Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema awards the Navy Yard newcomer 2.5 stars (“good/excellent”), singing the praises of veteran chef Haidar Karoum’s “global and delightful” cuisine. Sietsema urges guests to order oysters with crème fraîche, horseradish, and crisp rye bread crumbs, which reminds him of a dish the late Michel Richard (one of Karoum’s many culinary mentors) might have served. The pâté, made with duck liver and pork shoulder, cherries, and mustard, “demonstrates good editing.” For a shock factor, Sietsema suggests the cobia crudo, featuring raw slices of fish bolstered by lime juice, Thai chiles and fish sauce. The gumbo, along with pretty much anything on the 30-item menu, is a winner in Sietsema’s book. The fried cauliflower tossed in tahini and lemon juice and garnished with pine nuts and fresh mint is “homely but exceptional.” In short, “you can pretty much point anywhere on the [menu] and score something you would want to return for,” writes Sietsema. He does, however, have a few gripes: cramped tables, and waiters who hover a little too much.
Sietsema also visits Mount Pleasant’s all-day replacement to Heller’s Bakery, giving immediate props to its “all-star cast”: owner Nick Pimentel (Bad Saint and Room 11), pastry chef Lizzy Evelyn (founder of Paisley Fig), chef Brad Deboy (Blue Duck Tavern), barman Sean MacPherson (Columbia Room), and bread master Dan Fogg (Le Diplomate). Go-to orders in Sietsema’s book include a “whimsical” tonnato toast with sliced ham; duck confit with house-made chile sauce and fluffy country biscuit; plus a plate of clams and spaetzle “fired up” by crushed red chile flakes and garlicky baguette crumbs. For dessert, there’s a “honey-kissed” mini cheesecake that’s “subtly tangy” thanks to goat cheese and a seasonal blackberry-thyme layer cake.