Gravitas: A Beautiful Palette for the Palate

Food and art are well-suited companions. Dinner at the new Gravitas in Ivy City reminds me of how much I appreciate the pairing. The dining experience at Gravitas begins with a blank canvas. The diner controls the experience by selecting a tasting menu consisting of 4, 5, 6 or 7 courses (priced from $78-$110).  Then the diner fills in the canvas by selecting dishes with flavors, colors, and textures that most appeal to their palate.  Options are categorized as light beginning, indulgence, hearty, and sweet.

Gravitas Executive Chef and owner Matt Baker brings it all to life, painting a picture on that plate that is mesmerizing. He draws from ingredients that are seasonal and local, with an eye towards a finished product that is fresh and contemporary.

Executive Chef & Owner Matt Baker

Vegetable lovers should rejoice. Out of 15 savory options, half are vegetarian. All too often with a tasting menu, vegetarians are relegated to just a few dishes, or modifications that mostly involve removing the protein.  Not here.  Vegetarians get equal treatment, and even meat lovers will be tempted to create a meal that is vegetable-focused.

As this is our first visit to the recently-opened restaurant, we opt for seven courses in order to explore the menu to its fullest- and subsequently our fullest.

Soup poured tableside adds dramatic flair to any meal.  Such is the case with lush sunchoke veloute with poached lobster, fennel marmalade, green apple, and brown butter powder.  The  flavor builds with each and every spoonful, and so does my anticipation for what’s ahead.

sunchoke veloute

Across the table my husband’s heirloom tomato tart catches my eye.  The colors and shapes make me swoon, and his reaction to the taste confirms my suspicion that I’m missing out on something special.  We have chosen not to share dishes, but rather to create our own separate adventures.  I wonder if this decision is misguided, a momentary thought, as I appreciate having the soup all to myself.

heirloom tomato tart

We both select Anson Mills Charleston Gold Brown Rice from the “light beginnings” section of the menu. I wouldn’t categorize it as light, but that’s a technicality. The Japanese-inspired dish is buttery and umami-rich.  The brown rice base is topped with thin shavings of green seawood, with a slow-poached egg yolk providing a bright focal point.  Swooshes of sweet soy shisho complete the picture.

Anson Mills “Charleston Gold” brown rice

Tasting of summer mushrooms is delightful with its accents of crispy polenta, parmesan emulsion, garlic aioli, and a dainty touch of lavender for color. This dish has architectural interest, and lovely contrasts between savory and sweet, crunchy and smooth.

tasting of summer mushrooms

Perhaps the most picturesque dish at Gravitas – at least for now- is the summer vegetable salad.  Chef Baker selects the freshest ingredients of the season – adds a dab of herb-whipped goat cheese and paints a magnificent portrait of summer on a plate.

summer vegetable salad

From the indulgence section of the menu, my husband and I each enjoy gruyere agnolotti with melted leeks, chives, and a fine web of crispy burnt leeks perched on top of  foam.  Once again Chef Baker embraces the intersection between shape and texture.  The ingredients- including a touch of truffles in the broth- are indulgent, but the overall effect is light and airy.

gruyere agnolotti

We have yet to partake in the hearty portion of the menu, and I brace myself, as I endeavor to tackle more food.  I have made a tactical error, ordering both hay-smoked duck breast and roasted spring lamb loin as my final two savory dishes. Both dishes combine a protein, pureed vegetable (celery root for duck and garlic for lamb) and greens. I could have curated my meal with a little more finesse, as the dishes are similar.

I delight in tender, heavenly scented hay-smoked duck breast with a honey glaze, braised kale, and dots of date gel.  I have no choice but to take home the lamb loin with its accompanying braised farro, confit baby onions, garlic puree, and swiss chard.  Lunch the next day is pure pleasure.

 

hay-smoked duck breast

 

roasted spring lamb loin

I manage to devour most of my finale of warm sticky date pudding embellished with crème fraiche whipped cream, chai tea foam, and cinnamon ice cream.  The dessert is the pièce de résistance, capping off a terrific meal.

While Gravitas is a fine dining restaurant, the décor has an industrial bent.  In fact, the Ivy City restaurant was once a tomato packing factory.  The building has had its challenges. A wall collapsed in 2016, slowing down the opening considerably. Now high ceilings, concrete floors, light wood, and painted brick walls provide a neutral background for refined and vibrant food. Greenery adds warmth to the space.

Dishes will change with the seasons, and a chef’s counter tasting menu (14 courses for $150 pp), and a rooftop garden are coming soon. Chef Baker and his team, including Executive Sous Chef Angel Franco, and General Manager Sam Lindenberg are creating something special at Gravitas. The end result is a beautiful palette for the palate.

 

Gravitas, 1401 Okie St NE, Washington, D.C. 20002

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