Jump to content

Annabelle - The Return of Chef Frank Ruta in the Former Nora Space - An Ashok Bajaj Restaurant


Recommended Posts

On 2/2/2020 at 9:35 AM, LorenzoF said:

We had thoroughly enjoyed Chef Ruta’s culinary mastery in his previous digs, Palena and Mirabelle. Thus, we were anxious to try his new restaurant near Dupont Circle and went there last weekend, just one week after Annabelle’s opening.

For main courses, we chose the smoked olive-oil -poached Chatham cod, the home-dry-aged rib eye beef steak and the roasted free-range half-chicken with tarragon jus, oca root boulangere and wilted spinach. The entrees were all excellently executed (meaning that we liked them a lot, lest somebody might think we possess superior technical knowledge…). Though we also agreed that the succulent chicken (crispy on the outside, moist inside, super tasty throughout) stood out as the top pf the pack, in terms of cost-benefit analysis (aka bang for the buck). The most committed meat eater among us (that would be me) thought that the rib eye steak at 9oz was a bit on the smallish side. That is certainly good for the cows, probably beneficial to the environment, perhaps helpful for human health, but it certainly does little to improve my mood.

Before the main courses, we had the “Carbonara” (a riff on the typical Roman dish with duck confit replacing the guanciale or pancetta and egg sabayon replacing the fresh egg dictated by eternal city tradition). We also tried three different salads, namely the beet, Caesar-esque, and Boston Lettuce salads, all scrumptious, with the Caesar-esque perhaps being the most notable.

Annabelle is located in the building that once hosted the famous Nora, well known for being the first farm-to-table/organic restaurant in the DC area. Although the general arrangement and resulting atmosphere of Annabelle are very pleasant, we felt that there are some minor quirks in the architecture of the place following its renovation. The entrance leads you straight to the bar area and the space between host and door is quite narrow and feels crammed. Moreover, the restrooms are located in a tight corridor in front of a fairly noisy servers’ desk, which takes away from the desirable privacy in bathroom practice. Finally, our table was in the back area, a sort of patio with a lot of green and interesting artwork, but quite cold compared to the rest of the restaurant, maybe because of the glass roof.

The waiters all were very professional and indeed charming.

In sum, an excellent gastronomic experience which we will repeat. 

Yeah I think after we have been back a few times, we will have to make sure the staff know our preferences for where we prefer to be seated and so on. In the room we were in I have already spotted my desired two-top as well as my desired 4-top if we go with friends. I am already plotting on when we can book whatever the smallest private room they have for a wine dinner.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

the bf and i had a spur-of-the-moment dinner at annabelle last night.  the makeover of the old nora space is lovely, although i do find kind of funny/sad that notwithstanding what i assume to be a target clientele of older, more formal diners, rows of tiny photography-friendly lights above the tables are apparently de rigueur these days.  the wine list is very classic, the cocktail list only slightly less so.  the sancerre and chablis by the glass were both perfectly satisfactory exemplars.  a scofflaw* cocktail was good, but the pencillin was surprisingly mediocre -- quite sour, with very little discernible sweetness, ginger, or peat to balance it.  the laminated brioche was delightfully flakey and salty; i was disappointed that our basket contained only one.  seed-dusted rolls were unexceptional but made for good soup mops.  

*i have long loved this cocktail, not least for its delightful origin story: the term "scofflaw" won a contest sponsored by a prohibitionist who wanted a new, pejorative term for those who defied prohibition by drinking.  harry's bar in paris promptly thumbed its nose at the endeavor by creating the new cocktail.  

for our first course, we shared the yukon gold potato gnocchi (rogue river smokey blue, hazelnuts, balsamic compressed pear), kabocha-organic barley soup (pickled maitake puree, yuzu koshu, pumpkin seeds), and caesar-esque (little gem, puntarella, pickled mackerel, piave, baguette).  our clear favorite was the gnocchi, which balanced smokey richness with a hint of heat from slivers of red chili, crunch from the nuts, and sweetness from the fruit (which looked like bits of mushroom, confusing me on the first bite).  my only quibble was a desire for the few chili rings to have been halved so that they could be spread around more bites.  in second place was the soup, which varied pleasantly from bite to bite depending on whether you scraped up a bit of the yuzu or mushroom.  the salad was a beautiful mix of green and pink leaves that made excellent use of capers and cheese, although the concentrated fishiness of a few slices of pickled mackerel wasn't an improvement over the traditional anchovies.  

less exciting were our main selections: organic salmon with korean pepper crust* (radish kimchi, purple potato puree) and savory oatmeal (fennel bulb granitee, coddled egg, sorrel froth).  when the waiter explicitly asks whether medium rare salmon is okay -- my preference, so great -- the salmon shouldn't come out with the same solid shade of opaque pink all the way through.  it wasn't overcooked, so i wouldn't have noticed but for the expectation-setting of the medium-rare inquiry, but more disappointingly, the dish was kind of boring.  the spiralized radish on top only whispered of spice, not remotely approaching the funky heat that "kimchi" evokes.  the pretty potato puree was well seasoned and creamy, but salmon and mashed potatoes wasn't my goal with the selection.  the savory oatmeal was less a porridge and more a plate of grains studded with chunks of vegetable (onions, beets, fennel) and topped with an egg.  tasty, but as the bf correctly noted, one of those vegetarian entrees that won't let you forget that you are eating a vegetarian entree.  if this had been a brunch dish, i would have thought that it was a creative take on breakfast food, but as a dinner entree, it didn't feel sophisticated or cohesive enough.  

*our menu contained a slightly different description than the currently online menu in how it referred to the pepper tuile on top. 

things picked back up with dessert: goat cheese cake (caramelized puff pastry, huckleberry-balsamic sorbet, spicy urfa honey) and pine nut tart (cornmeal crust, rosemary-mint semifreddo, lemon cream, port reduction).  [i'm not sure whether the tart description from the website varied slightly from what we had.]  the cheese cake was light and distinctly goat-y, the honey was an excellent pairing, and while i didn't get any balsamic tang from the sorbet, it was very nice.  surprisingly (given my love of goat cheese), i preferred the tart, with its sweet chess pie underlayer -- think pecan pie subbing pine nuts.  paired half-moons of two semifreddo flavors had a kulfi-esque texture, and the rosemary was pleasantly prominent.  

while i'm not the ruta devotee than many on this board are -- only one meal at palena before it closed, a few good meals at the grill room, one disappointing dinner at mirabelle -- i was happily anticipating annabelle's opening, and i'm glad that we tried it.  i'll keep an eye on the menu for churn, but am unlikely to rush back until there are some additional options.

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Ashok sued. He released Frank from the non compete. Frank has a head bartender etc since the restaurant is open so not poaching a head bartender is bubkis. I think in the business that is known as getting your clock cleaned. But I am not a lawyer, I just play one occasionally on Don Rockwell. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/5/2020 at 9:23 PM, Pool Boy said:

Additional options I am sure are coming - my guess is they are still finding their service rhythm before they do that. Nice write up.

I'm glad the lawsuit is over, and hope that Frank and Aggie got paid what they were owed.

Now, I really hope Annabelle can concentrate on putting out a product that's commensurate with the Ruta name.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/22/2020 at 11:14 PM, DonRocks said:

I'm glad the lawsuit is over, and hope that Frank and Aggie got paid what they were owed.

Now, I really hope Annabelle can concentrate on putting out a product that's commensurate with the Ruta name.

Sorry you did not have a good experience when you went. We did, but they are still very new and probably need to work out the kinks with consistency.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We went there this pst weekend. Service and good were first rate. Apps were the gnocchi and the shrimp cocktail. Gnocchi was not over powered by the blue cheese, which can be challenging with a cheese like this. Only knock on the shrimp is that I would have preferred a riff on cocktail sauce rather than a a riff on an Asian sweet sauce. Brioche bread in the bread basket was light, airy and scrumptious. Entrees were the filet and the roasted chicken. Missus had the filet and said it was perfect. I don’t know what I liked better - the chicken, potatoes or greens. Chicken definitely lived up to the Ruta name. Desserts were the goat cheesecake and the roasted pineapple pavlova. Will definitely be back. 

4FBD488F-650E-405D-BD84-5DD488F47918.jpeg

  • Like 7
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/22/2020 at 11:14 PM, DonRocks said:

I'm glad the lawsuit is over, and hope that Frank and Aggie got paid what they were owed.

Now, I really hope Annabelle can concentrate on putting out a product that's commensurate with the Ruta name.

You didn't like it?  It was a little mixed when we went (I wasn't enamored by the gnocchi), but I thought the Consumme, Duck Breast, and Chicken were all outstanding.  What did you get?

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/27/2020 at 12:08 PM, DPop said:

You didn't like it?  It was a little mixed when we went (I wasn't enamored by the gnocchi), but I thought the Consumme, Duck Breast, and Chicken were all outstanding.  What did you get?

The consommè is back?!?!?!?!

Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎3‎/‎3‎/‎2020 at 5:24 PM, franch said:

i keep wanting to go but i can't get past the pretentious menu

Not sure if this is sarcasm or not.  The menu doesn't look any different than any similar local restaurant, does it?

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Bart said:

Not sure if this is sarcasm or not.  The menu doesn't look any different than any similar local restaurant, does it?

The pretentiousness (or creativity, depending on where you stand) of the menu has been vastly toned down since the preview menu I saw before it opened. 

Compare the original (attached) with today.  

https://annabelledc.com/dinner

Dinner-Menu-12.27.19.docx

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/5/2020 at 1:17 PM, mtureck said:

The pretentiousness (or creativity, depending on where you stand) of the menu has been vastly toned down since the preview menu I saw before it opened. 

Compare the original (attached) with today.  

https://annabelledc.com/dinner

Dinner-Menu-12.27.19.docx 904.53 kB · 73 downloads

Simpler is definitely better - I am sure Frank finally convinced folks that if you just put damn good for on the table people will come - no gimmick necessary.

Link to post
Share on other sites

So my wife and I did a staycation, did a few day trip things locally, away from people. It's our birthdays week, so we indulged in some good take out - Kaz was her choice and Annabelle was mine. We avoided most things we knew would not travel well (fried stuff, frozen stuff) and then plated everything at home and had a delicious meal.

1777190778_ScreenShot2020-08-03at9_35_56PM.png.4fe2d137a7994609f809339453bd1544.png

Heirloom Tomatoes - Reggiano Cheese Bavaroise, San Giacomo Balsamico, Ciabatta Tuille
--
The tuille suffered from the drive home, but the flavor was amazing. The totatoes each had different flavor profiles and were the ultimate in fresh. So good - like summer on a dish.

1582945282_ScreenShot2020-08-03at9_34_39PM.png.b5ee447da32cbad8918f5535c78ae987.png

Summer Corn Vichyssoise - Smoked Chanterelle and cinnabar mushrooms, yellow squash, crispt leeks, nasturtium
--
Very refreshing and delicious. Really good flavor and I loved how the mushroom held up up so well.

193444263_ScreenShot2020-08-03at9_35_27PM.png.916965d194ebf5139e1a6d17c45c3c30.png

Terrine of Organic Guinea Hen, Pistachio and Olive, en Croute - Fennel Remoulade, Pickled Daikin, Sweet and Sour Green Tomato
--
Anytime you see anything that says 'house made', 'house smoked', 'Annabelle's own' - order it - you will never be disappointed.

This is such a Frank dish. Exceptional terrine (toothsome but not chunky and no whipped - nice dose of black pepper) augmen
ted by ALL of the accoutrements - ultra fresh greens for crunch and flavor; the pickled daikon and green tomatoes for counterpoint to the richness of the terrine and the fennel remoulade because is brings it all together. This is an exceptional dish not because each of the elements is exceptional, but more so because of the combination of flavors when you bring it all in together in a bite.

Just incredible.


878275015_ScreenShot2020-08-03at9_35_03PM.png.4ede1960950f0dac0f2afdba4bce2a9c.png

Crispy Massachusetts Rock Fish and Spanish Octopus Duo - with grilled summer corn salad.
--
This dish suffered the most from the drive back home unfortunately - nothing cispy about the dish (we avoided ordering the Fish Sticks & Onion Rings as well as the Stuffed squash blossoms on the menu for that reason).

That said, the flavors were still
 very solid. The octopus held together better than the rockfish and the accompanying corn salad had some magic thick crema in it to connect it together. The crema in the foreground is an avocado sort with a bit of chili oil - great for dipping the rockfish in to. Better yet, get a bit of everything on your fork for a nice bite and you'll love it. I would love to try this again immediately after it was plated.

Summer Corn Ravioli - Annabelle cured and smoked prok belly, summer truffles

Summer Corn Ravioli, Annabelle Cured and Smoked Pork Belly Ravioli, Summer Truffles

--This is what I look forward to every summer with Frank's food. The truffles bring depth and earthiness to this sweet corn (and nutmeg?) ravioli. The greens lighten it and the sauce (the SAUCE) connects it all together. This would have been much better had we dined in, but the flavors were just great.

Kurobuta Pork Chop Katsu - Miso condiment, wilted cabbage with sesame

Kurobuta Pork Chop Katsu - Miso condiment, wilted cabbage with sesame 
--Unbelievably excellent pork. And a nice Japanese inspired dish - breading held up well in the drive home, the miso was nice to augment things and the sesame-cabbage had sliverd of sweet peppers in it. Bonus was the one side of it had the bone in it for more flavor. Really, really great dish.

Pennsylvania Raised Lamb - Grilled loin and Confit Shoulder, summer eggplant relish, cucumber yogurt sauce, roasted zucchini


Pennsylvania Raised Lamb - Grilled loin and Confit Shoulder, summer eggplant relish, cucumber yogurt sauce, roasted zucchini 
--
Frank's lamb is always great and this dish is no exception. While the loin was great, the shoulder was the better of the two. It was slightly 'corned' and had a nice pepperiness that went well with the relish (or cooled off by the cucumber sauce). Underpinning it al was the fantastic, rich and unctious sauce. So good. A triumph.
 

Oven Roasted Organic Half Chicken - Salad of Summer Beans and Indigo Radicchio, Tarragon Jus


Oven Roasted Organic Half Chicken - Salad of Summer Beans and Indigo Radicchio, Tarragon Jus
--
I'm a sucker for Frank's chicken no matter thr form. Clearly I liked this version because I'd already ripped off some of it before I took the picture.  Perfectly roasted - juicy, succulent and flavorful (nice thing with the juniper in that) and crispy skin. Exceptional. The salad brought summer to the dish and was quite delicious on its own and with some of the chicken.

 

144566171_ScreenShot2020-08-03at9_35_37PM.png.c610264588dd7122d8013b1824d3248b.png

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake - Passion fruit creme, chocolate mousse, crispy meringue, exotic caramel 
--This suffered a bit from the drive home. Good overall flavors and if you love chocolate, you'll enjoy the dish. For me though, the dessert here fell a little bit flat. Other things to finish the meal that were on the menu involved frozen things that would never have made it home which is why we tried this.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/3/2020 at 9:46 PM, Pool Boy said:

Crispy Massachusetts Rock Fish and Spanish Octopus Duo - with grilled summer corn salad.
--
This dish suffered the most from the drive back home unfortunately - nothing cispy about the dish (we avoided ordering the Fish Sticks & Onion Rings as well as the Stuffed squash blossoms on the menu for that reason).

That said, the flavors were still
 very solid. The octopus held together better than the rockfish and the accompanying corn salad had some magic thick crema in it to connect it together. The crema in the foreground is an avocado sort with a bit of chili oil - great for dipping the rockfish in to. Better yet, get a bit of everything on your fork for a nice bite and you'll love it. I would love to try this again immediately after it was plated.

No Local Chesapeake Rockfish.😞

Link to post
Share on other sites

We planned to go for Valentine’s Day but Mr. BLB was in CT with his family as his father had just died. And then we were going to go in March for BL-8th grader’s 13th birthday but we all know what happened in March. 

We did curbside pickup in May for our anniversary.  I took no pictures.  I know there was pasta and a burger and it was lovely.  It was everything I loved about Frank Ruta and it made me melancholy for the old days of Palena. 

We need to go back again soon. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

How's street parking around Annabelle (like tonight)?  I haven't been in that area in forever.

Hand Cut Ink and Egg Tagliatelle Pasta - N'duja, Rapini, Urchin, Lemon Toasted Breadcrumbs = 🤤

Residential, so if everyone is home and in town, it might be a bit tight. That said, I never had any problems parking at Nora - I think I always parked within a block or so.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I did hit up Annabelle before New Years and sat outside.  As you can see in the photo, they erected a half tent and have heaters at table level.  Not wanting to waste gas, I kept my jacket and scarf on and only had 1 heat lamp, which was sufficient.

Since I was outside and it was cold, I ordered mostly cold dishes.  Starting with Crudo of Maine Sea Scallops - Parsnip-Labne Cream, Passionfruit, Truffles, Parsnip Chips.  Personally, if the quality of the scallop is good, I prefer it unadorned so the sweetness shines through.  This dish was interesting, with lots of different flavors and textures.  

Next was Tart of Fresh Portuguese Sardines - Shaved Fennel with Sweet and Sour Sardines.  The sweet and sour sardines tasted like the Venetian classic Sarde in Saor.  I like small silvery fishy fish and nice flaky tart crust, so this was terrific to me.  

Third was Pate of Winter Game- Duck, Venison, Wood Pigeon, Pistachio.  I was sucking down champagne and failed to detect the flavors of the game meats.  It tasted like a normal pate to me.

And the pièce de résistance: Hand Cut Ink and Egg Tagliatelle Pasta - N'duja, Rapini, Urchin, Lemon Toasted Breadcrumbs.  It was a let down.  The pasta was crunchy, the sauce was really salty and I didn't bother to finish the dish.  I did eat most of my delicious side of roasted Brussels sprouts with prosciutto.   

Service was fantastic for a cold winter night outdoors.

 

IMG_5017.jpg

IMG_5018.jpg

IMG_5019.jpg

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...