Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ebony and Ivory: The Keys to Exceptional Service


800 F Street NW
Washington D.C.

To die for: service; "The Zola" cocktail

Two napkins, one black and one cream, lay folded side by side on the table. To be honest, I hadn’t really noticed them when I took my seat. Not until the waiter approached, eyed my black linen pants, and flicked the cream one away. “I wouldn’t want you to get white lint on your black pants”, he explained. Frivolous, you say? Absolutely. Decadent? Uh-huh. But how seductive! I tilted my head back towards him, my lips parted. He had my attention.

Going on, our waiter explained the specials. The potato soup, he said, was made with a meatless stock. I shot a glance across the table at Pam, my vegetarian dining companion. Her question had been anticipated. This was getting interesting. What would be next? I asked him if he could suggest a wine by the glass to go with my meal. He nodded and disappeared. When he returned, he was not bearing a glass of wine, but rather two bottles, and two empty glasses: an unbidden tasting. 

For all this, Zola is not a snooty place. In a more ritzy establishment, these gestures may have had a distancing, even intimidating, effect. Here they felt inviting. On the other hand, Zola provides a more civilized alternative to the high-decibel, high-density hot spots in Penn Quarter. For me, it struck just the right note.

Cosmos for Butches

Of the things I actually ingested at Zola, my favorite was the eponymous “Zola”, a specialty cocktail made with Russian Standard Vodka, white cranberry juice, cointreau and fresh limes. In effect, it was a white cosmopolitan, translucent and more austere looking than its girly pink cousin. It came in a martini glass with a cluster of red cranberries heaped at the bottom, magnified slightly in their clear bath. True, the effect was a bit shy of the smack down an actual Russian Standard martini would have produced (look for that at Russia House), but notable nonetheless.
Photocredit: Dave Pearson

Zola on Urbanspoon


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