Monday, June 1, 2009

Carolinas flavor, with hot chef Eric Ripert...

... in the nation's capital? Yes, Charleston-restaurant (and College of Charleston) alum Joe Palma is chef de cuisine at Westend Bistro, the D.C. outpost of superstar Eric Ripert (he of New York City's Le Bernardin and "Top Chef" fame).

The restaurant made the Washington Post's top 100 of the year list, and dinner there Thursday produced some stellar food: delicate salmon with lentils, black truffle butter and tiny pickled mushrooms; loup de mer ("wolf of the sea," also called branzino or Mediterranean or European sea bass -- not Chilean, which is something else altogether) with a picholine-artichoke relish that was downright buttery; and amazing biscuit-style strawberry shortcake.

And really good bread, too, plus a house ale and a Californian IPA (India Pale Ale) called Lagunitas that's just shown up in Charlotte. Colleague Peter St. Onge clued us in to this one, offered at Flying Saucer (9605 N. Tryon St.) on draft, he says, and it's a spritely winner indeed.

Westend Bistro: 1190 22nd St. NW; 202-974-4900;