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Asia Nora Washington, D.C. So you finally managed to sneak out of your office before 9 p.m., and you want to make up a few of those late nights at work to that someone special. Or maybe you just need to take the client out to get his mind off his case. Well, then, Asia Nora may be just the ticket. Asia Nora is the second restaurant of executive chef and owner Nora Pouillon, who made organic cuisine in Washington not simply fashionable, but required dining. Asia Nora is based on the same principles as Restaurant Nora — quality organic foods, elegantly prepared — but this time around she has added a slight Asian touch — with the emphasis on “slight.” While the ambience at Asia Nora is clearly Asian, from the chopsticks elegantly perched on stones at each place setting to the silk kimono-like outfits of the servers, you’d be hard pressed to consider the overall menu Asian in style or seasoning. If you’re expecting a traditional Thai or Vietnamese meal, then you might be disappointed. But that will probably be your only disappointment at Asia Nora. First, you are treated to a small courtesy sample appetizer, a nice touch to get you started. On both of our visits, this was a crispy wonton with finely chopped and seasoned beef sitting in a flavorful yogurt-based sauce. This offering only increased interest in the appetizers, all of which lived up to their elegant descriptions. The pan-seared goyzo dumplings, for instance, served in hot mustard-sesame sauce, were extremely tasty and light — offering a sharp contrast to traditional doughy Chinese dumplings. They were served with tasty mixed greens and small cuts of Fuji apples, a sophisticated garnish that only added to the dumplings’ elegance. The tuna tartare with avocado and nori tempura was excellent, as were the wild mushroom, smoked tofu, and basil spring rolls, once again proving that, in the right hands, tofu may indeed be the Spam of the 21st century. Each of the salads was delicious and could be easily shared among two or three people. Particularly unusual was the baby spinach with red onions and cilantro-crusted goat cheese, served with a lime leaf and black pepper vinaigrette. The best of the entrees that we sampled (and it is important to note that the menu changes constantly at Asia Nora, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll find the same selections) was the crispy wild rockfish with basil and black trumpets. Served with stir-fried noodles and spinach in a very mild green curry sauce, it was light and tender, with just enough seasoning to make it interesting. The New York strip steak, with sesame spinach and thin onion rings, was also a good choice, served with a delicious scallion potato pur�e. Likewise, the nori-wrapped yellowfin tuna with grilled sushi rice cake was cooked to perfection. Two entrees provided slight disappointments — the Sansho roasted duck breast with black mission fig chutney was quite chewy and not especially tasty. And the roasted pork loin, which was served with basmati rice, red lentils, and a spiced apricot chutney, just didn’t live up to its elegant description, either in presentation or taste. At best, it was just ordinary. Desserts at Asia Nora are quite a treat. The warm chocolate five-spice cake was our favorite, served with a coconut sorbet. The grilled banana with caramel-ginger ice cream, accompanied by banana bread covered in chocolate sauce, was also quite spectacular. Accompanying dessert was a wide selection of teas or after-dinner drinks, bringing a smooth ending to a succulent meal. Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and writer Alexander Wohl is a frequent contributor to Legal Times. Restaurant: Asia Nora Location: 2213 M St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Reservations: (202) 797-4860 Hours: Open for dinner only Price range: Appetizers and salads, $8 to $13; entrees, $19 to $29; desserts, $7 to $9. Total bill for two (not including alcohol): $90 to $120

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