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Caf� Atlantico Washington, D.C. Sometimes you visit a restaurant where the balance between sophistication and simplicity is just right, where the food offers an excellent mix of distinctiveness and taste, and where the entire operation just seems to click in a way that provides an extremely enjoyable dining experience. Caf� Atlantico, with its interesting assortment of Latino and Caribbean delicacies, is just that kind of place. The menu offers a wide range of appetizers, from Anticuchos de Pollo con Salsa de Guayaba (Achiote-marinated chicken skewers with fried yucca and jalape — o-guava sauce) to a Mejillones de Bahia (Brazilian style mussels in a tomato-coconut sauce). The guacamole is extremely tasty, with enough of a bite to make it interesting, and is served with soft tortillas rather than chips. Because it is prepared tableside, you not only see what goes into it, but also get the chance to adjust the seasoning as it is made. The Ceviche de Corvina (fresh Chilean sea bass) is another enjoyable appetizer. Marinated in lime juice rather than cooked, the fish is deliciously light and refreshing, and nicely countered with sliced sweet potatoes and sweet potato chips. We especially liked the Sopa de Platana (plaintain soup), which manages to maintain the sweet flavor of the plantain, but has a slight spicy kick to it as well. There are a number of delicious main courses on the lunch menu. Our favorite was the Sandwich de Salmon, which was a large piece of salmon marinated in a spicy malagueta pepper sauce and served on a roll with a light spread of goat cheese and cucumbers. It was accompanied by a pineapple salsa-type salad and malanga chips, which added a distinctive touch. It’s a safe bet that you’ve never had a Cobb salad like Caf� Atlantico’s Latino Cobb Chicken Salad — everything, from the traditional grilled chicken, eggs, and bacon, to the less traditional jicama and melons, were diced and laid out in an attractive and organized fashion. The result was pleasing, both in appearance and taste, with the texture of the many small pieces complementing the flavor. The jicama and melons were a particularly enjoyable modification. The only disappointment at lunch — and it was a slight one — was the Pollo Veracruz (the grilled chicken breast), which was adequate, but the stew of tomatoes, capers, and onions that it was served over seemed inundated with onions and was too creamy, heavier than you would want at lunch. There is some overlap of the lunch and dinner menus, such as the deliciously tender Argentine rib-eye steak served with malanga pur�e, but in general the evening fare includes a different collection of delicacies that are presented in a slightly more intricate manner than the lunch offerings. For example, the salmon entree at dinner (an extraordinarily generous serving) comes not on a roll, but on a bed of wild mushrooms and beets, and is served with banana leaf-wrapped goat cheese. The dinner entree of the Chilean sea bass is served not as ceviche, but is pan-seared and comes over chorizo sausage and a tasty, creamy butternut squash and lentil stew. The desserts are beautifully prepared and presented and extremely filling. The best we sampled was the banana-chocolate bread pudding, which is more like a rich chocolate cake than a traditional bread pudding, and is served with ice cream. The restaurant has an award-winning wine selection, as well as “specialty” cocktails, such as the traditional Caipirinha. If you prefer nonalcoholic beverages, we recommend the lemonade, which was extremely refreshing and not too sweet. From the graciousness and knowledge of the staff, to its bright and cheery tropical d�cor, to the delicious tastes, there is a confidence and creativity that emanates from Caf� Atlantico that will surely bring you back. Restaurant: Caf� Atlantico Location: 405 8th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004 Reservations: (202) 393-0812 Price range: Appetizers and side dishes, $3 to $12; entrees, $8 to $12 (lunch), $17 to $22 (dinner). Total bill for two (not including drinks): $25 to $45 (lunch); $45 to $80 (dinner). Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and writer Alexander Wohl is a frequent contributor to Legal Times.

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