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Timothy Dean, The St. Regis Hotel, 923 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202) 879-6900 This past spring an ambitious new restaurant, Timothy Dean, opened in the dining room in the elegant St. Regis Hotel (formerly the Carlton), located at the power intersection of 16th and K streets in downtown Washington, D.C. Named for its 30-year-old chef/owner, a native Washingtonian, the restaurant’s opening marked the return of Dean to Washington after several years spent working under the master chef Jean Louis Palladin in New York. Dean chose to open his new restaurant in the space formerly occupied by the now-closed Washington branch of New York’s Lespinasse, which during its short stay achieved the dubious distinction of being perhaps the most expensive restaurant found in D.C. Dean could have hardly chosen a more opulent space to make his return to the D.C. restaurant scene. This is dining in the old, highbrow style — with its large chandeliers, plush carpeting, muted yellow walls, elaborate wooden ceiling, and formally attired wait staff, the dining room evinces a formal elegance no longer commonly found in the sleek, postmodern design of most upscale restaurants today. A large, elaborately decorated wood-paneled bar, which would comfortably fit in any upper-crust London gentleman’s club, adjoins the main dining room. Dean has largely succeeded in creating a restaurant of high quality that complements the elegance of its setting, and he has shown himself adept at preparing sophisticated modern American cuisine. Dean’s menu is evenly divided between fish and meat entrees. While still rather expensive (though not approaching the exalted heights of Lespinasse), with most lunch entrees in the $20 to $25 range, and salads and appetizers priced from $7 to $11, a special bargain is found in Timothy Dean’s $25 special lunch menu, a three-course treat. The lunch special includes a soup or salad starter (an excellent corn chowder with a pleasantly surprising seafood base was featured during our visit), a choice of red snapper or a hearty, whole leg and thigh duck confit, and a dessert “gratin” of fresh, seasonal fruit and homemade vanilla ice cream topped off by a port saboyan. Recommended entrees include a tender and succulent Chilean sea bass baked in a shell of mashed “fish scaled” potatoes, and a rib-eye steak surrounded by a ring — or “galatte” — of potatoes in a roasted shallot reduction. (The menu advertised the steak at a hefty 21 ounces, but a considerably smaller cut arrived at the table.) Yet, not every dish was an unqualified success. The Caesar salad, prepared with anchovies, had an overly strong fish taste. The hamburger entree was also a tad disappointing. It arrived overcooked and, as a result, was dry and lacking in flavor. Perhaps hamburger is simply too pedestrian an entree for a chef as talented as Dean. Desserts, on the other hand, were uniformly excellent. We especially recommend the vanilla pane cotta with Kahlua ice cream accompanied by a coffee saboyan, and also the chocolate creme brul�e with a rich chocolate mousselike flavor. A final dessert consisted of a vanilla bean cheesecake, “burnt” like a creme brul�e, on a bed of ginger-spiced pineapple bits with a dollop of homemade basil ice cream: a novel combination for the adventurous. Unfortunately, we must report that the service, while friendly, was at best uneven. There were long delays and occasional confusion by the wait staff during both our visits. Perhaps these lapses reflect the languid pace of Washington life in August, and the restaurant will become more efficient once summer ends. Nonetheless, all in all, Timothy Dean is clearly a worthy new entry in the continually expanding category of upscale, downtown Washington dining. Lunch prices: appetizers, $7 to $11; entrees, $14 to $25; desserts, $9 to $10. Lunch for two (with dessert): $60 to $70. Seth Bloom and Mark Johnson are both D.C. lawyers and avid restaurant diners.

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