Dinner at Restaurant Nora, a little gem near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., is a true treat for the senses. Offering DC’s top classic farm-to-table cuisine, it reflects an elemental philosophy of cuisine that your food should be as healthy for you as it is delicious to consume, a philosophy about which the charming and avant-garde restaurant owner and founder, Nora Pouillon, is passionate and to which she has devoted the better part of her life. Call her a revolutionary, an innovator, and a star chef able to draw the likes of DC celebrities and power players – after all, Nora opened up her special private room in 2010 for Michelle Obama’s surprise birthday party! Or call her the “godmother of the organic food movement” like the president of the James Beard Foundation did. Nora is right up there with the likes of Alice Waters on the west coast in making a making a major contribution to improving the quality and the healthiness of American cuisine.
What has made Nora so successful? Besides a totally driven personality, creative cooking of “organic” seasonal food from local reliable sources has kept Nora’s Austrian old-world focus fresh and interesting. Plus, unlike in so many restaurants of this caliber these days, Nora herself is regularly there on site to personally welcome her guests and oversee service and quality. So Nora is essentially the engine for her restaurant from start to finish.
I know this because a few nights ago, my husband and I spent a very memorable evening at Nora’s, savoring a smooth and exceptionally fine Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Ciacci Piccolomini — definitely a special occasion wine – along with 3 delectable courses. We also had the distinct pleasure of being welcomed by Nora and some time to chat with her about her background and her vision for her restaurant and for American cuisine.
The food was as inspiring as its creator. Since my husband and I couldn’t resist tasting each other’s food, it’s hard to say which “small plate” we preferred at the start of our meal … the Maine Lobster & Hearts of Palm Salad with Mango Carpaccio, Corn, Peppers & Romesco Sauce or the Local Fried Green Tomatoes & Goat Cheese Stuffed Sweet Peppers with Herb Vinaigrette. Both dishes offered a creative layering of flavors with a visually appetizing presentation and we would very happily order them again.
Our main courses were Sautéed Veal Escalopes with Housemade Gnocchi and Chanterelle Mushroom Sauce along with Pepper Crusted Ribeye Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Cognac Mustard Sauce. Both dishes were accompanied with perfectly sautéed farm fresh vegetables and both meats were extremely tender, but if we had to choose our favorite it would be the veal — truly the best we’ve ever eaten in the U.S.!
Following a very light, smooth entremets of Passionfruit Ice Cream, we dauntingly advanced to the dessert course.
The Bittersweet Chocolate Molten Cake – quite possibly the best we’ve ever had in terms of flavor, richness and texture – was enhanced with Cappuccino Ice Cream and perfectly paired with a 14 Port- Gould Campbell 2003.
The Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream was simpler but very satisfying.
We shared all our dishes as we enjoyed impeccable service, the atmosphere was quiet and charming with comfortable antique Pennsylvania Dutch decor, and we appreciated the convenient valet parking offered in parking-challenged Dupont Circle. We both agreed without hesitation that we will return for our next celebratory dinner. Nora’s is definitely a destination restaurant which, with Nora at the helm, should stay fresh, healthy and welcoming to its discriminating clientele as well as delicious and memorable for a long time to come.
For more information about Restaurant Nora or Restaurateur Nora Pouillon, visit www.noras.com or purchase Nora’s new book, My Organic Life, How a Pioneering Chef Help Shaped the Way We Eat Today, which has received excellent reviews.
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