Ashok Bajaj is no stranger to the DC scene. This Indian born restauranteur is arguably the most successful in DC’s culinary history owning , , , , , , , and . The Oval Room recently underwent a one million dollar plus remodel and the décor, and food, is outstanding.
Modern and clean with marble columns and a open dining room, Oval Room feels like it should be a block from the White House, and it is. With a very abstract light fixtures and a no-frills décor, you immediately forget what the old Oval Room looked like.
To start, tuna sashimi with a puffed rice crisp. Bonito ranch, ginger dressing, and spicy tapioca were great compliments. The sashimi was light and refreshing and the crisp gave an added textural compliment.
The updated and simpler menu is light and even the heaviest seeming dishes left us full, not stuffed. Example, the duck ragu. Housemade al dente pasta is served perfectly and lightly coated in a rich red gravy with braised shredded duck on top. Finished was fresh Parmesan cheese and cracked pepper, this is a perfect lunch dish when you’re in the mood for great pasta.
Keeping with the lighter feel of the décor and the menu, there are several seafood options. We loved the sea bream. Perfectly seared leaving a crispy skin, served up as it should be, topped with sliced vegetables and baby clams in a light citrusy broth. The pistachio, fennel, clams, guanicale, and roasted allium butter brought the entire dish together around the fish, not before it (meaning the fish was still the star rather than the accompaniments).
Also the rock fish is outstanding. Poached leaving the meat tender and delicate, in a spice broth, with carrots, shrimp dumpling, and an herb salad to top, the broth, and fish, were perfection on a plate.
There are several sides, but the Chinese eggplant stood out. Tender and delicate with sliced garlic, a light hint of soy sauce, and full of umami. Certainly a great side for sharing.
The sweet coconut grits had us intrigued. Perfectly cooked grits with a sweetness from fresh coconut, something one would not usual think to pair, but it works perfectly. Sadly, it was consumed too fast and with too much “awe” for a picture.
Ashok continues to set himself and his establishments apart from the flock in DC with creative dishes that are always elegantly presented and consistently delicious.
Come for dinner or make this your new power lunch spot. You can’t go wrong.