I’m not sure what the tally is on new DC restaurants this year. I do know it is fairly staggering.* Thally is one of the newest, with an opening just a few short weeks ago. Co-owned by Chef Ron Tanaka, formerly of New Heights and Cork, Thally is getting some good buzz. Never one to be left behind when it comes to restaurant buzz, I jump on the opening in my calendar and take a ride down to the Shaw district of DC with some friends.
When we initially make the reservation, I am not at all sure what’s on the menu. The website only says this: “Our food is best summed up in three words: “simple, fresh, and flavorful.” Yes, it’s vague, but I am not deterred. Damn that buzz, it gets me every time.
A few days before our visit, The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema writes about Thally in his “First Bite” column. His comments are positive AND there is insight into the menu. This is reassuring on both counts.
Here’s the tally on my dining experience.
On the plus side:
+ agave tequila with guava and elderberry. Smooth, slightly sweet, and packing just the right punch. No print cocktail menu yet, but our server reels off intriguing-sounding house made ingredients like a pro.
+ bread goes from good to great with a dab of lemon-infused butter with a touch of rosemary. We need a second dish of butter, as some of us decide a little dab won’t do it. (Brylcreem reference anyone?)
+ appetizer with watermelon, heirloom tomato, herbed goat cheese, and watermelon radish is fresh and flavorful (delivering on the restaurant’s concept) and playful. It looks just like sushi but tastes like watermelon. I can’t argue with a dish that makes me smile.
+ the crab roulette (which Sietsema calls “intriguing”) is my group’s pick as the don’t miss dish at Thally. Spicy, crunchy, tangy, sweet. I’m grateful for having the good sense to order this dish, along with another first course (carnitas sope) for my meal. I don’t have to share it, which is a very good thing.
+ an exposed industrial ceiling and brick walls aren’t exactly unique, but the turquoise and purple color palette add pizazz.
+ chocolate ganache gets high marks for it’s architectural flair. It’s light and crispy and the orange peel crisps are a proper companion to the chocolate.
On the plus/minus side
+- prices are reasonable (+) but portions tend to be small (-).
+- options are limited, with six first course and six second course dishes on the menu. Indecisive diners may find fewer choices refreshing… or not. Many of the twelve dishes appeal to me, although I find myself more attracted to the first courses.
Current minuses I hesitate to point out the negatives of a brand new restaurant, particularly after just one visit. But here are some of our observations.
– service is a little choppy. Drinks take longer than seem reasonable, and our server takes her time in asking us if we are ready to order any food.
– not all the dishes are consistent. Grilled Demonico steak with baby spinach, coffee dust, and bordelaise sauce gets a thumbs up, but the accompanying spinach not so much. Branzino feels like a light and healthy dish, but could use more pop. Pan seared rockfish is simple and fresh but the acidity of the relish overpowers the sweetness of the fish. Some of the dishes could benefit from the elements of interest exhibited in the watermelon salad, or the crab roulette.
If you tally up the score, there’s still plenty of pluses to Thally. With just a little more seasoning, I’m betting it will be another hit on the parade of DC openings.
Thally, 1316 9th St. NW, Washington, DC
The Washington Post review of Thally
More on Thally from Young & Hungry