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–Leslie Brenner,
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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
8.5
8.3
$55
Modern, Pizza
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 7:00am–10:30am
Mon–Thu 11:30am–3:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10:00pm
Fri 7:00am–10:30am
Fri 11:30am–3:00pm
Fri 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sat 8:00am–3:00pm
Sat 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sun 8:00am–3:00pm
Sun 5:30pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.urbanadc.com

Dupont
2121 P St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 956-6650
Urbana
Good things can come in trendy packages

The first impression you might get upon walking into the Hotel Palomar’s hot, happening wine bar is that it’s a velvet-rope Vegas nightclub with a Blade-Runner-meets-wine-cellar theme. Only the thugs and the preening supermodels seem to be missing. On weekends, the bar area absolutely hops with the twenty- and thirtysomething in-crowd.

As such, you’ll probably be pretty shocked when you sidle up to the bar, ask your knockout bartender about whites by the glass, and are treated to a lesson on the differences between Verdejo and Albariño.

The entirety of the wine program is as down to earth and well-informed as these bartenders. As many as 35 wines are poured by the glass, yet—remarkably—every one we’ve sampled has been in good condition (i.e. not open too long). The focus is on lesser-known artisanal producers, with an excellent balance between New World and Old—and that’s no small feat in DC, either.

Better yet, the wine prices are unusually accessible, closer to double retail than the standard triple. On a recent version of the list, for instance, a bottle of Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, a snappy Muscadet, went for $24, and a delightful Lagrein “Castel Turmhof,” a light red from Tieffenbruner in Alto Adife, was priced to move at $41.

We’ve only spent this long talking about the wine because it makes us so happy—not because the Italian-influenced food menu isn’t worthwhile in its own right. Baby zucchini salad with manchego is a model of restraint, balancing crunch with softness, acidity with salt. Crispy pork belly with cannellini purée and “parsley pesto” (why can’t they just call it parsley?) isn’t a subtle dish, but the belly is properly crisped and the white beans match well. Unlike the manchego, it’s definitely a winter dish.

Which brings us to our biggest criticism of Urbana’s menu: it’s not seasonal, and it doesn’t change often enough. That said, the crispy, salty margherita pizza—which brandishes the deeply evocative tang of buffalo mozzarella—is a dish for any season. Roast chicken is often an overlooked main, but this version is juicily successful; on one night, it came with chanterelles, watercress, and sweet, well-textured brown-butter gnocchi—inspired, perhaps by the sweet cjalsons (dumplings topped with brown butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon) that you might find in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (northeastern Italy) or western Slovenia.

The dessert wine’s great, too. We’re duly impressed.

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