Photos by Nicholas Karlin
Everyone in the world is debuting their brand new spring menus and it’s enough to make you go crazy. It still feels like we’re trapped in some sort of horrible fall whenever I walk outside (not that I don’t like fall, but this is too much). I have no interest in breaking out my sundresses or even wearing sandals, nonetheless giving up hearty meals that make up winter. I don’t want your light and refreshing spring salad! I’m cold and tired and I want bread and cheese and heavy cream, than you very much.
Luckily, Bibiana knows what’s up. They’re new spring menu is a great way to mentally transition between whatever the hell this weather is and real spring. There are meals that are light and airy and would be perfect for a hot summers night, and then hardier things that will keep you warm when it’s suddenly 30 degrees outside and there is a possibility of snow. The chefs here know what they’re doing. You are in good hands.
Starting with the drink menu (because you should always start with the drink menu), there is no drink better suited for spring than the negroni. Bibiana’s menu features one with a barrel aged bourbon (for those of you have haven’t quite gotten the hang of gin yet) and it is surprisingly light and airy. There is the slightest bourbon punch, but you’re certainly not going to feel any burn. While I wish they would serve it with one larger ice cube instead of a bunch of smaller cubes (I know that sounds snobby as hell, but it REALLY makes a difference with this kind of drink) it’s a good drink for someone beginning to expand their cocktail repertoire.
Of course, if you’re going to be drinking bourbon filled negronis all night you need some reinforcement and I cannot think of a better snack than the burrata. Bibiana’s seems to be a little denser than most of the burrata I’ve had (which is not at all a bad thing), but it’s still rich and creamy and all around fantastic. Served alongside grilled ramps, green tomato marmellata and a balsamic cipollini, it’s packed with flavor. If you’re ordering anything at Bibiana, it should be this.
If pasta is more your style (and I mean you are in one of D.C.’s prolific Italian restaurants) then I recommend you at least try the cappellacci di ortiche. Featuring stinging nettle and cacio de roma raviolis filled with sour orange and herb butter, they’re the strangest tasting raviolis I’ve ever had, and I mean that in a good way. Rich and soft and so fragrant, they’re certainly a highlight.
For my main course, I opted to go for the cioppino because I’m from Maryland and I’m pretty sure I’m required by law to order the dish with the most seafood. Friends, I made a damn good decision. The dish was FILLED with bass, prawns, calamari, shellfish and came with a roasted garlic crostini (bread forever!!!). Not to mention the tomato stew was incredible. It felt so homey and warm I could not stop slurping it down (which is one of the many reasons why I should not be invited to nice places). The only problem I had with this dish (and it’s not a big deal) is that on the menu, the seafood is labeled as spicy and it’s not. at. all. It’s still great, just don’t expect any sort of kick and you’ll be good.
We finished off by eating way too many desserts, but even in my slightly drunken haze (I was drinking three drinks at the same time, this job is going to kill me), there was a clear and obvious winner. Friends, compatriots, you need (and I mean NEED) to try the panna cotta. I know that doesn’t sound like an exciting dessert, but it is silky sweet heaven on a plate. An espresso panna cotta topped with tiramisu mousse, a mocha glaze (so much coffee!), and a almond crisp it is killer. If you even remotely like coffee flavored things, this is the only dessert you will want to eat for the rest of your life. And I’m not just saying that because I was filled with booze, my notes actually say “MY GOD THE BEST,” in all caps. Like I said earlier, you’re in good hands here.