Friday, August 7, 2009

Cafe Atlantico

Based upon the recommendation of the venerable Mark Bittman, I headed to Cafe Atlantico for their Sunday Latin-influenced "Dim Sum" brunch. While certainly on the spendy side, Atlantico serves up inventive small dishes and excellent cocktails.

The drinks, while coming in at a lofty $11, are not your average brunch cocktail. The best one is their homemade bloody mary with celery and salt foam, which adds a great texture and is salty and delicious. (Incidentally, they call it "air" on the menu instead of foam, which is what it is. Does José Andrés think that D.C. people will think about fraternity foam parties if he uses that word? Calling it celery and salt "air" makes no sense. What an insult.)

Their small plates, or "dim sum", as they (for some reason) prefer to call them are great for sharing. To be sure, there's nothing dim sum about the brunch. No one's coming around with a dim sum cart. It's just a small plate brunch. But don't tell them that. In any event, the cantaloupe and tomato skewers with cilantro micro greens and vinaigrette was refreshingly summery, as were the fantastically thin pineapple shavings with plantain powder and tamarind oil.

For more substantial dishes, the best ones were the jicama "ravioli" filled with guacamole, and the chili-tomato soup. Using thin jicama (a turnip-like Mexican root vegetable) as the ravioli skin creates a crunchy coating for the soft guacamole inside. The soup, served in a glass, was spicy and complex. It was served with a dallop of crème fraîche, which nicely cut the spiciness.

Other interesting dishes were the mushrooms with a "63 degree" egg -- essentially a lightly poached egg -- and the quesadilla filled with wild mushrooms and huitlacoche (a corn fungus -- mmmm fungus!).

The fried egg with verecruz sauce and the cauliflower-quinoa “cous-cous” were merely ordinary. The egg dish was simply a fried egg with tomatoes, mushrooms, spices, and tortilla chips. While all the ingredients were fine, the dish wasn't particularly creative or interesting. Similarly, the quinoa and cauliflower dish was well-cooked but was also fairly simple and uninspiring.

For dessert, they make a "pan dulce" -- fluffy bread with mild melted cheese fried in butter and topped with maple syrup; needless to say it was sweet and delicious.

Go for the tasting menu to sample more of these creations. This is a special occassion brunch since it's fairly expensive. Further, despite the price the service (like most D.C. restaurants during brunch) is inconsisdent. They should have changed our plates between dim sum "courses" especially after the particularly messy ones, but never did. They also should have explained what each dish was when it came out, especially the more creative ones, but instead the waiters simply dropped them off and sped away. Nonetheless, Atlantico is worth the splurge.

Contact information after the jump. Continue reading.

Cafe Atlantico
405 8th St. NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812

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1 comment:

GABY said...

i like your blog,just discovered it today while looking for brunch place for my upcoming xmas visit.ciao gabymyerm