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Ortanique (with a dash of Indebleu): Ethnically Inspired

Players: Dids, Sunit, Rekha, John, and moi

Act I: The need for alcoholic consumption

Well, it wasn't so much the need for alcoholic consumption that brought me to Indebleu, as it was the need to be efficient, garner two birds with one stone, make hay while the sun shines, and other such pithy meaningless phrases. To be specific, it is my wont when driving into DC, to experience as many of its wondrous pleasures as I can while there. Since we were already slated to be in town for dining at Ortanique for DC Restaurant Week (RW), I did wonder out aloud (and by means of email e'en) whether anyone would like to arrive earlier and join me for drinks before the main event. Well, Dids, Sunit and John , having been planning to drive down together felt that they couldn't make it in any earlier due to diverse reasons, including the rather crucial one that John is invariably tardy. So, it fell upon Rekha and me to handle this part of the evening. Given the plethora of chocies available near MCI Center, it is truly a wonder that we managed to decide upon Indebleu so fast. Rekha had initially suggested Poste, but was won over by my description of Indebleu.

We both arrived at Indebleu at around the same time, tho Rekha was already seated at the bar by the time I got there. Given that only 2 weeks had passed since I was last at Indebleu, not much had changed, save that it was more crowded. That didn't distract us from our main task of sampling the wares at the bar. Both of us were trying out different drinks: I had a Kama Sutra and a Spanky while Rekha had a Neontini and some other drink that the fog of alcohol has erased from my mind. In the midst of the imbibing, I felt a sudden need for solid sustenance. Now, I would normally (in my safer, saner, somber-er days) have asked for the appetizer/bar menu. However, having recently resolved to throw caution to the winds, gastronomically speaking, I convinced Rekha that ordering from the dessert menu was the correct choice here. Upon being handed said dessert menu, the very first choice we saw looked intriguing enough that we went for it: Oreo kulfi profiteroles with cardamom hot chocolate (not without much agony and angst since some of the other items looked almost as seductive, especially the (sic) Choco Sutra).

When the dish arrived, it looked scrumptious and pictureque. It consisted of 3 profiteroles, each of which was made up of a scoop of oreo kulfi [1] sandwiched between a small round pastry cake sliced into two. Along with the profiteroles was a small cup of strong hot chocolate flavored with cardamom. The effect was simply sublime.

The Lounge at Indebleu
Above: (Click image for a larger picture)
The Lounge at Indebleu

After polishing off the dessert, we decided to retire to the lounge to finish our drinks. The lounge is done in shades of red and yellow, and is nice and comfy. Just watch out for those $200 table minimums during prime time. Around this time, we realized that it was almost time to make like a tree....and head to dinner.

Act II: The Restaurant

Ortanique
Above: (Click image for a larger picture)
The varied decor at Ortanique

Ortanique was pretty close by, seeing how it is located near Metro Center, and that we went to Indebleu since it was close by. When we got there, the rest of the party were already waiting and so we all went in together. The immediate impression one gets walking into Ortanique is one of warmth and old-fashined aesthetics. Pillars with painted on ortanique vines. A massive red wall with sheer curtains running down its entire length, and a fishtank with a huge projection screen showing a live feed from the fishtank.

We were led to a corner booth which gave us a nice view of the restaurant. Along with the booth, we also inherited one of the most garrulous servers I've ever had. He was fun, had a sense of humor, and gave pretty good service. You can just see him to the left in the picture of Ortanique. He did in fact raise the entire level of the experience with his interactions with our group.

Act III: Decisions

Ortanique
Above: (Click image for a larger picture)
Us, enjoying dinner

For restaurant week, Ortanique had, in its infinite wisdom, decided to forego simplicity and the KISS principle in lieu of complexity and confusion. The normal restuarant menu was annotated to indicate RW items. Double asterisks indicated items that were on the RW menu, items with supplemental charges on the side in parentheses indicated items that could be used in the RW menu for additional money, and the non annotated items weren't available for the RW menu. Sounds kind of simple, except if you were sitting there, trying to understand the servers explain this to you.

Most of Ortanique's menu, as befits its Caribbean roots, is seafood. There was one vegetarian entree (available in the RW menu, too) and some animal dishes, but for the most part, it was fish and various other denizens of the deep. Being 5 people at dinner, we tried to order so as maxmize the potential for sharing and tasting different dishes. We ended up with the mango salad, curried crab cakes, steamed mussels and the ceviche of the day (shrimp) as the appetizers. For the main course, we had the Bahamian black grouper, the Caribbean seared ahi tuna and the Seafood bouillabaisse. There were only two choices for dessert: rum cake and banana bread pudding, and our table ended up with both. All this took much longer than you would think, but eventually we got it all sorted out.

Act IV: Partaking of the Sea

The food arrived pretty fast, though that might just be an effect of the old, hackneyed adage: Time flies when etc., etc. The mango salad, while following an used formula, was well done with a nice blending of the various flavors. The mango in there was green unripe mango, which added a tartness that worked well in the dish. The curried crab cakes were the hit of the table with everyone exclaiming over them. Flavorful with the taste of the crab meat coming through in a distinct fashion. A good start to the evening.

The seared ahi tuna
Above: (Click image for a larger picture)
The tuna entree

As for the main courses, they were uniformly good. The grouper was marinated in teriyaki and sesame oil with a orange and limon liqueur sauce. This was paired with a sweet plantain mash and julienned chayote and carrots. The fish was cooked almost to perfection, tho for some it might have been slightly overdone, and the teriyaki influence while present wasn't overpowering. A very nice combination. The tuna was done right (as asked: rare and medium rare) and the accompaniments seemed secondary to the fish itself. The bouillabaisse was tasty fro mall acounts, though I only tasted the lobster in there. The coconut flavor in there was very evident.

The food so far having sated us, we looked forward to the desserts (my second dessert course for the night). The desserts, when they arrived, looked good with decent-sized portions. The banana bread pudding was a little banana-y and about the only dish, none of us were enthralled with. The rum cake on the other hand was gooood, and made a great end to the meal.

Act V: Conclusion

Ortanique was a good experience. The food was good, and sometimes very good. The jazz band upstairs was inconsistent but added nicely to the ambience. All in all, an enjoyable repast. Our server certainly added to the whole experience with his vibrant personality.

Ratings

Ortanique
Service Fast, Interesting and Fun
Decor Warm and Varied
Food Good seafood with occasional brilliance

Footnotes

  1. Kulfi is the Indian version of ice cream: dense and creamy with strong flavors.

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