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Kora, in the Old Bebo Space in Crystal City - Chef Amadou Ouattara's Italian Cuisine


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I stopped into Kora last night for a late dinner, and I'm happy to say that at 9 PM, the dining room was relatively bustling (for a Tuesday night after Restaurant Week).

Morou and Heather were both there, but it's important to remember that the chef is Amadou Ouattara, and that this is a completely different experience than what you're used to from Morou. The menu here is shockingly traditional Italian (at least it was shocking for me). And I'm not saying that's a bad thing; I'm just saying don't go to Kora and expect Farrah Olivia. Here's what was on the plate, and in the glass:

Tap Water ($0), I normally wouldn't mention this but the glasses are nice and are going to be a pain for them to clean!

2006 Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba ($12), an expensive, medium-sized pour, meh

Starr Hill "The Love" Wheat Beer on tap ($5), a great beer and a good value

Roasted Bell Pepper ($8) with "Burrata creamy cow's milk Cheese stuffing," basil pesto, and balsamic reduction - an artful presentation, the stuffing somewhat granular and seemingly more ricotta than burrata

Squid Ink Tagliatelle ($9 for a half-order) with crispy squid and clams - a truly great pasta dish that you must order, a triumph and a steal for the price

Vitello Saltimbocca ($21) - a very straightforward prep, well-seasoned with prominent sage, excellent, lumpy pureed potatoes, somewhat ordinary green beans and carrots

This restaurant is not physically set up to have great service, and it will be a challenge coordinating everything in the dining room, but they're having a good go at things so far. Congratulations to everyone on Kora's team, and I very much look forward to a return visit.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Stopped by Kora today for brunch. They run a prix fixe deal at brunch where you can pick any appetizer, any entree and any dessert off the menu for just $20. It was a bargain to say the least.

Started with prosciutto wrapped shrimp on an english muffin that was smothered with tartar sauce--very nice and simple. Had "Pizza and Eggs" for my entree--about a 11" round of good, charred-bottom pizza with three eggs cracked open on top of it for the last few minutes of cooking. The eggs were super-runny and really were fantastic to swab the slices through. It was a bit messy to eat, but delicious. Finished up with a delicious tiramisu--very moist and high on the coffee flavor.

Service was top notch. Our server was friendly, engaging without being intrusive and very attentive. He probably brought me 4 or 5 fresh iced teas while also offering to do a second pressing on my wife's presspot of coffee without her asking and without trying to upsell her on a fresh one.

I hope more people try this restaurant for brunch--there were only two other tables there at noon when we arrived and we were the only ones there by the time we left at 1:00.

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I'm just saying don't go to Kora and expect Farrah Olivia.

Unfortunately, I went to kora only because I love Farrah and because I needed some Morou while it's closed.

Service was laughable as the staff didn't even know what the dishes were on the menu.

In the time that it took you to confirm what I guessed "semi-freddo" was (partially frozen), I saw a table order it and eat it.

The decor was also nice from far away but sitting *in* it for a meal made it loose some of its charm and I was able to see how cheap and shoddy some aspects were put together. I did like the homage to Farrah Olivia in the front with the branches, but they were covered up by their huge pizza oven.

Here's a quick collage I made of their decor. These pictures, from their site, are actually very true to how the place looks in real life.

kora.jpg

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My husband and I dined here based on a friend's recommendation. We both thought it was top notch and will be putting it into our regular rotation. The stand-outs are the warm mushroom salad with pecans (although my husband wished they would add more pecans), the spaghetti and meatballs, and the squid ink pasta with seafood. Canneloni was delicious also. Bread was very good. Calamari was decent but not the best I've ever had, although I liked the basil aioli and marinara dips.

Also liked the decor, the high ceilings, and chic atmosphere. Looking forward to trying more of the menu on future visits.

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I wish I had the foresight to bring my top-notch camera because the cell phone pictures bring out only 1/8 of the life and flavors breathed into the following dishes. I will leave the describing to my "twin" (Merry Mary). After tonight's meal, I just cannot imagine how this place would be excluded from your regular rotation. The warmth of the food tasted tonight was the essence of comfort, especially after some good, honest labor. Chef Morou was there tonight and pumped up the volume on the "welcome home" aspect of everything, including the top-notch treatment from the staff. We certainly were made to feel like family, feasted like queens, and appreciated the extra, extra kind gesture given. Lovely.

The one dish I did not take a picture of was the Gnudi pasta.

Rosemary bread with herbed olive oil

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Zuppa di Zucca (Butternut Squash soup * Beet Cider)

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Maiale alla Griglia (Grilled Cinnamon Cured Pork Chop * Sweet Potato Puree * Apple Chutney)

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Salmone (Seared Salmon * Saffron Orzo * Creamy Basil * Saffron Butter * Asparagus)

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I will add some notes on the food, as goodeats captured the hospitality.

Rosemary bread with oils and herbs - the rosemary is light and just right, but I thought the oil with a mound of dried herbs in one corner of the plate didn't quite work. I stirred some of the herbs into the oil, but you really don't get the flavor in that short a time.

Gnudi pasta - light, flavored with just the right touch of anise, we both thought more sauce was needed. The greens were very garlicky and the shallots sauteed beautifully.

Zuppa di Zucca (Butternut Squash soup * Beet Cider) - beautiful colors as you can see, so rich goodeats thought it was made with beef stock, but we were assured it was vegetarian, I think a little overspiced, so the flavor of the butternut was lost

Maiale alla Griglia (Grilled Cinnamon Cured Pork Chop * Sweet Potato Puree * Apple Chutney) - this would be my favorite - perfectly cooked, carmelized edges, again the seasoning was just right, with the apple chutney so good. The sweet potato puree put me at the Thanksgiving table.

Salmone (Seared Salmon * Saffron Orzo * Creamy Basil * Saffron Butter * Asparagus) - and another beautifully cooked dish, our fish course was light yet substantial, there is magic in this food. You need to mix the basil into the risotto and then goodeats will clean the plate! She steals asparagus too :(

So go to Kora, go soon, and oh, the pizza guy needed some orders, he was looking a bit bored. Next time I am in the mood for pizza I am going back.

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EMPTY last night. Is that common on Halloween, or just here?

Otherwise, a very good meal. Quail stuffed with italian sausage was really, really nice. The polenta cake under it had a perfectly fried, crispy and flavorful exterior, and a creamy and comforting interior. I can think of a lot of foods that would be wonderful sitting on top of one of those.

Not much pasta was eaten; what was sampled was very good, but not spectacular. We'll have to go back for more testing. I didn't try the mussels or salmon, but both got positive reviews.

We also didn't get to test out the pizza oven, so a return visit will be necessary.

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EMPTY last night. Is that common on Halloween, or just here?

Otherwise, a very good meal. Quail stuffed with italian sausage was really, really nice. The polenta cake under it had a perfectly fried, crispy and flavorful exterior, and a creamy and comforting interior. I can think of a lot of foods that would be wonderful sitting on top of one of those.

Wow, quail with italian sausage? I have to go back and try this!!

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Reasonable Crystal City business crowd for lunch today. I had the wonderful squid-ink tagliatelle with a topping of mostly calamari, but with an occasional clam, shrimp or mussel. It was sublime. Partner had the lasagna which was impeccable. I have to go back for dinner and sample the menu. This place has promise, being on the same street as chains like Ted's Montana Grill and McCormick and Schmick's....

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"Calamari was decent but not the best I've ever had, although I liked the basil aioli and marinara dips."

We went again last night and the calamari was great. I guess sometimes it is on and sometimes it isn't Last night, it was tender and fresh and succulent. Also had the mussels appetizer. It tasted like the ocean. The broth is decent but wish they could make it more interesting. Ideal pairing: quality mussels from Kora with the smoky fennel broth from Liberty Tavern. Nonetheless, keeping this restaurant in the rotation. Good eats.

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Our first visit to Kora last night was a good one.

I really liked Farrah Olivia and that sort of taste-alchemy creativity. Kora is totally different, with very little of that vibe, but really nice in its own way.

I won't describe the dishes we had in too much detail, because really if you read the menu online you can get a very good sense of what they're like. In that sense, the food is straightforward. What made it really nice is that it was so well executed, and the service and atmosphere were warm and friendly.

One good touch is the "pasta tasting" - small portions of any three of the many pasta options- for $20. We also had lasagna, the squid ink pasta, and the swordfish. All good, as were the salads and the cheese-stuffed roasted bell pepper appetizer.

And this is the first time in a long time, in any restaurant in the DC area, where I have been surprised when the bill came at how low it was. Four of us, eating and drinking plenty, for $160. In a city where it is too easy to spend a lot more than that for underwhelming fancy food, this was a good ending.

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Good news for fans of Chef Morou, from the Crystal City BID newsletter:

Starting on January 26, fans of Farrah Olivia will have a chance to enjoy their favorite restaurant again. Chef Morou plans to host one dinner a month at his new restaurant Kora where he cooks five courses in the style of Farrah Olivia. The dinners will also include a demonstration and feature a spice from the chef's new line of spices and cooking products. The event costs $125.

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I too enjoyed the pizza. I had a margarita with eggplant added as a topping. the crust was quite good--thicker than neopolitan style, a bit pillowy, but quite tasty and well seasoned. the pizza wasn't quite the margarita i was expecting--i'm used to seeing the red sauce with isolated circles of white cheese. this was more like a regular cheese pizza, (with roasted eggplant and basil) but a quite tasty one. i've only been to pizzaiolo once, so am not fully qualified to judge, but i think the pizza at kora was as good, and i liked the crust better.

they have a nice happy hour deal--a half order of pasta or a generous "happy hour pizza" which is maybe half the size of a regular pizza for $5. My friend had, and liked, the vegetable agnolotti with red pepper sauce. also, the pasta was vegan, which is a nice touch.

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I too enjoyed the pizza.

Me three. The pizza had a nice, rich olive oil taste with a resounding *crisp,* yet chewy bite to it. I liked that as well my dish, which comprised of quinoa pasta.

Never had quinoa pasta before, and I feel like I prefer it to its semolina-based cousins because it didn't feel very carby or heavy afterwards. This was a special accomodation to the fact that the other dishes had garlic and anti-reflux-friendly components and it is worthy to order often.

You all should come for the happy hour pizza special, as mentioned above. Maybe this could be the next NoVA HH location???

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I went to Kora twice the first month it opened and was disappointed. The pizza at the time I thought was not as good as Cafe Pizzaiolo in Crystal City or Del Ray, or Rustico in Old Town. The regular meals were just ok. It sounds like they may have found their legs in the last several months, I definitely would be willing to give them another shot. I LOVED Farrah Olivia. I'd be open to a Va happy hour there.

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My wife and I went here last night and I'm disappointed to say that I have to agree with sekelmaan and chaofun's assessment of this place rather than Rocks and goodeats. Just a comedy of errors from the second we stepped through the front door until we got the check.

We walked in at 7:15 to a pretty jammed restaurant, which I give them kudos for as they are both in Crystal City and this was a Monday night. We moved towards the hostess stand to find an empty desk and a line of people waiting to be seated. It was like one of those moments in Restaurant Wars where the chef who is playing the role of FOH is nowhere to be found and Tom and Padma eventually seat themselves. After a few minutes, we got someone's attention and the hostess appeared, flustered and surprised to see the number of people in front of her. Minor quibble? Maybe, but if you're running a restaurant this size and full, you need to have someone at least near the desk to greet the guests. It's the little things......

When we got to our table it appeared to have just been bussed and was completely empty devoid from 2 water glasses. And we waited. And we waited some more. Finally our waiter arrives with 2 menus, which he gives to us and scurries away before I can get out "Wine list, please". A busboy shows up with 2 water glasses, which were promptly filled and marked the only successful component of this meal all evening. Waiter comes back a minute later and says "All right, we ready to order?" Eh? I looked at him and politely said that we would like to order drinks first to get started. He replies "OK....but are you ready to order food now?" Dude! I politely insisted on ordering wine first, especially since we hadn't decided. When we did get around to ordering, we couldn't help but notice how much the menu resembled a red sauce Italian joint than an upscale eatery. Chicken parm, angle hair pasta with jumbo shrimp, fettucine alfredo with grilled chicken, lasagna, bolognese, etc. Dont' get me wrong, I'm a sucker for this stuff having grown up on it, but are not used to seeing it priced in the $14-20 range. I was hungry so started with the Seafood Chowder and went with the Fettucine Alfredo (one of my favorite dishes growing up) and my wife got the Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp. In short, all 3 were 'meh'. The chowder was almost completely devoid of seafood, coming across more as a cream based potato, corn, and carrot soup than anything else. Not terrible, but certainly not worth the silly $9 price tag it carried. The pasta dishes were small (not a bad thing) and not expertly crafted like you might think based on the comments above. The alfredo sauce was not like the kind you'd get in France or Italy, where they do a wonderful job of getting across the creaminess without making it feel like you're eating fettucine and white gravy. It was insufferably thick and not eggy like I was hoping. My wife didn't mind the angel hair after smothering it with crushed red peppers, but I found it to be overwhelmed by the basil in the tomato sauce.

Seems that most people in this thread have not been since the first couple of months that it was open, and it seems that they have taken a nosedive towards catering to the masses to satisfy the CC dining public (who seem to love Ted's and the other chains on that block of Crystal Dr.).

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The alfredo sauce was not like the kind you'd get in France or Italy, where they do a wonderful job of getting across the creaminess without making it feel like you're eating fettucine and white gravy. It was insufferably thick and not eggy like I was hoping.

Dude, there are no eggs in alfredo sauce. :) Maybe you were thinking of carbonara?

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ALthough nothing particularly stood out on the menu at Kora for lunch today, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the angel hair pasta with seafood was well executed and quite satisfying. The orechiette also caught my eye, but I'm glad I chose the angel hair seafood dish.

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