• October 2014

You'll Find Style and Great Food at DC's Panache

The spotlight is on: Panache

1725 DeSales St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

The next time you are in DC in the middle of the day, or want to do lunch in the city’s Golden Triangle neighborhood, step into this bistro offering Mediterranean, French, and Spanish style tapas six days a week for lunch and dinner. It’s delicious, elegant, and a great spot to see and be seen.

And if you are working for yourself, it’s also a great spot to bring your laptop. The bar area is a perfect place to spend a few hours before or after the lunch crowd. Just grab a round table, plug in your computer, and as you work, enjoy food and drinks served by a charming staff of young, professional waiters.

The last time I was in for a late lunch/work session between meetings, I had the privilege of meeting owner Aziz Safi, an elegant restaurateur with a flair for knowing just what his customers want. In fact, he mentioned a new offer he has just launched to bring in the retailers and employees from the neighboring shops for Happy Hour after their stores close. Clever! Interested? Send him an email for details.

How did I stumble upon Panache? My first visit was several years ago when a client invited me to lunch. His regular favorite spot—the Mayflower Hotel’s “Edgar Bar & Kitchen” next door—was undergoing renovations. Because his office is right across the street, Panache became his go-to place.

And what a find it is. Panache offers a taste of Europe in the heart of DC. Scroll down for particulars. And check out Panache online at panacherestaurant.com.

Inkandescent Review: Panache

1. The atmosphere: Warm and inviting, with seating outdoors for those DC days when you just have to be outside.

2. The food: Sophisticated without being stuffy. As a fan of the Caesar salad (in fact, I eat them so often that I’ve become quite the snob about them), I was pleasantly surprised to find that Panache’s may be one of the best I’ve had in DC. I topped it with grilled calamari during my most recent visit—and holy moley. Talk about heaven on a fork ($8 for the Caesar, plus $4 for the sqid). Other salads to consider include the Steak Salad ($14), and the Citrus Chicken Fiesta Salad ($13).

Since tapas is what the place is known for, try the Mozzarella Caprese ($10), Tuna Tartar ($11), and the Carpaccio di Carne ($9). Hot tapas to swoon over include the Potato Wrapped Rockfish ($12), Beef Tenderloin Brochette ($11), and—be still my heart—Coquilles St. Jacques ($12).

Happy Hour is perhaps the best deal in the Golden Triangle. Small plates run $5 each, and are slightly more than bite-size, but won’t kill your appetite for dinner. Choose from the Caesar with garlic croutons, Hummus with grilled pita, Chicken Tenders with honey mustard dressing, and Jalapeño Poppers with cream cheese. Or for $6, opt for Steamed Mussels, Grilled Calamari (yum), or Grilled Spanish Wings with a Cajun dry rub and blue cheese dressing (double yum).

3. The booze: The best deal is at Happy Hour, when bottled beers and drafts range from $4-$5; house wines are $5, as are martinis (classic, Cosmo, sour apple, mango, or peach). Signature cocktails are $6, including homemade Sangria, seasonal fruit-infused vodka, John Daly (lemonade and vodka), and Mojitos.

4. The service: My server, Amy, couldn’t have been nicer. As always, I asked her, and the manager, if it was ok to work. She put me in just the right spot where I wouldn’t disturb anyone—or have any of the other customers gawk at me. The meal was delicious, and I got plenty of the things on my to-do list done, including responding to all of my email thanks to the free wi-fi. Plus, because the atmosphere was so calming, I felt refreshed and ready to tackle my next business meeting when I left Panache.

5. The price: Happy Hour is, of course, the most affordable time to stop in. But lunch isn’t bad for DC. I spent $21.75, plus tip, for a salad, a glass of wine, and a cup of coffee. Dinner is slightly more pricey ($25-$35 per person), which is on par with—if not slightly less expensive than—most DC restaurants.

6. The bottom line: Whether you are searching for a great spot to work, or just looking for a lovely place to eat, check out Panache. Located smack dab between Dupont Circle and Farragut Metro stops, on DeSales Street—the block next to the famous Mayflower Hotel—this restaurant’s food, atmosphere, and location make it well worth the trip.

Inkandescent rating: Three and a half stars, out of 4.