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Pesce, Dupont Circle, in the old Montsouris Space - Chef-Owner Andrew LaPorta Purchases Restaurant from Founder Regine Palladin on Jan 1, 2017


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When you work in the business day in and day out, often we lose sight of simple pleasures in eating out. The wife and I, she being 7 months pregnant and I, use to working on Saturday nights, were thrilled to have a saturday night to go out and eat. Thanks DP!
So we decided to visit Regine Palladin over at Pesce, my wifes former employer. Simple decor done well, small room that does get tight, but hey, as long as everyone takes a shower before, I don't mind.
The best way to describe what Pesce is all about is....food from the sea. No turf in this restaurant.
Cut to the chase on the review, here we go.
Wife started with the Smoked Trout Salad. Good. Trout wasn't overpowering in taste, thus allowing the pears to add some sweetenss to the greens. Minus Gorgonzola dressing, a no-no while pregnant, and she was very satisfied with the App. She then ordered whole roasted flounder with maple-glazed root veggies. Again, simple dish, great flavors, and not deep fried as many do when serving whole fish.
I started with Squash Soup. Well done, huge bowl, maybe a bit too big actually, all in all, great flavors. Not overly earthy, just the right amount of sweetness and spice for balance. Then I had the brandade. I love Brandade. Since my days working for Mr Buben I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Brandade done well. This dish was spot on. Just the right amount of Garlic and Salt Cod as not to overpower with a fishy taste. Lastly, Sea Scallops with a Mushroom Risotto. Good. Extremly rich,maybe that is why I had to take half home with me.
All in all, a great meal that hopefully will not be the last time out before TBD arrives. If you get the chance to visit, give Regine a hug for continuing to produce simple dishes with overdoing.

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Soft shell crabs -- just a few weeks left in the season. Pesce has a wonderful appetizer. On one side of the oval plate is a perfectly cooked, good-sized softshell, it's breading almost ephemeral. On the other side is a baby spinach salad, with a few ornange slices and thin shavings of parmesan. One bite of crab and your tongue becomes enveloped in it's rich, moist flavor. One bite of the lighly dressed salad and your palate is refreshed, ready to return to the crab, and so on ... I sometimes succeed in self-discipline, telling myself to not order the softshell every time I go, to explore other items on the app list, and I've never been disappointed in anything else I've had. But Tom Meyer has a real winner in this soft shell prep. I've enjoyed it at least 3 times this summer.

My main last night was no sleeper. Butter fish cooked so that it was still moist and barely opaque in the middle, served over a "crab hash" of roasted carrots with some flakes of crab meat mixed in, complemented by a mushroom jus. This dish combined the refreshing lightness of the butter fish, the caramelized sweetness of the roasted veg, and the earthiness of the mushroom jus. Excellent!

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Most likely going to be dining here tonight. Other than Don's suggestions in the Lettres de Mon Moulin, anyone else been lately that offer up some guidance?
As Waitman noted, the menu changes too often to really provide a suggestion. However, if the octopus salad is on there, get it. When I had it awhile ago, it was thinly sliced tentacles with root vegetables. Definitely on the (very short) list of great octopus dishes I've had.
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Most likely going to be dining here tonight. Other than Don's suggestions in the Lettres de Mon Moulin, anyone else been lately that offer up some guidance?

The new chef started end of September/early October, so the menu has been changing gradually, though within the bounds of the restaurant's long-standing traditions.

When last I was there, a month ago, I had skate wing as my main, which was execellent. This is a dish that has appeared on the menu off-and-on over the years with minor variations in saucing and accompanying veggies. What was new this time was a fois gras raviolo in place of the usual mashed potatos or celery root puree. That raviolo was stunningly good.

Whole roasted fish is always a safe bet, and they will offer to fillet it for you when they bring it to the table (if they don't, just ask).

I've never hit a clunker here: raw oysters, tuna tartare, fried calamari, salads, any of the fish preparations have been consistantly good-to-excellent. Never tried the pastas or risottos, so can't vouch for them.

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I didn't have a great meal at Pesce earlier this month. The meal started out well enough, with a very fresh arugula salad and sardines for my husband. We waited an unusually long time between courses, although we didn't mind the leisurely pace until we finally received our mains; they were lukewarm (which may explain the wait). My other gripe was that my mushroom ravioli dish was $26, and came with two raviolis and 4 pieces of lobster. I didn't think this was a good value. (I could understand getting two raviolis at that price point had the raviolis been filled with lobster instead of mushroom.) As our dishes were being cleared, we told the server that our mains were not served hot. We were then given comped sorbet. (I hate complaining because I don't want them to think I raised an issue just to get something for free.) I want to like neighborhood restaurants like Pesce (and had fond memories of our last trip 8 years ago), but for my next seafood fix, I think we'll go back to Hank's.

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While we ahve not eaten at Pesce for a long while, I would go back there if looking for seafood in the neighborhood. I have good memories of several meals and the last time we were looking for dinner in DC we went there and the wait was too long so we went to Hanks. They are completely different to my mind, Hanks is good basic seafood simply prepared. Glorified and good beachfood. Pesce is more upscale yet still simple. This thread make me promise to myself to go back soon. My schedule may preclude that, but we will try.

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So is there another new chef here, or is the 'new' chef here basically the same one that started just about a year ago? I was last there about 2.5 years ago and it was decent, but not great.

Just curious.

The Chef is still Bernard Marchive (with a French pronunciation of the name), who replaced Tom Meyer about a year ago.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I dont think the "new" chef has been there for a year but almost and I haven't been there since the switch. Pesce is a restaurant that I always want to go back to but always loses to someone else, the eternal second place loser.

The Chef is still Bernard Marchive (with a French pronunciation of the name), who replaced Tom Meyer about a year ago.

Cheers,

Rocks.

How's the food these days

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It's wonderful everytime we go, no matter the season! Last Saturday my wife had butternut squash ravioli with scallops and lobster in a very tasty sauce, and I had roasted monkfish with soldier beans cassoulet. I didn't know what to expect with soldier beans cassoulet, but it was not soupy as I suspected. It was moist and flavorful. Too many places undercook beans but not that night.

This is a place we keep meaning to visit more often. We have been eating here for years, but not often enough. I just get a wonderful feeling from the place. This is our second meal in the past year and the new chef is as good as the ones who have come before.

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Apparently Bernard Marchive has left. Had dinner here last week and noticed that all of Marchive's dishes were gone (e.g., the dumplings filled with shrimp, crab and pork). I heard the waiter mention that there is a different chef in the kitchen, someone who had worked there before, but I didn't catch all the details. Thankfully, the food was very good, as usual.

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Apparently Bernard Marchive has left. Had dinner here last week and noticed that all of Marchive's dishes were gone (e.g., the dumplings filled with shrimp, crab and pork). I heard the waiter mention that there is a different chef in the kitchen, someone who had worked there before, but I didn't catch all the details. Thankfully, the food was very good, as usual.

A Wednesday dinner saw an owner-type woman ?Regine, a completely new waitstaff, and acknowledgements of a new chef (without disclosing his/her identity). The room filled quickly after 6PM and service was OK. We had sardines and mussels for appetizers: the sardines were underdone, but nicely salty; and the 'chorizo' broth for the mussels was lukewarm and chorizo-free, for which the owner-type woman apologized. An Caesar salad with white sardines and a made-up pasta bolognese topped with 2 scallops followed. Desert/coffee were unremarkable. With a bottle of sauvignon blanc, two of us paid $128 with tip. We've been going to Pesce twice a year or more since 2003 - I think the new kitchen needs to find its pace.

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We had a good dinner here last Saturday, with 2 minor caveats.

Veteran waitstaff was on hand, with one new busboy who was clearly learning the ropes (no problem with that). The new chef is doing good work. We had an arugula salad and soft-shell crab as starters. The salad was good, lightly dressed, with bits of ham scattered through it. The crab was excellent: light tempura batter, plump, sweet and moist. May be the best soft-shell I've ever had. It's accompanying fennel salad was just OK.

For mains we had salmon and Spanish mackerel fillets, both prepared well. Sorry, I don't recall details of the mild sauces that accompanied the fish, but they were nice additions. And the skin on the mackerel was crisped beautifully. Wish this species didn't have mercury contamination problems, because it is delicious when prepared correctly. And I'm tired of seeing branzino everywhere.

The caveats were pacing and temperature. Apps came quickly, but mains took longer than expected (maybe 20 minutes after the apps, though I didn't check my watch). Not a big problem, since we were happy to linger. On this very warm night, their AC was having trouble keeping up, so the room was probably 5 degrees higher than it should have been, but I imagine they have that fixed by now.

Over all, a good experience with the food and service making the negatives insignificant. Hope to return soon and often to see how the kitchen evolves.

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I was there Monday night and shared the sardines, arugula salad, roasted monkfish and whole grilled bronzino. I agree the sardines could have used a few more minutes on the grill but they still enjoyable. The monkfish was perfectly roasted and the atmosphere was very relaxed. I'm looking forward to going back, and definitely want to try the softshell now.

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Apps came quickly, but mains took longer than expected (maybe 20 minutes after the apps, though I didn't check my watch). Not a big problem, since we were happy to linger.
Maybe I'm just being hyper-sensitive, but 20 minutes from app to main sounds pretty reasonable to me...
As a general rule entrees are pretty much planned to go out about 20 mins after apps.

Not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but my impression from dwt's post is that the mains arrived 20 minutes after the apps were finished, not 20 minutes after the apps were served.

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Don is correct. But let's not belabor the point. I am always treated well at Pesce and only remarked on the pacing because an earlier poster (Pancho) had done so and my impression is that timing is not on par with the kitchen as it was constituted under the 2 previous chefs. But it's still early in the game for the current chef so he deserves a pass. And in fairness, we were there on Saturday at the height of the rush, with every table full and folks waiting at the bar. Even if the pacing doesn't improve, I'll return for the food, atmosphere, and personable front-of-the-house staff.

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The quality of seafood here is very good!

Last night my wife's appetizer was a bruschetta with crab meat and arugula and some sort of lightly creamy dressing. The bread had a nice crunch and flavor to it, and the crab was fresh. Her entree was monkfish roasted with endive, bacon, and garlic. She said it was too good to share! Never mind, I felt the same way about my dishes! For appetizer I had oysters on the half shell. Didn't catch where they were from but they were deliciously briny and cool! Entree was roasted pompano with fingerling potatos and oyster mushrooms in some sort of reduced sauce. Excellent! At some parts I peeled off the skin but at other parts I ate it because it looked toasted and crunchy!

We arrived at 6:15 and were among the first people there. Snagged a nice table by a window. By 7:00 the place was full.

The mango sorbet and pistachio ice cream were from Moorenko's. If it's still in Silver Spring we have to check it out!

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Question: Is it sheer lunacy to take a 15 month old to Pesce on a Friday or Saturday night or should we hire a babysitter? We've been invited out by family from out-of-town and it's their favorite local place.

It's not lunacy, but I'd think about Urbana before Pesce - OR - call and speak with Regine to see if she can prepare in advance. She's a mom who has dined well in her day - hell, her charming daughter Verveine is now the floor manager, so between the two of them, I suspect you'll be working with a friendly and sympathetic crew. And come to think of it, I vaguely recall high chairs across from the bar on the way to the restrooms, although my recollection is uncertain. Call!

Cheers,

Rocks.

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In what seems like a very astute and forward-thinking move

Hmm. Astute in what sense? Is the rent lower? The space seems about the same size, if I recall it accurately from the days when it was JHS. And it's more of a cave, lacking the side windows of the current Pesce location.

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They've been operating out of the new location (formerly Johnnie's/Monmartre) this week. Dined there last night for the first time and everything was up to standard. They seem to have adapted perfectly to their new space and they had a good crowd for an August weeknight. With a full liquor license, they won't have to be met with frowns of disappointment when a new customer starts off by ordering a cocktail. We shared a mixed green salad (goat cheese, walnuts, vinaigrette) and a pleasantly moist, sweet, minimally battered soft shell. Mains were rockfish fillet (sorry, forget the prep details) and whole grilled branzino -- both cooked just right.

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to ask about the old location, which now has a sign in the window announcing a soon-to-open Turkish tapas restaurant.

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Any details to share? Heading to Pesce in the near future.

I took my mom there for her birthday about three weeks ago, and we were also with my son. We sat at a four-top right across from the kitchen, and Tom Meyer was manning the stove. My mom is, well ... let's just say "she refuses to get a hearing aid," smile.gif and the noise level at that table was perfect for quiet conversation, while at the same time being right in the middle of things.

We started with a bottle of Chateau Coustaut ($40), a white Graves. I can't remember the vintage, but it was fresh as a daisy with exactly the acidity level you want to cut through some of Pesce's Mediterranean-influenced preparations.

The table split a Caesar Salad ($7) and an appetizer of Whole Shrimp ($12), cooked in garlic and olive oil if I recall. Then for entrees, we shared a whole Bronzino ($22), a preparation of Salmon ($22), and a side of Pommes Purée ($6). Everything ranged from very good to excellent, with no weaknesses in the meal. My memory of the details of the preps is gone (it was, after all, 40-50 restaurants ago).

Towards the end of the meal, Regine came over and chatted with us, and we mentioned it was my mom's special birthday dinner. She brought out two beautiful desserts that made a great evening something pretty close to perfect. My mom, who essentially never drinks (but look out when she does!), proclaimed the wine "the best she'd ever had." We were comped both desserts, so I bought her a second bottle to take home as a present (and as a thanks to the restaurant), where it sits to this very day, unopened, in her refrigerator.

Two glasses of wine, and my mom starts talking a mile a minute, and she just won't stop! On the way out, we crossed paths with Tom Sietsema and his friend, and my mom started talking their ears off (Tom was highly amused by this), telling them what a wonderful son her little Donald was, and how big Matthew has gotten, etc. It would have gone on for an hour, but I politely, and mercifully, intervened.

When we walked away, Matt said, "Was that Tom Sietsema?"

"Yep."

<His eyes get big as saucers> "WOW!!" (The three of us had dined at Ginger Cove many years ago, but Matt didn't recognize the new, svelte Tom.)

Mom: "Who was that nice man, Donald?"

Don: "He's the restaurant critic for the Washington Post."

Mom: "Are you kidding me? Well <laughs> I probably embarrassed you. Oh well <laughs some more> I'm old enough where I don't give a damn."

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Mom: "Who was that nice man, Donald?"

Don: "He's the restaurant critic for the Washington Post."

Mom: "Are you kidding me? Well <laughs> I probably embarrassed you. Oh well <laughs some more> I'm old enough where I don't give a damn."

"Donald?" How sweet!

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Sounds like a wonderful birthday outing! Thanks for the story!

We were just wowed last night by the fried soft shell crab appetizer, though it was small for $15. Best tasting soft shell crab I've had in a long time. Really tender. No problem biting through the "shell" like you sometimes do. Lots of "fat" on the crab.

Roasted bluefish for me and sauteed grouper for my wife were very fresh and tasty, and the warmed chocolate tart finished off another enjoyable visit. We'll be back soon for the ceviche and gazpacho they feature in the summer.

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... We'll be back soon for the ceviche and gazpacho they feature in the summer.

Had the gazpacho last night -- delightful. Ranks among the top 3 I've had. Tom Meyer makes wonderful soups and I think the food overall has improved since his return.

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It looks like it has been about a year since anyone has posted about Pesce. My mom is in town for a couple days and was in the mood for seafood. We walked into a mostly empty restaurant around 7:30 pm on Sunday. Four of us were seated at the table in the front window and had a very pleasant meal by ordering appetizers for the table to share and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. Nothing was a standout, but all was perfectly cooked and generally delicious. Pesce is one of those under-the-radar Dupont gems that consistently performs. Neither stuffy nor pretentious it was perfect for our Sunday dinner. Our meal included:

2 Caesar Salads- whole leaf romaine with a creamy anchovy rich dressing

Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata- in season, perfect tomatoes thinly sliced and sweet. Scoop of burrata on top with standard treatment of balsamic and basil.

Gazpacho- tomato and watermelon with a jalapeno oil- really summery and a good palate cleanser

Trio- tuna tartar with soy and sesame which was dewey and delightful- i wish we could have gotten a vat of that, babganoush that was intensely cuminy, and guacamole.

Crudo- plate of translucent white fish (I can't remember what type) with a salad of frisee and capers on top with a vinaigrette.

Grilled Calamari- nice char, perfectly cooked mostly cone with some tentacles (I would have preferred all tentacles, but I think that puts me in the minority).

Whole Prawns- served head on, pleasantly garlicky with fresh cherry tomatoes.

Popcorn shrimp- tiny fried shrimp in a paper cone with two types of aioli. A little salty.

Ceviche- in a creamy base with scallops, shrimp and unidentified white flesh fish which was unremarkable

Smoked Fish Platter- smoked trout, salmon and eel with a pear chutney. Smoked trout was the standout especially combined with the chutney, eel had a soy glaze, salmon was average.

Only two complaints:

1- The pacing felt rushed. Food was coming out faster than we could eat it and made us feel rushed. Arguably, we ordered virtually all of the apps on the menu and the restaurant was mostly empty so they were cooking just for us which may have contributed. I think this was a function of the kitchen and not the waitstaff, who were courteous and efficient.

2- Mediocre French bread. It wasn't fresh, was chewy in a bad way, and tasteless.

With tax and tip came to about $200. Which is pricey, but a good value.

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Just received a "New On CityEats" email that lists Pesce. Following the link and paging through the picture gallery, the (unidentified) Chef de Cuisine sure doesn't look like Tom Meyer. Anyone know who she is, when the change was made, etc.?

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Hi! I'm the new chef at Pesce. My name is Gervais Achstetter. I took over for Tom in September, though I have never met him. Prior to Pesce I was a Tournant at Adour. I spent two years at Cafe Boulud in NYC, a year at Citronelle and a year at Maestro (before it closed). I am a DC native and currently live in Georgetown. Let me know if I can answer any other questions you might have. Thanks for the interest.

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Hi! I'm the new chef at Pesce. My name is Gervais Achstetter. I took over for Tom in September, though I have never met him. Prior to Pesce I was a Tournant at Adour. I spent two years at Cafe Boulud in NYC, a year at Citronelle and a year at Maestro (before it closed). I am a DC native and currently live in Georgetown. Let me know if I can answer any other questions you might have. Thanks for the interest.

Welcome, Gervais, and thank you for introducing yourself. Please keep us posted on what's going on at Pesce (and give Regine a hug for me).

Cheers,

Rocks

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Dinner at Pesce was good, though sadly they had no more soft-shell crab (doesn't seem that late in the season to me).

I had gazpacho (with small lumps of avocado), nicely zingy and very fresh tasting;

rockfish, a very thick and meaty (though slightly strong-flavored for rockfish) filet, beautifully crunchy on top, with corn puree, some kind of green sprouts, nicely crunchy and thick green beans, grapes (which seemed a little odd to me in this combo), and I think fennel;

and hazelnut pot de crème, which was delightful (good hazelnut flavor, topped with whipped cream (tasted like it was whipped in house) and candied hazelnuts).

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Here's a suggestion for how to spend a very pleasant afternoon in Washington. Have lunch at Pesce. You would be well advised to order the grilled sardines to start. Not many restaurants around Washington do grilled sardines, and when I have them at Pesce, which usually seems to offer them, I am transported to the places where I've enjoyed grilled sardines most: Lisbon, Porto, Paris. The sardines I had at Pesce last Friday were archetypally grilled sardines. You get three to a plate, each of them grilled perfectly, seasoned with a bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon that you add. I don't think I've enjoyed a plate of food more in the last decade. Except the crabcake that followed, which may well have been the best crabcake I ever ate, simple, not much besides crab and some Dijon mustard, accompanied by an unusual but delicious cole slaw, crisp, tangy, creamy, and some slivers of pickled red onion. Not exactly very French, but wonderful. You could do much worse than drink a couple of glasses of white Rhone wine withal. And then take in the Neo-Impressionist show at the Phillips around the corner, which is every bit as wonderful as the sardines and the crabcake. Then go home and take a very soft and peaceful nap with your dog. That's how to spend a very pleasant afternoon in Washington.

I think Pesce is a very special restaurant worth treasuring. My lunch there last Friday was, I have to say, as good a meal as I ever had, although not a fancy or elaborate one. The Phillips Collection is probably the most wonderful art museum in the world, with competition possibly from the Musee D'Orsay. Having both Pesce and the Phillips within about a ten or twelve minute walk from my home has to make me one of the luckiest fellows alive.

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You could do much worse than drink a couple of glasses of white Rhone wine withal. And then take in the Neo-Impressionist show at the Phillips around the corner, which is every bit as wonderful as the sardines and the crabcake. Then go home and take a very soft and peaceful nap with your dog. That's how to spend a very pleasant afternoon in Washington.

I think Pesce is a very special restaurant worth treasuring. My lunch there last Friday was, I have to say, as good a meal as I ever had, although not a fancy or elaborate one. The Phillips Collection is probably the most wonderful art museum in the world, with competition possibly from the Musee D'Orsay. Having both Pesce and the Phillips within about a ten or twelve minute walk from my home has to make me one of the luckiest fellows alive.

Buddy ... you're enjoying life.

You could find this meal-museum combination in any of 200 cities in the world; you just happened to be in the right frame of mind to find it here.

I say, kudos.

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Had yet another nice meal tonight with my dinner group. And here I spy Mark Medley (of the missed Mark & Orlando in Dupont) slinging drinks and handling our table with ease.

Chatting him up after the event. He's been working with Regina / Pesce for some time. Bartending Tues and Fridays (occasional Sundays). also think he helped out with Chef Wright leaving as well.

DR NEWS TIP - Mark is getting back into the Restaurant ownership biz! New partner, 8th & H St NE (Atlas), think he signed papers and had been searching for some time. To paraphrase Mark, envisioning a jazzed-up Mark and Orlandos (sans Orlando, he's working Corp with a Hotel). OMG did I leak a story before others lol?

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Had a nice meal here with a bunch of wino friends. Good, solid stuff, without a lot of gilding the lily at all. Good seafood, good service, good friends, good conversation (and we brought a lot of good wine). Only nit on the whole experience was it was pretty loud. Other odd thing is the whole 'bring a giant board of the list of menu items to the table propped up in a chair thing' instead of real menus (printed out sheets of paper with the current items would have been handy). Will head back in a bit with just my wife and I.

The sardines were great!

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