April 13, 2013

Graffiato (DC)

Prior to eating at Graffiato, the two-story restaurant in Chinatown DC, I didn't know a thing about Mike Isabella.  I didn't know he won this year's Cochran 555.  I didn't know he used to be the executive chef aJosé AndrésZaytina for three years.  I didn't know he grew up in North Jersey eating food prepared by his Italian-American grandmother.  I didn't know he was on "Top Chef," Season Six or that he was a runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars.  But after a brilliant Italian-inspired meal, I wanted to know everything about Isabella.  Why?  Because his food is really that good.


A glimpse of the kitchen area.

Two friends and I were seated upstairs where it was a bit quieter than the downstairs dining area and bar.  I especially liked the different hanging knives and cheeses -- fun!

We ordered ten various small plates from the menu, including dessert. I can honestly say that I enjoyed everything that I ate, but I'll highlight the dishes that really stood out.

Baby beets -- with house ricotta and oranges -- $6

Brussel sprouts -- with pancetta, maple, and yogurt -- $8

Oh my word, the brussel sprouts were heavenly!  The pancetta had the perfect amount of saltiness and crispiness to it, which complimented the sweet, but not heavy maple glaze.  It gave the sprouts a smoky, caramelized flavor.  I could have easily this entire plate alone (but I didn't).

Potato Gnocchi -- with pork neck, whipped ricotta, and fried rosemary -- $11

Tortellini -- with goat cheese, pea puree, and crispy onions

Agnolotti -- stuffed with potato, castelrosso, and blanchetti truffle -- $13

Ricotta Cavatelli -- with lamb ragu, feta, mint, and pistachio -- $12

It's a tough call, but this was probably my favorite pasta dish of the night not because the lamb ragu was hearty, the mint was fresh, or the feta was, well, feta.  Rather, the dish was made by the surprise crunch from the pistachios that are scattered throughout the dish.  Everything comes together well with the al-dente cavatelli noodles.

Risotto -- with blue crab, fennel, and Meyer lemon -- $13

Compressed Asian Pear -- with stracciatella, yuzu, and green peppercorn -- $10

I'm convinced that any dish with stracciatella di burrata is magical.  Thus, this Compressed Asian Pear was nothing short of magical.  Stracciatella, which literally means "torn apart" in Italian, is basically the custardy cheese of burrata before it gets stuffed inside a ball of mozzarella.  It's creamy, buttery, and paired with the tangy yuzu and the sweet Asian pear, I gobbled this up like a hungry child gone mad (as if this is anything new).

Panna Cotta -- brown butter, espresso -- $7

Family Meal Sundae -- salted caramel gelato, fudge, candied pretzels -- $7

I'm not a huge dessert person, but the Family Meal Sundae really sealed the deal (or should I say meal?).  Salted caramel gelato, fudge, candied pretzels?  Yes, yes, yes!  Most people who know me well that I love sweet-salty things.  Add gelato to the mix and I'm in heaven.  And dessert heaven was pretty much where I was while I ate the Family Meal Sundae.  The fudge is really tough to get to both because it's thick and it sits at the bottom of the glass, but it's worth it so do some digging.

As praised above, Chef Isabella sure knows what he's doing with Graffiato.  Much luck to him with his future DC and NJ restaurants!

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Graffiato on Urbanspoon

dined on: 3/16/13; 7 PM
cuisine: Italian-inspired small plates
location: Chinatown, DC
nearest metro stop: Gallery Place (Chinatown)
websites: { G | yelp | twitter | facebook }
attire: Casual
notes: Make reservations.  Remember, sharing is caring! Next time I will try their pizza.

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