Fiola Mare DC, a virtuoso culinary experience
PHOTO: Our Fiola Mare Raw Bar (c) Sery Kim
There are certain neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., just like there are certain Chefs and certain Politicians, which the entire city gravitates towards. Georgetown, the neighborhood where Fiola Mare is located, has long been the pre-eminent gathering place for all things social and certainly Fabio Trabocchi, as a Chef and Restauranteur, has long been known as a D.C. chef with a capital "C."
However, over the years of my residence in Washington, D.C., I have seen (as well as felt) Georgetown rapidly losing its luster. Stores closing in D.C. is nothing new but the centrifugal energy of rat-infestations, lack of Metro, annoying Georgetown co-eds, a lack of generally good dining options as well as the fabulous draw of alternate neighborhoods such as 14th Street, Shaw/Bloomingdale, Union Market and of course Navy Yard, means Georgetown is the literal last place many D.C. residents want to go to. In fact, for me personally, except for my moderate addiction to Baked + Wired cupcakes and CB2 furnishings, I would say I venture to Georgetown maybe six times a year.
So I am as surprised as anyone to delare Fiola Mare is not only worth venturing to for any occasion, but it is what is keeping the restaurant scene in Georgetown literally afloat.
PHOTO: A beautiful Riviera cocktail at Fiola Mare (c) Sery Kim
Before booking my dinner reservation at Fiola Mare, the last time I had been to the restaurant was for an intimate wedding. As a result, my memories of the Fiola Mare's cocktail and food program had very little to do with what was actually on the menu. Additionally, I had no memory of what the service of the restaurant was since during the wedding, there were quite a lot of servers running around.
Therefore I was surprised by the lack of initial service and hospitality. My dining companion informed me they sat at the bar for 10 minutes while three bartenders looked on and not a single one either offered water or beverage. "That's shocking!," I stunningly replied when I heard the details of this transgression. Whatever I had heard of Fiola Mare's reputation, because of their high profile clientele and assiduous dedication to social media, service is one element which I had never heard was lacking. Unfortunately, I experienced the lack of service myself when I arrived. We sat close to 5:00 pm after being told we had to wait two minutes to be seated since it was "just" 4:58. These little annoying bits put me in the wrong attitude as did being sent to a table with no one to greet or offer water for more than 10 minutes. I note it specifically because two other tables were seated during those same 10 minutes and they were immediately greeted with smiles and complimentary champagne.
Despite this hiccup, which had me getting up from the table to find a server, the evening quite redeemed itself with the food.
PHOTO: Stunning Wishful Thinking cocktail (c) Sery Kim
For those who enjoy beginning a meal with cocktails, be advised the cocktails at Fiola Mare are excruciatingly strong. The Wishful Thinking cocktail pictured above was the only one I could stomach, both for flavor and appearance. Every other drink tasted like rubbing alcohol, with nothing to cut or alleviate the strength of the main liquor. I sincerely hope the bartenders were, generally, having an off-night as the food prepared by the talented Executive Chef and Owner Fabio Trabbochi could not have been better and the lack of a pleasant starter drink should always be an option.
PHOTO: The divine Caviar (c) Sery Kim
As for the food itself what is there to say about the culinary mastery of Fabio Trabocchi which hasn't been already pronounced?! As a result of his legendary reputation, instead of ordering what I wanted from the menu, I left my tastebuds in the hands of the Master.
Fabio began the evening by blowing my tastebuds up with this sensational presentation of Caviar. Layered at the bottom was a decadent oyster array topped with the creamiest (yet light) foams before garnishing with expensive buds of caviar. My spoon dipped hesitatingly in because, when confronted with something unknown -- or, at the very least, unimagined -- you wonder if you have made the right decision. But, in this, as with each dish, Fabio brought to life traditional seafood and even more traditional pastas with such variations and twists, it should make any diner wonder, "Why the hell was Fiola Mare left off the Michelin Guide?!?"
PHOTO: Lobster Ravioli to die for (c) Sery Kim
This question kept ruminating in my mind as I ate the breathtaking Lobster Ravioli, the best pasta on the menu, as well as several other seafood dishes such as the arrestingly visual Adriatic Seafood Brodetto. Everything in this traditional Italian dish melded together perfectly: perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, perfectly temperatured Branzino, Bream, Monkfish, Langoustine in Saffron Jus. I just couldn't understand how Fiola Mare could have been left of this list when other restaurants in D.C. (I won't name names) should definitely NOT be on the list.
I suppose it is some justice to the owners their other restaurant Del Mar made the list, and my favorite D.C. food writer Tom Siestma picked Del Mar as well as his number one favorite restaurant in the entire city.
PHOTO: Adriatic Seafood Brodetto (c) Sery Kim
Closing out the evening, I felt the entire meal was a symphony, where each section elevated the other one and desserts at Fiola Mare certainly capped a resplendid dining event. I ordered all the desserts as is typically want and I can't say I had a favorite. The Bomboloni aka doughnuts, were sublime in their originality, warmth and flavor. The Tiramisu was the best I've ever had in D.C. But, as a chocolate lover, I have to say the chocolate dessert won my heart ... even though the Lemon & Fig Spumoni (made with Balsamic Fig Conserva, Almond Cake, Lemon Sorbet was a revelation).
The “MARCHESI,” made with a creamy terrine of Dark Chocolate Garden Mint and Sicilian Pistachios had every element of a fabulous dessert, with texture, colors, taste and uniqueness coming together for a prefect dish. If I had to pick the best dessert in D.C. right now, this would be it. No question!
PHOTO: All the desserts at Fiola Mare (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: The staggeringly perfect Bomboloni (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: The unbelievable Marchesi (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: Classic Tiramisu (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: Lemon and Fig Spumoni (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: The lovable PRUGNA E MIELE (c) Sery Kim
Overall, I have to say, the night was a moving presentation from Chef Fabio Trabbochi. All of the food, and particularly the desserts, were something to be treasured. I know I will certainly come again and I hope you will make the effort to travel to an old-school neighborhood in D.C. just to enjoy Fiola Mare for yourself.