For most of the last decade we have been indulging ourselves with Tosca’s tasting menu several times a year. Until last night it was always a great experience that often caused us to rate it five-star, but two weeks ago we had a disappointment. Several individually minor glitches reduced “great” to somewhere between “good” and “very good.”
Open Table would not take a 7:30 reservation, so we came at 7:00 and saw empty tables throughout the evening. The first course, a shellfish salad, was so overwhelmed by Old Bay that the shellfish could hardly be tasted through the saltiness. Crab shell pieces also intruded on my portion. I would have preferred any of the fish crudos I has on past occasions.
The roasted scallop in the second course was perfect, but the accompanying sauces did little to enhance it, and the peppercorn in my wife’s portion was out of place. The risotto was properly cooked so that it had a nutty crunch, but the cheese was monochromatic. I yearned for the risotto with cheese, mushroom, and a hint of truffle enjoyed on a past occasion.
The pastas, ordinarily a high point, were not. I had the pasta with antelope ragu, cheese, and roasted peppers. It was earthy but not outstanding. My wife, who dislikes peppers, instead had the carrot-flavored pasta with rabbit ragu and thyme, a Tosca signature dish previously the high point of the tasting menu. Last night’s did not have the over-the-top richness we have come to expect. We asked our waiter if the recipe had changed; he said he would ask the chef, but never returned with an answer.
The lamb chops were perfect, but the accompanying fava beans added little and my wife thought the cheese-infused polenta was a mismatch. Dessert, fruit semifreddo with Gorgonzola ice cream, was very good.
Service was correct, albeit cool. A water glass remained unfilled for a long period. We saw a lot of new faces among the wait staff, and we saw none of the three excellent veteran waiters we have come to know. During this visit and the previous one, we did not see Paolo out in front. Perhaps he is busy with his newer restaurant.
On the way home, we speculated over the cause of our disappointment. We didn’t begin the evening in a bad mood; perhaps the restaurant just had a bad night. Perhaps staff changes or a lack of owner attention have caused slippage. Perhaps there was a chef decision to make the food “lighter” and healthier. We could not decide, but we also reminded ourselves about the decision of Washingtonian’s critics to drop Tosca from their top 100.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.