There are several neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., that are known for their concentration of restaurants: Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan and even Georgetown. Foggy Bottom, on the other hand, is a hidden gem. Given its geographic location, specifically its proximity to George Washington University, there are of course plenty of national chain restaurants such as Roti and Sweetgreen. However, Foggy Bottom also has some exquisite dining spots perfect for special occasions — and Equinox is one of them.
Equinox refreshingly provides outdoor seating, which emanates a rather casual and relaxed ambience, without the requirement of formal dress. It seems that this feature appeals to the majority of the restaurant’s patrons, as when my party of two arrived at 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday night, the patio had been fully seated, while the inside remained half vacant.
Although the restaurant may have wanted for a few more customers, I personally saw no reason to complain. The whole dining experience was excellent — attentive waiter, quiet environment and of course, good food. It is not an easy task to define the type of cuisine that is served at Equinox, partly because I still struggle with the term “New American,” which usually implies a fusion of western gourmet. Equinox has started with a variety of dishes inspired by cuisines worldwide, and it has added its own unique twist to them.
We began our dinner with a loaf of warm bread and a spoonful each of salad. While I did appreciate that the bread was still warm, both its taste and texture were only mediocre. The complimentary salad seemed to have been made of fish — nice presentation, nice gesture, but a bit too salty for my taste.
We then ordered the truffled risotto fritters ($10) to share. The bowl of nine fried risotto balls came with a dish of garlicky sauce that was marked by a pleasant hint of lemon. The creamy sauce was delicious, but the fritters failed to impress. Already lukewarm when presented, the risotto balls resembled a larger, less flavorful version of tater tots.
The other appetizer that we ordered, Burgundy Escargot in riesling mushroom cream ($14), made up for the disappointment wrought by the fritters. The escargots were not presented in their shells, but rather were cut into smaller pieces. Contrary to the dish’s title, the sauce wasn’t very creamy — it offered a light texture and only a detectable taste of mushroom. Ever a lover of heavy and decadent sauces, I nonetheless found myself a fan of this mushroom cream, which impeccably complemented the already tasty escargots, whose texture was slightly crispy — just to my liking.
After a glowing and passionate recommendation from our waiter, I ordered the pan roasted barnegat light diver scallops ($33) for my entree. The dish far exceeded my already very high expectations. The scallops themselves were roasted to perfection — a bit crispy on the base, but otherwise soft and finished with a black pepper dressing on the bottom. Just a small amount of the sauce rendered the scallops heavenly.
Equally memorable were the sides that accompanied the shellfish. The citrus-braised octopus was tender and savory, and would have indeed made an excellent entree even by itself. I finished all of the sauteed broccoli, which proves just how truly remarkable they were, considering how much I dislike the green vegetables. The most amazing of all was undoubtedly the crispy swiss chard.
While Equinox had enchanted me with its seafood entree, my partner was less in favor of his pick, the grilled Creekstone Farm New York striploin ($32). I tried a piece and immediately understood why. Although he asked for the steak to be cooked medium rare, the dish came out as medium. The meet itself contained too little fat, which made it less tender and juicy than expected.
We ended our dinner with the apple feuilletee ($12). Given its price, we were anticipating a huge portion, but it came out as a comparatively smaller, regularly sized dessert dish. Even give its small size and the fact that two people were eating it, neither one of us could find the motivation to actually finish the dish. The cinnamon ice cream was delicious, but as an ice-cream lover, I would have found any ice cream lovely. The feuilletee was delicately made; as a baker, I admired the technique behind those clear layers of apple cake. Nevertheless, I was more impressed with the presentation than with the actual taste.
With the food, coffees and amazing mocktails, the meal as a whole turned out to be costly. Like I have said, Equinox is meant for special occasions. Order the seafood dishes, and you are guaranteed to be satisfied