Since 1991, 701 Restaurant has offered an elegant experience in Penn Quarter, just a few blocks from the White House and across the street from the National Mall. It’s “old Washington” at its best, and a great place to stop by for a cocktail after work or take an important client out to lunch. Founder and owner Ashok Bajaj makes sure to keep the celebrated eatery fresh. In 2015, the décor was revamped, making it more modern with cozy seats, seductively dark walls and a grand piano, where talented jazz musicians provide background music you’ll want to stop and listen to. The handsome dining room is inviting, with intimate seating and white linen-draped tables, and there is a lovely back patio for guests to take advantage of these last warm days of the season.
Executive chef Benjamin Lambert, who took over the kitchen in February, has developed several new menu items to tempt your taste buds and impress your dining companions. Lambert is committed to sourcing local ingredients and blends flavors from Japanese, Indian, South American and American cuisine. New items on the menu include an appetizer of bluefin tuna tartare with sushi rice ice cream, ponzu and wasabi oil. For an entrée, try the corn fonduta agnolotti, with chanterelle mushrooms, truffle and sun gold tomatoes or the cauliflower shawarma with hummus, golden raisins, tomatoes and lavash. The smoked duck breast with salsa verde and black beans is a nice twist on a traditional Washington dish, and the s’mores for dessert make a fun finish to the evening.
As for cocktails, I recommend the Douro Spritz. Tangueray Gin is infused with saffron, giving it a lovely color and slight honey flavor that mixes beautifully with white port. The whole luxurious concoction is topped with soda and tonic, and is light and refreshing – with a kick.
So the next time you’re looking for a place to impress your out-of-town guests, consider 701. You might just spot a senator or similar political celebrity, not to mention journalists and other Washington insiders enjoying a tasty drink at the gleaming bar or plotting their next deal or misadventure at the low-profile cocktail tables in the lounge.
701 Restaurant: 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.701restaurant.com
Photo: Courtesy of 701 Restaurant