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Nectar, 824 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. (202) 298-8085 On our first visit to Nectar, we asked for help choosing something from the restaurant’s eclectic white wine list to pair with our appetizers. Our waiter returned with our selection, an Adelsheim Tocai Friulano, as well as a story about how the Oregon winemaker had been so impressed by the varietal when he sampled it on a trip to Italy that he had taped a cutting of vine to his leg beneath his pants and smuggled it back into the states. That our waiter knew the anecdote, and that he thought to share it, says a lot about dining at Nectar. Everything about Nectar — from its fabulous cheese plate (one goat, one hard, one soft, one blue, one “stinky”) to its selection of some 60 wines offered by the bottle, half-bottle, and glass — aims to delight the hard-core foodie. One night, half a dozen chilled oysters arrive in individual ramekins nestled in cucumber pur�e and mustard oil. Another night, the oysters keep delectable company with watermelon and horseradish. Other dishes — like veal cheeks with lentils, carrots, and a blend of Indian spices — have been constants since Nectar’s debut in spring 2003. And with good reason. The combination of sumptuous veal morsels and sultry sauce is melt-in-your-mouth bliss. Nectar is open for dinner only, and its nightly menu features just six starters and six entrees. Entree prices start at $25, while appetizers range from $9 for an Asian-inspired salad to $22 for an opulent plate of foie gras with caramelized pineapple and rum. One standout pairs sweet nibbles of crab with bright grapefruit slivers under a creamy ginger dressing. Another pleasant way to begin is soft pea soup spooned over firm peas, crisp bacon, and mint. We were slightly less enthusiastic though, about the raw tuna, which seemed to get lost beneath a coat of sun-dried tomato pesto. Chef Jamison Blankenship, who once ran the kitchen at Tahoga in Georgetown, has a knack for matching offbeat flavors to great effect. In one main dish, slices of tender pork come stacked beside a luscious tamarind-peanut cream sauce and cucumber three ways — ribboned, marinated, and pur�ed. (We were at first skeptical of the pur�e, but were pleasantly surprised by its cool, refreshing flavor.) In another entree, firm scallops in mild curry sauce mingle with crisp snow peas, pistachios, and bits of smoky chorizo. Diners with more conventional tastes will appreciate a no-nonsense hangar steak, though the truffle-flavored mashed potatoes came out a bit dry. The only dish to fall entirely flat was seared salmon set over runny rhubarb chutney. For oenophiles, Nectar’s wine list alone is worth a visit to the restaurant. Rather than the usual leather-bound tome, Nectar’s menu features a limited number of carefully chosen selections. Best of all, nearly every wine is available by the glass and half-bottle, so it’s easy to pair wines to each course. The whites run from off-dry German rieslings to bold oak-dripping California chardonnays. The reds offer similar variety, with some funky options like the Flowers’ Perennial, an unusual blend of pinot noir, syrah, pinot meunier, and chardonnay. Beer aficionados will feel equally at home at Nectar, which offers a creative roster of brews. Meals at Nectar end on a high note thanks to pastry chef Jarad Slipp. The most popular these days, according to our waiter, is a refined baked Alaska — hazelnut ice cream, encased in a singed marshmallowlike meringue, and doused in transparent chocolate sauce with a boozy kick. The most beautiful to look at is chocolate mousse swaddled in orange-vanilla sauce and adorned with an elaborate chocolate spangle. But the biggest hit out of those we sampled was a rustic melange of roasted fruit spooned over fried pound cake and topped with a dollop of cream. Nectar is tucked away on New Hampshire Avenue between Washington Circle and the Kennedy Center. Its dimly lit dining room is little more than a spruced up basement. The restaurant’s bar is practically hidden away in a windowless back room. But while there may be D.C. restaurants that have more desirable addresses and more elegant decor, Nectar knows just how to appeal to folks who are passionate about their food and wine. — Vanessa Blum is a senior reporter at Legal Times . Phillip Dub� is an attorney at D.C.’s Covington & Burling.

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