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Cafe Atlantico, Modern Latino Cooking at 8th and D Street in Penn Quarter - Closed

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I was going to post this a week ago, but for some reason couldn't...but here it goes anyway.

How good is Cafe Atlantico's pre-theater prix fixe deal? I'll give you a hint. Really really good. And a steal, at that - $25 per person including entrees that run to slightly less than that on the regular menu.

We started off the meal with the "Magic Mojito" which was pretty amazing - cotton candy in a martini glass, with mojito poured over it. Besides being, well, kinda cool - it was probably the best mojito I've ever had. I had already had Cafe Atlantico's mojitos, but I think I preferred this one because it didn't have ice in it, which kept it from inevitably getting watered down, as the other ones do (though I suck mine down so fast it doesn't get watered down for long). After we finished that, we followed up with a glass of Riesling each.

Followed up with foie gras and melon balls - this was a great combo, and also very fun to eat together over toast. The entree was a really excellent duck confit, with perfect sugary crispy yummy skin. biggrin.gif And as a finale, their molten chocolate cake, which was good, though pretty typical for that dessert.

All in all, a good dinner with considerable savings. I'm definitely itching to go back and try the other options on the menu...especially the guac!!

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We started off the meal with the "Magic Mojito" which was pretty amazing - cotton candy in a martini glass, with mojito poured over it. Besides being, well, kinda cool - it was probably the best mojito I've ever had.

Yeah, that sounds pretty cool. I have to hand it to Chef Jose and his beverage people: they have good 'bar gimmicks' that actually add to the drink, rather than just be for novelty's sake. See also: salt air.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Tonight was Café Atlantico, followed by a terrific dessert, followed by a late-night check-in at Rumba Café (perhaps more on the fine Rumba Café in an upcoming post).

The guacamole at Atlantico is the best I've had in Washington, the conch fritters (discussed earlier in this thread) are as good as you could possibly imagine, the scallops in a coconut crispy rice with ginger squid and squid-ink oil were disappointing, the scallops being overcooked and the sauce being too monolithic and dull, the foie gras in Torrontes with brioche is quite good but not special, the marinated quail with mango/anchovy raviolis and balsamic reduction is superb, and an incredible value at nine dollars. All dishes ordered as small plates, and I'm reminded once again what a terrific place this is to catch an early dinner at the bar.

The wine program is one of the best in Washington, but has a fatal flaw. Francisco Astudillo is a talented young sommelier who has assembled the single most interesting list of South American wines I have ever seen. Witness: 37 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons, 16 Argentine Cabernet Sauvignons, 27 Argentine Malbecs, not to mention 30 sparkling wines (most of them Champagne including interesting pulls such as the LaSalle Chigny-Les-Roses Premier Cru for sixty dollars. Then there are the wines by the glass: 18 different varietals offered, almost all of them having at least two selections apiece - even unusual stuff by the glass such as Godello, Tokai-Furmint, Verdehlo, Torrontes, a German Pinot Gris. Nothing by the glass is priced at more than $10.00 - it's a fabulous by-the-glass list accompanying an interesting list in general, and the sommelier is engaging, knowledgable and eager to please, so what's the fatal flaw?

Well, you'll just have to read the next thread, because in this one, I'm not going to say anything but praise about Café Atlantico, so there!

Cheers,

Rocks!, but still....

[p.s. the fatal flaw was that the red wines were served too warm, but that problem is so widespread that it doesn't seem fair to single out Cafe Atlantico. Plus their mojitos are so good that they can cause a genetic mutation.]

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And for those of you who want to do brunch but are tired of standing in line for the privilege of eating two eggs, please consider Latin dim sum brunch at Cafe Atlantico.

It's never crowded. It's innovative. It's a good thing for impressing out of town relatives and friends or dates who are on the innocent side. It's a feast of gastronomic diversity for the same, what, $25? I guarantee that every other dish, when you put it in your mouth, will make you go, hmmm....awwwww....yum! Honorable mention goes to anchovy/mango ravioli and CA's own twist on the French toast.

Honestly, it's good enough to make your insufferable brunch companions not matter. And if it's someone you like, you'll have much more fun spoon-feeding them these beauties (during which you can raise your eyebrows and smile knowingly as your companion grows still...swallows and moans...see, I told you...didn't I tell you....listen to pumpkin) than trade back and forth dripping forks of your eggs over easy.

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And even if you're too shy to just about do it at the table like Nadya, a couple of Atlantico's killer mojitos with brunch will definitely put you in the mood for a little lie-down when you get home! :lol:

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Stretch, you silly sod.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, write steamy posts about it on a foodie forum.

Edited by Nadya

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When handed my check last night at the bar at Jaleo, there was a booklet tucked in there announcing some events at Atlantico to celebrate its 15th anniversary in June.

Tuesday, June 7 Cata de Vinos, a South American wine tasting. No menu was listed (although I've emailed them to ask.) $120 pp inclusive.

Wednesday, June 15 Almaviva Wine Dinner. with winemaker Tod Victor Mostero. Menu prepared by Jose Andres and Katsuya Fukushima. Regalitos - Mojito soda - Carrot pisco sour, Oysters with pea puree, pea sprouts, snow peas, candied lemon mint, Tomato-Watermelon "Gazpacho", Chicken Caesar salad, "Steak and Eggs", Tres Leches 3 Ways. $125 pp inclusive.

Saturday, June 25 Art Auction and Dim Sum Celebration, featuring works by Latin American artists. Special dim sum brunch and cocktail party follows the auction. No price listed.

Monday, June 27 Dinner with Jose and friends. Guest chefs, Douglas Rodriguez, Ola, Miami and Guillermo Pernot, Pasion, Philadelphia. $150 pp inclusive.

I know I'd want to see more info on these before I would consider shelling out the $.

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I had lunch there last week, and the kitchen was doing an amazing job with seafood dishes under the able leadership of Katsuya Fukushima. Among other things, the scallop in a coconut crispy rice with ginger squid and squid-ink oil was great this time around, and the red snapper Veracruz "con Aguacate" was the best version of this dish I've had in all of Washington.

On another recent visit to the bar, the tres leches reminded me of just how refreshing and invigorating a dessert can be - even if you're feeling like a pudgy ball of sodium after an arduous weekend of scarfing barbeque and nachos in front of the tube, and you think you couldn't possibly enjoy a dessert for at least another month, you should still go to Cafe Atlantico and order the tres leches.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I am going to have to try this place again. The last time I went was during restaurant week and it was not that great. The choices that you were limited to must not have been representative of the rest of the menu.

I have a reservation for the minibar later next month and I can't wait to see how much it has changed in a year.

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I had brunch there on Saturday, and it was delicious. Unfortunately, we were too later for the tasting menu, but we had several very nice appetizers (too many mojitos to recall exactly which however).

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When handed my check last night at the bar at Jaleo, there was a booklet tucked in there announcing some events at Atlantico to celebrate its 15th anniversary in June.

Tuesday, June 7  Cata de Vinos, a South American wine tasting.  No menu was listed (although I've emailed them to ask.)  $120 pp inclusive.

FYI, just as a point of restaurant sloppiness, I've not yet received a response to my email requesting more information.

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A phone call will probably be much more effective.

Probably, but they shouldn't offer an email contact if they're not going to use it, and I'd rather get the info emailed to me so I can forward to others without having to transcribe. I guess laziness rules on my end too! ;) But I'm not running a business. :lol:

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Anyone aspiring to the claim of gastronomical expertise, man-about-town-ness, and simply rocking good time - next time you are in the mood for brunch, please abandon steak and eggs. Flip eggs Benedict a well-trained finger. Leave pancakes to lovers of elastic waists.

Instead, head downtown to Latin dim sum brunch at Cafe Atlantico, simply the most sophisticated, refreshing and different gig in town. Not only you will get your Sunday kick-started with great food as opposed to "old, nasty odds and ends" (ref. A. Bourdain, p. xxxx). It will also lend you a reputation of someone "who really know how to live well in Washington."

Share the bites of gorgeous food that comes in sizes just enough for two tastings. Get giddy on fruity cocktails. Is there a worthier calling? I don't think so.

So, this Sunday morning. Cafe Atlantico. Me and a similarly inclined friend. These were the choices:

Duck confit with passion fruit oil. This is a little sister of a dish one gets at dinner. Although three times smaller, it retains the goodness of fatty, fork-tender duck flesh sliding off the bone at the gentlest prod of the said fork.

Tuna ceviche with coconut. The spinkling of toasted corn seeds on top gives a totally unexpected twist.

Spinach with pumpkin seeds and raisins. Simple but never fails. Comes as a side dish to duck confit at dinner.

Mango anchovy raviolis. Hello, food revolution. This is the dish that you may want to use as a platform to showcase the savoir-faire of You Who Knows About Food. Ravioli shells are made of paper-thin mango slices. "What's that white thing inside??", your companion exclaims. "Honestly, darling. That's just anchovy foam. Neat, no??"

Oyster with mango-lime oil. Perfectly shucked. Warning: Mango-lime oil is fabulous, but when you lick the shell trying to get the last drop and lacerate your over-enthusiastic tongue on the rough edge of the shell, the resulting scratch may hamper your enjoyment of acidic drinks. You ARE having drinks, right? RIGHT?

Jicama–arugula rolls, quinoa, corn, pomegranate & cabrales cheese. Very nice.

Conch fritters with a liquid heart. Tastes surprisingly hearty.

Seared baby corn with corn puree.

Pan dulce with cinnamon syrup. Still miss that French toast at your skanky neighborhood brunch place? Get your fill here in a tiny, very cosmopolitan execution.

Oh I could go on and on, especially as lunchtime draws near and I contemplate my choices (SlimFast in vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. All of them, vile beyond belief.) But I always leave Cafe Atlantico with the wistful sense of "I don't come here often enough." Or "I wish I could order four more and have room for it." It's the most delicious, unusual and suave take on this most undemanding meal of the week. The way Cafe Atlantico handles it shows ingenuity, taste and the impossibly languid approach to eating well one doesn't find very often on this side of the Atlantic.

Signed,

The Rude Euro .

Edited by Nadya

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My mother flew in from Iowa yesterday, arriving at National at 11 and needing to be at Dulles by 3 PM. After careful triangulation on the metro system we determined that two--and only two--restaurants would both let us to have a lunch worthy of her exceedingly paltry expense account and allow her to catch the 5A out to Dulles: Cafe Atlantico, off of Navy-Archives, then catching the bus at L'Enfant, or Pho-75 in Virginia, catching the bus at the Rosslyn metro.

Pho-75, however, is a half a mile from the metro. We checked the weather forecast Monday night. Cafe Atlantico, then.

And a fine, fine lunch it was. My mother caught the blue line by accident, so I sipped a mint-limeade at the bar while waiting. The bar was empty save for Jose Andres himself, flipping through a magazine and looking unusually calm. I tried desperately to think of something to say to one of my culinary heros that wouldn't make me sound like a nerd at prom--but, er, I _was_ a nerd at prom, and old shyness dies hard. I silently drank and thought quiet admiring thoughts instead.

My mother finally stumbled in. She's been a fan of Cafe Atlantico since well before I moved here seven years ago, and she's not shy at all. She also, fortunately, didn't recognize Andres, so we just sat at a table under the window and I didn't whisper anything until he'd left. We split the soup, the ceviche, and an order of the day's special, soft-shell crab.

The soup was, as usual, brilliant, sweet potato with crunchy things and a dollop of crema. Whenever the weather decides to cool, I want an Atlantico-Corduroy soup cook-off. Winner gets to shout: No--

well, you know, at the loser.

Ceviche was tuna chunks under a lump of fat, soft avocado, and it was very good, though it was the soup we went dueling over for the last scrape. Soft-shell was also very nice, I think--by the time you split a soft-shell in two, though, hunks of meat have gone squirting in every direction and it's a little hard to find one with just the right crunch left. I wasn't such a fan of its warm tomato, olive, and something else base, which overpowered the faintly sweet crab--but if you pulled it out, the base was tasty when piled onto the surrounding chips.

My mother swore she was too full for dessert and I was leery of falling asleep at my desk, so we passed, though not until I'd detailed the past wonders of Mr. Klc's baba in a futile attempt to change both our minds. Instead, we metro'd down to L'Enfant plaza and bought a pint of plums from the Tuesday farmers' market to eat while waiting for the bus. They were good, but I fell asleep anyway.

Edited by babka

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Because somebody -- I think it was Capital Icebox -- asked about the brunch recently.

Ohhhh, it's good brunch. So good for parents, so good for everyone. Have some avocado-jicama ravioli that aren't really ravioli. Have the vanilla potato thing. Have whatever comes with coconut rice.

Forget what exactly the dishes are called, as I have, but remember that it's just about all delicious.

I have always wanted to get the One Of Everything deal but have never done so. Which means I definitely need to visit again.

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A cautionary note about the Deluxe Tasting Latino Dim Sum:

The food is fabulous, don’t miss the cauliflower quinoa cous cous, potato and vanilla mouse, and sweet potato soup.

However, there is more food than two people can consume comfortably. After trying the Vegetarian Tasting with three people (which was perfect), my mom and I went back to try the Deluxe Tasting. After three hours and twenty seven plates, we were feeling rather sick. The portions were much too large for two, three or four bites each, rather than one or two. We could barely bring ourselves to taste the last five or six dishes, which was a shame because everything is so good.

In short: bring friends!

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What's the price tag on brunch at Cafe Atlantico?

Click. Check out the Latino Dim Sum menu.

or see below.

dimSum.pdf

Edited by mdt

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Who needs foodtv when you can have a birds eye view of the kitchen at Cafe Atlantico? Not only was the food really good last night but the entertainment was also great! My friend and I were often transfixed by the kitchen activity.

The food:

Mojitos were great. I asked the server which one I should order and he suggested the house Mojito. It was very good but next time I am getting the Magic Mojito, it is just too pretty!

Tableside guac was so fresh and good. I don't know why I can't make it that good at home?

The conch fritters were not what I expected. They were more like stuffed hushpuppies than conch fritters. The "ravioli" were fun though, yummy avocado filling.

Two starters comprised my main course: the jicama/arugula salad and the tuna ceviche. The salad was an incredible mixture of tastes and textures. The salad was actually rather deconstructed in that what I would normally consider the base, the arugula, was actually more of a topping and that which I would consider a topping was the base, sweet corn. Not only was it incredibly fresh, I know for a fact that I could not recreate it at home. The tuna ceviche was fabulous.

My friend had the salmon. It was good too.

Overdid the desserts... tres leches AND the chocolate dessert. The chocolate cake was a bit dry but who cares it was still really good!

Can't wait to go back. Will request the same ringside table!

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Can you say more about those intriguing-sounding ravioli? Are they on the menu or were they a special?

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Can you say more about those intriguing-sounding ravioli?  Are they on the menu or were they a special?

I believe she is referring to the faux-ravioli where the "pasta" is actually thinly shaved jicama with avocado as the filling. It's been on their brunch dim sum menu (only $3.95!) for quite sometime.

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I believe she is referring to the faux-ravioli where the "pasta" is actually thinly shaved jicama with avocado as the filling.  It's been on their brunch dim sum menu (only $3.95!) for quite sometime.

Yes, that is exactly what they are! www.cafeatlantico.com has the full menu listed. Must go back for the arugla salad... yum

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Bumping the thread to remind one and all that Latin Dim Sum brunch rocks.

Try cigala (wee lobster) with vanilla oil. Try red snapper with avocado puree. Try fork-tender duck confit with skin crispy with caramelized passion fruit juice and just enough gorgeous fat. Try conch fritters. Try anything. It's all good.

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I've been to CA's Latin Dim Sum about 3 times, but not in the last year and a half... They used to bring you refills of any of the little dishes upon request. The missus and I would generally eat 3 orders of guac, at least 2 orders of duck confit, and many, many desserts. Anybody know if they still allow this? Every time we ate there we left thinking, "This is the best deal in town!! If everyone eats like we do, they'll be bankrupt in no time!"

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