Ellē: A To-Do About Toast

I love to-do lists.  I maintain them for work tasks, home errands and projects, tv to watch, movies and plays to see, people I want to connect with, and most importantly restaurants where I want to dine.  The glee I experience from crossing an item off any of my to-do lists is insanely disproportionate to the true consequence of the action.

Ellē, the café, restaurant, bar, and bakery that debuted in Mt. Pleasant in late January, held a top spot on my restaurant to do list. After a recent dinner there, I entered a checkmark on my list and waited for relief to wash over me. Instead, I hesitated briefly and added it back to my list. I wasn’t ready to be done with Ellē…. Not yet.

Ellē, in the space that was once home to Heller’s Bakery, is a restaurant from Bad Saint and Room 11 owner Nick Pimentel, along with his wife Lizzy Evelyn, founder of Paisley Fig bakery.  Executive Chef Brad Deboy was most recently Chef de Cuisine at Blue Duck Tavern. Throw in Chris Yates, also from  Blue Duck Tavern and The Dabney as sous chef, and Demetri Mechelis who worked at Tail Up Goat, and you get an impressive blend of talent all under one roof.

The rustic decor centers on exposed brick walls and wood tables. There’s a bar, a long communal table, and a section in the back for tables.  As the sun sets, the restaurant takes on a warm glow, and it’s just the cozy environment you want from the multi-purpose space.

The dinner menu at Ellē is concise and eclectic. There are a few small plates that make appealing starters including spiced apples with toasted pumpkin seeds, honey and lime, as well as grilled lamb with tzatziki.  Charred broccoli salad is dressed with mustard green pesto, and topped with shards of parmesan and sourdough croutons.  The jumble of flavors and textures make for a unique and soul-satisfying treatment of the vegetable.You can’t really dine here without having toast.  It’s a centerpiece of the menu. There are four options, and what you order depends on your sense of adventure.  And yes, toast can now take you on a culinary journey.  Case in point, Chef Carrie Baird, a contestant this season on “Top Chef.”  She won multiple challenges by making “fancy” toast, surprising even herself. In DC, you can find toast at Himitsu and Tail Up Goat, and according to Laura Hayes of Washington City Paper at an upcoming restaurant at The Wharf called Toastique.

At Ellē toast serves as a bed that is heavily blanketed by a medley of ingredients. Don’t miss stracciatella with flash fried tomatoes, and basil. It’s rustic and hearty.

stracciatella

Grilled kimchi toast with XO sauce favors Asian ingredients. Creamy labneh cheese is an unexpected addition that turns this into a vibrant dish.

grilled kimchi toast

Tonnato toast is a winsome combination of whipped tuna confit, housemade Parisian ham, and arugula. (The photo below show the dish without ham, but there is pickled fennel).

Tonnato toast

Duck confit is rich and luxurious, with an accompanying biscuit making this a lusty dish. It’s brightened by fermented squash slaw. Chef Deboy has a well-documented* passion for pickling and fermenting, which intensifies the flavors in his food.

Duck confit

As part of my restaurant ordering process, I often make a list of the dishes I want to order, and then add a check mark beside those ordered.  In a perfect world, the lists match up.  Of course this is rarely the case.  At Ellē I pine for honey goat cheese cheesecake. But this is a group decision, and one dessert for a party of four is plenty on this toast-filled night. We settle on vanilla cake with blackberry ganache, which is for the dessert-lover who wants to keep the sweetness level on the down low.  It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but I’m fine with this.  I need/want/must return to Ellē to tackle more of the menu including entrees of clam spaetzle and pozole verde (a soup with gnocci and roasted pork belly).

vanilla cake with blackberry ganache

It’s time for a toast!  Here’s to a return visit, and perhaps checking Ellē off my to-do list….or not.

 

Ellē, 3221 Mt Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010

Washingtonian Magazine, “Check out the Mount Pleasant Restaurant, Bar, and Bakery That Everyone Will be Talking About”