A Rake’s Progress
Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema reviews chef Spike Gjerde’s debut D.C. restaurant, awarding the Line hotel newcomer with 2.5 stars (“good/excellent”). He’s impressed by the immediate details, like the 16-inch sealed menu complete with a poem, and the “epic” dining room competing for diners’ attention. A popular order seems to be the aged Virginia hams, he observes, which features mild, sweet, and “wonderfully complex” flavors. Sliced warm bread is “impressive,” Sietsema says, thanks to butter from an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania, as well as salt sourced from neighboring West Virginia. This summer, he’s enjoying “lush” seared tuna with squash blossoms, snap peas, and green garlic butter, as well as simply prepared soft shell crabs dusted with flour and cornstarch before frying. “The herbs, together with a subtly sweet rhubarb sauce, make for one of the lightest and brightest soft-shells I’ve encountered this season,” he writes. Highlights stemming from Gjedre’s wood hearth-fired kitchen include a “very good” lamb shoulder and thick-cut duck slices with fried rice, spiked with the “it” condiment of the moment: gochujang. Among the large sharable plates, Sietsema recommends the “pleasing” grilled monkfish tail with peanut romesco. But he’s not a fan of scallops paired with “oddly chewy” cavatelli. On the sweets side, he says sorbets sport “intriguing” flavors such as blueberry-clove and verjus-lavender-ginger. As for the bar, Sietsema’s go-to cocktail of the moment is a Pine Barrens: it features locally made gin, a cranberry-rosemary shrub, and sparkling wine from Virginia, all served in a frosted metal julep cup. Among the few hiccups he’s experienced are how loud the cathedral-like space can get, and servers showing up with too many dishes at once.
Sietsema also gives the new Italian street food spot at the Wharf a try, granting it high marks for a sea-blue beachy design that includes a transportive photo of Positano. But “finesse evades a lot of the food here,” he says, referring to “a pale, thin-crusted pizza” that would be tasteless if not for otherwise pleasant toppings of porchetta, chopped red peppers, and broccolini. Meanwhile, he says a panini tastes like it’s stuffed with canned tuna and appears to be missing its advertised aioli. While the Tuscan kale with an anchovy-lemon dressing and a blizzard of grated cheese is “a hearty and delicious salad,” its large green leaves leave diners looking like grazing cattle. Sietsema strikes “gold,” however, on the fried food front; he suggests ordering the arancini with smoked scamorza and beef ragu. He’s optimistic about where the pasta menu is headed, thanks to paccheri with crab, shrimp and tubes of squid that resemble the featured pasta. Service is “uneven,” he notes, as appetizers and entrees appeared all at once during one poorly paced visit.