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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Chinatown

The Setup

Number 5 with a bullet in the Restaurant Week bonanza was Asian fusion restaurant Oya. Joining me on this trip were Official Friends of DCWD Baboon, G, and HR Intern.

The Vibe

In a word: trendy. In two words: super trendy. When you walk in, you come upon a chain link curtain (which, it must be said, serves no actual purpose than to decorate the divider behind it). It's these kinds of things that dot the entirety of the restaurant, ostentatious tacks designed to remind you that you are indeed at a really cool place. From the glass doors and panels, to the black marble, to the fireplace and multitude of hanging teardrop chandeliers that light up the paisley textured walls, the main dining area is a study in contrasts. Simple black and white, but in un-measured ways: black framed mirrors at the top of the white porcelain brick-style tiled wall, the aforementioned marble and chandeliers.

To the left as you walk in is the lounge, filled to the maximum with people waiting for a table, and even with a reservation, there was enough of a backlog that we waited 15 minutes. Not a complaint, just a reflection of how packed it was.

The Food

Everything on the Oya Restaurant Week menu was something they had on their regular menu, and in point of fact, they have a normal $35 prix fixe menu, so I wasn't too worried about the quality of the food.

Four our first course, HR Intern and I both ordered the beef short rib Wellington, essentially beef wellington but if the meat was instead short rib, replete with the foie gras and mushrooms, and augmented by onions, hoisin, and a marjoram black pepper sauce. HR Intern and I loved this dish. Good textural contrast, great braise, and a nice warm flavor profile with some brilliant umami flavors. Definitely on point.

Baboon had the curry sea bass spring roll, with cabbage, shitake, Thai basil, and a green curry orange soy glaze. Baboon loved this dish, but the rest of us were fairly luke warm on it. I thought the sea bass lacked that kickass notch, and the sauce was just sort of ordinary. Some interesting things going on, but wasn't too memorable overall.

G ordered the spicy crunchy salmon (though her original menu said shrimp). In this instance, the dish was essentially a salmon sushi roll, but battered in tempura, served with a spicy aioli. I love crunchy sushi, so the tempura batter was a welcome addition, and the whole quality was pretty nice.

For our main course, G chose a sushi off the main menu with the chef's nigiri (in this case, shrimp). Her choice was the Typhoon - crispy shrimp tempura, crab salad, spicy mayo. I didn't have a taste, since her portion was small. But she didn't add any superlatives that made me think it was anything more special than other sushi places.

Baboon and HR Intern both opted for the scallops, served with wild mushrooms, pad thai noodles, and a black truffle jus. Oh scallops. Literally, four of the five meals of my Restaurant Week included them, and they all seemed to inspire the same reaction: "these are well cooked but I'm just not wow-ed by them. That being said, the noodles were good, and I mean, black truffle jus? Yes, please.

I went against every rule in my book and ordered for... wait for it... the chicken, enticed as I was by its sides: a celeriac puree, Brussels sprouts, and black mission figs. Surprisingly though, the chicken was nice, cooked fairly well. Still, the sides, which I wanted to carry the day, were only okay. The celeriac was nice, but sprouts were a little firm, and I wish someone had stemmed the figs so I didn't have to pick them out of my mouth.

For our dessert round, Baboon and G both went with dessert wines, the former a Zinfandel and the latter a quite delicious Soprano Asti Moscato. I went with the molten chocolate cake with a mandarin orange anglaise and vanilla ice cream. I don't know about this orange business, because it never showed up, maybe because the dessert was basically like this: CHOCOLATE. As in, whoa there dude, I did not expect this much. A little aggressive but very simple in its aggressiveness.

HR Intern for his part won the dessert battle, with the banana bread pudding, rum raisin ice cream, and caramel, but probably only because bread pudding is always superior. This was not the best bread pudding ever; I wish it would have been softer, which would have added to its flavor.

The Verdict

Some really good things, but mostly nothing special. With the wait times and its trendiness, not necessarily somewhere I'd head back to. But that's my opinion.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Party in the USA
Energetic to Noisy
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two) (note: if you're going for sushi, it'll be even cheaper)
: Class it up and head over the National Portrait Gallery for a before dinner walkaround.

Oya Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

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