Have you ever had an “at work bestie”? That person that can finish your sentences, and tells way awesome stories similar to yours, but you’re really just colleagues and you only have conversations at work? Well I have an at-work bestie. And she’s awesome. She gets me. And she rules. So, we decided to do lunch together for the first time the year we worked together. Once I told her about Restaurant Week, she was fully supportive of a lunch away from the food court in the office. We decided to take a spin over to Graffiato in Chinatown (right behind the Verizon Center)! I really wish I’d been to this place before I write the Neighborhood Spotlight for Chinatown/Penn Quarter.
Delightful. Delightful is the best word to describe this two-storied Contemporary Italian restaurant. And by contemporary Italian, I mean super Americanized-Italian eatery. So yes there’s pasta and pizza, but you can also get chicken and spare ribs. But classy chicken and spare ribs. Anyway, my at-work bestie and I snuck away for a long lunch and were immediately seated (of course, I had reservations). The upstairs dining area is a wonderful, open space, with fantastic lighting. It felt like we were outside in the open sun, which is, simply, delightful. The walls were painted, with old school Tim Burton-like characters, but absolutely in a good way. When you think Tim Burton you think, dull and kinda morbid, but with high contrast. Stick with that in mind and this place will leave you thinking, plain jane and bright lights. Other patrons during our visit included ladies lunching with colored heels in the middle of the day. My first thought: Ha! Totes Sex and the City.
As a light lift to the drab Tuesday, we ordered the Pinot Grigio Rose, which was sip-tastic. It was very fruity and light with undertones of pear and apple! Can’t you tell I read the back of wine bottles sometimes? The glasses were $10 each, which isn’t bad for what I consider a good glass of wine in this town. The rest of the cocktail list looked more on the Happy Hour, #turnup side. Unfortunately, I did need to go back to work at some point. Our waiter had the most agreeable witty banter and entertained us through the entire hour (ahem, and a half) of lunch. So muchos brownie points there.
I figured I would need to order a pizza in order to feel full enough to make it count. But once we heard that the Restaurant Week menu only had the calamari pizza, I 100% changed my mind on that. That’s okay. The Restaurant Week menu had a good variety of “Contemporary Italian” items. We decide to try the market fish, with sides of brussels sprouts and caesar salad with cream cheese croutons. Oh, and a chocolate cake to finish.
Well. You might’ve guessed it. It was just amazing! We started off by sharing the sides, which was in perfect enough portion that we could do that. I love it when restaurants give you enough food! The caesar salad came with anchovies, which I tried for the first time and I’m now a certified fan of that combo. (I only recently learned that
anchovies are in caesar dressing, sue me.) My at-work bestie and I recently had a conversation about the lack of vegetables in my
diet, and she highly recommended brussels sprouts a
s an easy addition to my veggie repertoire. These were no where near my mom’s kitchen when I grew up, so I have zero clue how to cook these. But Graffiato has given me the most wonderful recipe. Their brussels sprouts were glazed in a maple dressing, with a tint of balsamic vinaigrette and pancetta. The sprouts were gently placed atop a savoury yogurt sauce, an amiable addendum.
Then our entree came out, which was a super flakey fish that I cannot name at this point. I tried really hard to remember it, I swear. The fish was laid on a bed of frisee and puree of eggplant, surrounded by pomegranate seeds, which I’ve also never tasted. So this was a day of firsts! Totally worth it, the fish was made very well and I could’ve suck the last life of the plate.
Finally, the piece de resistance! A mini mound of chocolate cake, with salted caramel ice cream and garnish of some crunch stuff. As our spoons touched the chocolately surface, we hoped and we prayed that this was lava cake We made our way slowly but surely, savoring (quickly) every bite. And with every passing bite, the disappointment showed on your faces. By the middle, it was clear. This was no lava cake. We were mildly disappointed to say the least. I was having too much fun making proportionate spoonfuls of cake and ice cream. Something I’m proud to say, I’m really good at. Hey, look at that: my first ever perfect score!