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Bar Civita Falls Flat for Tom Sietsema, Don Rockwell

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Plus, Sietsema prefers the Kapnos in Arlington and Tim Carman does Ethiopian at CherCher.

Bar Civita
Bar Civita
R. Lopez

For his First Bite column in the Washington Post, Sietsema dines at Bar Civita in Woodley Park. The neighborhood wants for better dining, so he has high hopes. But the much anticipated new restaurant falls short of his expectations and the staff could benefit from more training. He writes:

"A couple of early dinners give me the impression that Bar Civita is fitting in too well with some of the nearby kitchens, serving food that either isn’t very exciting or is overwrought. Both the bar steak and the roasted chicken taste blank, for instance, although the entrees get nice assists from french fries enhanced with garlic and oregano (with the beef ) and nutmeg-laced Roman gnocchi and pickled carrots (with the bird)."

Really, the only bright spot for Sietsema is a nice Hemingway daiquiri from the bar. [WaPo]

Don Rockwell is slightly more hopeful in his review of Bar Civita and calls the restaurant "a work in progress." He experiences similar service problems— his daiquiri doesn't even arrive until after the first appetizer. All of the dishes he tries, including lamb rillettes, pasta, roast chicken and steak, are lacking. [DR]

The week wasn't a total loss for Sietsema, though. He awards 2.5 stars to Kapnos Taverna in Arlington in his full restaurant review for the Washington Post Magazine. In fact, he much prefers the Virginia location to the one in D.C.:

The taverna in Ballston is a spinoff of Kapnos in Washington, and having eaten many times at both, I tag the former as my favorite. The younger, two-story restaurant exudes an expansiveness and freshness I find very appealing, and it comes with a menu whose ingredients originate more from the sea than from sod.

Sietsema is delighted with almost everything on the menu, especially the seafood platters, whole lamb shoulder, and baklava. He also finds the young staff incredibly accommodating and courteous. [WaPo]

For his $20 Diner column, Tim Carman goes on a quest for doro wat, the national dish of Ethiopia, at CherCher in Shaw. But the chicken and egg stew is never available even though it's on the menu. Owner Alemayehu "Alex" Abebe explains it's because his Ethiopian clientele never order it they'd rather make it at home.

Carman caves and tries the dishes popular with other diners. These include a "harmonious" dullet made of lamb tripe, lamb liver, and raw beef and a spicy kifto paired with cottage cheese. The kurt, or slabs of raw beef, also leaves a lasting impression:
The rib-eye doesn’t put up a fight like the chewy top round can. Instead, the cut allows its cool, primal comforts to cozy up to the peppery complexities of the awaze dipping sauce and the mimita powder. The kitchen even adds an extra touch of authenticity: a third condiment built from Ethio­pian mustard seeds called senafitch, which lets your nasal cavities take part in the pleasures of tere sega.

He finally gets doro wat during his fourth trip to the restaurant. Carman likes it so much that he plans to follow Ethiopians home if they're actually making it in their own kitchens. [WaPo]

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