Neighborhood: Crystal City
Official Friend of DCWD Juli's birthday was coming up and we hadn't seen much of one another, so I promised her the next time something came up in Arlington, she would be first on my list. So when I got a coupon for Kora, the new restaurant that rose up in the old Oyamel/Bebo Trattoria space from the old chef/owners of Farrah Olivia, that's where we went.
The whole restaurant's decor is purple and brown and white, which gives it a nice pleasant feeling. The restaurant doorway opens up into a small lounge area and than the bar, which is rather sizable. A giant rectangular bar with a low hanging glass rack over top of it, the bar area is pretty expansive with twenty white high chairs. The main dining area is dominated by a large purple wall with silver diamond-shaped curlicue designs, and a second perpendicular wall with a giant Warhol-style portrait of the restaurant's namesake. The seating is mostly simple brown four-tops and six-top circular tables, and raised white booth cushion seating along the purple wall. The space itself is segmented partially with two thin and tall white screen door boxes with strings of lanterns inside.
With an open pizza kitchen as you walk in, clean lines, light purple and silver color scheme, and a reference to pop art, I really liked the vibe.
With the coupon, Juli and I had to order a prix fixe Sunday dinner (which I was totally fine with). It being still winter time, I went with the seafood corn chowder, and Juli got the Caesar salad. The salad was fine, nothing to write home about, though the addition of anchovies was nice (well I thought so at least, I was the one who ate them). The chowder was also pretty good; the shrimp in it was cooked nicely and who doesn't love bacon? That being said, again, not anything I'd call home about.
I'll throw it in here that the focaccia they gave us for the bread course was fantastic, perfectly light and well herbed. Plus it was presented in wax paper printed to mimic an Italian newspaper, which was both a weird gimmick, but also a decent way to pass the time.
For the entrees, Juli got the angel hair pasta with pomodoro sauce and grilled shrimp, and I went with the honey roasted quail with polenta. The quail was very well cooked, and the stuffing of corn and spinach was great (though I will admit having to take it apart with my hands instead of utensils because of the way it was tucked). The polenta was also nice, though I thought the mushrooms in it were a little bit oversalted. A pretty quality entree.
The pasta was okay, with a decent sauce, and the shrimp pretty well cooked. Except for the shrimp, it's hard to imagine how you could mess this up too terribly. I didn't think anything too much about it either, though Juli at least thought it was good.
For dessert, Juli ordered the gelato, which that night was blueberry, and I went with the creme brulee. The brulee was okay, but suffered again from the general theme of this dinner; it was okay, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary. The gelato was at the very least creative, and also had some good flavors to it. I preferred it, which is saying something given my love of creme brulee.
I had high hopes for the restaurant, given how much I liked the decor and the space. But the meal was otherwise forgettable (albeit decent), and with the price and the location, not someplace I'd go back to (though I can't write it off if I were looking specifically for a date restaurant in Crystal City). The quail/polenta dish was good, but everything else was just pretty typical.
Food Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Bar Rating: Quiet Drinks to Classy Crowd
Cost: $$$ (out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing: That part of Crystal Drive has a very nice walkable stretch of road, especially on a nice day, which contains a number of other restaurants, office buildings, and a wide variety of shopping in the Crystal City Shops, which span several blocks near Kora. Definitely a neighborhood and street on the upswing.