The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema gives Sfoglina a try, and is all about its taste — in decor and culinary direction.
He calls out the crystal light fixtures and custom-printed Italian wall fabrics, and its overall “palette” of red and white that is feminine without overdoing it.
He says the menu is simple, with categories of nibbles, small plates, pasta and “not pasta.” (FYI: “nibbles” are substantial enough to qualify as a first course, and so pretty, “they really ought to be in pictures.”)
Start with the polenta “swirled with crisp, caramelized mushrooms and sharpened with Parmigiano-Reggiano, at once primal and perfect,” he says, while the best opening dish for sharing is the grilled calamari with romesco sauce.
As for the main event, the spaghetti alla chitarra and Amalfi-inspired bowl of casarecce, short, tubular-shaped pasta, are hits. If with a group, Sietsema says the trio of pastas for $65 is the way to go.
“One of the prettiest pastas in the bunch, beet-tinted goat cheese ravioli set on a pool of sage-garnished fondue, arrives with a wrinkle: sliced pears, so hard they almost crunch. But they’re a minor distraction amid a bevy of major attractions. (Another disappointment is the replacement of the original chive crackers, hollow and delicious, with sourdough bread.)” [WaPo]
The Washington Post’s Tim Carman heads to the new Red Apron Burger Bar in Dupont Circle, saying it stands out in a city that’s obsessed with burgers.
He gives props to Nathan Anda, the chef and partner behind Red Apron Butcher, and its parent company, Neighborhood Restaurant Group, for “building a genuinely unique concept on the crowded burger landscape”:
“If burgers are a guilty pleasure, then Red Apron has stripped away at least one source of remorse: Their patties support a new model of local production, not the handful of high-speed, high-volume commodity processors that supply the vast majority of beef to the American public. To that, I can only say: Thanks, Anda.”
The goodness of the burger lies in its origin: Seven Hills Food is a “rather unconventional wholesaler” of fresh, Virginia-raised beef. (Its Lynchburg, Va., facility has its own U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughterhouse and processing plant.)
One kind of beef is Black Angus cattle “fattened on grass and grain” ($8.95), while the other is from Ancient White Park cattle raised exclusively on grass (“a standard burger featuring a twofer of grass-fed-beef patties [that] will cost you a cool $11.35”).
He thinks the “richness” of the grain-finished Black Angus is a better complement to spicy chorizo, a fatty counterbalance that “brings harmony to this tasty stack of pork and beef.”
His “preferred way” to experience the Ancient White Park beef is via a standard double stack, topped with white American cheese, shaved red onions, pickles and Anda’s own special sauce, a mayo-based riff on umami-rich tonkatsu sauce. (“When tucked into a soft challah bun, the combination is a double slap of pure beef, offset with enough accents to emphasize its grassy singularity.”) [WaPo]
Sietsema also goes the the new Colada Shop in Northwest, where “elegant” empanadas and strong coladas make Miami feel “closer than ever with this shout out to Little Havana.”
Colada Shop’s chef, co-owner Mario Monte, has lots of “street cred,” having been born in Miami to a Cuban father and an Italian mother, and then raised in Venezuela.
Get his “pleasing” Cuban sandwich with roast pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, while “even better” is the vegetarian version: a jumble of marinated portobellos, roasted cauliflower, cilantro aioli and more between slices of bread that have been all but fused on the griddle, Sietsema says.
The fried snacks, savory pastries and sweets are also success stories (“dense and delicious, Monte’s caramel-sauced flan derives from an old family recipe”).
And prices are legit: “A true daiquiri or floral Cuba Libre created by one of the best in the business will set you back a mere $8. You read that right.”
At the end of the month, the cafe — which “treats coffee like art” — expands to another room with 24 seats. [WaPo]
Northern Virginia Magazine’s Stefanie Gans goes to Aggio in Ashburn, which opened in August and is “a copy” of the one in Baltimore. Md. Three compliments right out of the gate include “lovely,” “interesting,” and “delicious.” Find house-made pastas with “of-the-moment” menu staples like burrata and Brussels sprouts with bacon.
“Leggy octopus drapes over fregola, tiny balls of pasta, smaller than a pea. The beauty lies in the combination of flavors at play: the buttery castelvetrano olive slices, a sweet puree made from pickled then smoked raisins, the bite from arugula, the crunch from almonds. It’s a hefty bowl to start, and as we sip cocktails at the bar, figuring out how to get our fork tines to stick through these dough marbles, we forget we’re still the only ones at the restaurant.”
Dinner starts with free bread service (also available at the bar) and two spreads: whipped pork and ricotta, she notes.
Chioggia beets are “probably the most Instagrammed vegetable for its psychedelic swirl of magenta and white, are sliced see-through thin, scattered around a plate of beets, some roasted, some shriveled and intense like a raisin. Arugula floats atop.” The “magic touch” is an Italian sauce made with tuna bringing a “punch of creamy boldness.”
The simple space is big and airy, and bar stools provide views of the open kitchen, she notes.
One failure was the fettuccine Alfredo, due largely to underdone noodles in a sauce resembling a broth and not the blanket of cream enthusiasts expect, and “a soft 63-degree egg only added to the watery problem.” [NoVa Mag]
FROM THE BLOGS: Been There, Eaten That heads to La Puerta Verde, The Hungry Lobbyist ranks top green dishes found throughout the year, and Bitches Who Brunch eat at Fyve at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.