Washingtonian critic Todd Kliman files a review of Enzo Fargione's new fine dining addition to the local restaurant scene in the magazine's March issue, awarding Elisir 2.5 stars. Kliman notes that while minimalism has become the norm in the restaurant scene these days, "[g]randiosity permeates the operation" at Elisir. And, for the most part, this seems to be a good thing:
"Sometimes it’s a color juxtaposition (a sublime plate of roasted peppers and artichokes), sometimes a painterly composition (a pointillist presentation of vitello tonnato,tuna-mousse-filled bundles of thin-sliced veal surrounded by quail eggs, potato cubes, and mâche). A humble minestrone becomes a bravura piece of theater with carrots and potatoes carved into perfect spheres and a pesto-scented broth poured tableside from a small pitcher."
That said, Kliman determines a weakness at Elisir is its "overrichness" and at times overly attentive service. In these cases, he concludes, "[s]ometimes less really is more." [The Washingtonian]
Candy Sagon filled in for Tom Sietsema this week with a 2.5-star review for Vienna's Maple Ave Restaurant, the nine-table spot that she writes delivers a "startlingly big surprise." The surprise is not just the restaurant's solid delivery, but smaller surprises within each dish — such as Spam lurking in the eggs and caramelized kimchi brunch dish. Sagon writes:
"Seared scallops? Yeah, a lot of places do them, but not with coconut Acquerello risotto and basil ice cream. Okay, the basil ice cream really isn't needed, but still, what a hat trick."
Most of Maple Ave's dishes seem to tell stories, too, such as a Moroccan-spiced chicken created for author David Baldacci in honor of his book set in Morocco. The "thick and heavy" fried chicken is more or less Sagon's only real complaint about the tiny Vienna restaurant. [WaPo]
Chris Shott's Young & Hungry column this week focuses on Adams Morgan's new Mintwood Place, which he calls "the neighborhood’s most ambitious recent attempt at haute dining." Though he doesn't seem all that enamored by the escargot hush puppies, Shott does say the burger "doesn't suck"** and he describes the tagliatelle bolognese in a way that is supposed to be enticing:
"The presentation is practically pornographic, what with its leggy strands of glossy pasta, smothered in a buxom sauce of beef, pork, and veal all dolled up with red wine, fennel seeds, chili flakes, lavender, and tarragon, then liberally topped with freshly shredded Parmesan in a style somewhat reminiscent of a partly frazzled post-coitus hairdo."
Okay. Anyway, in the end Shott decides Mintwood Place isn't enough yet to unseat the jumbo slice as the representative Adams Morgan food thing — but that it's definitely a step in the right direction. [WCP]
** Chris Shott "Suck/Doesn't Suck" Counter: 1
Don Rockwell names Addie's his Restaurant of the Week in this week's series of Minibites reviews, though he points out this is "largely academic" given the departure of chef Nate Waugaman following the review's publication. He also had a "sub-par" muffaletta from The Italian Store and insists that you give your business to Fishnet in College Park. [DC Dining]
The Washington Post's Going Out Guru Justin Rude checks out Rabbit in Clarendon and writes that while the Rabbit salad is his own favorite, "[s]ome of Rabbit's most pleasing offerings are among its least healthful. The Cuban sandwich is a pleasant surprise. A crispy-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside bun encases layers of braised pork shoulder, ham, pickles, mozzarella and a dijon aioli." [WaPo]
THE BLOGS: We Love DC takes a first look at Mintwood Place; DMV Dining joins the masses exalting Little Serow; New Columbia Heights takes a first look at Coffy Cafe; Bitches Who Brunch adore Graffiato and discover a classic DC brunch at Ben's Next Door.
Elisir [Photo: R. Lopez]