absolutely all of it, prompting our waiter to say when he took the plates away, “So you didn’t like it?” I think at this point he had warmed up to us. Jay’s dessert was rich and chocolatey without being overly dark, and the molten chocolate sauce spilling out of the cake was perfect for drudging fresh fruit through. I’ve had lots of versions of this cake, and frankly I’ve gotten pretty bored of them, but this one was excellent and maintained a certain lightness that kept it from becoming inedible.

I forgot to mention our wine. Although I never actually saw the winelist (Jay did all the ordering, my cocktail kicked my ass and I couldn’t really focus on wine), Jay said it was pretty extensive. We chose an $80 supertuscan, a type of wine that I had tried before but often thought was a little too full bodied for dinner. This one was a perfect balance of fullness and lightness, with very slight tanins, and it paired perfectly with our spicey dishes. After the entres and before dessert Jay and I each had a glass of the Savignon, which was light and crisp without being too expressive or powerful.

Famoso is truly one of the best restaurants I’ve ever visted and has definitely made it to the favorite restaurants in DC list. It’s got everything going for it: atmosphere (a live Jazz band played in the lounge area throughout our meal), service, and food. There’s no way you can say that this restaurant is cheap, but given everything that we ate and drank, it wasn’t overly expensive. Finally, a fine restaurant where you actually get what you pay for. I was pleasantly surprised that our waiter eventually warmed up to us, and that my initial apprehension disappeared. By the time we left, I felt like absolute royalty after the treatment we received from the staff. This is also a place that I have to go to again, if only to try all of the exceptional-looking dishes on the menu list. I highly recommend Famoso for a nice date night or celebration dinner. I wouldn’t expect a rowdy birthday song or anything like that. but the staff both gives you your own space and privacy while also being highly attentive. And even though our dinner was long and extended, I never found myself checking my watch or thinking that it was taking too long for a course to come out of the kitchen. Jay and I finally got a chance to laugh, talk, and have a good time with each other, without worrying about whether our food would be good or whether the waiter would remember something. Famoso comes as close to perfection as a restaurant can.


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October 2008
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All posts and images copyright 2008 & 2009 Jenny Robertson, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Any use of images without prior written consent is prohibited.
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