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Jeffrey’s 2650 Virginia Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037 (202) 298-4455 Jeffrey’s — the Austin restaurant newly opened at the Watergate complex — descended on Washington, D.C., just as George W. Bush was settling into the White House. A Texas restaurant setting up shop to welcome the former state governor and his new regime to the nation’s capital. In fact, just last week, the president, first lady, and friends dined at the D.C. Jeffrey’s for the first time. But while both the president and his favorite Austin eatery tout their “outside the Beltway” status, don’t expect too much down-home Texas flavor from either. Jeffrey’s menu promises traditional American fare with a dash of Southwestern spice, but the experience is nothing to write home to Austin about. In some instances, a subtle hint of jalapeno or touch of chorizo does make an otherwise ordinary dish superb. Too often, however, the kitchen fails to deliver on its most tantalizing offerings. For instance, the description of Jeffrey’s signature appetizer, Texas gulf oysters served with habanero-honey aioli and pineapple salsa, was enough to set our mouths watering. But while the oysters were plump and crisp, they were presented with soggy yucca chips that tasted as though they had been left sitting out overnight. Another house specialty, duck and shrimp served with black bean ravioli, also disappointed. Although the meat pairing in a tangy citrus sauce was a delectable contrast of tastes, the ravioli accents were bland and pasty. At lunch, the chipotle Caesar salad with roasted garlic croutons came sans croutons and without even a hint of chipotle. And just where was the orange mint pesto that was supposed to complement the asparagus cucumber soup? For an appetizer that does live up to its billing, try the smoked salmon chalupas. The zesty medley of smoked salmon, lemon cream, capers, and avocado atop crispy tortilla chips is a fanciful take on a traditional dish, and the southwestern accents seem inspired instead of an afterthought. Thankfully, entrees at Jeffrey’s are less hit-and-miss. The lamb T-bone was succulent and flavorful, served with a velvety corn flan and a huckleberry thyme sauce. The beef tenderloin was plump, juicy, and smoky — just the way Texas beef should be. Jeffrey’s seafood selections are meager, but those it offers are pleasing. A seared salmon fillet served with a red pepper sauce and spring pea risotto was a delightful lunch. Every element was cooked just right. The salmon was firm and juicy, the peas still crisp, and the smoky, sweet pepper sauce seeped into the risotto, tying all the flavors together. The best of the desserts we tried was undoubtedly a whimsical trio of banana goodies: caramelized baby banana, chocolate banana cake, and peanut butter banana ice cream. The combination of sticky sweetness, moist richness, and cool creaminess is enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. For a bargain at lunch, try the three-course executive lunch menu, which offers a limited choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert for $26. Regular lunch entrees range from approximately $12 to $25. Dinner entrees range from $23 to $35. The wine list is short and undistinguished. The available wines just missed the mark. One redemption was the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot, the kind of solid, yet inexpensive, wine one rarely finds at a tony D.C. restaurant. And we were pleasantly surprised when the waiter delivered a vintage better than the one on the list. The dining room at Jeffrey’s — a low-ceilinged space that formerly belonged to Aquarelle — is more pleasant before sunset. In the daylight, the view of the Potomac sparkles and lends an airy feel to the rather cramped dining room. After dusk, however, Jeffrey’s feels like the hotel dining room it is. And it really does not feel much like Texas at all. Vanessa Blum is a reporter at Legal Times ; Phillip Dub� is an attorney at D.C.’s Covington & Burling.

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