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Palena, 2007 James Beard Award Winner Frank Ruta Rocks Cleveland Park - Closed on Apr 26, 2014


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Can't believe you people didn't got going on Palena yet.

The cafe menu continues to grow and amaze as always. From the latest, bisque with mussels, touch of rice and spinach flan; stuffed Pennsylvania lamb with piquillo bread sauce; and hen gallantine sexed up with pistachios and foie gras have blown my mind.

The menu is so familiar and well-loved by now that ordering became a struggle, although not entirely un-looked-forward to. Should I have something new? Or should I get the best burger in NW?

Of course, last night I figured had to have my burger fix before taking off for two weeks of caviar therapy.

I said it first...Jeff is very dreamy and extremely dexterous with beverages of all sorts.

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Thank you Frank.  And to the stranger at Tonic in Mt. Pleasant who, in January of 2006, upon overhearing my conversation of where to work next, kindly urged, without hesitation, "go to Palena.  It's t

So, all of this change made me sit here and think of all of the great times I have had at Palena over the years. While this is my own intensely personal point of view, I hope you enjoy reading it, I a

There is a lesson here:  Palena was an outstanding restaurant with a supremely talented chef.  This is a huge loss for Washington. For anyone reading this:  if you passionately believe and love a re

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Is the lobster burger at Citronelle eligible for "Best Hamburger" consideration? Or is this category limited to beef?

While I really enjoyed the lobster burger, my vote goes to the burger at Palena. wub.gif

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Can I still be part of the group if I say that Palena's burger failed to knock me on my ass?

I thought it was a little on the small side for the bun it was on and slightly over salted when I had it.

You can be a part of my group.

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<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>Can I still be part of the group if I say that Palena's burger failed to knock me on my ass?</span>

When did you have it?

I ask because I've heard from two independent sources that it ain't what it used to be. I haven't had one in about 3 or 4 months, so I'm wondering if they're right. The two possible heretics in question have used words like "dry", "tough", "less flavorful" and "smaller". Both have said that everything but the beef itself is the same as it used to be.

I may need to go and investigate.

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When did you have it?

I ask because I've heard from two independent sources that it ain't what it used to be. I haven't had one in about 3 or 4 months, so I'm wondering if they're right. The two possible heretics in question have used words like "dry", "tough", "less flavorful" and "smaller". Both have said that everything but the beef itself is the same as it used to be.

I may need to go and investigate.

I had the burger at Palena this past weekend for the first time in a while. It was ejoyable and tasty, but not up to the level that I remember. I certainly would not use the words, dry, tough, or less flavorful. It just seemed to be missing something. I will say that it still beats others in the area.

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So is the burger at Palena still good or not as impressive as it used to be? A dinner decision is pending based on recent evaluations.

I've had this burger at least a dozen times, most recently four nights ago when my mom proclaimed it to be the best she has ever eaten (honestly, that probably isn't saying much). It's not always the exact same thing - sometimes there's a touch too much sauce, other times it's a bit too small for the ample house made bun, etc., but I've never regretted ordering it, and I have regretted NOT ordering it.

Frank (yes, he's a member here), would you consider chiming in and deconstructing your cheeseburger for us?

Cheers,

Rocks.

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So is the burger at Palena still good or not as impressive as it used to be? A dinner decision is pending based on recent evaluations.

I do like the burger at Mortons, and the burger at Chef Geoff's (especially on the last Monday of the month) is pretty good. But I can't make a claim about "best" easily.

Also, I've heard there's a wagyu burger at Landmark Restaurant in the Melrose that is to die for. Sonoma will also apparently be featuring a wagyu burger, significantly closer to home...

K

Mr. BLB almost always gets the Palena Burger. Except for one really off night about 9 months ago when they served his burger pretty much raw (he orders it medium...), we haven't noticed a significant change in quality. (I just look sad and pathetic til he shares a quarter of it with me.)

One of my fav things to do is order the burger and save half for breakfast the next day. It holds up REALLY well...

Jennifer

P.S. He ordered it on Monday night and it was prettty close to perfection on a bun.

P.P.S. I have noticed a tendancy to go a bit heavy on whatever it is they smear on the buns sometimes though. I can end up with quite a mound on my plate...

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I'll have to say that when I go to a restaurant like Palena, the hamburger is just about the last thing I would consider ordering, given all of the other creative fare on the bill. But with the previous posting, I guess I'll just have to suck it up next time I'm in there and give the burger a try.

Exactly. We're probably missing a lot of great burgers [or other such fare] that way.

Though in the interest of full disclosure, the burger was what I had on my FIRST trip to Palena, based on it's reputation. tongue.gif

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I think I managed to have at least a bite or two from 14 different dishes last night over a 5 and a half hour, two restaurant Happy "Hour" last night. Everything was very good, but somehow the highest of the highlights was a hot dog.

If that incredible, spicy, savory sausage they put on a bun with mustard and saurkraut at Palena can be called a hot dog. This is no weenie dog. This is a rottweiler.

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My name is Hillvalley and I too am a Palena-holic. I do not wish to enter a 12 step program because then I would lose the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I cannot imagine a better place to be than at the bar enjoing the artichoke and fontina panini washed down with a bloody mary. Yet another blissful creation by the chef. This is not your mother's grilled cheese sandwich. Go to Palena, eat the panini, talk to the other people at the bar who are in the same blissful state. You will thank me.

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To make our "Happy Hour second round of snacks" that Bilrus mentioned more explicit, the 4 of us had:

- Gnocchi

- Penne with lamb meatballs

- The veloute

- Canederli

- Hot Dog

-Hamburger

- more Gnocchi

- one more entree that mdt scarfed down

All were excellent.

Among the standouts were those luscious lamb meatballs. One of those dishes where you say "Well, I can make lamb meatballs". Not like this you can't.

The canderli were absolutely ethereal dumplings. This jumped straight onto the short list of best dishes that I've had this year.

The Hot Dog was spicy and sweet at the same time. Almost more like a Hungarian kielbasa than what one would typically think of a hot dog. Added bonus was some delicious sauerkraut. I don't generally like sauerkraut, but I wolfed this down.

The hamburger was quite good, but a little salty for my palate.

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Last night--

canderli-- I can't say it but darn is it good. (Although I prefer the sheeps milk raviolini....)

the seared yellowfish caeser--not as good as the salmon the first time I had it; better than last weeks salmon. A fine salad!

AND...

Cheesecake -- I love Ann. I miss Ann. I'd sell major body parts to get cupcakes on the menu. But that cheesecake gives new meaning to cheesecake--that sickly sweet junk they serve at famous chain places.

Monday nights at Palena--it's becoming a habit.

Jennifer

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Good lord, the bar at Palena was CROWDED last night. I got there at 8:30 and waited patiently for a spot at the bar for about 15 minutes (I was determined to try this "Palena Burger" I had heard about). Kate (?), the hostess, was lovely and very accomodating, letting me know on the sly when she planned on seating some folks waiting at the bar. That was a very kind gesture to the starving solo diner -- she gets a gold star.

Dinner was, when put in mere words, pedestrian: a burger and fries. When eaten it was something else all together. Washed down with a glass of Grenache I can say the Palena burger deserves the accolades it has received on this site (and others). If you're a fan of the half-pound monsters served up at some restaurants, beef overwhelmed by bacon, ketchup, and whatever else you want on your sandwich, well this isn't the burger for you. Don't get me wrong--sometimes those burgers really hit the spot. But this was in a different category. The cheese and the sauce were accents to emphasize the beef and the bun -- which were spectacular.

Okay, I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir. But really, this burger was goooood.

Interesting sidenote: I had a couple "Ibitinis" after dinner; the bartender (Kirk? Good guy) informed me once the gentleman departed that I had been sitting next to the drinks namesake. Some Google searching revealed that he's quite the interesting man... funny who one runs into in D.C.

Great, now I'm hungry again.

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I’ve been curious about the café menu. Finally went to try what everyone was raving about. Though my friend was astonished I ordered the way I did, I plunged right into ordering hot dog as my first course with Macon-Lugny Chard; middle course was cheeseburger; entrée was the roasted chicken matched well with Les Gaillards Grenacha. Delicioso! Nothing that reminded me of old fashioned comfort food. Just good professional cooking done perfectly no matter what it is!

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I’ve been curious about the café menu.  Finally went to try what everyone was raving about.  Though my friend was astonished I ordered the way I did, I plunged right into ordering hot dog as my first course with Macon-Lugny Chard; middle course was cheeseburger; entrée was the roasted chicken matched well with Les Gaillards Grenacha.  Delicioso!  Nothing that reminded me of old fashioned comfort food.  Just good professional cooking done perfectly no matter what it is!

You ate a hot dog, cheeseburger, and roasted chicken in one sitting?! You are my new hero! :lol:

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You ate a hot dog, cheeseburger, and roasted chicken in one sitting?!  You are my new hero! ;)

You should have seen the look of my friend's face--that's exactly how he worded it! He was just amazed and flabbergasted! With good food and good company--I can eat! So I was like this :P , and not like this :lol:

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Hello my name is Mike and I am a Palena-holic.

I made my second trip in a week (3 in the last 2 1/2 weeks) tonight and had the crayfish bisque followed by the hot dog. That bisque was wonderful and I enjoyed the highlight of spinach flan that was placed atop the soup.

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Stopped in last night to try a panini, but they weren't on the menu :lol: There were plenty of other interesting new things though-- the menu's been greatly expanded since I was there last (or was that just because it was Mon, when only the Cafe is open?)-- at least 15 dishes on there. Had a great artichoke antipasto plate (which also had bufala mozz, cured meats and fava beans).

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On Monday nights only the cafe menu is available. On other nights you can order from the regular menu as well. While I have not had a chance to stop in for Saturday lunch yet, I think the panini are only offered then.

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Yep, I was also told the Monday night menu has been expanded. The panini (BLT and artichoke) are great - definitely try a Saturday lunch there. I was surprised that Palena wasn't very busy this past Saturday. That was strange. Great food - I need to move beyond the cheeseburger, though...but it's just tooooo good.

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I moved beyond the cheeseburger. Last night, the cafe salad and the artichoke antipasto plate.

Yum.

Both plates were wiped clean of any and all bits resembling food. The artichoke flavor on the antipasto was perfect, and great with the mozzarella. The two types of ham (cantimpalo chorizo and serrano? Couldn't tell) were awesomely delicious.

One problem: I completely forgot to note the fruit that was in the cafe salad.

One of my dining companions is on a mission to attempt recreating the roast chicken at home. We tried getting secrets out of our waitress but the only ground she gave up was that the meat was brined. Anyone have any other clues? I'm sure nothing could really compare, but to get close in the home kitchen would be nice.

K

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One of my dining companions is on a mission to attempt recreating the roast chicken at home. We tried getting secrets out of our waitress but the only ground she gave up was that the meat was brined. Anyone have any other clues? I'm sure nothing could really compare, but to get close in the home kitchen would be nice.

K

I think that brining the chicken is one of the keys, but I detected something like 5 Spice flavoring, so you might want to add some to the brining solution. The trick to getting the crisp skin is to make sure the bird is completely DRY when you place it in the oven. Try roasting at 425 for 15 minutes and then reduce to 350-375 for the remainder of the cooking time. If you have a convetion roasting oven so much the better, but requires slightly lower temps and less cooking time than a regular roasting oven. Let me know if this works -- haven't actually done it myself yet :lol:

Edited to add: THe bird also has to be on a rack or a vertical holder to make sure it stays out of its own fat as it cooks.

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I just want to throw out there that on my third visit to the Cafe at Palena last night, I finally tried the much-ballyhooed cheeseburger and hotdog. The burger was decent - juicy, meaty. The bun was perfect. The sauce/mustard was ok. But everything was WAY over salted. And I like salt. I do! Just way too much. The potatoes that came with it were room temperature (are they supposed to be?) and were not to my taste, but by no means bad.

I couldn't eat the hot dog. It was like biting into the ocean - and not in the good kind of way. No spice. No flavor. Just hotdog meat taste and salt (and believe me, I LOVE a good dawg).

Since what I'm saying could be taken as heresy by their legions of hotdog and burger fans, has this been experienced by others? Was it an off night for the kitchen? Is my sense of taste so off?

On previous visits, I've had a lovely time and am a big fan of the food. This is the first misstep I've experienced there... although it was a pretty big misstep - it was a miserable meal. My companion had just the burger and he liked it, but found it quite salty also. Very strange.

Desserts included the fudge brownie and the lime tart - both fantastic - and a plate of cookies as an apology for the barely eaten hotdog. Boy, I miss buying the cookies from Amernick's.

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The potatoes shouldn't have been cold - sometimes the fry plate can be off. One time I ordered it and the lemons were sliced a bit too thickly and they had extreme pucker power instead of the gentle sourness that I liked.

My 2 cents about the burger - great for me. (But see, I didn't fancy the chicken so much...)

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When I stopped in on Monday there were some magic words on the menu following the burger listing: "with house made bacon ($2 supp.)"

It was excellent, although next time I may order it without or have the bacon on the side - I like the unfettered gooeyness of the meat and cheese.

The lemons with the fry plate have been getting thinner and thinner (better and better), but the fries themselves are still the weak link.

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Well, I succumbed to the pressure last night and ordered both the Palena hot dog and cheeseburger. I have to agree with the comments up-thread about the salt issue. The hot dog was so salty I could barely eat it. I don't know if the salt was in the hot dog itself or in the sauerkraut, but regardless, there was too much of it. The cheeseburger was fine but I don't see what all the fuss is about. I'll not order the hot dog again and I plan on going back to my prior sentiment that if I'm going to dine at an establishment of the caliber of Palena, I'm not going to have a hamburger and french fries. There is too much other innovative stuff on that menu.

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I am surprised to see all the 'too salty' comments on the hot dog. The last 2 that I have had were great and I am not a salt fiend. Too bad as they are pretty darn good when they are on.

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Nothing! Sea Captain is a standup guy, but I wouldn't want to eat him, house-made saurkraut or no.

Edited to add: I've never had the Palena dog, so I don't know first-hand if the comparison stands, but I'm still willing to give it a shot!

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bump

"According to the website, Palena is not open Sundays and Mondays."

Planning a trip to the cafe on Monday (D-Day) and while I know the restaurant is not open on Mondays, and since my hubby emailed me this quote from the website, and since the last encounter I recall is that they were closed for a cleaning on a Monday...well, you get the drift.

Anyone been in the past few weeks?

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bump

"According to the website, Palena is not open Sundays and Mondays."

Planning a trip to the cafe on Monday (D-Day) and while I know the restaurant is not open on Mondays, and since my hubby emailed me this quote from the website, and since the last encounter I recall is that they were closed for a cleaning on a Monday...well, you get the drift.

Anyone been in the past few weeks?

Unless things have changed the Cafe is open on Monday nights.

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I happened to be on the phone with them today and asked about Mondays. Cafe is open with an expanded menu - although the full kitchen is not open, disallowing ordering a la carte from the full restuarant menu.

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I happened to be on the phone with them today and asked about Mondays. Cafe is open with an expanded menu - although the full kitchen is not open, disallowing ordering a la carte from the full restuarant menu.

Thanks, that's great! I think my husband can now be convinced that they'll be open :lol:

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Oh, Palena. Oh, Palena.

Last night, after a slammin' day in the office with no time to eat except chug a vile proteine shake. I dreamed about Palena's burger all day. Braving the rainstorm and hurricane-force wind that blew dried particles of Exxon gas pump residue into my eyes as I struggled across the lot toward Palena's door. Walking in, the troubles of work and weather and crap in my eyes no longer seemed relevant. Last night, it was paradise.

People say, why do you even ask for the menu? You probably know it by heart in all likelihood. Why yes, I probably do. Why do I keep asking? Because new items keep sneaking into the menu, and I'm the sucker for the cookin'.

Started off with a nice bowl of spinach and Vidalia onion soup with kumamoto oysters. If the first word you notice about that description is "onion", you're wrong. The first word you ought to notice is "spinach."

What arrived had no resemblance whatsoever to a stereotypical "onion soup" picture one has firmly lodged in one's brain's department responsible for housing stereotypes. It's a creamy pureed spinach concoction with delicious white swirls and two plump oysters lurking near the bottom along with the flan-like bit. The whole effect is so warm and homey and comforting and exactly what I craved that night. You know, that dish was delicate and refined, and I ought to be admiring how cleverly it was conceived and executed, but instead, I'm raving about the taste of comfort and home, and that's a credit to the kitchen that's worthy of many other adjectives.

And then the burger came, of which no further tales are necessary. And the cookies? Yes, they made an appearance.

Oh, and last night at Palena? Kissyface all around the room. At least four people who post here. At least ten people who read here. At least four people who cook and manage the food that gets written about here. You know who you are. Such a delight to run into y'all again.

That's Monday night at Palena. A little happiness for the stomach and the soul to start the week in the right direction.

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Sigh--to follow a post from someone who writes very well is very depressing...writing was never my strength :lol:

Lovely time, great food, great company--This was our second visit to the "bar" and the first for our friend. We started, of course, with the french fry plate. Those lemons are mighty refreshing! I had the tagliatelle, and my husband and friend both had the lamb. MMMMHHHH....

And then came the thunder and lightning, which could not put a damper on our enjoyment of those wonderful cookies and caramels, topped off with the perfect cuppa coffee.

I really wish we could get out more often; being house poor SUCKS! ;)

(OH and that soup...all I saw in Nadya's bowl when I walked by were bright green remnants in a bowl that looked as if it had been licked clean!)

edited to add: And CONGRATS ON YOUR NEWLY ACQUIRED VENTWORM STATUS!

Edited by squidsdc
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Decided to head down to Palena last night as it had been a while since I've been there. We got there around 8:45ish and had to wait a couple of minutes for a table in the bar area. While we were waiting, one of the sprinklers in the middle of the bar area started gushing water all over the floor. I must give credit to the staff as it did not faze them. They calmly wiped the floor placed a bucket in the middle of the floor and went about business as usual.

When we were seated I noticed a couple of interesting additions to the bar menu since I had last been there. 1) a seafood fry plate consisting of shrimp, skate, cod and something else which is slipping my mind 2) a stuffed lamb dish with a fava and arugula salad.

We started with the fry plate, wow, those lemons and mashed potatoes are as good as ever. My g/f had nettle gnocchi w/ castelmagno cheese and I had the aforementioned lamb. We were tempted to get the cookie plate but were too stuffed.

As usual, Palena remains one of my go to places in D.C. where I know I will most likely never be disappointed with my meal

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