The highs and lows of a visit to Lincoln measure out to a solid two stars this week from the Washington Post's Tom Sietsema — who winks a bit at political history jargon when writing about this Abraham Lincoln-themed restaurant forging a more perfect union between chefs Demetrio Zavala and Karen Nicholas. Thankfully, though, he stays away from anything "four score."
Among the highs? A soft-shell crab found "mounted on a colorful salad of charred corn, tomatoes and lime that announces summer in each forkful" — and also happens to be the best example of the dish the critic has found so far this season. Also, duck sausage wrapped in puff pastry makes a "tasty turn on a lowbrow American hors d'oeuvre." Vegetarian dishes and the restaurant's decor also seem to please:
"Eating lengths of roasted eggplant draped with whipped goat cheese puts me in a Middle Eastern frame of mind, while carrot sliced into long ribbons and tossed with Parmesan, pine nuts and lemon is a light and elegant way to pack your diet with beta carotene."
And as far as the lows go, Sietsema points the 100-decibel dining room, small plates that are more like a "meal built for G.I. Joe rather than a full-scale diner" and a calamari fries appetizer that "should audition for a role at Red Lobster." [WaPo]
Todd Kliman intended to cut Graffiato some slack this week, but found the brand spanking new restaurant needed no such indulgences with its "knockout" food: "Nominally, the restaurant is Italian, with pizzas and pastas making up much of the menu, but the aim and energy of Graffiato is more nearly that of a place like Blue Ribbon in New York, the renowned chef's hangout that serves up the sort of fare that off-the-clock cooks love to linger over — deceptively detailed and boldly flavored dishes that give the appearance of being tossed-off." [Washingtonian]
Chris Shott visits Capitol Hill's Sonoma, where he finds a few good (mostly pork) dishes as well as some longstanding legal woes and a couple of gruff bartenders: "When the guy behind the bar of one of D.C.’s premier wine-centric restaurants can’t muster much enthusiasm about an expansive selection that ranges from malbec to grüner veltliner, you begin to wonder whether anyone is passionate about wine, anymore." [WCP]
THE BLOGS: EatMore DrinkMore and DCist also each took early looks at Graffiato and had as much praise for the restaurant as Kliman did; DC-Wrapped Dates has an adequate if not enticing Mexican meal at Casa Oaxaca; Don Rockwell and his dining companion had very divergent experiences at Estadio.
[Sarah Gormley, 4/11]