Another place I got to try out this weekend was the ever-hyped Graffiato.
I’ve been talking about this place on the blog since before it opened, as has the rest of the DC media.
The reviews have been mixed, from both friends and professional sources, but I was still pumped to check out Mike Isabella’s restaurant.
We went for Restaurant Week lunch on Saturday, and the place was packed before the dining room even opened.
We were seated promptly at noon and our waiter was incredibly attentive. He also reminded me of Peter Sarsgaard, which was kind of fun.
He reminded us that Graffiato is known for its small plates, that sharing was encouraged, and that the Jersey Shore pizza (fried calamari on top of pizza) would be bigger and the best bargain.
As much as we wanted to give that guy a whirl (the pizza, not the waiter), we decided to stick to smaller offerings so we could try more things and not ruin our appetites for dinner later that night.
Instead, we started with the warmed herb flatbread with pepperoni sauce, which was one of Mike’s famous dishes on Top Chef if I’m not mistaken. This was not on the RW menu, but at $5 was a reasonable add-on.
It was a solid appetizer, and the sauce did indeed taste like liquid pepperoni (in an appetizing manner) – but it was nothing to write home about.
For our first courses, we got the Buffalo mozzarella with pickled onions and the crispy Brussels sprouts with pancetta, maple and egg.
The cheese was wonderful, a perfect 3 oz. portion great for sharing. You can’t go wrong with cheese, ever.
The Brussels sprouts were also delicious, even though I still contend that my recipe is better.
They were roasted to crispy perfection and served over a maple mayo concoction that was definitely very good. It reminded me a lot of the patatas bravas dish that Jaleo is famous for – good aoli/mayo will always win me over.
Around this time, I caved an ordered an alcoholic beverage. It was the “special afternoon punch” or something like that and was a mix of vodkas mixed with fresh mandarin orange juice – or something like that.
They mixed each drink separately and with fresh squeezed juice at the bar, and you could tell. Very tasty. I only had one. It was noon. I’m not that much of a lush.
As I was sipping that, our entrees arrived. Mr. T and I had different experiences with the main course. I got the hand cut spaghetti with olive oil poached cherry tomatoes and basil and it was fantastic.
It was, to be fair, still just spaghetti – but spaghetti done very well. The pasta was cooked to perfect al dente and the tomatoes had just the right amount of firmness and flavor. As a pasta lover, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Mr T., on the other hand, had ordered the pumpkin risotto but was given the lobster risotto instead. We both agreed this was a fair trade, so he kept it instead of sending it back for his original order.
This may have been a mistake. The risotto was pretty terrible. The rice was way undercooked and the lobster was very fishy and pungent and overpowered the dish. He didn’t seem to find as much disdain in it as I did, but neither one of us were impressed.
Just as we started to feed into the negative things we’ve heard about Graffiato (namely the inconsistency of the dishes – you never know what you’re going to get), dessert arrived at the table.
There were only two dessert options, so we got one of each.
There was a warm pistachio cake with candied pear and parsnip caramel and honey mascarpone gelato. Overall it was okay. I appreciated the innovative flavor combination, but didn’t really find that it worked. There was an overwhelming rosemary essence, which just isn’t something I enjoy in a dessert.
The other was a chocolate tart with olive oil, pine nuts and sea salt gelato, which was better but still not a standout. The sea salt gelato was fabulous (they have this at Kushi too, and it’s a must order anytime you see it – trust me. Oh and there’s a Living Social out for Kushi right now! No one paid me to say that, I just get excited when things link up like that.) but the chocolate tart was far too rich for my taste. I had the teeniest of bites and then moved on… to birthday ice cream.
They brought me a separate scoop of what tasted like peanut butter ice cream with a birthday candle, which was just cute and nice and very delicious, and boosted my mood thus ending the meal on a happy note.
Overall, I was very happy with the experience. I have plans to go back and sit at the bar and order the Jersey Shore – or perhaps to try the Chef’s Tasting menu offered for $55. After my wallet and stomach recovers from all this eating out I’ve been doing, that is.
Have you been to any Top Chef restaurants? I really want to try out Spike Mendelson’s DC places. He seems really cool and involved in the community, which I dig.