I am thankful that I was invited to a media dinner because it gave me a chance to sample the new menu which I’m not sure I would have done on my own. As noted on the top of Urbana’s menu by Chef John Critchley: “through an eclectic and approachable brasserie-style menu, Urbana embodies this very spirit by celebrating the culinary traditions of northern Italy and Provence”. Chef Critchley joined the Urbana team in December of 2010 from Miami’s Area 31 and with over 17 years of experience he has transformed the menu at Urbana and created a restaurant that has real potential for staying power.
We ordered a ridiculous amount of food including multiple bar bites, sides, a starter per person which we passed around so everyone could taste, a pasta mid-course with two dishes to share for the table, an entree per person, and then a dessert sampler from the chef. I was wowed by the food and wanted to share some of the highlights:
- The dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in serrano ham are the perfect sized bite to pop in your mouth and a great primer for the meal. I loved the flavors and the combination of ingredients.
- The shellfish stew appetizer was divine. It was a small bowl filled with calamari, shrimp, clams, and mussels in a coconut and citrus broth that was creamy and sweet. I used the amazing bread on the table to soak up every last bit of the sauce.
- Both the tortelloni and the gnocchi were delicately crafted with differing complex sauces. The tortelloni was stuffed with ricotta in a brown butter, sage, and preserved lemon sauce. The citrus had some bite to it and paired nicely with the sharpness of the parmigiano reggiano on top. In contrast, the gnocchi was pillowy and delicate topped with a light bolognese sauce that I really enjoyed.
- I had the lamb for my main course and it really rocked. It was marinated in dried herbs and flowers and served over a rich and creamy polenta with rosemary infused peppers and cipolini onions. It was saucy and substantial and downright delicious.
- I also had the chance to try the short ribs which were so tender they pulled apart easily with a fork. Great comfort food done well.
- The pots du creme dessert was out of control and forced me to eat almost all of it even though I had sworn I was full. It had a chocolate creme with hazelnut anglaise and crunchy bits of nuts and biscotto on top. The consistency was soft like a mousse and it was very easy to devour.
I am really excited that I have had the chance to rediscover Urbana at a time when their food is at its best. I look forward to many more meals here moving forward and I’m glad that Chef Critchley has put the restaurant back on the map.
Urbana at the Hotel Palomar
2121 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037