405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
The expectations for this restaurant were very high. With Jose Andres and Katsuya Fukushima one could expect nothing but perfection. After eating at Cafe Atlantico I have come to the harsh reality that my expectations were completely wrong. Everything started great. We sat at the bar and had a few excellent cocktails. After the cocktails we were seated and then everything came crashing down. The first thing that happened was that the hostess came to our table and asked us if we were the group that complained about the restaurant week menu. We were not, but it just shows the quality and strength of the menu. To begin with the restaurant week menu was cut down to two choices for the night. The website and front door menu listed six options for both the appetizer and the entree. This was not that bad except that they replaced one of the six appetizers with a green salad, and one of the six entrees with a lunch special.
- Chef’s special soup of the Day – gazpacho
- MIxed Green Salad (lunch)
- Salmon con Quinoa y Cous-Cous de Coliflor
- Specialty of the day (lunch) – Pork served with stewed tomatoes, olives, onions, capers and fresh lime with avocado
- Sorbet of the Day, Coconut Sorbet
I had the soup, pork and the Choco-Banana. My Girlfriend had the salad, salmon and the sorbet. We also ordered the table side Guacamole.
Out first came the Guacamole, a mere 15 minutes after we ordered. For a course that they prepare tableside, it took a long time to get to us. The Guacamole is rather plain, but really shows of the flavor of the avacado. I would recommend it for the first timer to Cafe. Once made it was good, but it was not enough to tide us over until our appetizers came out 25 minutes later. The appetizers were rather boring. The only little bit of fun was the fried worms added to the top of the mixed green salad. The salad was way over seasoned and showed just how much the restaurant likes restaurant week.
I must digress, restaurant week is a time for restaurants to gain new patrons. You are supposed to show of the best of the restaurant to get patrons that would not normally enter your restaurant to become repeat customers. Cafe Atlantico and many other restaurants miss the point. If you want patrons don’t simplify your menu, don’t offer food that I can get at taco bell, offer me something that distinguishes your restaurant from any other restaurant. Make me want to come back, make me want to spend my hard earned dollars on your food. Take pride in your food and don’t offer me something that you are throwing out there just to turn a 100% profit.
Back to the gazpacho. Good body, good flavor, nice acidity. It was a well balanced dish. Probably the best of the night. Just shows how the night went. A cold soup beat out everything.
After the appetizers we had a good 30 minute breather before our entrees came out. It gave us enough time to finish our wine and to discuss how everything was going. Obviously not very well as it was 1:10 minutes into our dinner service and we had only our appetizers in our empty stomachs. It was like we were the unlucky guests on one of the first nights of Hell’s Kitchen.
Finally we received our entrees. My pork had the texture of country fried pork without the breading. After I cut out the bones, my portion was half its original size. It was seasoned alright, but the combination of olives, capers, tomatoes and guacamole just did not work for me. I just did not understand the guacamole. The salmon came out well done and on underdone couscous. This was a bit of a joke at the table as the waiter made sure that we were alright with medium-rare salmon, as that is how the chef liked to cook it. I guess that the chef was not in, as the salmon came out cooked well done.
Finally we were given the gift of dessert a mere 2 hours after we sat down at the table. This would not be bad if we were eating a six course meal, but for a three course meal that appeared to be pre-cooked this was horrendous. The dessert consisted of coconut sorbet (enough said), and a Warm Chocolate cake (actually cold) with Venezuelan chocolate flan, banana foam and fresh banana lime salad. The cake was cold, the foam was creamy and the flan was, well great.
Overall my experience was horrible. The staff was inconsiderate, the food was moderate at best and restaurant weekers are treated as third-class citizens. Would I go back? Maybe for minibar, but for restaurant week, probably not.