Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema delves into restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi’s dramatic two-story addition to the Southwest waterfront, where he consumes everything from tapas to family-style rice dishes. “Classic Spanish small plates through the eyes of an exacting chef” range from briny oysters in a sea snail-shaped vessel to scarlet peppers stuffed with sweet Maryland crab. Don’t miss out on the Iberico ham, a rosy marbled treat that’s “best enjoyed” carved straight off the bone (paleta). Meanwhile, the imported eye candy and details throughout the space are alluring: there’s a giant fish sculpture, hand-painted blue tiles, and seersucker interspersed with floral prints everywhere (its worn by the servers, and adorns luxe private dining rooms upstairs). A must-order dish is the paella packed with lobster, calamari, mussels and prawns “that taste straight out of the ocean,” all arranged on perfectly cooked bomba rice.
Sietsema also sings the praises of Scott Circle newcomer Siren, adorning the fancy fish restaurant in the Darcy hotel with 2.5 stars (good/excellent). He previewed the place “more or less favorably in May” and admits it fell off his radar; now he’s noticed both the food and service have improved. The booth-packed space’s biggest draw is executive chef John Critchley, a fixture behind the raw bar where Osetra caviar “tempts” alongside oysters and prawns. Some memorable meals Sietsema’s had there to date include off-the-menu briny belon oysters and smoked royal bass, as well as octopus braised in vinegar with tender potatoes, passion fruit juice, and aji amarillo. And non-seafood picks also stand out, such as cannelloni stuffed with lamb neck. Critchley, a former pastry chef, also whips up an “elegant” panna cotta with goat cheese and sugar-crusted brioche topped with a scoop of Concord grape sorbet. “It looks like art and tastes sublime,” says Sietsema.
Washington Post food writer Tim Carman heads to Library Tavern in Brightwood Park for his $20 Diner column, and the neighborhood restaurant pleasantly surprises him. He test drives the “diner-esque variety pack” of Mediterranean dishes, American comfort foods, pastas, kebabs, and other Persian specialties. His top pick among the kebabs is the koobideh, “dark and glistening meaty tubes” that deliver an onion sting and sumac tang. The citrus-y joojeh kebabs with Cornish hen are also good, and the chenjeh kebabs are rounded out with a minty yogurt dipping sauce. Must-try starters include the kashke bademjan, a “decadent” spread of fried eggplant, caramelized onions, walnuts and sun-dried Persian yogurt, and the herb-rich kuku sabzi that packs “a peppery punch” with hints of parsley and barberries. There are some misses, including “puny” crab cakes, overcooked Library burger, and scrawny lamb chops (“a serious bummer”).