If the top restaurants in DC debate is like the Miss America pageant, then the state of Borderstan has some of the city’s most charming and beloved contestants: Komi, Obelisk, Estadio, Birch and Barley. But is the best eatery in the District not only in our fair neighborhood, but hidden right in plain view?
Even with its prime location on P and 21st and its three straight years rising up the Washingtonian rankings, Eola still feels like our little secret. When I recommend it to friends as an ideal place to take in a dinner, the answer comes back, “Never heard of it. Where is that?” But any time I mention it to someone who’s been there before, the answer is always, “Yeah! That place is amazing.” But sadly instances of the former seem to happen more than the latter, and in most cases, that means lower-than-warranted turnout; on our Tuesday dinner last week, there were only two couples with us the entire night.
Which is a shame, because Eola is quite simply one of the best experiences in the city. For one, it’s the perfect picture of a dining room for a date. Exceptionally and impeccably well-coiffed, the room features a beautiful aged wooden floor that meets an exposed brick wall to one side, a pleasant cream yellow color with chocolate trim on the other three. Sometimes you just feel a place is comfortable and intimate and inviting. This place is it.
But the superlatives that the food deserves exceed even those in a Lil Wayne rap. Eola switched last year to all five-course tasting menus; and at only $65 a head for five courses (!), it also doubles as one of the best deals in the city. The restaurant offers three choices: one regular menu, one vegetarian, and one offal menu designed for the adventurous, all of which change on a frequent basis.
This shift allows Chef Daniel Singhofen and his kitchen the liberty to freely riff on the classics and innovate, which they do with style. On our trip, a quail and pistachio terrine wonderfully plays the part of a first-course pate, while a beautiful array of wild mushrooms in consomme is a luxurious blend of earthy flavors and intriguing textures.
A nettle risotto and a broccoli and pork belly ravioli are boldly inventive with sharp and clean flavors. And our entree courses are beyond compare, with the most perfectly-poached halibut we’ve ever had falling apart in fleshy, buttery chunks with each bite, and a rabbit ballotine with fiddlehead ferns offered tender and crunchy counterpoints, all within a flavor profile that was pleasantly rustic country.
So, in one fell swoop, you can enjoy a classic dining room and exceptional service, support a local business, and oh, have the best meal in the city for an amazing price. Go now, go often, and get in on the secret. Then tell everyone you know.