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Mark and Orlando's, West Dupont Circle - Closed


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Stumbled past this place on the way back from looking at the menu at 21P (just wasn't feeling it, despite Tom's review). Ate in the upstairs (less formal) dining room/bar area and had a perfectly prepared pork chop stuffed with panchetta and bleu cheese sitting atop a bed of spinach and sprinkled with pearl onions ($18). The friend I was there with had their burger on sesame brioche, once again perfectly cooked to order (rare) with fries ($8). Both items were delicious and the value was great, particularly for a restaurant in Dupont.

Oh, and don't miss the butter selections for the bread. The tomato butter and apple butter are out of this world! Will definitely be back!!

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I stopped by Mark and Orlando's for lunch the other day. I had gazpacho and a chicken sandwich, along with some iced tea (which was strong and fragrant with mint).

The meal started off with some toasted bread and assorted spreads. All were delicious. One, which my server said was onion, was indescribably delicious. I couldn't quite place the flavors--perhaps this is the substance that entropy was told is apple butter?--though that doesn't seem quite right from my memory of it. It seemed almost like cinnamon walnut cream cheese.

The gazpacho was well-balanced, with nice texture--just the right amount of bread--but, ultimately, rather dull. A good gazpacho needs to have, I think, just the right balance of sweetness and bitterness/savoriness; this gazpacho, though, was a bit one-dimensional along the bitterness axis. Somewhat odd was that it was served just as a puree: no finely diced garnishes on the side or even mixed in. To eat a large bowl of pureed bread and tomatoes with nothing else for texture makes one feel like an infant. (This would perhaps be okay for a small cup of soup--but for a big bowl, it's not so pleasant.)

The chicken sandwich was served with red onions on a toasted roll with sesame seeds. The chicken breast was perfectly grilled: tender inside, nicely browned outside. It was very nicely complemented by a tangy mayonaise (with just a bit of mustard mixed in, perhaps?). The sandwich came with french fries, which were thickly cut, salty, soft, and crispy.

Despite any nit-picking, I really enjoyed my meal. The service was very able. Particularly notable was the restaurant's attention to little things (the mint tea, the perfectly cooked chicken, the quartet of spreads). I will say, though, that the gazpacho may be a sign of substantial problems in dish design; moreover, the dishes I tried may not be reliable indicators for the more complex/substantial items. I would, however, rather go here for a sandwich and some iced tea for lunch than to, say, the nearby 21P.

[Edited to add final two sentences.]

Edited by foodandreason
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Welcome foodandreason and great first post.  I enjoy mint in my tea so I'll have to swing by sometime soon.  Was it sweet tea?

It was unsweetened. Sadly for those who like sweet tea (though I don't), they don't follow the better practice of providing a simple syrup for sweetening (as does, I think, Firefly).

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It was unsweetened. Sadly for those who like sweet tea (though I don't), they don't follow the better practice of providing a simple syrup for sweetening (as does, I think, Firefly).

I'm fickle about tea and can go with or without sugar. For a mint tea I'd prefer no sweetner so this is very good to know.

And to correct my oversight, welcome to entropy too!

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Tried Mark and Orlando's last night for a light summer meal. All in all, nice enough, though I think different dishes or more company would have improved the experience.

In the upstairs they have a small bar, but the smoke was heavy, so I sat in a nook where they have a chair and a couch. Had a Riesling (ahhh, perfect on a hot day), a goat cheese grit cake, and the cheese plate. After some confusion (fish plate instead of cheese plate) I had some very tasty bites.

The grit cake is excellent. Not too cheesy, firm, nice and hot. It's served on a cold fennel salad, though, and the temperature contrast worked against the dish instead of for it. On the upside, the drizzly juices were very flavorful and complemented the grits nicely.

The cheese plate dimmed but didn't truly satisfy my cheese craving. Three cheeses -- a tangy, tacky blue; a very crumbly Parmesan; and something else I'm not quite sure of, had almost a Mozz taste to it but was firmer and drier, the texture of a Gruyere. Served with a really tasty light praline-ish sort of pecan confection, dried apricots, and water crackers.

Pleasant enough atmosphere and very good service. The music is more suited to chatting with fellow happy hour attendees than sitting by yourself with a book, though. I'd try it again with a group.

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I had dinner this past Saturday at Mark & Orlando’s at the very small bar in the downstairs dining room. Orlando Hitzig could be seen doing his magic in the open kitchen while Mark Medley worked the dining room.

Now I should’ve known better than to go to a restaurant by myself on a Saturday night – especially one that had just been reviewed by Sietsema. I walked into the very full restaurant and asked if there was a bar I could sit at to have dinner. After being directed towards the four-stool bar, I must’ve waited fifteen minutes before anyone asked if I wanted anything to drink or before I was even offered a menu – even though I was the only one sitting at the bar at the time. Again, it’s a Saturday night at 8:00, so that can be forgiven – especially since they didn’t seem to have someone who was strictly working the bar. I’m sure if I went with a companion, I wouldn’t have noticed the time passing.

After I placed my order, bread came out with four different spreads presented in glass votive candle holders. Aside from regular butter, there was a choice of roasted tomato with fennel (my personal favorite), a puree of olives, and caramelized onions. All of them were nice accompaniments to the bread, but I did wonder why the person who ended up sitting next to me got completely different spreads. I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember that he was given a curry butter and an apple puree. Perhaps they tailor the spreads to the type of wine you order (I had started with a Pinot Grigio and he had ordered a red – not sure what type).

For the first course, I tried the salmon tartare atop a bed of crème fraiche. The glistening cubes of salmon were lightly dressed with a hint of dill and citrus. It was quite the refreshing dish on such a warm evening. All in all a very nice and tasty if not unusual start.

For my entrée, I ordered the rack of pork stuffed with blue cheese, pancetta & apples atop a bed of barely wilted spinach in rosemary sauce. The pork was juicy and very tender, and the flavors worked very well together. The only thing that made me do a double take was that a couple bites in, I realized that the reason the pork was so moist was because it was cooked at most to a medium temperature. Now I’m all for a medium rare steak or rare lamb chops, but all my life I had been told that pork should be cooked to 155 or 160 degrees (you know, the fears of trychinosis). So is it unusual these days to see a pork chop cooked at this temperature or is it something that has been going on for quite awhile? It didn’t prevent me from enjoying the meal by any means, but I was wondering if this is just an old-fashioned worry of mine.

To his credit, Mark Medley did stop by to ask how I was enjoying everything. I gave him the thumbs up, not mentioning the temperature of the pork only because it tasted so damn good!

Next time I’ll be sure to come by with a friend or two, but it's not really a place to go alone.

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I believe, but won't bet the rent on this, that modern pig farming has pretty much eliminated the problem of trichinosis. I mean, when is the last time you heard of anybody getting this?

Like you though, I am a little wary of underdone pork--unless I cook it that way myself. Go figure. :P If the safety factor is truly not an issue, then there should be no reason to ever be presented with "shoe leather" pork. On the other hand, I can't abide undercooked poultry and that includes duck. :wub:

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  Now I’m all for a medium rare steak or rare lamb chops, but all my life I had been told that pork should be cooked to 155 or 160 degrees (you know, the fears of trychinosis).  So is it unusual these days to see a pork chop cooked at this temperature or is it something that has been going on for quite awhile?  It didn’t prevent me from enjoying the meal by any means, but I was wondering if this is just an old-fashioned worry of mine.

The roundworm Trichinella spiralis is killed at about 140 degrees F (actually at 137 degrees F). Because thermometers can be inaccurate, most experts recommend cooking to 150 degrees F. Info from here.

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My dining companion and I wandered around Dupont Circle searching for a fine repast on Friday -- luckily, we landed here.

As others have said, the selection of butters is out of this world. Companion had the venison (mmm) and I dined lightly on the grilled Caesar (also mmmm) after sharing the gnocchi (ahhhh.) Now, these aren't Palena- or Eve-quality gnocchi, but they're as close as you're going to get in Dupont Circle, heavily perfumed with truffle oil and nestled among rich, woodsy mushrooms. Comes in a little lidded dish, so when the waiter raises the lid the delicious scents come wafting out... just lovely.

The layout is a bit awkward downstairs -- no host stand, you're not sure you're in the right place -- but the general feeling is very warm and friendly. Never underestimate the power of a place that just smells great. A notch up from neighborhood. We'll be back.

Jael

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Go by and say hello to both Mark and Orlando if you get the chance. Are they turning the culinary world upside down..no. Are they backed by millions of dollars with a place that has toliets that do the work for you....no. Are they friendly...yes. Is the atmosphere worth while for a drink a quick bite to eat...yes. Sometimes thats all it takes for a place in neighborhood filled with great options.

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It's odd to me how there's so little talk about this place. Apparently the food is good (I have never been, but have plans to go tomorrow) and it's in a neighborhood that really needs more quality establishments.

Web site/menu online?

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My recent meal at Mark & Orlando's was pretty good. I liked it, but overall the spot is a few notches below what it could be. The experience - two floors, shared ownership, two menus - was a bit disorienting. The service at the upstairs bar where we dined, a bit less than polished. Truly crappy stemware. The decor, nothing to write home about. But I liked the food for the most part.

But I enjoyed the flavored butters we were offered with a bread basket. There was plain butter plus butters flavored with tomato, garlic and one other I can't recall.

Everything we ordered was from the more upscale menu, I think. I really enjoyed my goat cheese and grits cake appetizer. The shaved fennel was a tasty and interesting accompaniment, but I wish the ancho chili aioli had more punch. My friend enjoyed the restaurant's take on ceviche. My entree was the roast rack of pork, stuffed with blue cheese, apples and pancetta. Served atop spinach, there's a lot going on, but it was full of good flavors. My friend's entree was a NY strip, I believe, but not as described in the online menu (and I am blanking on the details except for the fact that it arrived a perfect medium rare with nice bit of char from the grill).

Strangely, we were told that they didn't offer desserts whereas the new Washingtonian mentions warm chocolate cake. Our bartender (not sure if was Mark himself) wasn't particularly friendly in spite of our efforts to be conversational. Hmmm...very curious. Total bill after tax, but before tip (and without dessert :) ) was just over $100.

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I stopped into the upstairs lounge at Mark and Orlando's Tuesday evening, took a corner seat, cracked open a bottle of Chartogne-Taillet, and yanked out my Edith Wharton.

Jonesing for the Venison Wellington, I made the mistake of asking my server - after the Champagne had been opened - if Orlando Hitzig was working. As it turned out, he was off that evening, working the Taste of Dupont event.

Since Mark and Orlando's is basically a one-man kitchen, I decided to go primal in Hitzig's absence, ordering a Bacon Cheeseburger ($10). Here's what I can say about this ten-dollar sandwich:

Beef house-ground, not pre-formed.

Decent sesame-brioche bun.

Romaine, not iceberg.

Good tomato wedge, not at all mealy.

Fresh-cut pommes frites, not frozen.

Ordered medium-rare, arrived medium-rare.

It's worth getting, and with only a $10 corkage fee, can make for a well-priced dinner. I figured the House-made Ravioli with Lemon-Thyme Butter ($9) had been formed earlier in the day, and wouldn't suffer much with Hitzig gone. Six really good rounds of ravioli, three white, three black, all stuffed with mushrooms.

The only problems came with cooking execution: the fries, good as they might have been, needed to have been done in hotter oil, and the lemon-thyme butter was too brothy, while I was hoping for something more reductive. Hitzig has been in the kitchen every single time I've poked my head in the door, so these cooking slips are easily forgiven.

Orlando, if you're out there: I was intrigued by the Pastry-wrapped Corvina that I saw online. Will you be offering that again anytime? I haven't seen much corvina served anywhere, so this one caught my eye.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Good to hear everything goes well in my absence.

I believe that everything and anything is available pretty much all the time...with notice... I have kept all my menus since the day we opened, so if someone calls in and says, "I came in on February 22nd last year, and I had ...", I should be able to recreate that dish for them. I do still change my menu daily and do my best to keep it fresh.

-Orlando

I stopped into the upstairs lounge at Mark and Orlando's Tuesday evening, took a corner seat, cracked open a bottle of Chartogne-Taillet, and yanked out my Edith Wharton.

Jonesing for the Venison Wellington, I made the mistake of asking my server - after the Champagne had been opened - if Orlando Hitzig was working. As it turned out, he was off that evening, working the Taste of Dupont event.

Since Mark and Orlando's is basically a one-man kitchen, I decided to go primal in Hitzig's absence, ordering a Bacon Cheeseburger ($10). Here's what I can say about this ten-dollar sandwich:

Beef house-ground, not pre-formed.

Decent sesame-brioche bun.

Romaine, not iceberg.

Good tomato wedge, not at all mealy.

Fresh-cut pommes frites, not frozen.

Ordered medium-rare, arrived medium-rare.

It's worth getting, and with only a $10 corkage fee, can make for a well-priced dinner. I figured the House-made Ravioli with Lemon-Thyme Butter ($9) had been formed earlier in the day, and wouldn't suffer much with Hitzig gone. Six really good rounds of ravioli, three white, three black, all stuffed with mushrooms.

The only problems came with cooking execution: the fries, good as they might have been, needed to have been done in hotter oil, and the lemon-thyme butter was too brothy, while I was hoping for something more reductive. Hitzig has been in the kitchen every single time I've poked my head in the door, so these cooking slips are easily forgiven.

Orlando, if you're out there: I was intrigued by the Pastry-wrapped Corvina that I saw online. Will you be offering that again anytime? I haven't seen much corvina served anywhere, so this one caught my eye.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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It was terrible to see the restaurant absolutely empty at lunch today. I hope this was only an enigma due to it being New Years Eve. The cheeseburger is one of the best I have had in long time. I actually prefer it to Centrals (I have not had Palena’s yet), it is a simple burger, nothing pretentious about it. I had feared that the brioche bun might overpower the flavor of the meat, but to the contrary, it held up well and lent an appetizing flavor to the over-all burger. The only thing I would change is the tomato, come-on it’s December 31 loose the barely red mealy thing until the end of July. I really enjoyed the fries, while they were on the thin side they were quite flavorful and a great compliment to the burger. What would have really rounded out the meal would have been a nice pickle spear on the side.

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It was terrible to see the restaurant absolutely empty at lunch today.

"What did you guys order?"

Orlando had come over to the table.

'The pupusas, the butternut squash soup, the grits cake, a flat-iron steak, the trout, and I got the salmon ... <guilty pause> ... but ... I'm ... amenable to changing that.'

He looked at me.

"I guess I should get the escolar, huh?"

"Yes. You dine out all the time. You don't want salmon."

Heh. I knew that was coming. But I love salmon, even mediocre salmon, and I almost never order it. Oh, well...

But I am SO glad I ordered the escolar. About five minutes into it, I was pretty much jumping up-and-down in my seat trying to figure out what went into it. The thick piece of pan-seared fish was served with a side of long-cooked lentils, simmered with some cumin and turmeric, and had a beguiling, crisp top layer which sealed in all the moisture of the fish.

At some point, Orlando came back to check on things. He was working the front of the house that night, and all the cooking was managed by his sous chef.

"What's in the seared top layer of this fish? Turmeric? Some curry powder?"

"Salt and pepper."

"That's it?"

"That's it. This is a neighborhood restaurant, and I keep things simple."

The lentils had fooled me.

A great escolar dish, completely simple, and perfectly executed. Mark and Orlando's reminds me of Del Merei Grille in some ways - both are unpretentious, chef-owned, neighborhood restaurants serving good food at fair prices.

And both restaurants seem to be struggling in this financial climate.

Mark and Orlando's is one of the very best restaurants in Dupont Circle, and for now I've moved it to the top of the Dupont Circle area in the Dining Guide. There's no clear "best restaurant" in Dupont Circle - Pesce is good, some people like Mourayo, it's too early to tell about Etrusco, and I haven't been back to Obelisk in awhile now - but Mark and Orlando's is right up there, and deserves more attention than it has gotten.

And the wines by the glass are reasonable. And the flavored butters served at the beginning of the meal (plain, strawberry, lemon, onion marmalade) have become excellent over time. And the desserts are good, too, particularly the blueberry financier which is made with almond flour and brown butter.

I'm sorry to sound like an ad, but I'm pulling for this place.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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"This is the worst ice cream I've ever had!"

"Oh, it is not."

"It tastes like PEPPER."

"Correct."

"Eeeeewwwww!"

I parted ways with my young dining companion over Mark and Orlando's Black Pepper ice cream, which you probably won't like if you don't like ground-up peppercorns in creamy, delicious homemade ice cream. Served with a scoop of pear-wine sorbet and saffron ice cream in the Homemade Ice Creams and Sorbets plate ($7), it was my favorite of the three, and engendered a long, arduous debate about whether savory flavors have any place in desserts.

"Why not FISH ice cream?"

"Fish is a protein; pepper is a spice."

The discussion evolved and continued the entire way home, but on the way, I decided my little friend was ready for a taste of TangySweet Original (just as I encouraged him to lick a lime at a Pho house when he was two years old). We got a little tasting cup, walked outside, and I told him to go ahead and plop the whole thing in his mouth.

"Eeeeewwwww!"

Heh, heh, heh.

"This tastes like Greek Yogurt!"

Heh, heh, heh.

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I found myself in the Dupont area this afternoon, which I don't get to very often, and was looking around for where to eat lunch. On seeing Mark and Orlando's, I had the vague memory of hearing about it before, probably on this site. I'm glad I went in.

After one of the most solicitous welcomes I've received in a Washington restaurant, second only to Marcel's, I took a seat in the corner of the first-floor dining room. When the Bibb salad with crumbled blue cheese and toasted walnuts arrived, I knew I was in the right place. Beautifully presented and dressed, it was obviously the work of an aesthete in the kitchen and made me want to try a few other things off the menu. The first of these was an unusual cream of tomato soup which, as Mark explained to me, is made with roasted tomatoes that have been reduced with stock and Yuengling lager. The result was a deep, rich concoction that still retained just enough tomato flavor to keep it honest. Although somewhat oversalted, this soup had obviously benefited from careful thought.

Next up was one of the best crabcakes I've had in recent memory--an altogether beautiful specimen that made me reflect with sadness on how often simple, local specialties such as this are abused and perverted. Spiked with just a bit of thyme, it was served on a bed of delicately braised leek and tomato concassé with a light veal reduction. The presentation and execution were flawless.

I didn't try any of the wines or even look at the list, but there was a group of what appeared to be industry insiders doing some tastings at another table. It's obvious that this restaurant takes what it does very seriously without making the mistake of taking itself so. I'll definitely make a bee-line here next time I'm in the neighborhood.

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From sitting in the bar upstairs watching basketball and drinking longnecks to birthday dinners downstairs to nights that have gotten a little too late, Mark & Orlando's has treated me very well. Yes, the bar food upstairs is under-recognized (burger included!), but the real charm of the place for me is that Mark makes such a damn fine host.

They're also very involved in various Dupont neighborhood committees and advisory boards, which gives them good neighbor points, at least in my book.

Alex

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Hello everyone! I am new here so please bear with me. I'd like to say a formal goodbye to one of my and my husband's favorite restaurants, Mark and Orlando's, in the Dupont Circle area. We have had some great meals there, including a wonderful tasting menu last February to celebrate my birthday. It is a crying shame that, due to the recession and a couple of unfortunate events, they had to close their doors. Mark, Orlando, and their lovely staff will be greatly missed. However, I hear that they will try to come back in a new location sometime in 2010. Looking forward to that!

For those who are not familiar with M & O, Orlando and his staff turned out some excellent dishes at very reasonable prices, while Mark had some wonderful red wines at surprisingly low markups. A great loss, indeed!

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