Zola

Unfortunately this post comes without pictures. Such are the perils of going out to eat with a group of people, rather than just me and Jay. I’ll just try to be extra descriptive.

I decided to go to Zola for a celebration dinner after passing the bar exam. I actually made reservations before I found out about the results, which granted was a little presumptuous, but luckily for me (and Jay for not having to deal with me after bad results) the results were good and I was admitted to the Virginia State Bar. My friend Jonathan was in town, and my Georgetown friends Suzie and Katie also joined us.

Zola is a swanky and sexy bar and restaurant, with low lighting and red, black, and wood accents. Located in Penn Quarter next to the Spy Museum, it’s also in a good location if you’re looking to go to other places after dinner. The restaurant has a theater menu, in case you’re in a rush to catch a show, but given the fact that Jay and I never do anything entertaining except have really good meals, I didn’t scrutinize the theater options.

Jonathan, Jay and I got to Zola early, so we hung out in the bar for a little while. I decided to have champagne (the real stuff), given the fact that I was celebrating, and I was pleasantly surprised when I received a very tall and very big flute, full of deep and fruity bubbles. I also got a complement on my new dress the second I took my coat off, which for any girl is a present all in itself.

We were seated in what I will deem the group seating area, close to the “door” leading to the bathroom. The door itself is what Jonathan described as “a broken tooth waiting to happen”: wide with a bar in the middle which the whole door swung around, it kind of just spun around on itself; by pushing on the right side, the left side swung out. Not a very good description, and maybe it had to do with the proximity to the spy museum. When you’re not sober, it’s a little confusing.

Anyway, we were sequestered in the group dining area, next to a large party that took up a long table. Our waiter was quick to take our drink orders once we sat down, and was helpful in choosing items off the menu, but other than that he was pretty inattentive. I had to flag him down to order another glass of wine at one point, which he should have noticed given the fact that he was hovering so close to the other table. Oh wells.

The menu was pretty bold and adventurous, and after the champagne I was having a hard time actually reading all of the small-printed details listed under the names of each of the dishes. After deciding on a few options, our waiter recommended my ultimate choices. He was very emphatic about them, so I took him on his word.

To start out, I had the lobster cake, which was more like a lobster souffle. I forget what kind of jam accompanied it, but it was exquisite and a little spicy, which cut the buttery-ness of the lobster. For my main course I chose the veal cheeks, which were topped with some kind of ravioli–I’m thinking it was tomato. The cheeks were incredibly tender and needed no knife to cut them with. The ravioli filling was rich and creamy, but also sweet, and added a kind of sharp lightness to the greasy cheeks. For dessert, I had a new item on the menu, the caramel tart with banana ice cream, topped with a thin and buttery cookie that dissentigrated when I took a bite. Rich and velvety, the tart itself paired well with the ice cream. Although I liked the cookie that came on top of the dessert, I think it was just a touch too fragile.

All in all, it was a fun celebration meal, with good food, good wine, and good friends. Good service? Not so much, although I definitely want to return again with just me and Jay for a nice date night. The menu offers so many different and individual meals that it’s the kind of place that you want to go back to, if only to try everything they offer. The food was actually better than expected: I thought we would get more show and less flavor, and that the restuarant itself would be infected with a kind of touristy quality that always leads to lower quality (despite high prices, see West End Bistro), but the food was absolutely exceptional. Hopefully next time we will get a better waiter.

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