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Posted at 11:39 AM ET, 09/ 6/2007

News to Digest

By Erin

Summer vacation is over, but that doesn't stop one Hill-area restaurant from launching a rooftop happy hour with free food. Speaking of free food, get a sampling of free paella tomorrow during lunch and try your hand at making it if you dare. New around town, sample Asian fusion near Adams Morgan and Nuevo Latino in Cleveland Park, while a French bakery chain opens its doors in Georgetown this Saturday.

There's Room Enough for You Up on the Roof
Whether you're looking to dazzle out-of-towners or just drink in splendor, there's a new Capitol view for happy hour. Charlie Palmer Steak kicks off its weekly rooftop happy hour tonight. The roof offers a sweeping view of the Capitol, the Washington Monument and all those other glistening Washington sites. The rooftop happy hour will be held each Thursday through Thanksgiving from 5 to 9 p.m. Beyond drinks, the restaurant will offer free nibbles, including lobster corn dogs, fried oysters and steak tartare. There will also be a DJ.

Rice and Free
The saying goes that there's no such thing as a free lunch, but Taberna del Alabardero never got that message. The restaurant launches its month-long paella festival with a FREE paella tasting and cooking demonstration tomorrow, Sept. 7, from noon to 1 p.m. The stellar chefs will cook a chicken and chorizo paella in a giant pan, offering samples to anybody smart enough to stop by. If you like what you taste, the restaurant will make available seasonings, paella pans, ingredients and just about anything else you might need to try cooking some up on your own. If you miss the free tasting, the festival continues through Sept. 30. For $22 at lunch or $26 at dinner, you can try paella with chicken, rabbit and duck, squid ink rice with cuttle fish, vegetable paella or lobster paella (with a $6 supplement) among others.

New Around Town
Plum Blossom, once known in pre-opening stages as Cherry Blossom, has opened in a tiny space -- seating about 40 people -- just up the street from Lauriol Plaza. It's the second recent arrival to the small strip, which recently welcomed the Peruvian Inti. This newcomer calls itself a sushi, wine bar and cafe with fusion cuisine, but just five days after opening, the menu is going easy on the sushi and wine, while flinging fusion around the menu with gusto. The chef formerly worked in Puerto Rico and has brought back some of the cuisine's touches, with an array of Asian flavors with a mix of sweet, spicy and sour. Fruit appears alongside proteins all over the menu in such incarnations as mango chutney, apple salad, orange dressing and pomegranate marinate. You'll also see more traditional Asian ingredients like wasabi, sake and miso infused into butters, potatoes, marinades and dressings.

The menu is broken into small plates, large plates and sushi. One highlight of the small plates was Vietnamese BBQ Beef ($10) which featured warm salted slices of tender beef alongside a shredded apple salad. Calamari ceviche ($8) was swimming in its lemony dressing, while the Tahini Chicken in lettuce cups ($7) tasted as if the chicken had been dressed a few hours before, the peppers, crispy noodles and roasted peanuts providing little in the way of crunch and snap. Large plates range from $15 to $28 and include miso honey lamb chops, pork agnolotti with apple in a ponzu butter sauce and grilled scallops over sticky rice. There is a small sushi bar, which offers about eight standard sushi/sashimi options (think salmon, tuna, crab stick, eel) and a few atypical rolls. I had trouble finding an appealing roll -- one that wasn't doused in cream cheese or other heavy accompaniments. Choices include the plantain roll, with eel, cucumber, plantain, avocado and cream cheese, the spicy kitty, with tuna, spicy aioli, papaya and roe, and the crab salad, with crab, avocado, cucumber and cream cheese.

Sabores, a tapas restaurant at Uptown Tavern, just opened and it did not take long for word to spread of a new spot in the crowded Cleveland Park neighborhood. The cuisine is dubbed Nuevo Latino, but it doesn't strike me as too nuevo. Chef Daniel Amaya didn't move far to take on this job: He formerly manned the kitchen at neighboring Dino. It seems like Amaya is taking some time to get situated; the menu is pretty formulaic, though he did standards quite well at Dino. There are a few large plates (think pork shoulder and paella), but this is mostly a small plate dining experience. Ceviche, a crab-stuffed avocado, bean stew with chorizo and ham croquettes are among the little plate choices. Prices for these small plates hover between $6 and $12, while the large plates can cash in up to $30. It's a shame that Sabores wasn't up and running sooner in the season. The walls are retractable to create an outdoor space, which makes it perfect for a light bite and some good Spanish wine in the glow of late summer evenings.

Coming Soon
Francophiles unite! Le Pain Quotidien opens this Saturday. With sandwiches (known as tartines) on fresh bread -- go for the roasted turkey or the chicken curry -- and delightful pastries coming from their oven, pates and an above-average cup of coffee, this should give Le Madeleine a run for its morning money. I, for one, am hopeful that this branch will resurrect the scrumptious banana chocolate chip muffin, which is highly addictive and no longer available at the location near my parents' house in L.A. As for its true Frenchiness factor, the chain takes itself quite seriously. It posted an ad on Alliance Francaise earlier this summer seeking French-speaking staff.

--Erin

By Erin  | September 6, 2007; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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