Food Court: The Carving Room
An ongoing series of semi-regular spot checks of new and evolving eateries around Capitol Hill
We’ve yet to hear anybody in Washington complain about there being too many good, authentic Jewish delis in this town.
And while it’s far too early to lump the nascent Carving Room into that terribly underrepresented category, that which we have sampled at the sandwich shop/neighborhood bar gives us great hope for the future.
Co-founders Oded Weizmann and Rachel Steiman have done an excellent job preparing their culinary baby for success, outfitting the new restaurant with an open kitchen that brilliantly displays their house-cured and carved-on-demand meats. The duo also installed a spacious, marble-topped bar to quench thirsts via frosty pours of nearly a dozen draft brews, a roster that runs the gamut from small-batch brewers such as North Coast Brewing Co.’s Scrimshaw Pilsner and Avery Brewing Company’s Ellie’s Brown Ale to retail heavyweights Yuengling and Miller Lite.
The menu teeters between old and new school, trumpeting deli standards such as matzo ball soup and pastrami on rye alongside more innovative selections.
Some of the major departures include a slate of Moroccan-style salads — featuring an array of stewed, pickled and roasted vegetables ripe for the spreading across slices of warm baguette — as well as meticulously arranged meats and cheeses.
The house specialties are corned beef, massaged into existence via a proprietary 21-day wet cure, and nine-day-old, dry-rubbed pastrami. Those base materials anchor nearly 50 percent of the sandwich offerings, leaving other barnyard players (lamb, pigs, poultry) to round out the mouth-watering carte.
“I’ve had the corned beef, I’ve had the pastrami, I’ve had the roast turkey …” one boastful regular alerted a virgin dining buddy seemingly stuck on what to order.
Most items are no-brainers.
Take the traditional Reuben (please!). The iconic nosh is treated with reverence, revealing warm, juicy corned beef, rimmed with hardened spices, all smothered in mellowing melted Swiss, creamy Russian dressing and tangy sauerkraut. The two-handed treat is shoveled between twin slabs of butter- brushed, grilled rye, the rich dairy and seeded dough accentuating the salty meat stuffed within.
The experimental CCBLT was less satisfying. We didn’t particularly mind the kitchen staff playing with the bacon concept — the sandwich features cured and “crisply fried” corned beef instead of honest to god hog — but the end result just wasn’t the same. The fried beef was crispy enough in spots but failed to sustain the smokiness or actual crunch of glistening brown swine. The luscious tomato and cool lettuce played their parts but couldn’t right the wrong of the missing meat candy.
A roasted lamb number, bolstered by electrifying pickled red onions and soothing honey-yogurt dressing, all nestled between squishy soft ciabatta slices, knocked our socks off.
“Oooh, look at all the fun stuff they have for pickling!” cooed one brine-minded companion while eyeing spice racks stacked with containers of whole cloves, coriander seed and ground mustard.
All the pickling, in fact, might be what keeps us coming back.
Tender carrots gushed vinegar and cumin with every bite, while a signature potato salad was brightened by acid-soaked garden staples.
Here’s hoping the Carving Room ages as well as some of its creations.
Carving Room: 300 Massachusetts Ave. NW; 202-525-2116; carvingroom.com
Average entree: less than $12 ($). Open for lunch, dinner and late-night dining daily.