Classic Tables: The Oval Room

Classics get creative near the White House

Agendas evolve and the ruling party changes, but this city's power players never lose their enthusiasm for meals at The Oval Room.

For 17 years, the restaurant–a mere block from the Oval Office–has remained a hub for power dining, where the food stands up to the conversations.

Chef Tony Conte has coordinated the clever menu since 2005, walking a line between classic American dishes and nouveau cooking techniques. A lunch menu that includes Cobb salad ($14) and a turkey club ($13) also offers long tendrils of red and golden beets ($11) lined up with cubes of horseradish-spiked passion-fruit gelée. The whimsical dish would look at home in a Dr. Seuss book.

During his tenure, Conte has evolved his dishes from dramatic experiments to variations on classics the chef might cook for himself on a night off. Crisp and pillowy duck-confit tater tots add heft to main course of marinated duck ($27). Thin slices of kanpachi ($14) cure for a day to take on pastrami flavors, and are then matched with pumpernickel croutons, tomato jam and a scoop of mustard ice cream. A perfectly assembled bite yields the most elegant cousin to a deli sandwich.

The Oval Room: a scene in the room and on the plate.

The Oval Room, 800 Connecticut Ave. NW (between H & I sts.); 202-463-8700 or ovalroom.com