Having to deal with the sweltering humidity of summer days in DC means you are rewarded with beautiful nights, and if you’re really lucky some al fresco dining. La Tomate is one of the many restaurants in DC that have taken advantage of summer nights and have set out a dining area for its outdoor friendly guests. Although situated right off of Connecticut Ave., the outside ambiance is surprisingly calm and dare I say…romantic.
Cost – $$
Service – B+
Attentiveness to filling up both my water and ice tea glasses is always a surefire way to win points with me. The staff was always wandering around outside (maybe to also enjoy the night air) and was available for all my questions and requests.
Food – C-
The bread basket before the meal had miniature sized French bread sliced in both white and whole wheat option and were accompanied by tomato sauce that was the consistency of thick marinara. It was phenomenal. The bread was surprisingly soft and the tomato sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Unfortunately my excitement was premature.
Fantasia di Assaggi was the name of the trio of amuse-bouche sized appetizer I chose. Regrettably the name of this dish overly exaggerates what was brought out to me. The baked onion stuffed with tuna can only be equated to cat food. Gray in appearance, lack of seasoning, and the fishy aftertaste was so repulsive I nearly spit it out. The stuffed bell pepper was not as bad but still lacked any sort of flavor and the bruschetta with prosciutto and tomato only tasted decent because of the salt in the cured meat.
Thankfully the entrees somewhat redeemed the atrocious appetizers. The al dente farfalle was gently coated in mushroom cream sauce as though to not overpower the palate. My only qualm about this dish was that there was too many crunchy pieces of prosciutto, which in combination with the bites of pasta made the dish too salty for me. The gnocchi was surprisingly delicate in both texture and flavor as it was lightly covered in a tangy goat cheese sauce and sprinkled with spinach. Some might find the dish a bit to light in flavor, especially in comparison to the farfalle, but I feel the subtle flavors were appropriate for the potato-spinach dumpling.
The chocolate mousse cake was more like a light sacher torte in that it wasn’t as heavy but had an unwelcoming layer of seedy jam. The lemon tart was underwhelming and was too heavily sweetened, but I’m a little biased since I like my lemon desserts a little more tart. The pistachios in the tart seemed like an odd combination to the crumbly crust and smooth lemon curd.
Decor – A
The simplicity of arranged tables, chairs, and oversized umbrellas accentuated the cascading flower bushes in giant stone pots that outlined the iron wrought gates of the dining area. Acting as a natural partition between pedestrians and diners, these blossoming bushes helped to create a peaceful garden-like oasis in the middle of bustling DC.
Feel – A+
What first lured me to dine at La Tomate was its outside dining area. The romantic movie-esque set up totally caught my eye and while walking in I had slight déjà vu as scenes of my favorite French movies swirled in my head. Unlike most outdoor dining areas, La Tomate generously spaces each table as though to encourage private conversations. The soft lighting from the street lamps and inside the restaurant added to the garden oasis experience thus creating a dreamy yet seductive ambiance. Perfect for dates, romantic nights out, or just wanting to get away from the commotion of DC, La Tomate (at night) is your retreat.
La Tomate is located at 1701 Connecticut Ave NW. They can be reached at (202) 667-5505.