Restaurants in hotels are often little more than a convenient place for guests to grab a quick meal. The Hamilton Hotel, at 14th and K Streets, NW, aimed higher during its multi-million dollar renovation. Besides a sleek, modern lobby and refurbished guest rooms, the hotel now boasts Via Sophia, an all-day Italian Osteria that opened in June and is already a sought after reservation.
Executive Chef Colin Clark trained under several James Beard Award winners, including most recently at Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola Mare in Georgetown. While fish lovers will be pleased with those offerings, there’s something for everyone on Clark’s innovative menu.
We began our meal with caponata, roasted eggplant, San Marzano tomatoes, golden raisins and pinenuts, served with the restaurant’s crusty country bread. We enjoyed this appetizer while finishing our drinks, a martini and a sparkling and refreshing Bellavista Alma.
The toughest choice of the evening came when we next had to decide between pasta and pizza. Via Sophia has a wood burning oven, and early reviews raved about the crusty pizzas with a variety of toppings, a favorite for lunch and dinner. However, the pasta dishes were too tempting, so we decided that pizzas would have to wait for our next visit.
The pasta we chose – ravioli finochietta with asparagus tips, fava beans, morels and pamigiano – assured us that we had made the right choice. The flavors blended together, yet remained distinct. The ravioli were light, literally melting in the mouth, while the asparagus tips added crunch, the fava beans, texture, and the morels a smokiness that didn’t overwhelm the dish. Heaven.
Via Sophia has two entrees that can be shared – a whole branzino en cartocchio, with fennel, potatoes, asparagus, white wine and butter, and bistec Fiorentina, with roasted vegetables, garlic crème, crushed olive oil potatoes, and Barolo jus. We were in the mood for meat. Also, the fish dish repeated some of the flavors from our pasta. The steak was cooked accurately and a size that was perfect for two. The vegetables were a colorful and tasty accompaniment.
Via Sophia’s wine list is extensive with excellent choices. The Terre del Barolo, at $75, was reasonably priced and paired well with our entree.
We opted for something cool, light, and tangy for dessert – a mango sorbet.
While Via Sophia has only been open since the middle of June, the restaurant already is running like a well-oiled machine. The wait staff is impressive. Service throughout our evening was friendly and professional. Our server was well versed on every aspect of the menu, and also was able to navigate the wine list. In early days, feedback from customers is important to new restaurants. This lesson is not lost on Ahmed Mohamed, Via Sophia’s general manager, who stopped at our table and many others to ask how his guests were enjoying their meals.
By the time we left close to 9 p.m., the restaurant was full and buzzing, with many settled in at the restaurant’s attractive bar, nestled into seats along a banquette in the main dining room, or taking a front row seat at the counter fronting the pizza oven. We expect those crowds will continue to grow in the coming months.
1001 14th Street