Restaurant: Annabelle

If this address sounds familiar it’s because it used to house Nora Pouillon’s restaurant for some 38 years. Over the years I dined there many times.

The physical building is the same and the entryway is the same but that is where similarity ends.

Debbie and I went to Annabelle with Susan and David on the sixth day that the restaurant was open.

As you enter, there is a small bar that seats maybe 10 people on high-backed stools as well as a single regular table with 2 chairs. This is the same as when it was Nora’s.

To the left are the original stairs up to the main dining area.

Once you reach the main dining area there is no resemblance to what it was as Nora’s.

The main dining room is divided down the middle in two longitudinal sections. The open divider is where the sommelier is stationed.

If you would like a more detailed idea of the changes before visiting, I suggest you take a look at Eater Washington DC for an article entitled “Two D.C. Dining Giants Open a Restaurant…” from January 16, 2020.

We were seated at a 4-top at the front of the dining room nearest the staircase.

The service was exceptional. The servers were all older and many had clearly worked at other Bajaj restaurants as well at other restaurants in D.C. For a restaurant that had only been open for 6 days the servers were intimately familiar with each of the dishes.

David enjoys wine and knows a great deal about it. He had an interesting discussion with the sommelier which resulted in the selection of a wine that Debbie, Susan and David enjoyed.

When I asked the sommelier whether there were any non-alcoholic drinks beyond the usual sodas, he described two drink options. I selected one and it hit the spot.

Susan and David shared a Lettuce Wedge “Monte Cristo”- Peckytoe Crab, Adirondeck Potatoes, Artichoke, Lardon as an opening dish.

Susan then ordered Roasted Free-Range Half Chicken – Tarragon Jus, Potato Boulangere, Wilted Arrowhead Spinach. (This half chicken was so large that after Susan finished and David had a piece, the amount left which Debbie and I took home was enough for us for dinner the next two nights.) Susan also ordered Steak Fries – Zippy Mayonnaise

David ordered Ora Organic King Salmon – Radish Kimchi, Purple Potato Puree.

Debbie ordered Candy Stripe Beet Salad Annabelle – Hans Avocado Mousse, Quinoa, Almonds. She then ordered Alina Duck – Quince, Pistachio, Braised Endive.

I started with Applewood Smoked Trout – Braised Celery Waldorf, Cider Gelee. I then selected Horst Co-Operative Pork, Shoulder Pot Roast and Roasted Loin, Yorkshire Pudding. I added Roasted Winter Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, Muscat Raisins.

For dessert we ordered two Kalorama Tortes – Chocolate Stout Cake, Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse, Kumquat Marmalade, Caramel Stout Ice Cream.

Susan, David and Debbie were delighted with their entrée choices. I did not enjoy mine as much. Part of it was undoubtedly that I rarely order pork, but the other part was that that shoulder roast was a bit tough.

When Ashok Bajaj decided to buy the building that housed Nora and open his tenth DC restaurant, he named it Annabelle. When asked about the name he explained that there is a very old private club in London called “Anabel” which has been open since 1963. Bajaj apparently tried to join and was turned down.

Bajaj recruited Chef Frank Ruta, who had previously owned Palena (one of my favorites). Most recently he was at Mirabelle but left to work for the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, owned by Bajaj. Chef Ruta first worked at Bibiana which was rebranded as Modena.

At the back of the restaurant just before the small dining room, there are two gender neutral restrooms across from one another. Given their design they are intended to be used by one person at a time. They are small, each housing a counter with an oval ceramic washbasin sunk into the counter with a square hole in the counter which serves as a waste receptacle. There are doors beneath the counter and while I did not look inside, I assume they are for storage of relevant supplies.

Across from the counter is a white ceramic floor-based commode. The walls are covered to shoulder height with a square tile design. The white floor is covered with tiny white square tiles. The walls above shoulder height are covered with a swirling reddish design.

As I was waiting to use one of the restrooms, one of the floor managers came by and suggested that there were two more such restrooms on the other side of the restaurant.

2132 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008