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“Fabulous dining experience” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Palena - CLOSED

Palena
3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC, DC 20008-2402 (Upper Northwest)
202-537-9250
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Price range: $31 - $50
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Doing business, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Breakfast, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Neighborhood: Upper Northwest
Cross street: Porter St. SW
Transit: Cleveland Park Metro Stop
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
25 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
“Fabulous dining experience”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 27, 2013 via mobile

We ate in the back dining room not the cafe, and it was a fabulous experience beginning to end. We had the five course with wine pairing. There were two amuse bouches to start, a wonderful chestnut soup and a quiche bite, both a great start. Each course was great, flavors both intense and subtle, like a perfectly crisp pumpernickel tuille with a raw fish dish. And the bitter green ravioli dish with sausage was really different and very tasty. Portion sizes were large but not overwhelming. The lamb was perfectly cooked. The wine pairings were eclectic, mostly European, but a great variety with two very interesting Italian wines, a Verdicchio and a Sicilian red I had never tried. Dessert was also great, and when you have had such an exciting meal that's hard to do. The dish was chocolate and coffee themed and they had a ball with light marscapone mousse surrounded by a dark, dark chocolate coat, outstanding.

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114 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    38
    35
    16
    16
    9
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Portuguese first
  • Any
English first
Washington, DC
Senior Contributor
48 reviews 48 reviews
30 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
“Exceptional”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 26, 2013

Birthday dinner with a group of 5 friends. Went without knowing much about the place -- only to find that every single course was more amazing than the last. Intense flavors, and enough in each of the five courses that we enjoyed the dishes very much, but never felt over full. Smart wine list, good options at many price levels. Special mention for the service - attentive, quick, and very discreet. We can't wait to go back for the cafe side of the house, which we hear has one of the best burgers in Washington. After tonight's tour de force, I can easily believe it!

  • Visited January 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Washington DC, District of Columbia
Top Contributor
278 reviews 278 reviews
186 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 102 cities Reviews in 102 cities
270 helpful votes 270 helpful votes
“Nice.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 22, 2013

There were two of us. One ordered the three-course menu, with wine pairings, and the other ordered the five course, without wine. Both were very good, as to preparation, presentation, creativity and service. Some items were a bit too salty - even those which were, presumably, supposed to be heavy on the salt. That's really the only reason why I can't get to an "excellent" rating.

Ambiance is nice and understated. Although the food was very good, service was probably the highlight of the meal. Just right. All-in-all, I thought this was a very nice meal for the price, and but for the over-saltiness of some items would have rated it as "excellent."

  • Visited January 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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Arlington, Virginia
1 review
“Poor Value”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed January 6, 2013

I read on an online blog that this place had great burgers so my wife and i went down there last night. The burger was pretty good, but not the best I ever had (Ray's Hell Burger is). The burger was the highlight of the meal. Our waiter was also very attentive and did a good job and the atmosphere seemed fine. All that being said we were very disappointed in the meal overall. My wife ordered a pasta dish and an appetizer. As some other reviewers have commented the portions are ridiculously small. My wife ordered Bolognaise and saw about 3 oz of pasta, traces of meat, and a little red sauce for $17. The $18 pork belly appetizer was similarly tiny - think one of those cooking shows where contestants have to prepare a small taste for judges, even smaller than the pasta dish. Pasta, bread and vegetables are cheap - there's really no excuse to be so stingy. The side of french fries I got with my hamburger were ok but way overpriced at $8. We second the motion on the reviewer who says Dino's on the same block is a much better value.

  • Visited January 2013
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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East Brunswick, New Jersey
1 review
“Very Disappointed.”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed December 29, 2012

Very disappointing. We tried the restaurant in late December on the strength of the chef’s impressive bio and the blurbs from various reviews going back to 2000. So, we were unpleasantly surprised. The ambiance was boring. The place simply had no energy. The food was okay, but nothing special. And the portions for main course pasta dishes were ridiculously small. Keep in mind we eat small to moderate portions of food ---I’m a 150 lb. guy--- so we do not expect or want large amounts of food, but the main course portions at Palena are really appetizer portions. We eat in well-known Manhattan restaurants (such as Mario Batali’s restaurants) regularly and I’ve never seen main course portions so small. And, I was surprised that they charge for bread with dinner. And even the basket of bread was too small, and included 2 breadsticks that were so hard they were not edible. (All this was in sharp contrast to our dinner the following night at Michel Richard’s Central which had it all --- awesome food, ambiance, energy, the whole deal.) It's hard to understand all the good reviews for Palena, unless it used to be much better and the reviews are old. Whatever the case, Palena is nothing special.

  • Visited December 2012
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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