Kora, Crystal City, VA

We were in the mood for Italian, so of course we started driving around aimlessly at 6:30 on a Friday night. Argia’s? Nah, just there. Ruffino’s! Has it re-opened yet? Nope, one more week. We headed to Kora.

Unfortunately for us, they’ve started up the Crystal City 5K Friday races again (at 6:30, of course) which made parking tough, even in the garage, and getting in the restaurant even tougher, although we were lucky enough to get a seat in the bar area.

Since the restaurant itself was slammed, it’s understandable that service was interminably slow. Not just understandable, but very forgivable when Kora runs happy hours specials all the way up until 8:30 PM in the bar area! Okay, now while that sounds enticing, I wish I could say I’d rush back for them, but I can’t.

I started with a bottle of Castello ($3.75 at happy hour) while my young dining companion had his Diet Coke ($2.50 with refill).

It was pizza and pasta night, so we started with a Mini Margherita ($5), an eight-piece oval that was just miserable. “As I said at that other place [Ristorante Murali],” Matt astutely quipped, “this isn’t a Margherita; it’s a pizza with cheese and basil.” This was the worst pizza I’ve had in a while, and half of it sat uneaten at the end of the meal. Truly, I would not have eaten this even if it were free.

The pizza was served after a half-order of Seared Salmon Penne ($6 at happy hour) with just a few small pieces of salmon, spinach, and tomato in a bland vodka cream sauce. Wanting something a bit more substantial, a dinner portion of Lasagna ($16 off the regular menu) gets credit for having a fair amount of meat sauce, but that’s about it.

The meal was bad enough where I actually apologized to Matt on the way out — after all the driving around, parking, and waiting, we got this as our reward. “Ah, it’s okay!” he said in his typical upbeat fashion. But it wasn’t okay; it was lousy. Later that night I came home and was talking with a friend of mine, and I mentioned that if this meal was anything even close to being representative of Kora, then you could take every single Italian restaurant in the DC area — from high-end places all the way down to strip-mall crap in the exurbs — and this would fall in the bottom 50%. I’d eaten here a couple times before and liked it well enough, so I’m hopeful that this was just a grisly aberration.

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