Coq Au Vin And Cakes At 701 Restaurant In Penn Quarter

Before Penn Quarter existed, there was this top table

Back in the day when Penn Quarter was known as Downtown and area restaurants were few and far between, Ashok Bajaj opened his second venture, 701, as a destination for employees in the nearby office buildings.

Now, nearly 20 years later–and after a recent full renovation–the restaurant has evolved into a D.C. classic, luring diners from throughout the Washington region.

Along with the new dining room of rich, dark woods, Tiffany-blue chairs and dramatic modern art, the restaurant's kitchen also has new direction under chef Ed Witt.

The restaurant has a commitment to refined, approachable American food with his knack for reinventing familiar classics. Clam "chowder" ($11) is a light, cream-touched soup with smoky prosciutto, plump Manila clams and gnocchi–all of which bears little resemblance to the thick original. Coq au vin ($21) marinates in red wine for 12 hours before it's cooked en sous vide and oven-roasted with thick pieces of house-cured bacon.

Dishes also achieve textural balance: Rice-crusted striped bass ($25) yields delicate, flaky fish beneath the snap of the rice cover, all on a well-spiced bed of creamy lentils.

New pastry chef Roger Potter completes the experience with creative desserts that often combine old classics into new hybrids, like the maple-infused banana crème brûlée tart ($9). You could say the finish is as strong as its start.

701, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (between Seventh and Ninth sts.); 202-393-0701 or