Artwork and Soul restaurant review: It life up to its name

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Minimal eco-friendly scrolls of shaved cucumber flank a pink bar of minced raw wagyu beef, tweaked with muhammara and carpeted with flowers and herbs. Nearby on the plate are classy streaks of additional muhammara, the Center Jap red pepper dip that dances from smoky to tangy to sweet to spicy and back.

The beef tartare at Artwork and Soul is served on a plate, but seriously, the appetizer deserves a pedestal.

Identical for the asparagus velouté. A seductive shade of inexperienced and a pure expression of the harbinger of spring, the soup is presented with concentric rings of creme fraiche and a crisp float of baked parmesan, plus a couple citrusy sorrel leaves. It’s the kind of image you present off to dining companions in advance of you erase its elegance with a spoon.

The gorgeous food at this cafe in the Yotel on Capitol Hill stands in stark contrast to the sequence of eating rooms, separated by sliding doorways and some of the most generic seating in the metropolis. The bar has the sense of an airport lounge in flyover place, conserve for when there is dwell new music on Thursday evening. The nicely-trod wooden floors cry out for a fantastic buffing. Artwork and Soul extends outdoor, though its front patio arrives with a perspective of a massive beige Hyatt across the road.

Danny Chavez, 34, deserves a additional attractive work website. A indigenous of El Salvador, the government chef arrived to the United States as a teen, exactly where he bought his begin as a dishwasher in his father’s cafe in Connecticut and permit him know each individual several months or so that he was prepared for a lot more duty. Washing dishes led to the chilly station, the grill and, ultimately, a position as sous-chef. Chavez came to Washington in 2011 to aid his mother and landed a job at Artwork and Soul as a line cook. As in Connecticut, he worked his way up. Last calendar year, Chavez, who took transient timeouts to get the job done at the late Plume and Gravitas, was promoted to the top position.

Celeb chef Art Smith opened Art and Soul in 2008, but hasn’t been concerned with the brand name, at the time in an Affinia hotel, because 2017. “He left us his name,” a server tells me one night time, nodding to a blue neon “Art” on the wall, just one of the several vivid places as considerably as decor is anxious. (Before this spring, my very last go to was in 2016, when the cooking experienced a Middle Jap lilt and the Southern comforts incorporated a delightful rabbit pot pie and vegetarian-friendly collard greens but also a handful of misses, lobster bisque and lemon tart amid them.)

Chavez’s food isn’t just quick on the eyes. The chef also packs lots of flavor in his compositions, what he likes to connect with “wow” moments. Possibilities are, you have observed tuna crudo on a menu. Likelihood are, the uncooked fish dish at Artwork and Soul — ruby-coloured tuna strewn with fried shallots, the plate garnished with precise dots of avocado puree — is between the most alluring. Pleasantly bitter grilled radicchio is well balanced by juicy oranges and nuggets of sharp blue cheese in a salad that can take a moment to thoroughly respect hidden below the heap is Greek yogurt sprinkled with brown sugar and torched, generating a crackling brulee. Like a large amount of dishes below, this 1 checks off the chef’s aims for acid, spice and sweetness.

He deploys warmth properly, far too. Grilled swordfish teamed with a mattress of quinoa, jump-began with charred broccoli rabe, comes with a haunting chipotle dressing that lingers on the tongue and in the thoughts, even soon after the entree is dispatched. Tender confit octopus is splayed more than chickpeas affixed to the plate with fiery harissa, a salad enlivened with creamy dots of saffron aioli and teasing jalapeño slices.

As significantly as I recognize great editing — trimming one’s function so the essentials glow — Chavez is an exception to the rule. In his scenario, far more can be much more. Braised rabbit is but one motive to get the spaghetti, virtually concealed by a yard of Eden composed of wilted spinach, blanched carrots, pickled pearl onions and (oh, why not?) ramp pesto. Sweet Maine scallops, capped with pureed garlic and minced chives, share a tender bed of couscous with blood oranges. At the table, a reduction of saffron and orange completes the canvas.

Minor lifts — grilled naan with the beef tartare, thick housemade potato chips with an artichoke-shishito dip — increase most dishes. Judging from overheard conversations, groups of customers who seem to be to be conference for the to start with time and solo diners with telltale name badges, a large amount of the restaurant’s clientele are small business-touring resort friends. I hope they know how lucky they are to locate these distinguished cooking in these an unpredicted setting.

Sometimes, a dish underwhelms. A lunchtime pasta of fusilli tossed with peas, mushrooms and preserved lemon seems far better in print (a QR code, alas) than on the tongue. Missing from the photograph is salt or other seasoning to tie the factors. Cup 50 % entire: It’s one a lot less dish competing for your awareness.

Talking of lunch, bargain hunters need to stomach up to the bar (only) for “Power Hour” Wednesday through Friday, when a sandwich, a salad or fries and a glass of beer or wine are $22. (Ciabatta packed with smoky pork barbecue and tangy slaw is a whopper that threatens to spoil meal designs.)

The 2nd half of the restaurant’s title is very best represented by the fried hen. The entree is the lone dish on the menu that doesn’t seem like it is heading to a black-tie affair. But what a lip-smacker! Chavez brines the hen in buttermilk, sometimes with pickle juice, and spikes his batter with paprika, cayenne and other bold spices in advance of frying it to a condition of very good and gold. The hen is organized on clean-as-silk pureed potatoes, abundant with mainly a dairy situation of components: butter, cream, creme fraiche and buttermilk. (Obtaining indulged in them twice, I can have an understanding of the diner whose buy was “Just mashed potatoes.”) The analyze in beige is damaged with sauteed dandelion greens, verdant punctuation for the homiest dish on the menu.

Some kitchens lose steam by meal’s finish, treating desserts like a chore. Artwork and Soul pays the final class respect. Lucky are chocolate fans in individual, who can choose in between a charming tiramisu, served as a parfait in a obvious glass cup, or a glossy round of ganache, from which brushstrokes of chocolate sauce emerge with a golden garnish of popcorn brittle. The smart thing is to get equally desserts and share. Kudos to the server who overheard a toast at my table one night time and created a free of charge dessert with a candle in it for the birthday boy.

There’s nothing about the ambiance that would attract you into Artwork and Soul, wherever even heading to the restroom with its interrogation-brilliant lights tends to make you surprise why so minimal consideration is compensated to basic actual physical comforts. The excellent news is, Chavez invested portion of the pandemic dreaming up new dishes at dwelling, and hopes to one particular day open up a cafe of his individual.

Hurry, chef, hurry! I plan to be first in line.

415 New Jersey Ave. NW. 202-393-7777. Open: Indoor and outdoor dining and takeout 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Rates: Dinner appetizers $8 to $18, main programs $27 to $46. Audio check out: 74 decibels/Will have to speak with raised voice. Accessibility: No obstacles at entrance restrooms are ADA-compliant. Pandemic protocols: Personnel are not demanded to be masked or vaccinated.