Chef Frank A. Ruta was hired to work in the White House kitchen back in 1979. I do mean “the” White House kitchen not just a white kitchen. He worked under the Regan and Bush terms of presidency. No matter what you think of their politics you have to give them credit for their taste buds. Chef Ruta is a culinary god in my world. Never have I eaten a meal where I felt sick because I just kept stuffing my face.
Palena has a style to appeal to everyone. There is the market selling fresh imported and artisanal products used in the restaurant, as well as coffee, and ready-to-eat sweets and savories. The Café serves up wood fire grilled specialties such as Wood Oven Roasted Rabbit Leg to Palena’s Wood Oven Roasted Chicken. Do not fret they also have an array of pastas to chose from such as Mezze Rigatone Bolognese made with hand diced beef, pork and lamb ragout, shaved reggiano cheese. The lamb meatballs are flavorful and moist. Nothing here is what you find anywhere else in North America. Chef Ruta always puts a special spin on the ingredients.
Now let me introduce you to the Dinning Room where the atmosphere is always romantic. Reservations are required no matter what day of the week. I was told that you need to make them 2 weeks in advance but since I was flexible on date and time they were able to squeeze me in on a Thursday night. The tasting menu may be considered quite pricey in some circles but it was well worth the dent in my wallet and the calorie intake. Three course plus dessert is $80.00 while five courses plus dessert is $100.00. Those prices do include two wonderful pre-appetizers. One of which was a delicious and rich Asparagus Soup followed by Asparagus Risotto Ball made with mint a real treat for your taste buds. The Tuna Cruduto was fabulous a light taste that left you wanting more. Although I will say that the Asparagus White Brouche with Hens Egg was a little too salty for my taste. The Salmon Pamela with beets pasta was sweet and rich more a dessert than an entrée. The menu changes monthly with the seasons and fresh fish so nothing stays the same on the second visit.
You may want to pace yourself with this menu. Although it is a tasting menu the portions are not small so do not think you will be exiting the establishment and heading for taco bell. I left with a tummy ache because I did not pace myself and kept eating without stopping. Well the more got to me and all I could do was grab a cab and go to bed instead of enjoying the wonderful nightlife DC has to offer from its clubs featuring the best of local musicians to the sites.
The staff is wonderful and the chef amicable to change up choices from either menu due to dietary restrictions without a fuss. My glass was never half empty it was always full. As soon as you walk through the door you are greeting with warm smiles and inviting gestures.
This place if Four Forks Up no and if or buts about it. It is a delight to the taste buds. The food is not cheap but remember where else can you say one of the White House Chef’s feed you a dinner you will not forget. You will leave in a happy coma with the delusion that you are the President of the United States. A most stop on your tour of DC and great for locals for special occasions.
3529 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC