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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:00pm
Mon–Fri 5:30pm–10:00pm
Sat 5:30pm–10:30pm
Sun 5:00pm–9:00pm

Features Date-friendly, delivery, good wines, outdoor dining, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Penn Quarter
818 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 331-8118
A focus on local and sustainable ingredients sets a standard worth following

Though treaded by upscale heels (two of which belong to Michelle Obama, who celebrated her birthday here), Equinox stays true to its noble aim: to carefully prepare foods made (mostly) from local ingredients. What’s more, Equinox is not presumptuous; prices are relatively reasonable, at least well worth the sensory nirvana a night here entails.

Nor is Equinox stuffy, by any means. It’s classy and spacious, with a wall of windows that let the outside world in. While ties are appreciated, they’re certainly not required, and servers easily fluctuate between heady wine connoisseurship and light-hearted banter.

The kitchen is not especially ambitious or daring—that’s not the point. It is guided instead by classic flavor combinations, a feat of balance, and the knowledge that most of a chef’s work is done at the farmer’s market. Heirloom tomato soup pairs the season’s best with simple parmesan crisps; the contrast of sweet acidity and nutty cheese is transcendent. Another soup unites the earthy sweetness of autumn kabocha squash and roasted pumpkin seeds with their soul mate: pancetta. Pointedly, a swordfish puttanesca (loosely, whore’s pasta) is anything but whored up, its requisite tomatoes and Niçoise olives made novel only by upgrading from tuna. One suspects that other restaurants sharing Equinox’s limelight would tart it up as some Asian fusion fiasco like miso-marinated salmon “puttanesca”…with chipotle aioli. And though it may sound whimsical, a foie gras “Fig Newton” is code for a natural pairing of dried fruit, buttery bread, and lightly seared liver.

The only extravagances arrive on dessert plates. A few puritans, such as a pear tartlet with cream, battle against hyper-indulgences such as the triple chocolate mousse terrine with praline ice cream and gooey chocolate sauce. Not much beats an exquisite sorbet here.

While one of the better wine lists in town, it stoops somewhat as a mere Who’s Who of Wine Spectator winners: certainly grand, but curiously lacking many of the small grower-producers and artisans that are in keeping with the kitchen’s philosophy. It reads a bit like crashing cymbals over the top of the Beatles’ “Day in the Life.”

The restaurant’s not perfect, and it’s not groundbreaking—perhaps it’s even feeling a bit dusty—but in a District with too many restaurants bent more on overcharging for flashy adjectives, we could all use a return to the deliciously sensible and sustainable.

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