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Tom Sietsema Calls Ivy City Spot “A Beautiful Work in Progress”

Plus, Sietsema makes a visit during a particularly raucous happy hour

Gruyere agnolotti at Gravitas
gravitasdcGruyere agnolotti


Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema visits Ivy City newcomer Gravitas, noted for being the neighborhood’s first tasting menu restaurant. Sietsema gives the spot two stars. While he notes that the restaurant “stands out as the neighborhood’s sole example of fine dining,” Sietsema isn’t wowed by everything on the restaurant’s menu. He praises the restaurant’s tuna sashimi — whose accompaniment the critic says is reminiscent of an “everything bagel” flavor — and a brown rice risotto. But he isn’t wowed by the dishes meant to offer the heartiest fill-up on the menu, likening a pork dish to “the dinner guest who comes to the table with nothing to say: boring.”

Pisco y Nazca

Sietsema also visits Peruvian hotspot (and Miami import) Pisco y Nazca and is quick to point out its popularity — comparing the crowd’s sound level to “jet engine sounds at takeoff.” After pointing out the new restaurant’s popularity at happy hour, the reviewer praises the the restaurant’s Pisco sour, its potato dish with cheese and olives, and an empanada with shredded chicken, calling the latter “herby and juicy.” Sietsema is sadly not into the ceviche, though, saying it “lacks sparkle.”

Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly

WaPo is counting down Tom Sietsema’s top 10 restaurants as part of their fall dining guide. Making the list at number 10 is Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly, part of D.C.’s burgeoning Philippine restaurant scene. Sietsema naturally praises the restaurant’s eponymous dish, slow-cooked pork, saying that it boasts “mahogany skin that breaks apart like glass.” He also says the restaurant’s lumpia are the best around, and praises the chicken adobo. Sietsema is calling out to adventurous eaters, saying the restaurant’s sisig (stir-fry of pigs ears, headcheese and chile and spices) is “funky, fiery and fabulous.”


Northern Virginia’s Stefanie Gans heads to King Street Alexandria stalwart Vermilion for a new look after the restaurant gave itself a refresh. Gans notes that “this could be the time when Vermilion can outshine the rest.” The critic praises the restaurant’s scratch kitchen — which pumps out homemade breads, pastas, even butter — and Vermilion’s fried soft-shell crab. Not everything is amazing, of course. Gans calls the meatless entree “a $19 interpretation of a Sweetgreen bowl...with less food.”


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