#142 - Panache Restaurant, Washington, DC

I'm so annoyed.  I did this post last Wednesday, and then today when I logged in to take notes on our lunch spot, I noticed that this post was back to draft. And when I looked, the whole thing was gone.  Poof.  No clue what happened. It's never happened before, and luckily it was just this one post and not the whole blog.  So here's my attempt to re-create.

You know how when you live in a touristy area but you never go to the touristy part?  That's the way I am with Washington DC.  I lived in the area for 95% of my life, but it's always too crowded, too much traffic, and just too much everything.  When I was a kid I went with my dad every time relatives came to town. Since becoming an adult, my trips to DC were to the bars with friends in my mid to late 20's.  We had to pick up my mom at Union Station last week anyways, so it was the perfect opportunity to find a good restaurant downtown. There's 100's of them on restaurant.com.  Traffic in DC is no joke, so I tried to find something not too horribly far away.  I went back and forth on a couple of places, and eventually settled on Panache Restaurant

Panache is at 17th and Desales St, right in the heart of downtown.  We found street parking about 2 blocks away, which in downtown DC in the middle of the workday is a small miracle.  It's a cute place, tucked in between office buildings, and the color scheme is red.  It's not big, but they sure know how to maximize space.  The entire left wall is several large semi-circle booths, the tables in the middle are is mainly 2 and 4 tops, and then the bar area has 5 high top tables plus seating at the bar.  I never think about making reservations, because you don't need to in Stillwater.  When we arrived the restaurant was packed, so our only option was the bar area.  But that was fine.

Panache is a tapas restaurant, so we decided to get several items to share.  First came complimentary bread

The bread was good, but it would have been even better if it was warm.  It was kind of a flatbread.  The butter was really delicious and creamy, kind of like a sweet butter.

We decided to start with calamari and hummus while we discussed other options
Purée of chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil & garlic.
Topped with chopped tomatoes & served with toasted pita
The hummus was delicious and very fresh.  Most places it's served room temperature, but this one was served cold.  The bread was really good and served warm, and I really enjoyed the contrast in temperatures.

Grilled squid tossed in salsa verde with fresh parsley
The calamari was really good.  It was served more room temperature, and I've never had it that way.  I'm not sure if that was on purpose or not, but it worked.  I've also never had calamari battered rather than breaded.  But I really liked it, and even ate the crispies that had fallen off while we waited for the rest of our food.  The salsa verde was excellent.  So flavorful and light and creamy.  Our server said it was their version of cilantro aioli.  They should seriously bottle and sell the stuff.  She also brought out a red pepper dip, but we didn't like that one nearly as much.

Next came Escalivada Mediterranean (grilled veggies) and blackened salmon with artichokes
Escalivada Mediterranea (Grilled marinated eggplant, zucchini & yellow squash)
Blackened Salmon filet with pan seared artichoke hearts finished with a pesto cream sauce
I didn't try any of the veggies, but my dad said they were really good.  The salmon was outstanding.  The blackening wasn't spicy at all, just lent a warmth to it.  The only negative was that the piece was really small.  I know tapas are small plates, but I really wish they put more on the plate.  The pesto cream sauce was delicious and not heavy at all.  I dipped my bread in it.  I usually only eat artichokes on pizza, but these were really good.

My mom and I were going to share the shrimp with garlic, and our server said it was a good choice.  And then she recommended the Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops).  And raved about them.  So we switched
Seared diver scallops with a creamy anise sauce
Wow.  These were absolutely fantastic.  Fresh, creamy, and perfectly cooked.  I don't know what anise sauce is, but I could have eaten a lot more of it.  Heck I could have eaten 3 plates of this.  It was that good.

When we originally gave our server the order, my dad asked how she would remember it all since she didn't write it down.  She told him it was easy, since she'd been doing it for 15 years.  So it was really funny when we realized she forgot my French onion soup.  She apologized profusely, and offered to take it off the bill.  But I told her not to worry, because we needed it to get to $50 for the coupon.
Rich beef broth with sweet yellow onions. Topped with toasted gruyere cheese
So good.  The broth was rich but not heavy.  The cheese was melty and gooey and delicious.  The way melted cheese should be.  And perfect for the chilly day that it was outside.

I saw desserts being delivered to a table and they looked really good.  But we were so full. You think because it's small plates that you need to get a lot.  But then it's deceiving.  The calamari itself is a large serving, and since my mom doesn't eat it, it was all up to me and my dad.

This place was really, really good.  Forgetting the soup aside, our server was excellent and friendly.  And I loved the atmosphere.  I think it would be a great place for an after-work happy hour.  I will definitely be back.